POSSIBLE NUTRIENT IMPLICATIONS
NOTE: I do not encourage you to run out and start supplementing with any of the discussed nutrients, nor herbal therapies explored. This is for informational purposes and should only be used for education. Specific brands, forms, and dosing should be recommended by a trained professional based on YOUR specific situation, diet, activities, health status, and other variables. If you would like to get a personalized plan of your own, reach out and we can discuss. Email me at kate@DublinDietitian.com to coordinate.
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.]
THE ROLE OF MALNUTRITION
(Under-nutrition or Over-nutrition)
Host nutritional status has long been recognized as an important factor in the outcome of a variety of different infectious diseases. Undernutrition is reported as a problem for influenza pandemics of the twenty-first century and beyond. And even now, in the United Sates, per the USDA, 11.1 percent (14.3 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2018. The majority of Americans are not consuming the recommended amounts of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or calcium-rich foods. And the 2015-2020 Dietary guidelines for Americans highlighted that much of the US population is under-consuming calcium, potassium, fiber, iron, Vitamins A, C, D, and E, choline, and magnesium.
In short – many Americans, while possibly consuming too many calories – are malnourished when it comes to actual vitamins and minerals, therefore potentially increasing their risk of contracting a virus.
As for “overnutrition,” it is now well accepted that obesity increases one’s risk of being hospitalized with, and dying from, an influenza virus infection (Morgan et al., 2010; Louie et al., 2011; Van Kerkhove et al., 2011). “Perhaps of even greater concern is the fact that obesity inhibits both virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses and antibody responses to the seasonal influenza vaccine (Sheridan et al., 2012). The challenge for future influenza pandemics is therefore not only to protect those affected by undernutrition… but also the growing number of people living with obesity.”
What that means: undernutrition weakens the immune system due to lack of nutrients but also, “overnutrition” and obesity can dampened the immune system response, inhibiting the types of cells (CD8+ T cells and antibodies) that fight off viruses. Antibodies are specific to a vaccine or strain of flu; CD8+ T cells offer a more blanket-protection against the general flu virus and thus are a better marker of protection.
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.