Currently there is an overwhelming amount of information available in the form of; news flashes, articles, talks and blogs out there about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic which makes it hard to seperate the fact from the fiction.

I listened to Dr Deanna Minich, PhD, FACN, CNS talking on an Institute for Functional Medicine (IMF) webinar to the professor of Immunology at the National University of Natural Medicine, dr Heather Zwickey, PhD.

I would like to share with you some of the relevant information from this talk.

It is now more important than ever to have a healthy and strong immune system to defend yourself.

You can certainly strengthen your immune system and enhance your body’s ability to fight contagious diseases like corona viruses. In order for your immune system to perform at its best, it needs to be balanced – meaning, not overactive or under-active.

Corona-virus is officially known as SARS-COV-2. The “SARS” stands for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome, because it can potentially cause a rapid onset of respiratory failure. COVID-19 is a SARS virus. In mild cases, the virus will run its course and symptoms will resolve on their own.

Symptoms caused by the COVID-19 virus

The main routes of transmission are:

  • Physical contact
  • Respiratory droplets (coughing, sneezing or speaking)

The incubation period (time from getting into contact with the virus to having symptoms) can be 1-14 days.

The first symptoms are usually that of a scratchy throat, followed by a fever, fatigue and a dry cough for 1-3 days. In a mild case there need not be more symptoms. When more severe, it is followed up by a feeling of chest restriction and respiratory obstruction with sticky mucous. The speed at which the symptoms develop depends on underlying or baseline inflammation in the body. It also depends on the immune system’s ability to defend the host.

The difference between the Corona Virus and a Flu virus

As these cytokines and immune cells flood into the tissues of the lungs, it causes inflammation which leads to oxidative injury and damage to the alveolar-capillary barrier (the membrane where gas is exchanged in your lungs). This results in less ability to move mucus out of the lungs and essentially halts the ability of the membrane to properly transport oxygen to the rest of your tissues. This downward spiral is what leads to acute respiratory failure. This is life threatening. The Corona Virus causes a bilateral pneumonia(both lungs), whereas the Flu Virus usually results in a unilateral pneumonia(one lung).

Because of attaching to the ACE receptor, the Corona Virus also damages the Heart muscles more easily. The Corona Virus also leads to an over reacting immune response, known as a Cytokine Storm that damages all body tissues.

If the lung damage is left unchecked, your vital organs are quickly deprived of oxygen and cannot function properly. It then becomes a life-threatening situation.

Once a virus enters the body, it attaches to receptors on the Epithelial Cells (the cells that make up the lining on the inside of your lungs, intestinal tract and vascular walls) which are the first cell types to come into contact with the virus. The virus then enters the cell and starts replicating inside the cell.

The Corona and the Flu Virus spike proteins differ and attach to different cell receptors on the epithelial linings. The corona virus attaches to the ACE2 receptor and the Flu virus to sialic acid receptors.

Your immune system is alerted to these foreign invaders and launches an attack – deploying different immune cells and chemical messengers, known as the Inflammasome (NLRP3), preparing the body to fight.

They differ in virulence (capability of a pathogen to cause disease by aggressively interfering with the immune system of the host). The immune systems response to increased virulence can result in an overreaction of the Inflammasome (Cytokine Storm).

How do we protect ourselves?

Prevention is always better than dealing with the infection.

Social Isolation:

Isolating yourself at home is one of the most impactful things you can do to slow the spread of this particular virus.

Washing Hands:

Wash your hands thoroughly, using regular soap disrupts the lipid exterior of the virus, causing it to die.

Wearing a Face Mask:

Wearing a mask when you are out of the house. It is especially important if  you do not feel well, or simply have a small cough. It is not a complete protection, but you will be breathing in and out less particles.

Wearing Gloves:

Consider wearing gloves as it cuts down your exposure when touching things when out in public

Physical contact:

Avoid touching your face; eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. The virus gets drained from the mucous membranes to the lymphatic glands within 5 minutes.

Removing Mask and Gloves:

Remove the mask and glove in such a way that you do not touch the surfaces that you used to protect you with your bare skin.


Wash or spray surfaces of food packets with soap or vinergar to clean and kill the virus present on surfaces.


Wait 24 hours to unpack food from packets, bag, boxes, etc. It can take up to 24 hours for the virus to die.

Modify these 9 important lifestyle factors

This can resolve the baseline inflammation that can influence your immune response to Covid-19.
  • Support the immune system with a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits and clean protein foods.
  • Eat an anti-inflammarory diet.
  • Tend to gut-related issues as needed.
  • Use destress techniques to reduce the stress response in the body.
  • Get enough adequate sleep.
  • Excercise regularly. You can find a multitude of excercises online to do right in your very own space.
  • Social connection, even in the face of social distancing, it is important to connect regularly with your fellow humans.
  • Do not allow fear to drive your emotions and actions.
  • Reduce exposure to toxins.

2 things you can do to Support yourself

  • Drink warm liquids regularly throughout the day – stay hydrated

Use targeted botanicals and nutraceuticals to support the immune system. (see link below).

  • Vitamin D3, C and A
  • NAC (N-Acetylcholine)
  • Melatonin
  • Curcumin, Boswelia and Quercetin
  • Zinc and Selenium
  • Elderberry
  • Green tea or epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC)
  • Resveratol
  • Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA)

Final Message

Taking basic precautions will play a big role in supporting you to get through this pandemic.

I wish you health and well-being while we all face this challenge together.


COVID-19 Functional medicine resources practitioner portal IFM

Practitioner portal Metagenics Webinar by Dr Deanna Minich, PhD, FACN, CNS talking with dr Heather Zwickey, PhD, professor of Immunology at the National University of Natural Medicine


Downloadable Material