Coronavirus and the Importance of a Strong Immune System

By Gabriele Amersbach, Prebiotin Science Writer

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A Message from Ron Walborn Jr., Prebiotin CEO
To all those who have suffered and will suffer the most, our hearts and prayers go out to each and every one. Stay strong in your faith and do your part to keep yourself and those closest to you safe and secure. Share and share alike. We are all in this together.Read More

More than 290,584 people have contracted COVID-19, as of March 21, according to (these numbers are increasing by the hour).  The death toll is at least 11,972 deaths, a mortality rate of 3.4%. This compares to a mortality rate of less than 0.1% (1 death per every 1,000 cases) for the seasonal flu.

Half of the deaths are outside mainland China, which has 81,008  confirmed cases, with a death toll of 3,255.  The U.S. has 22,708 cases with 279 deaths, although with the lag in testing, it is difficult to confirm these numbers.

Infected people have been detected in at least 186 countries, with Italy having the highest infection rates outside of China. The whole country is on lockdown, while hospitals are overwhelmed with spiraling numbers of infected patients. As of March 18, Italy has 47,021, with 4,032 deaths.

With lockdowns, school closings, and the strong suggestion from the CDC that organizers cancel events larger than 10 people, our situation is looking a lot like Italy’s. Many experts are saying the United States has just a two-week delay before we see similar infection rates; U.S. hospitals may also struggle as the number of severely ill patients spikes.

On a personal level, most of us are becoming more and more vigilant about wiping down our cars and homes with disinfectant, although Purell and disinfecting wipes are almost impossible to purchase. We wash our hands until they crack, stay 6 feet away from anyone we meet, while we attempt to stay calm in the face of such dire news and the growing fear that the worst is still to come. What can we do?

COVID-19 Symptoms
According to the CDC, pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor. (Do not just show up at the office or emergency room. If you do have the virus, protective measures need to be put in place.)

If these symptoms become severe, get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include*:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

* This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning. Do not hesitate to at least call. Your condition can change quickly.

For common questions and answers, please see CDC’s Healthcare Professionals: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers .

Strengthen your immune system

One strategy is to strengthen your immune system, designed to protect you from viruses and bacteria that can make you sick.

No one can make a claim to help you prevent viral infections. However, to reduce the risk of contracting illness, a good start is regular sleep and moderate exercise (30 minutes a day or about 2.5 hours per week)—even 10-minute increments of exercise can help.

The junk foods we love, from cheese doodles to frozen dinners, are especially damaging because of added dyes, artificial flavoring, preservatives, and other chemicals, as well as sodium, sugar, and saturated fats added during the manufacturing process. Researchers link these foods to the increase in chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, as well as spiraling obesity rates.

Instead, a diet that focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, and limits sugar, meat, alcohol, and processed foods can help strengthen your immunity.

Your Immune System: A Video by Dr. Frank Jackson, Prebiotin Founder
To learn more about gut immunity, watch Prebiotin founder, Dr. Frank Jackson, gastroenterologist, discuss how your immune system works:

“A prebiotic is a food fiber that is present in plants. The very best of these make the good bacteria in the gut grow prodigiously and make good things happen in the gut and body. There is now significant experimental evidence in the medical literature these good bacteria strengthen the immune system by stimulating the immune cells to be resistant to infection.” Click Prebiotin Structure/Function Claim: Support Health and Immunity for more information on research about how Prebiotin supports health and immunity. During a time of fear, numerous supplements promise virus protection and immune boosting properties. Look for solutions with scientific support.

Be kind to your gut!

What you eat is especially important since up to 80% of the entire immune system makes its home in the gut microbiome. This “organ” includes trillions of microbes, including viruses, fungi, and more than 2,000 different species of bacteria that live in your intestines.

Research tells us that a healthy gut microbiome is diverse, with high ratios of “good” bacteria (especially in the bifidobacteria and lactobacillus groups). These bacteria help us to digest food and extract necessary nutrients, control immune function to fight disease, and support brain function. In addition, the right mix of bacteria helps us to maintain a healthy weight.

An essential ingredient in a healthy diet that nurtures these good gut bacteria is fiber. Foods high in prebiotic fiber, like dandelion greens, asparagus, unripe bananas, apples, Jerusalem artichokes, onions and garlic, and chicory root, are especially beneficial. Prebiotic fiber goes through the small intestine undigested and is fermented when it reaches the large colon.

This fermentation process feeds beneficial bacterial colonies (including probiotic bacteria) and helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria that are associated with better health and reduced disease risk.

Where prebiotics act

Inulin and oligofructose are the two most natural and beneficial prebiotics we know.

Maintaining a Delicate Balance of Bacteria
Dr. Gerda Edwards, PhD, DNM, FDN,* a United States Navy veteran and doctor of natural medicine, explains that we face daily challenges that can destabilize the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut, such as “eating processed food, environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and stress.”

