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If there is any positivity that has come out of the ongoing COVID-19 public health catastrophe, it may be that the average American is much more aware of the importance of building a strong, vibrant immune system to combat invading pathogens.
COVID-19 is not the only dangerous virus in circulation; flu season is coming, and that represents another major public health threat. Roughly 56,000 Americans die from the flu each year.
Harmful pathogens such as viruses and bacteria are everywhere in the environment; chances are that you’ve encountered several so far today. Yet very few cause infections or produce symptoms thanks to our bodies’ capacity to neutralize them on contact. Long before vaccines and pharmaceuticals, the human body evolved a set of defenses that are collectively known as the “immune system.”
Specifically in terms of battling emerging viruses for which we have not produced antibodies (as in the case of anyone who has not yet been exposed to COVID-19, since it is a new virus), fortifying the innate immune system is critical.
The innate (or “inborn”) immune system refers to the general activities of the immune system to kill pathogens without the benefit of antibodies, which are specific proteins that target the antigens (the “fingerprints” of viruses). Antibodies can only be produced in response to a previously encountered pathogen. The lack of antibodies against COVID-19 in the population is the reason that there is not yet widespread immunity (called “herd immunity”) to the virus.
As such, we must rely on our “frontline” innate immune defenses to kill the virus quickly whenever we encounter it in the world. The first step we should take in this regard is to assess the condition of our own innate immune system through blood tests and, if necessary, to take respective steps to fortify it.
Several inexpensive blood tests can help you determine your individual risk for contracting COVID-19, influenza, or other harmful pathogens. Here are a few of the most critical.
Vitamin C supports innate immune function in several ways, including supporting epithelial barrier function against pathogens, regulating apoptosis (programmed cell death), enhancing chemotaxis, and promoting free-radical scavenging of the skin.
The vitamin’s immune-boosting properties have been known since ancient times. In the modern era, the clinical evidence of vitamin C’s capacity to enhance immune function is vast.
Several studies have begun to assess vitamin C and COVID-19 immunity specifically, and the results are telling. Most impressively, vitamin C administered in high doses to hospitalized COVID-19 patients has been shown to decrease the severity of the dreaded “cytokine storm” response (an overreaction of an unbalanced immune system) that has claimed the lives of thousands of patients in the US alone.
A simple blood test (no order from a doctor required) can determine your vitamin C levels.
Vitamin D deficiency is an under-appreciated public health concern that has gone unaddressed for far too long. Studies have shown that as much as 50% of the global population has insufficient vitamin D levels. The numbers are worse in areas with limited sun exposure and in populations that spend significant time indoors (such as office workers).
The recent research shows that patients with optimal levels of vitamin D have a higher COVID-19 survival rate than patients with sub-optimal levels.
The vitamin D-COVID immunity connection is so strong, in fact, that Anthony Fauci recently advised Americans to increase their vitamin D intake (through sun exposure, diet, and/or supplementation) as a measure against COVID-19.
Vitamin D blood tests are widely available online without a doctor’s orders.
Zinc is a major component of the immune system. This powerful mineral prevents serious infections from developing by inhibiting viral reproduction – meaning that COVID-19 cannot create copies of itself to spread to other tissues and organs in the body, effectively stopping it in its tracks.
Once again, zinc blood tests are widely available on the web. The test kits can even be delivered via mail, eliminating the need to travel to a lab.
Assessing these three immune-preparedness markers can help you determine your own immune system’s ability to ward off the virus. If deficiencies are shown through test, safe and affordable supplements can increase your body’s supply of these crucial nutrients to stay safe during the upcoming flu season.