The Novel Coronavirus known as COVID 19 has made us all take stock of our health, our families health, and global health. It is tempting to feel helpless as this pandemic sweeps across the globe. We are not helpless.
Science is making rapid progress bringing us hope. Until we know the entire population will have access to the vaccine, we must be vigilante in protecting our health.
There are simple steps you can take now to strengthen your immune system. Particularly, if you in a position of caring of others as well as yourself.
I am going to give some recommendations that I follow in my own practice for drilling down to how strong your immune system is. I will also cover steps you can take now to help your immune system work even better. These tips aren’t just for those that have not been infected. If you are recovering from COVID19, its important to strengthen your immune system as there are still more infectious threats.
Know Your Health History
We are now aware that chronic illnesses increase you chances of contracting COVID and getting much sicker than COVID. You want to know you health history and the status of each chronic illness you are dealing with.
- Age greater than 60
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Heart Disease (Hypertension, Congestive Heart Failure for example)
- Being a Current Smoker
1.Zabetakis I, Lordan R, Norton C, Tsoupras A. COVID-19: The Inflammation Link and the Role of Nutrition in Potential Mitigation. Nutrients. 2020 May 19;12(5):1466. doi: 10.3390/nu12051466. PMID: 32438620; PMCID: PMC7284818.
Naturally, it’s not that you will cure any of these diseases. They are chronic, and took many years to develop. Helping your immune system means you want to know the status of each of these issues that are treatable.
|Disease||Number to Know|
|Diabetes Mellitus||A1C-90 Day Blood Sugar Average|
|COPD||FEV1-Stage of Lung Damage Present, Oxygen Saturation|
|Heart Disease||Blood Pressure, Pulse|
|Cancer||White Blood Cell Count|
Once you know these numbers, you will want to make a goal to improve them. Diabetics that have controlled blood sugars will overall do better than having high blood sugars.
Know Your Inflammatory Status
COVID does its damage to the body by causing a cascade of damages through acute inflammation. Our immune systems are designed to create inflammation in order to fight infection. We are learning that having a baseline inflammatory system increases a person’s risk of becoming critically ill with COVID.
Chronic Inflammation in the body can come from diseases, untreated metabolic issues, elevated cholesterol, autoimmune diseases, or cancer. Having chronic inflammation in the body before a major threat means the body has more challenges to overcome.
|Inflammatory Marker||What it Means|
|ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate)||Elevated levels means there is infection, damage or overall inflammation in the body.|
|C-RP (C Reactive Protein)||General inflammatory marker that can be used to detect disease or monitor chronic illnes.|
|HDL||Large cholesterol particle that when it’s low can mean overall poor metabolic function and inflammation.|
|Triglycerides||Elevated levels mean metabolic disturbance and inflammation|
|VLDL||Small, dense cholesterol that may elevated in chronic inflammation|
|Ferritin||Marker used to check for anemia, can be elevated in chronic inflammation.|
|Weight||Obesity has been shown to increase risk of death from COVID|
These inflammatory markers can be easily checked in blood work. Many are part of typical panels that are drawn in yearly labs. Knowing and monitoring these numbers is a great way know if you are treating your body well. Inflammatory markers will respond positively when the underlying condition, such as diabetes, obesity, or high cholesterol.
Know Your Nutritional Status
There is a temptation to feel that if your weight is normal, or if you are overweight that your nutritional status is good. Unfortunately, being overweight often increases your risk of being malnourished. Having low levels of needed nutrients in your body not only increases you chances of infection, but also of cancers and advanced aging.
|Lab/Marker||Risks of Disease or illness|
|Vitamin D||Low levels increase risk of contracting COVID, bone disease, and cancer.|
|Vitamin B12||Low levels can damage nerves and brain health|
|Potassium||Low levels usually in a diet poor in fruits/vegetables; can worsen high blood pressure|
|BUN/Creatnine||Markers of kidney function. Even small elevations require a workup.|
|AST/ALT||Test for liver function. Elevated levels may be marker of metabolic disease|
|Protein/Albumin||Markers of protein levels, which help the body heal and recover.|
|Magnesium||Electrolyte that helps blood vessel function and can help in blood pressure control.|
What You Can Do Now
I recommend gathering records you may already have and reviewing those. Consider discussing with you primary care physician if you’ve recently had these numbers done. If you haven’t seen your doctor, get established when you can.