She points out when unwanted microbes enter the gut and outnumber friendly microbes, “leaky gut” can result: “The assault of bad microbes changes the landscape of the microbiome, where two of the most common microbe species, lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, are overrun.”

To maintain a balanced gut microbiome, Dr. Edwards suggests adding fermented food to your diet to promote a healthy gut; taking Prebiotin® Prebiotic Fiber daily as food “for the entire microbiota to flourish,” and managing stress.

*Dr. Edwards is board certified in integrative health by the American Association of Integrative Medicine.  She is a recent guest blogger for Prebiotin:  Military Gut Microbiome: Unique and Universal. Dr. Edwards served in the United States Navy for 27 years, retiring with the rank of Captain. During that time, she was in the Gulf for three tours and was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal (DSSM), as well as three Legion of Merits (LOM), and other awards for meritorious service.

Include Prebiotin for a healthier gut microbiome

Since our gut microbiome plays such a key role in keeping us healthy, we need to be especially vigilant when we face an ongoing health threat like COVID-19. A healthy microbiome allows us to fight all the viruses and pathogens we encounter in our daily lives more successfully. It is not surprising that the CDC tells us older people who are often less well and those with serious medical conditions are at highest risk for contracting COVID-19.

To boost your immune system and improve your gut health, eat foods rich in prebiotic fiber and probiotic bacteria (yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, Miso soup, kimchee, and other fermented foods).

If you are like many of us eating a Western diet, it is critical to get enough prebiotic fiber to reduce disease risk. We need at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day. The average American only gets about 15 grams.

Prebiotin® Prebiotic Fiber is an ideal supplement to add prebiotic fiber to your diet. It has been shown to help grow beneficial bacteria in the gut, boost immunity, and reduce leaky gut. It may be especially helpful if vegetables and fruit become scarce. For a video on leaky gut, click here.

Prebiotin can also support the gut after a course of antibiotics and other drugs that kill beneficial as well as undesirable bacteria.

Prebiotin is an affordable long-term solution that can be stored for months. Your gut must be in continuous healthy balance in order to absorb vitamins and minerals and optimize metabolic processes and brain function. A good prebiotic supplement can also help your children to maintain a healthy gut as well as maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can lead to inflammation, which can also weaken your immune system.

How to Track COVID-19 Infections and Deaths Worldwide
In the time it has taken to write this article, both infection and death rates related to the coronavirus (or COVID-19) have changed rapidly. Two good sources to track the impact of the coronavirus:

To summarize, China has the most cases; 80% of adults that have died were over the age of 60. Italy is second in the number of cases. Because testing is still lagging in the US, the real spread of the disease in this country is unclear.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that can lead to breathing problems, pneumonia, respiratory failure, and in some cases death. Relevant risk factors include smoking, having a lung disease, or other serious health issue.

Steps to Take to Reduce Exposure Risk

Anyone with underlying medical conditions is at greater risk.

  • Avoid touch, hugging, and close proximity (less than 6 feet) to reduce the risk of contracting the disease since it is spread in droplets and possibly contaminated surfaces. On a smooth surface, like a door knob, the virus can remain viable 2-3 days.
  • Clean every surface you touch, including your car and home as often as possible.
  • Using hand sanitizer is effective at killing viruses, too, although thorough hand-washing with soap and water is preferred, according to the CDC. Hand sanitizers should be at least 60% alcohol. With shortages and price-gouging, consider making your own. A possible resource: Wired.

A hundred years of pandemics

In the last 100 years, we have had numerous pandemics, starting with the horrific flu of 1918 that took the lives of 20 to 50 million people worldwide, with a death rate of 10 to 20%. The Asian flu in 1956-58 had 2 million deaths; the “Hong Kong” flu of 1968 had a death toll of 1 million; the HIV/AIDS pandemic (at its peak, 2005-2012) caused the death of at least 36 million people. Currently, about 35 million are still living with HIV, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

With COVID-19, mortality rates are unclear. During a recent hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), explains: “The flu has a mortality rate of 0.1 percent. This has a mortality rate of 10 times* that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.” *These statistics are changing daily. Please check the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center or Worldometer, Coronavirus for real time updates.

As we face another pandemic, we must come to terms with the reality that any real control is impossible when disease hits without warning and strikes at a global level. We can only take personal precautions, hope that a vaccine will soon be developed, and build up our immunity where possible. And we must find ways to stay calm since stress can also weaken the immune system.

Why is COVID-19 a “Pandemic?”

Coronavirus 2019The WHO declared COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, a pandemic because of its geographic spread. The Guardian explains that this declaration has nothing to do with the severity of the disease. A pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations.

Once a pandemic is declared, it becomes more likely that it will eventually spread throughout most communities, and governments and health systems need to be prepared. An epidemic, on the other hand, is a sudden increase in cases of an illness or disease that can be unique to one country or community.

The Guardian quotes NIH researcher Dr. Natalie McDermott:  “The use of this term however highlights the importance of countries throughout the world working cooperatively and openly with one another and coming together as a united front in our efforts to bring this situation under control.”

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