Research Review: COVID-19, enhancing prevention, protection through nutrition and lifestyle

Review of Webinar:

Current Controversies in Natural Therapeutics of Immune Support:
A roundtable discussion with three renowned clinicians

[Dr David Brady, Dr Todd Lepine, and Dr Peter D’Adamo)
Hosted by Designs for Health and Diagnostic Solutions, Jason Bosley Smith

The government, CDC, and Public Health leaders keep saying “it’s when, not if” you will get sick. So instead of just sitting back, hoping social distancing and hand washing keeps you out of the battle, start preparing your body now for the fire that is all but inevitable within the next few weeks, and take control. There are things you can do.

“We don’t necessarily die by having the virus in us, we die by our immune response’s over-reaction to the virus.”

–Dr Todd Lepine



The coronavirus produces a protein that kicks off this domino-chain reaction of inflammation in the lungs:

The virus triggers NLRP3 inflammasomes, which then triggers  IL-1β (Interleukin 1β, a pro-inflammatory cytokine), thus causing more inflammation. This cascade of inflammatory chemicals targets the thin membrane where your lungs and blood normally exchange oxygen and CO2, thickening the tissues and making the exchange difficult.  All of this uncontrolled progressive inflammation continues, and the diminished gaseous exchange leads to hypoxemia (below normal levels of oxygen in the body) and damages alveoli in the lungs. Patients often develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome/Acute Lung Injury (ARDS/ALI). 

When you have the flu and feel “run over by a truck,” that is usually the result of excessive cytokines and inflammation. COVID-19 is similar, but those inflammatory agents more specifically attack the lungs.

What that means: the virus causes your body to release a host of chemicals that cause inflammation in the body. The inflammation seems to target the lungs in many patients, thickening up membranes there. This makes it harder to get oxygen from your lungs into your blood, and the CO2 back out – so breathing becomes more rapid and forced. This all results in shortness of breath and often an elevated heart rate.  [this is explained in a Facebook video here]. You need to reduce inflammation in your body now, and boost your immune system to prepare for anti-inflammatory protection later.


More recent research shows that the coronavirus is also very dominant in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract.

Digestive symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea) were tied to worse COVID-19 hospitalization outcomes: “Whereas 60% of patients without digestive symptoms recovered and were discharged, only 34.3% of the patients with digestive symptoms recovered.” The virus seems to be able to get into the GI tract; a strong and healthy gut may have a better likelihood of protecting your body from this invader.

What that means: in addition to inflammation in the lungs, many patients seem to have their gut lining attacked. The gut is one of the key aspects of health and immune protection. A damaged gut is often at the root of many other health problems. So if your gut is already weak, and gets attacked by the virus, it is a damaging circle that sets you up for more health problems later in life. Diabetes, autoimmune disorders, bone and joint problems, cardiovascular disease and more all have links to leaky gut and inflammation. You need to strengthen your gut health now to build better defenses and minimize your risks.


Various nutrients are essential for immunocompetence, particularly vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6, and B12, folic acid, iron, selenium, and zinc. Micronutrient deficiencies are a recognized global public health issue, and poor nutritional status predisposes to certain infections. These nutrient deficiencies are also seen as part of the aging process; but in a way, aging IS inflammation, possibly cyclically because of leaky gut and nutrient deficiencies. Diet alone may be insufficient, and tailored micronutrient supplementation based on specific age-related needs may be necessary, as well as person-specific needs (gender, exercise routine, stress level, genetics, diet, etc).

Vit D plays a huge role in preventing respiratory viral infections and decreases gene expression of various pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as TNF-α, IFN- β, ISG15, CXCL8, IL-6, and RANTES.)

Melatonin is a potent inhibitor of the NLRP3 inflammasomes; melatonin spikes in childhood and then tapers off as we age. This may be another reason children seem to have milder versions of this illness.

Nitric Oxide can inhibit NLRP3 inflammasomes. It also reduces oxidative stress (oxidation damages the body), regulates hypoxia signaling (helps get more oxygen to your body), supports the strength and integrity of your mitochondria (mitochondria are the “energy factories” in your cells, making energy for your body), and modulates the immune defenses to stem the progression of cytokine storms (boosts your immune system to help calm over-production of pro-inflammatory cytokines). Nitric Oxide is most commonly found in beets. 

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) can inhibit NLRP3 inflammasomes in proper doses, which decreases the inflammatory IL-1b secretions, without inducing any cytotoxic effects or cell death. Best Vitamin C food is papaya, followed by bell peppers. [you can read more in my Facebook post about Vitamin C here.]

Elderberry should be safe if you’re not in respiratory distress. If you’re not symptomatic, Dr. Brady says he would keep taking it. “Cytokine Storms” usually mean the cytokines are boosted 6,000x normal; elderberry is meant to be a gentle therapy, and so typically only boosts cytokine levels 1.5-3x normal.

