The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first identified in the Wuhan province of China late in 2019. Genetic analysis of 2019-nCoV is in process to confirm the origin, likely from animals. Historically, SARS, another coronavirus, originated with civit cats. MERS, which also impacted humans, arose from camels. Until we are able to understand this virus better, prudence is in order, but not panic. Take care of your overall health and practice good public health measures while the situation develops.
Naturopathic Virus Care
A virus not only causes damage to the body by itself, but additional damage, sometimes lethal, is caused inadvertently by our own immune system responding to the virus. It’s vital to seek treatment that will allow the immune system to respond appropriately. Naturopathic doctors focus on supporting the immune system and helping patients develop an appropriate immune response. You should begin helping your immune system now amidst this outbreak and for the future should another outbreak happen.
The simplest action you can take is to make sure any other chronic health conditions are under control. Those with prior chronic illnesses are more at risk of a lethal form of any influenza or virus than those that were previously healthy. By addressing your chronic illnesses and taking appropriate preventative measures, you may suffer a lesser course of a disease. Take heart that this is within our control, but more must be done.
The medical professionals at Heart Spring Health can support you in prevention and treatment of viruses. Beyond naturopathic doctors – acupuncturists, massage therapists, and our chiropractic doctors offer whole-person, natural medicine modalities. They offer non-pharmaceutical interventions for many troubling chronic conditions with a focus on immune response. This is absolutely vital during this time of potential pandemic.
Cytokine Storm and Severe Lung Damage
The coronavirus causes damage in three ways.
- Direct damage to the organs, such as the lungs
- Reaction from the immune system called the cytokine storm, which can be life-threatening, but usually results in fever, aches and pains
- After-effect of cytokine damage, which can potentially be the most dangerous and damaging.
Cytokines are a category of signaling molecules that regulate immunity and inflammation (1). According to Dr. Paul Herscu, there are theoretically two major ways to deal with this reaction to a virus. First, try to prevent and reduce the cytokines, and second, to remove excessive cytokines from the bloodstream (2). While technology exists for cytokine reduction and removal, it is not guaranteed to be effective as there is, to date, mixed data on survival benefits with cytokine removal (3). There are several natural substances that can regulate cytokines, including curcumin (4), resveratrol (5), N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), black tea, and vitamin E (6).
The emergency department is the best option for managing a cytokine storm when someone is having a severe reaction to the virus. They may employ one or both of the strategies for addressing cytokines by using pharmacological agents and/or removing enough of the cytokines from the bloodstream to shorten the length and severity of the cytokine storm.
Here are some basic steps to avoid exposure and exposing others to any virus including the current Coronavirus:
- Stay home if you are sick!
- Avoid people who are sick.
- Prioritize hand-washing more often, with soap and water for twenty seconds, especially before eating.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when handwashing is not possible.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and discard or sneeze into your bent elbow.
- Limit handling doorknobs and other public surfaces without gloves.
- In a severe epidemic, use gloves outside to limit contact. Wash gloves daily.
- Avoid large crowds and places with poor ventilation.
- Use a properly fitted mask in large crowds or places with poor ventilation. If using a mask, change it frequently as they harbor bacteria.
Bolster your health and immune system with these tips:
- If you are feeling run down, take a day off for rest and healing.
- Drink plenty of fluids including water, broth-based soups, and low sugar beverages.
- Get adequate sleep, essential for a well-functioning immune system.
- Avoid sugars, alcohol, and refined, overly processed foods.
- Eat a diet that supports optimal immune function: lots of vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. Ingest cultured food and drink to support an active and robust microbiome, which in turn supports proper immunity. Include high fiber foods for optimizing the gut microbiome.
- Stop or at the least reduce smoking. Viral-like symptoms will be worse in smokers. You also help protect loved ones from the impact of second-hand smoke.
- Reduce your stress levels. The stress hormone cortisol negatively impacts immune function.
Check out these natural medicines that enhance immunity while helping to create and maintain healthy mucous membrane tissue:
- Acupuncture is well established as immune modulating, and Chinese herbal formulas have been helpful for restoring mucous membrane function.
- Botanical medicines help prevent flu. Some key herbs to consider include licorice root, marshmallow root, ginseng, elderberry, echinacea, and garlic. Your naturopathic doctor or acupuncturist at Heart Spring Health can also help you with herbs to help protect vital organs affected by the virus such as the lungs.
