Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Autoimmune
Risks of Autoimmune and COVID-19
As an individual with three (albeit well-controlled) autoimmune diagnoses, as a healthcare practitioner and as a senior-level manager of over 100 healthcare locations, the last four weeks of my life have been almost entirely devoted to researching the Coronavirus, specifically COVID-19.
I'm also the long-term partner of a Seattle Firefighter (Ron) and mother of four. Two of my kids are on the front lines of healthcare as healthcare practitioners. One is an Orthopedic Physician Assistant and the other is a Doctorate of Pharmacy. Both see and treat dozens of patients everyday.
My other two kids are students - one in college and one in high school. My high-schooler works at a movie theater. Yikes!
I also happen to live in Seattle - the US "epicenter" of COVID-19.
So, with all of that, I'm pretty invested (and knowledgeable) about COVID-19. I'm juggling a lot. What to do with employees who have an upper respiratory illness, a cough from allergies and a partner who comes home from work sharing stories about having to suit up in Personal Protective Equipment on each run.
A few weeks ago on my personal Facebook page, I posted "It's not going away." And it's not.
COVID-19 is now considered "endemic" to our area. That means, we just better get used to it. As we now accept flu, stomach-flu and a common cold as routine, so will COVID-19 be in our lives, I predict.
COVID-19 and Autoimmune
Schools are closing. Conferences are being cancelled. Employees who can are working from home.
But despite all of those efforts, in my opinion, containment is simply not possible.
We've been told that individuals who are immune-compromised are at the greatest risk. The unfortunate deaths that have occurred in the US (the first and most of them just a few miles away from where I live and work) have happened to those individuals who were older and had underlying health conditions.
Where does this leave us with autoimmune disease?
Autoimmunity is typically an over-zealous immune system, not an under-performing one. Are we at more or less risk? Or the same?
There are some groups of people who may be more at risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus. They aren't more susceptible to catching the virus, but they are more likely to be challenged with recovering from it and are at greater risk of serious illness. These two groups include:
- Individuals over 60 years of age
- Individual who have a long-term medical conditions (I.e., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure)
From what I can tell (and remember, I am not a doctor and definitely not an Infectious Diseases specialist or epidemiologist), individual with autoimmune are not at any greater risk than the general public. However many individuals with autoimmune are on an immunosuppressant for their autoimmune condition.
Traditional medicine utilizes immunosuppressant drugs to counteract the hyper-immunity present in autoimmune diseases. With an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the body's own tissue. Because immunosuppressant drugs weaken the immune system, they suppress this reaction. This helps reduce the impact of the autoimmune disease on the body. Immunosuppressants are routinely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, Crohn's disease and other autoimmune diseases.
Immunosuppressants weaken the immune system. These drugs include biologics and corticosteroids. You may recognize some of these names:
Common Biologics: Humira, Enbrel, Remicade, Taltz, Orencia, Stelara
There are other medications routinely used in the treatment of autoimmune illness including the category of immunomodulators.
There are various types of immunomodulators, each sold under its own brand name. Azathioprine, mercaptopurine, and methotrexate are the three main types.
Adaptive Versus Innate Immunity
Immune systems are not all the same. The immune system is actually two systems - the adaptive and the innate.
The adaptive immune system is an antigen-specific immune system and it is what is involved when we talk about autoimmunity. Adaptive immunity is considered a "second line of defense" against non-self pathogens. Adaptive immunity is specific to the pathogen presented. It is also referred to as acquired immunity or specific immunity and is only found in vertebrates. The adaptive immune response is meant to attack non-self pathogens but can sometimes make errors and attack itself. When this happens, autoimmune diseases can develop including but not limited to lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's, Graves etc. (Reference)
The innate immune system is more immediate and is the "first line of defense" against pathogens. The innate immune response goal it to immediately prevent the spread of foreign pathogens throughout the body. It's the innate immune system at pay when it it comes to viruses, bacteria and other toxins your body is trying hard to fight.
I wanted to explain this because many of my clients don't understand why they have low immunity (catch EVERY cold) but they have autoimmune and a "hyperviligent" or "overactive" immune system. They are two different systems in our body!
Top Ten Tips To Lessen Your Chance of Getting COVID-19
You probably already know this universal warning if you are on an immunosuppressant. Immunosuppressant drugs carry the serious risk of infection. When an immunosuppressant drug weakens your immune system, your body becomes less resistant to infection. That means they make you more likely to get infections. It also means that any infections get will be harder to treat. This includes (but is not limited to) COVID-19.
If you’re using immunosuppressant drugs, you should take care to avoid catching an infection. To help reduce your risk, note these Top Ten Tips (plus 2 bonus tips):
- Remember to wash your hands often; warm water with soap will do. Be thorough - at least 20 seconds!
- Get lots of rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid close contact with people who have infections or colds.
- Consider asking your healthcare provider if they offer remote or virtual visits.
- Don't touch your face.
- Ask your healthcare practitioner about boosting your immune system with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc and herbals. If you have an autoimmune condition it is important you check with your practitioner so as not to overstimulate your immune system.
- Consider Functional Medicine (learn to heal your body by discovering the root cause of autoimmunity). They have also shared great tips here!
- Eat lots of clean, fresh organic fruits and vegetables. (Your immune system is in your Gut!)
- Reduce sugars, processed foods, too much caffeine and alcohol.
- BONUS POINT #1: Turn off the tv, don't fret about your 401k and do some stress management - stretching, mat pilates, meditation, art, reading, writing - at home! Stress really affects your immune system! (Warm salt baths are great for us!)
- BONUS POINT #2: Be cautious of using antibacterial products that contain "fragrances" or Triclosan. These disrupt your endocrine system and can cause havoc later on in your health. (My personal favorite is Thieves!)
“A large percentage of what we think of when we talk about stress-related diseases are disorders of excessive stress-responses.”
Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping
Supplements May Help
It's hard to get all the needed daily nutrients from foods. Stress also rapidly deplete our nutrient levels. Many of my clients are boosting their immune system and health in general with the use of targeted supplements. These include immune-supporting combinations, stress-reducing formulas, probiotics, and food & plant-based anti-viral supplements. I'm making my COVID-19 Immune Support Protocol available to you at a 20% discount through Wellelevate. Once you are registered, I'll send you my Immune Support protocol to review. (Be sure to compare prices as I've set pricing lower than what you can find at Amazon!)
Stay healthy, keep happy and this too shall pass!
Get 20% Off at Wellevate
Sign-Up Today at Wellevate. Once you are registered, I'll email you my Immune Support Protocol.