[Side Note: “Cytokine Storm” warnings have been flying around social media, telling people to avoid Advil and Elderberry and probably other “anti-inflammatory” or “immune boosting” items. Yes, Cytokine Storms are a real thing, where the boosting of pro-inflammatory cytokine triggers the boost of another, and in an inflamed body, this can become a dangerous downward spiral of health. But, there are many types of cytokines as you may have noticed in this reading, some pro-inflammatory, but others anti-inflammatory. And it takes a lot to trigger a “Storm.” Elderberry does boost a few pro-inflammatory cytokines that normally help gently kill off microbes, but in normal dosing is not likely to have a negative effect on a person because it is such a gentle therapy, especially if a person is asymptomatic.]

Stinging Nettle tea made from the leaves can help reduce the production of pro-inflammatory markers, such as TNF-α , IL-6, and CRP. Stinging Nettle root also has protective properties; it may have cytokines that kill off viruses and inhibit viral fusion. It has been shown to help protect against SARS. In mice, it also helped reduce fluid in the lungs, a common trait of pneumonia. 

Quercetin is being studied for its anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. It’s a pigment, found in many plants and foods: green tea, apples, berries, Brassica vegetables, capers, grapes, red wine, onions, shallots, tomatoes; many seeds, nuts, flowers, barks, and leaves; various kinds of honey. 

Resveratrol significantly inhibited MERS-CoV infection, and decreased its ability to replicate itself. So it is speculated that resveratrol may have similar effects on SARS-CoV-2. Found in red grapes

What that means: the foods you eat matter. Quality supplements matter. Find a clean eating diet, join my group for anti-inflammatory eating, or get personalized food help tailored to your specific inflammatory food sensitivities. 


When our immune system is balanced and working well, it can usually take care of things! 

“We don’t necessarily die by having the virus in us, we die by our immune response’s over-reaction to the virus.” A controlled inflammatory response towards infection is good. It is part of a healthy immune system. But an uncontrolled inflammatory response can cause complications, and COVID-19 poses a greater risk of triggering a systemic over-reaction. Complications include pulmonary edema (fluid, swelling), and the cytokine storm. It is these uncontrolled, over-reactions of the immune system and inflammatory response that have been associated with more severe disease states and higher mortality. Thus, lessening and suppressing the hyper-inflammatory response may be very beneficial in preventing immunopathology.

What that means: if you can build a strong immune system, and keep inflammation controlled, you may be able to help prevent getting sick, having such severe symptoms, and have a better chance for a longer, better quality life after all of this is over.

(or, at least, Fire-Resistant)

Think of the Coronavirus like an arsonist trying to set your home on fire. First, he has to make it to your home… then he has to get inside your home… then, he has to be able to ignite something. If you already have small fires in place, it is easier to fan those flames into something devastating. If you have flame-retardant materials everywhere, though, it will be more difficult. And, if he does happen to get something lit, it’s good to have a fire extinguisher available to try to squelch the little fire before it catches on to one thing then another, and quickly spreads through your house, destroying everything it can. How you protect your house, and have back-up plans, determines how great a chance you have at preserving your precious home.

Likewise, how you protect your body, and what healing systems you have in place, can reduce your risk of a devastating “fire” in your body, as the coronavirus sweeps through the country.

  1. So, keep your “home” (your body) away from the coronavirus exposure as much as you can! Stay home, avoid crowds, keep your physical distancing
  2. Keep the outside of your “home” strong and sanitized. Wash your hands; wipe grocery cart handles; clean after touching door knobs, car handles, delivery packages, etc; sanitize your countertops; wash work clothes immediately if your job keeps you in higher-risk areas; and practice other good general hygiene. 
  3. Put out current fires in your “home” as quickly as possible by reducing inflammatory foods and behaviors. 
    1. Cut way down on (or eliminate completely) processed foods, sugar, white flour/bread/pasta, high amounts of caffeine or alcohol, fried foods, margarine
    2. Remove common food sensitivities such as gluten, wheat, dairy, soy. Find out your specific food sensitivities
    3. Reduce exposure to toxic chemicals (cigarette smoke, pollutants, pesticides, sprays, fumes, etc)
    4. Reduce stress and cortisol
    5. Repay “sleep debt” from too many nights of too little sleep
  4. Make your “home” as fire-proof as possible.
    1. 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. So get it healed up.
    2. Get on high quality supplements (multivitamin, probiotic, omega-3s)
    3. Eat nutrient-rich foods with good antioxidants: dark, colorful vegetables; berries and other fruits; omega-3 fatty fish; whole grains or whole starches; nuts and seeds
    4. Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night
    5. Get sunshine daily
    6. Get your heart rate up at least 30 minutes a day
    7. Get off the couch, or out of the chair, and stretch every hour
    8. Drink more water
    9. Smile


over 30 research sources from this webinar and on this topic can be found here:

Ode to Organics

There has been a lot of debate about organically grown foods. What does it mean, does it matter?

