It’s more important to treat the person with a disease, than it is to treat the disease that a person has.
~Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine
When I was in medical school almost 50 years ago, we were recruited for an experiment to test the common cold virus (i.e., a rhinovirus). I didn’t volunteer even though some extra spending money would have been nice, but my classmates did. Students were selected who had essentially no antibodies to rhinovirus. In exchange for a pittance, researchers at the University of Virginia Medical School divided the volunteers into four groups (if my ancient recollection serves me well):
Group 1 was the control and received no virus.
Group 2 received a very low dose.
Group 3 received a moderate dose.
Group 4 received a high dose.
As you might expect, no one in group 1 became ill, whereas everyone in group 4 got a cold. A few in group 2 came down with the sniffles and about half of those in group 3 “caught” the cold. The takeaway from this outcome was that we all have a dosage threshold of inoculation. Despite this well-established fact, I see little discussion about immune resistance to the corona virus and almost all discussion is about the virus itself. It’s as if the quote above from the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, has never been heard. It’s also similar to integrative cancer treatment – modern medicine’s expertise treats the cancer but may tend to ignore the whole person (with an immune system), who is fighting and killing cancer cells.
The Role of the Immune System
The purpose of this brief report is to expand your perspective on the corona virus and to keep doing what you are doing to prevent getting sick- follow all the hygiene and social distancing recommendations carefully- but to remember that you have an immune system and that you will probably be exposed to the virus at some point. Your immune system is capable of fending off a certain exposure but that varies from person to person. You can do a lot to rev your immune system up and handle higher exposures without becoming ill.
So, why do some people who have a certain exposure to the corona virus get sick and some with an identical or higher exposure remain symptom free? Layers of defenses exist in our body such as Immunoglobulin A (IgA), which bathes our mucosal surfaces, the lining of our mouth, nose, throat, GI tract and lungs. IgA is a first line of defense and as a functional medicine physician, I test virtually all patients for immunoglobulins like IgA. Genetic IgA deficiency is common, and I even have several patients who can’t make any IgA at all. This is like removing the coast guard from our national defenses, which would make our coasts relatively vulnerable to minor incursions from enemies. However, the coast guard could not stop a full scale invasion, which is the job of our other classes of immunoglobulins (e.g. IgM, IgG) and our cellular protection (e.g., white blood cells), and which is analogous to our army, navy, air force and marines.
All of my patients who are deficient in these defensive boundaries, such as those with low IgA levels, or low white blood cells caused by Lyme disease, or deficient in IgG, all know to be careful about infections of any kind, let alone a super-germ like this corona virus. When immunity is low, for various reasons, even by being old like me, one must be extra careful about exposures, not only for your own sake, but for the sake of others as you could pick this virus up and spread it around.
Here is a list of other factors that depress immunity and if addressed could make you more resistant:
Immunosuppressant medications like prednisone. Try to manage symptoms with pain medication, anti-inflammatory herbals like turmeric and other supportive care like acupuncture. Find the root causes of inflammation, such as food allergies. Knock off wheat and milk products, and eggs, which often are at the top of the list of pro-inflammatory foods. Food allergy testing is available and often covered by insurance plans.
Handle GI inflammation so that your immune system, 70% of which surrounds your intestines, is not wasting its time with an unfriendly microbiome bug, such as fungal, bacterial, parasitic micro-organism. Take probiotics and digestive enzymes to help your intestines function better and avoid junk food and processed carbohydrates. You probably already know what sets your bowels off, so now is a good time to be nice to your intestines.
If you have Lyme disease, take your remedies (e.g., homeopathics, anti-Lyme herbals, colloidal silver etc.) to keep Lyme and any co-infections quarantined, which frees your immune system to be on the lookout for the corona virus.
Drink lots of filtered water and get enough rest, all of which detoxifies your immune system and rests it to be prepared to go into over-drive should corona show up.
Meditation, yoga, prayer and contemplation all settle down your autonomic, stressed-out immune system, so that it can be more vigilant. Stress of any kind, allergic, endocrine, toxic or psycho-emotional, are all immunosuppressive. Now’s a good time to meditate.
Fresh air and sunshine help. Oxygen kills corona and most micro-organisms, which is why high dose intravenous vitamin C seems to work (turns into hydrogen peroxide). Sunshine on the skin activates vitamin D, which should be taken at doses around 10,000 iu a day for adults (see my previous article on the coronal virus).
I once had a colleague who somehow got his medical license and probably only knew about 200 English words. He used to say to smokers, “Ah, you smoke, you die.” This is much more the case now. If you smoke, stop. Use any method available, even one of my books, “End Your Addiction Now” or “End Nicotine Addiction Now,” which has the protocols of amino acids that will make it virtually impossible to smoke. Marijuana, alcohol, other drugs?... Now’s a good time to stop. Your immune system will appreciate sobriety.
There is no more room here for the other 100 suggestions. Remember, it’s not just about the virus, it’s about your immune system. If you have not had an immune tune up, let’s test you and schedule a phone consult with me.* “If we don’t test, we’ve guessed,” is our motto. And if the corona bug does get past your surface defenses, you will want your other, deeper defenses prepared so that you can put up a good fight and survive. I am sending this out to my patients first, many of whom are seriously immuno-compromised in various ways. I pray that none will get sick and none will die.
Oh, that reminds me about the double-blind studies on intercessory prayer. That could have been #8 above. Prayer works. How the heck does the immune system know that someone is praying for it. Let’s pray for our own immune system, that of our loved ones and for everyone’s immune systems. At the very least, prayer (#5 above) will lower autonomic stress and make us more resistant.
*Dr. Gant is doing Telemedicine appointments only.
Charles Gant MD, PhD, is a physician, author and teacher and has practiced Integrative and Functional Medicine for over three decades. He specializes in molecular health and healing, especially as it supports growth and recovery from health issues such as ADHD, chronic diseases, metabolic and immune disorders, infectious disease, substance disorders and more. He is an expert in interpretation of functional medicine testing to diagnose precisely what is deficient in each patient, and then replenish those missing, essential items.