Updated: Apr 7
My name is Jennifer Jacobs, I am an ICU Nurse Practitioner and Medspa Owner. In the past I have been certified in nutrition, competed in fitness competitions, and helped people optimize their health. I am one of the few who practices medicine, but still believes in holistic medicine for optimal health with the realization that this can be limited.
During our days of quarantine I have worked bedside in the ICU with some of the sickest COVID patients. One thing I have found interesting is our response to this virus. Fear has been running rampant throughout our nation and others with focus primarily on protecting each other in the community; however, I have not seen any posts regarding prevention measures we can take from a nutritional and supplemental standpoint. Therefore, I have taken the time during my day off to do some research and formulate some suggestions.
If there is anything we know about COVID, we know it can kill you. That’s blunt I know, but lets dig in a little more and get to my point. The terminal stage of this virus is likely the onset of cytokine storm. Cytokine storm is an overproduction of immune cells and their activating compounds (cytokines) which is associated with a surge of activated immune cells in the lungs. This results in lung inflammation and fluid buildup which leads to respiratory distress and can be accompanied by pneumonia. Of note, we all have pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. In the medical world, every professional is working very hard to understand the effects of the virus and the best treatment for each patient.
According to Sordillo and Helson (2015), cytokine storm is most often associated with H1N1 and the bird flu pandemic, where people with presumed healthy immune systems died – atypical activity of their immune system is thought to be the cause.
Sordillo and Helson (2015), cite several sources regarding curcumin and its ability to inhibit the release of numerous cytokines. The studies monitored the activity of curcumin in experimental models of diseases and conditions associated with cytokine storm; however, this did not include COVID.
After reviewing, this article and the effects curcumin has on cytokines, it may be beneficial to consider taking it in supplement form. There are some resources that state curcumin is poorly absorbed in the intestinal tract, rapidly metabolized and eliminated. Piperine (major component of black pepper) is associated with an increase in bioavailability in curcumin according to Hewlings and Kalman (2017).
Of note, curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric and several studies have been conducted regarding its properties and anti-inflammatory effects.
Azad, Sarker and Wan (2018), reviewed the immunomodulatory effects of probiotics on cytokine profiles. While most people associate probiotics with the GI tract and urinary tract, this article does report health benefits of probiotics and includes: reduction in allergy symptoms and stimulation and modulation of the immune system. Overall, they did conclude that probiotics “have a positive influence on the innate immunity, exerting several antiviral properties”.
Dancer, et al (2015), studied vitamin D deficiency in relation to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS); this is of particular importance because many patients who are critical with COVID are in ARDS. The conclusion of this study was that vitamin d deficiency was common in those who develop ARDS. They also note, “several studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for adverse outcome in pneumonia.”(Dancer, et al (2015).
Carr and Maggini (2017), studied vitamin C and immune function. They concluded that while vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and protects the body against endo and exogenous oxidative challenges, it also acts as a cofactor to regulatory enzymes and plays a key role in immune modulation. Carr and Maggini (2017), also state that vitamin C may assist in the prevention and treatment on respiratory and systemic infections. Lastly, they mention that adequate intake of vitamin C is essential for proper immune function and resistance to infection.
Based on the studies above, my personal opinion includes taking a proactive approach for my body to fight whatever may come its way. Every day I focus on eating whole foods and nutrient dense meals, but realize key vitamins and minerals may be lacking. However, a focus on nutrient dense meals, is more beneficial than highly processed foods. My morning starts with healthy dose of vitamin C from fruits, in addition to protein and oatmeal. My current morning and evening supplement regimen consists of a probiotic (14 strains), multivitamin, immunity support tablet and Turmeric.
If you are considering adding these to your regimen, please contact your primary care physician first, as there may be interactions with medication you may be taking. This is not a guarantee that these supplements will cure or prevent your from getting the virus. This is not a guarantee that if you do get the virus that these will decrease its severity. As always, talk with your primary care physician for further guidance and information.
In addition, this research article review was not comprehensive and its focus was on inflammation, cytokine storm and supplementation. There was one article that reported conflict of interest due to the authors working for a pharmaceutical company that prepared curcumin IV.