To begin with: Organic vs. Conventional = HUGE business and money battles. Sadly, over a decade ago when I began to dive deeper into nutrition research, I was so disheartened to see that money and lobbyists are often driving forces behind a lot of health recommendations and pushes, not necessarily actual health science nor ethics.

The definition for Organics gets specific when it comes to processed foods, and I can touch on that in the future. But for now, we’ll look at fresh produce – fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables basically are either organically grown, or they are conventionally grown.  Other terms you may see, such as “Rainforest Alliance” or “Fair Trade,” etc, are nice and worth supporting – but don’t necessarily have anything to do with the organic growing practices. 

So back to those two main questions: what does “organic” mean, and does it matter?

I have a hunch that once we talk about what it means, you will be able to decide for yourself the answer for the latter query.

There are some key points laid out in the USDA Organic Standard rules [1] that crop growers must meet in order to be “certified organic”:

  • Land must have had no prohibited substances applied to it for at least 3 years before the harvest of an organic crop.
  • Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, and cover crops, supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials.
  • Crop pests, weeds, and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices including physical, mechanical, and biological controls. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used.
  • Operations must use organic seeds and other planting stock when available.
  • The use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation and sewage sludge is prohibited.

It’s that last one that really gets most people. Think that that means if you’re NOT getting organically grown foods!

I personally and professionally recommend people do their best to avoid genetically engineered foods, irradiated foods, and sewage sludge.

If you shop at local farmers markets, just ask them about their growing practices, and how long their soil has been chemical free. The official “Certified” labels are expensive, so sometimes they may forego the inspections but still follow good practices.

If you shop at a grocery store, foods will be labeled.  Often, if you look at the number code sticker on produce, it will start with a 9.  For example, conventional bananas at my store have code number 4011; organic bananas are 94011. Then the sticker also states, “organic.”

Opponents of organic labeling continue to put pressure on the government. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at NYU, writes in her book What to Eat [2]:

“Opponents of organics – and there are many, work hard to make you doubt the reliability of organic certification, to weaken the Organic Standards (so you really will have something to doubt), and to make you wonder whether organics are any better than conventionally grown foods.”

She goes on to say:

“But as for attempts to weaken the rules, think ‘relentless.’ Political appointees at the USDA are always looking for loopholes that might favor conventional growers. Just before issuing the Organic Standards, for example, the USDA said it would be fine for farmers to use genetically modified seeds, irradiation, and sewage sludge, and still call their crops organic. After a barrage of 275,000 outraged letters, the agency backed off this peculiar idea.”

Fortunately, for now, the term “organic” is still meaningful thanks to those Organic Standard rules, though companies that work with GMO foods are constantly pushing to be allowed to introduce their foods into the “organic” sector.

I consider it an investment in my future health as well as the health of the soil and the earth to pay the extra for organics whenever possible. But, if money is tight, I encourage my clients to at least treat themselves to the organically grown versions of the “dirty dozen,” the top 12 pesticide-rich produce items; and worry less about those that have become known as the “Clean 15”  The Environmental Working Group updates this list annually.

So give yourself the best! Your healthy is worth protecting!

**Side notes:

The new addition of lines such as “When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used” do have me concerned. That line was not in the USDA Organic rules when I first researched Organics back in 2010 and wrote a similar post to this one. The vagueness of that line is the crack in the door that may later allow for “approved” controls that are money-driven. Something to watch.

The movies “King Corn,” “Future of Food,” and “Food, Inc.” are great documentaries going over the dangers of GMOs and what’s happening to our food sources!

[1] USDA Organic Standards. Accessed 30 March, 2020.
[2] Nestle, Marion, What To Eat. North Point Press, 2007.
[3] Environmental Working Group, 2020 Ditry Dozen and Clean 15. Accessed 30 March 2020.

Inflammation and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndromes

Please share!! We’re in a time crunch now, especially in Ohio.

Reducing your body’s inflammation is CRITICAL for reducing your risk of getting infected and getting sick, and could help lessen the severity of symptoms if you do get sick.

I explain why inflammation is so detrimental with COVID19, and invite you to join me for a 7-day anti-inflammatory “bootcamp” online to learn what you can do to to reduce your risks!

Invite a friend or loved one, and join my group,

We’ll kick it off Monday the 30th, but come say hi before then with some sneak-peeks through the rest of this week!

Migraines and Food Sensitivities

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Migraines suck! For those of your fortunate enough to have never experienced it, let me assure you – I rolled my eyes at sufferers, thinking, “it’s just a bad headache.” And then life gifted me with my own experience of one. #karmasabitch And it is like a headache on steroids, jacked up on bath salts, and tainted with food poisoning. The #migraine was utterly debilitating. Beyond the pain, each sufferer experiences unique symptoms. For me, I wanted to throw up, and my eyes wouldn’t stop burning and watering.

