Coronavirus Update:  A Strong Defense is Your Best Offense!

Coronavirus Update: A Strong Defense is Your Best Offense!

Mark Menolascino MD, MS

During the 2003 SARS infection outbreak in the US, I was working in the ICU in Phoenix, Arizona and we had every bed full-on 4 ICU floors and had to borrow older equipment and open another ICU on a different floor of the hospital to accommodate the severely ill patients with pneumonia.  Our emergency room was so overwhelmed that we had a 27-hour wait to be seen by a physician!  Your best defense is a good offense: clean food, clean water, clean air, and nutritional support.

Coronavirus is a family of viruses including the common cold as well as the SARS virus that infected over 8,000 people and killed 774 in 2003. The name coronavirus comes from the microscopic view as the virus looks like it has a crown with protein ‘spikes’.  The new virus is now termed SARS CoV-2 (which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2).  When SARS-CoV-2 was first identified it was called 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV.  There are now seven types of coronaviruses of which four infect humans and mostly cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory-tract infections—basically the common cold though all can cause severe disease.

SARS CoV-2 causes a disease called COVID -19 (for Corona Virus Disease started in 2019) similar to influenza virus causing the flu. COVID-19 has infected over 120,000 people with over 4500 deaths as of March 11, 2020.  So far this flu season, the CDC estimates that up to 45 million Americans have had the flu, causing hospitalization for over 500,000 and killing 46,000.  For this coronavirus disease, COVID -19, the amount of people that get sick will be less and a much lower death toll, but the fatality rate appears to be higher, though exact rates are not consistent.  Data is showing that women and children are at less risk than men and older adults, and the key for all of us may be to have a strong immune system with minimal underlying chronic disease risk.


Symptoms of Coronavirus

You may be infected with the coronavirus without showing symptoms for anywhere from two to 14 days -this is what makes tracking the outbreak so difficult.  Most of the infections start out with fever, fatigue and mild respiratory symptoms, like a dry cough. While most infections don’t get worse but can progress into a serious illness. This can be deadly if your health is not optimal, especially for older people and those with underlying health conditions-particularly lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes.

The main symptoms of coronavirus (and the flu) are:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Muscular stiffness and pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise, fatigue
  • Stomach upset, such as nausea or diarrhea

This can then progress into a respiratory infection/pneumonia and can progress rapidly into respiratory failure and death, particularly in the elderly or those with heart and lung disease.

You need every advantage against getting the virus and if you are unfortunate to be infected, you want your immune system to be as strong as possible to kill it.

There are key nutrients that are crucial to support immune cell function. Without them, many crucial biochemical processes to strengthen your immune system would not happen. These nutrients control how food and oxygen are converted into energy and also send messages to other components within the cell, such as helping the cell to perform specific functions to optimize your immunes system’s ability to kill a virus, including the coronavirus.

You have 3 warriors in your immune system – Natural Killer Cells (cells tasked with fighting aggressors), Macrophages (defensive cells within white blood cells) and T-Cells (immune response cells) that are your best defense.  We want these viral defenses to be as strong as possible and supporting the immune system is key.  Vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, probiotics plays a crucial role in a healthy immune defense and response.   There are several natural remedies that also have shown benefit in boosting immune response. These have been shown in studies to boost the function of Natural Killer Cells as well as the function of both T-cells and Macrophages.

While we always recommend a healthy, clean, ideally organic-based food plan, our body needs additional support with today’s stressful world for most of us to have a stronger immune system and have optimal energy for vitality and health!

Of course, you want to stack the odds in your favor by strengthening your immune system.


Keys to optimal immune system health against viral infection include:

  • Taking precautions to avoid infection, such as washing your hands using soap for at least 20 seconds frequently and using hand sanitizer when not able to wash hands
  • Hand dryers seem less effective than towels/paper towels as the friction from towels seems to help
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise and don’t smoke
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
  • Stay hydrated, at least ½ ounce of water per pound of body weight
  • Get adequate sleep

Unlike bacterial infections (for which you can take an antibiotic), there is no quick cure medication for viruses. They just hang on and on until your body can finally fight them off or they’ve done more damage.

Stack the odds in your favor by giving the 3 warriors of your immune system the support they need:  Natural Killer Cells, Macrophages and T-cells provide your defense against viruses and bacteria.  And remember, take caution to watch for the sneaky bacterial pneumonia that may try to sneak in after a viral infection-this is a most dangerous time while recovering from the flu or coronavirus you are much more susceptible to a dangerous bacterial infection.


Support Your Immune

Vitamin D-5,000 IU (one capsule) per day

Vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone needed for immune support, current recommended levels may be too low for individuals and consider getting levels checked by your doctor to achieve a range of 60-80 ng/dl-not the current recommended level of only 30 which I feel is too low


Vitamin C Fizz

1 tsp of Vitamin C fizz in water yields 3.5 grams of vitamin C and I recommend 1-2 times per day, best to gargle first then drink down to clear the viral breeding ground of the throat

One of the best immune supports for your antioxidant defense and a favorite of one of my heroes: Linus Pauling              




One capsule per day; proven in studies to support defenses against coronaviruses.  Be careful not to take too much zinc as this depletes copper, 30 mg seems to be the ideal dose for most of us



Probiotic Maintenance one per day for overall microbiome/gut support. The gut is the home of our immune system and probiotics seem to protect against immune challenges


Immune Support

Immune Support is an herbal formula that is designed to support healthy immune system function during cold and flu season. It contains herbs, including echinacea, elderberry, astragalus, goldenseal, that support normal natural killer (NK) cell activity and the balance of cytokines, which are the regulatory proteins released by immune cells as part of a normal immune system response. The standardized herbs in this formula contain optimal and consistent amounts of the most active ingredients. Immune Support is suitable for long term use and for all age groups.


In this time of new viruses, we need to have our defensive walls against infection strong and our warriors primed to fight infection if needed.

A Strong Defense is Your Best Offense so support your immune system and by letting food be your medicine, kitchen be your pharmacy and use targeted high-quality nutritional supplements when necessary for additional support.