COVID Protection

1 Comment2 January 2021

My Pepper dog is snuggling in for January.... and with most of us now in tier 4 we have to follow her lead for a while longer too.

All viruses undergo mutations, but what we are seeing in this new variant is it’s far more transmissible, especially in the under 20’s and of course this has thrown up more questions and understandable apprehension. So, I’ve gone back over all the information that I’ve learnt since last April, and want to share with you, as being informed, helps to dispel fear.

Firstly, many of you have been asking me what you can do to support your immune health, and about the vaccine itself.

The two questions go hand in hand, because the very model of a vaccine is based on the natural workings of our own immune system, both the innate (first line) and adaptive (more specific). Both subsystems are necessary to provide an effective immune response to a vaccine. In other words…….. for any vaccine to be it’s most effective -  your immune system has to be in good nick!  

The innate immune system includes a variety of protective measures: acids, phagocytic cells (essentially packman like cells that engulf pathogens), barriers like the gut, the inflammatory response,  and mucous secretions which are continually functioning and provides a first-line of defence against pathogens, however, these responses are not specific to a particular pathogenic agent.

The actions of the adaptive immune system are far more specific, however will take longer to occur and eventually has a memory which means that the adaptive immune system will respond more rapidly to that particular pathogen with each successive exposure.

What about the vaccine?

Based on this model, The COVID vaccine works by injecting genetic code for the “spike protein” that the virus uses to infect. After vaccination it’s the priming of our adaptive immune system that then should recognise and attack when subsequently exposed.

We have MANY nutritional tools in our kit bag to support both components of our immune response, and thus provide a calmer and balanced terrain, which is the most optimal environment to receive a vaccine. Think about it this way - if the battlefield is strewn with minefields (pathogens), collateral damage i.e your tissue, and injured soldiers (Senescent cells-SC’s, which arise due to inflammatory, DNA damage, or tissue damage signals), the immune system is then faced with having to process a great deal more information in terms of all this damaged tissue, DNA and SC’s  -  second to second the subsets are having to decide is this self tissue “friend or foe”  plus all the molecular “information” within a vaccine. 

We can be proactive and preventative to clearing the battlefield, and we can focus on building our immune resilience and balance in these coming months to protect ourselves and our broader community by...

No 1: Follow social distancing measures

No 2: Eliminate the 3 S's that can drive non-purposeful inflammation (the higher one’s inflammatory baseline is at the time of onset of an infection the risk of moving toward the threshold of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome expression is fa greater) and deplete our natural immune function

  1. Stress: stress chemistry (this can be mental stress, or carrying an infectious burden, of a slow smouldering inflammatory response from say a gut infection) generates cortisol, shown to induce death of key innate immune cells -NK cells, that are anti-viral. Adaptogens like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola can be helpful supplements to downregulate stress chemistry, try meditation, breathing techniques or a new online Pilates or yoga class?
  2. Sleep: adequate, deep sleep is shown to reduce escalating inflammation and support all those natural  innate immune responses. These innate immune cells secrete a chemical -interferon gamma (IFNγ) that supports an antiviral immune response. Disordered sleep is characterized by less “slow wave sleep”, and more REM sleep.
  3. Sugar intake that’s excessive can drive higher insulin levels, driving inflammation. So, follow a diet that is devoid of CRAP (colourless, refined and processed) foods - you can purchase one of my recipe books to get some colourful meal ideas for the new year?

No 3: support the components of immune system function that are essential to your ability to fight the infection and introduce key nutrients that are central to healthy, robust immune system activation:

Vitamins and minerals with known immunological roles

Vitamin D - Vitamin D deficiency not only impairs immune function but also promotes excessive inflammatory reactions. Get your levels checked - a daily dose of 5000 IU with the goal of bringing lab ranges above 40-60 ng/ml

Vitamin A - Low levels of  vitamin A impair antibody response, decrease levels of helper T cells (part of the adaptive immune system), and impair integrity of the mucosal linings of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts! Take 5,000 IU for 4 – 6 weeks.

Vitamin C - Vitamin C is recognised as an essential nutrient in many aspects of the immune system, especially immune cell function of both the innate and adaptive immune responses. 1 g a day in divided doses

Zinc - Zinc plays a crucial role in the function of essentially all immune cells. In addition, zinc has specific antiviral properties. Intracellular zinc has been shown to inhibit RNA synthesis by suppressing the SARS-CoV-1 replication and transcription complex. A dose of 30-50mg a day

Support Natural Killer (NK) cell & Innate Immune support

NK cells drive the main response to viral infection, the following nutrients are powerful antivirals, activating  NK cells  and downregulating  high  amounts of inflammation.