Thankfully I do not suffer from these often, but I know many who do. And they have to skip classes, call off work, or stay hidden in a dark, cool cave somewhere in isolation. The cost of medications accumulates year after year

There are some typically held food beliefs around migraine prevention, such as avoid tyramine (aged cheeses, pickles, canned soups), nitrates (cured meats), MSG (soy sauce, meat tenderizers, many Asian dishes), tannins and phenols (tea, apple skins, bananas), and sulfites (red wine) . Gluten is being looked for some now, as well (wheat bread, pasta, crackers, cereals; rye, barley, etc) People are encouraged to keep a food diary in an attempt to determine their triggers. But as reactions can be dose dependent (a small amount doesn’t trigger it, so you think it is “safe” but then a large dose triggers it), stackable (two seemingly “safe” foods can be consumed at the same time, and now trigger pain), and delayed (it can take up to 72 hours before the reaction occurs), you have to look at doses, stacking, and timing to try to determine what’s going on.

From the National Headache Foundation: “People with headache disease vary in their sensitivity to specific foods. Reactions to foods may take anywhere from ½ hour to 72 hours to develop, making them often very difficult to pinpoint. Everyone is unique..”

And still, sometimes all these general dietary tricks don’t help. So people add on lifestyle habits – meditate, get good sleep, drink enough water, don’t go through caffeine withdrawal, have a proper pillow and mattress, manage stress, see a massage therapist… again, this may help some people, but not everyone.

This can start get extremely exhausting, frustrating, and hopeless. Not to mention, expensive between days off, doctor bills, prescription drugs. So I am grateful that I have another avenue of relief I can offer my clients when these other attempts fail: food sensitivities personalized to their blood’s immune system reactions and inflammation response. This is the Mediator Release Test (MRT) combined with the LEAP protocol (the method of starting with safe foods, and how we challenge new foods), and lifestyle habits. And many LEAP clients have had great success reducing the frequency, duration, and severity of their migraines. Then we can dig even deeper into other possible root causes (nutrient deficiency, hormone imbalances, environmental triggers) with renewed energy and less pain.

Understanding my body’s triggers makes it easy to stay away from reactive foods. My headaches have been less frequent, and if I do get one, it only last a day. In the past, I was going 3-5 days with the same headache

Playfully Fierce Healing participant, R.S.

“Diet often plays an important role in migraine pathophysiology because 60% to 80% of the immune system is in the gut… When a susceptible individual eats a reactive food or chemical, the immune system releases mediators such as cytokines, leukotrienes, or prostaglandins, which in turn produce pathophysiologic effects such as clinical and subclinical inflammation, pain receptor activation, neurological and endocrine dysfunction, or edema. These effects are implicated in chronic inflammatory conditions such as migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is why these conditions are frequently comorbid.” [READ: certain foods trigger your immune system to go haywire, leading to many different types of symptoms, including pain!]

And that’s the key with the8-week Playfully Fierce Healing program: we not only look at your blood test to plan your personal elimination diet program based on foods that are tested as ACTUALLY safe, but also address lifestyle habits that may be perpetuating to the problem, and educate you in learning what may help prevent further problems in the future. Sustainable healing!

Quoted Sources:
Today’s Dietitian
National Headache Foundation

Amrita Bar Giveaway and Promo!

NOTE: Sampler giveaway, and promo code information at the end of the post! 🙂  Enter or purchase some healthy, whole-foods protein bars for your start to a vibrant and health-filled 2019!

We eat with our eyes first. And Amarita was a treat from the moment the box arrived. I was delighted at the variety of flavors in the variety pack, and fell in love with the bold colors on the tote bag. First impression: colorful and energetic!

Nourish Your Passion Bag | USA

And then they get another bonus — an email from the company, asking if my bars arrived safely.  Well that’s a nice little check in!  I approve.

email confirmation



When I was looking in to protein and snack bars to try, this company caught my eye because they had the same mission I have as a Lifestyle Dietitian — to help heal health issues through nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods, and managing stress within the body. Owner Arsha and his wife started to create recipes for the bars while working to help their son recovery from a host of gastrointestinal issues and nutritionally-based autism. They have worked from the ground up, starting with hand-wrapped products sold at their local farmers market, and now are available nation-wide in various health food stores and online.



I contacted two of my gym friends to sample these bars with me – I wanted a little more input and feedback. So, the three of us got to sample these whole-food treats, and compare notes.  Overall, we were all impressed! We liked the texture and taste, with each of us having a few differences based on personal preference. Whole ingredients, balanced macronutrients, enough sweetness from the dates without being overpowering, we all agreed these are a win!

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