- Nutritional supplements can help ensure optimal immune system function. These include but are not limited to zinc, vitamin C, and probiotics.
- Using a humidifier will reduce virus survival (7) and may decrease transmission.
- Constitutional hydrotherapy treatments help to stimulate the immune response to the virus and reduce the toxic effects of the virus.
How to Respond to the Coronavirus
Transmission of the various Coronaviruses has been noted to be person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. It’s not clear yet how easily this Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) spreads from person-to-person. When person-to-person spread occurred with MERS and SARS, it was thought to have happened via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Spread of MERS and SARS between people has generally occurred between close contacts. We now know that the virus can be spread before a person is symptomatic.
For the current virus, symptoms vary greatly from mild respiratory illness, fever, and cough, to more severe symptoms like difficulty breathing and death. According to the CDC, symptoms can develop 2-14 days after exposure. There is currently no vaccine for 2019-nCoV.
The CDC recommends that people should be evaluated if they meet the following clinical features & epidemiological risk factors:
- Fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness such as cough or difficulty breathing and
- In the last 14 days before symptom onset, a history of travel or close contact with a person who is under investigation or has a confirmed diagnosis for Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
If you think you have been exposed to the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or you have symptoms of the virus, here is a list of steps to follow:
- It will be important to follow quarantine guidelines. If you think you might be contagious, you should keep yourself isolated and avoid contact with other people.
- Seek appropriate conventional care alongside naturopathic care.
- Call the Emergency Department and let them know that you are experiencing symptoms that may be related to the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). They can provide you with instructions for how to receive care, and they can administer care in an isolation room, so the virus is not spread.
- Reach out to your primary care doctor as well; especially if you have other chronic conditions you see them for.
- Reach out to your Heart Spring Health provider through the ChARM portal messaging system or call the office to set up an acute same day phone consultation.
Heart Spring Health providers cannot provide advice if you are a new patient to the clinic. You must have already established care with us prior to contracting a virus and are receiving appropriate care through your medical doctor or the emergency department. Addressing specific symptoms of 2019-nCoV will be individualized to the patient and the type and severity of symptoms that arise.
The steps and instructions included in this post are only guidelines. If you suspect you have contracted the 2019-nCoV, reach out to the emergency department and your medical providers for further evaluation. If you suffer from other, unrelated chronic disease, consult your naturopathic doctor and other medical provider for further individualized care.
Some patients under investigation for, or diagnosed with, 2019-nCoV may be eligible for home care per current CDC guidelines. Home treatment for this virus looks very much like home care for the flu (hydration, rest, eliminating transmission to others, etc.). Prior to a healthcare facility releasing a person to home care, the provider should work with CDC infection disease teams to consider suitability and accessibility to appropriate precautions.
For more information about 2019 Coronavirus:
Dr. Sherry Pittman is a naturopathic physician at Heart Spring Health in southeast Portland, Oregon who loves to help others regain their sense of well-being and health by using holistic medicine. She graduated from Bastyr University and completed a residency at Bastyr Center for Natural Health. Dr. Sherry enjoys supporting others in their healing journey and particularly enjoys working with women’s health conditions and mental health. She loves to create individualized plans with her patients utilizing herbal medicine, nutrition, physical medicine, homeopathy, pharmaceuticals, counseling, and/ or hydrotherapy to best support them. Click here to learn more about Dr. Sherry.
- Q. Liu et al.: The cytokine storm of severe influenza and development of immunomodulatory therapy. Cell. Mol. Immunol. 13, 3 (2016)
- P. M. Honore et al.: Cytokine removal in human septic shock: Where are we and where are we going? Ann. Intensive Care 9 (2019)
- R. Yadav et al.: Curcumin Suppresses the Production of Pro-inflammatory Cytokine Interleukin-18 in Lipopolysaccharide Stimulated Murine Macrophage-Like Cells. Indian J. Clin. Biochem. 30, 109 (2015)
- S. V. Culpitt et al.: Inhibition by red wine extract, resveratrol, of cytokine release by alveolar macrophages in COPD. Thorax 58, 942 (2003)
- H. Ahsan et al.: Pharmacological potential of tocotrienols: a review. Nutr. Metab. 11 (2014)
- J. M. Reiman et al.: Humidity as a non-pharmaceutical intervention for influenza A. PLoS One 13, 9 (2018)
Photo courtesy of CDC on Unsplash