Reishi mushrooms @ 400mg twice a day

Andrographis @ 400mg twice a day

Anti Inflammatory

Quercetin - As previously mentioned zinc has antiviral roles by inhibiting RNA synthesis -  however the zinc needs to be intracellular. Ionophores play a critical role in facilitating the transport of zinc into cells, and  wondrous flavonoid quercetin is a zinc ionophore - facilitating transport of zinc across cell membranes. This is particularly relevant as chloroquine is also a zinc ionophore, which has been postulated as a possible mechanism for its apparent efficacy against SARS-CoV-v2! Quercetin as well as sulforaphane, the phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables activates potent anti-inflammatory pathways  (called Nrf2) which can help protect against serious oxidative damage.

Quercetin 500mg 3 x day  

Sulforaphane @ 200mg 2 x day

The antioxidants Glutathione  and NAC play a key role in supporting both the immune surveillance and anti-oxidant/anti- inflammatory components of immune support.  

NAC @ 500-700mg 2 x day

There is also the important area of how our genes play a role in how our immune system responds and reacts.   

Genomics is the study of all the genes and gene products (RNA and protein) as a dynamic system and determining how they interact and influence biological pathways, networks, and physiology. 

The area of Nutrigenomics is  a subset of genomics with a particular focus on the genes that relate and respond to nutrition and lifestyle interventions. Now - that is interesting! There are genes that respond to diet and lifestyle interventions! 

Briefly, let me just explain what a gene is. A gene is made up of a sequence of codons which is responsible for the building of specific proteins. These proteins have different functions within a cell; as a transporter, a receptor or as catalysts /enzymes. A codon is a sequence of three DNA or RNA nucleotides units that corresponds with a specific amino acid or “stop” signal during this protein synthesis. Of the 64 codons, 61 represent amino acids, and three are stop signals. For example, the codon AUG represents the amino acid methionine, and UAA is a stop codon.


So, we can think of codons as words that make up sentences to build a paragraph, which is the protein.

Genes are located on 23 pairs of chromosomes within the cell nucleus, and there can be changes or “variants” on a number of these components. A genetic variant is a change (or insertion, copy or deletion) in the genetic code at the base, codon, gene, or chromosome level which has the potential to change its function. 

  • A change to a single base is called a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism or SNP (pronounced ‘snip’). A SNP may have significant impact or none at all!
  • Whole genes or segments of DNA can be deleted or copied/added - Huntington’s disease (copy/ repeats)
  • Whole chromosomes can be deleted or added - Down’s syndrome

3 x Chromosome 21 (explanation courtesy of LifecodeGx)

In the world of nutrigenomics we are working in the realm of SNP’s not entire genes or chromosome deletions. In terms of COVID and immunity, there are a number of genes and SNP’s that are relevant. HLA (also called MHC) are a large cluster of genes on chromosome no 6, that encodes our immunity. The primary function of HLA/MHC  molecules is to present foreign antigens (bacteria viruses, protozoa and food proteins) to the adaptive immune cells - the T and B cells. We can all have SNPs or polymorphisms on these genes which impacts our individual response.

HLA genes are highly polymorphic, which means that they have many different allele, allowing them to fine-tune the adaptive immune system. Many different factors (genetic and environmental) contribute to the cause of immune related disorders, that includes autoimmunity, and  it is probably more accurate to consider them as conditioning factors. It has been sighted that genetics account for 30% cause and environmental factors (such as dysregulated hormones, foods, infections) 70%. This analogy has been used many times - our genes load the gun but it’s the environment (that our genes are exposed to) that pulls the trigger!

Nevertheless, the specific contribution of MHC genes to the development of autoimmunity was first addressed in the 1970s. 

There are three general groups of HLA, they are HLA-A,HLA-B and HLA-DR. There are many different specific HLA proteins within each of these three groups. (For example, there are 59 different HLA-A proteins, 118 different HLA-B and 124 different HLA-DR!)

As an example, studies by Schlosstein et al. correlate HLA-B27, an MHC class I (MHCI) allele, and the autoimmune disorder ankylosing spondylitis. 

HLA DR variants are associated with loss of tolerance/ recognition of self-proteins, and thus more vulnerable to triggering auto and over zealous immune responses. 

As always, appropriate doses of all nutrients mentioned should be determined on an individual basis by your health care professional, and when looking at Nutrigenomics (I always use the wonderful LifecodeGx as a laboratory) assessing what environment these genes are being exposed to, provides the best leverage point.

In health Tanya x

Sarah Clarke
06 January 2021  |  13:02

Hi, I am HLA-B27 positive and have AS. I take an anti TNF treatment for this. I can't find any information on the COVID vaccine and how possible interactions with these factors. I'm equally nervous to receive it and not receive it. Any insights? Thanks!