New Emerging Theories about Covid-19 at the Cellular Level

If you’re like most people, you’ve been reading a lot of articles about the Coronavirus and what it’s doing to people’s bodies. Most sources talk about the pneumonia and the extensive damage to the lungs. However we haven’t heard much about what may be happening on a cellular level that is actually causing the catastrophic effects of this infection. And we haven’t learned much about why so many people are still dying even when they’re put on ventilators and having massive amounts of oxygen pumped into their lungs. Why aren’t the ventilators helping? Before I tell you the emerging possible explanation, here are some anecdotal stories I have heard personally from family members and friends who are physicians on the front lines directly seeing Covid-19 patients.

Anecdotal observations from doctors

We have begun to hear accounts that Covid-19 infections are deadly even in young, otherwise healthy people. Originally we thought the disease would only kill unhealthy people over 60 with co-morbidities such as diabetes, heart or lung disease. However there have been many stories being shared of younger people doing very poorly for seemingly no reason. My sister-in-law and her husband are both doctors in Tennessee and their colleagues reported a 35-year old marathon runner who was on a ventilator but still suffering deoxygenation of his organs and resulting kidney failure. A friend who is an ER doctor in South Carolina has reportedly seen people in their 30’s and 40’s being put on ventilators and still dying. Why are people with healthy lungs dying despite ventilators?

Coronavirus might stop the body from being able to transport oxygen

Emerging experience suggests that the most lethal action of the coronavirus may not actually be the pneumonia that it causes. Recent sources (see below) are indicating that the real problem is on a cellular level. The most devastating action of the coronavirus could be that it disrupts the ability of your red blood cells to carry oxygen. On the cellular level, the virus seems to bind to the hemoglobin molecules that are attached to the cell membrane of the red blood cells. This causes the iron ion to detach from the hemoglobin, rendering it useless (unable to transport oxygen). Interestingly, this pathology is similar to what happens to people at extremely high elevations (altitude sickness).

Hemoglobin separation is thought to cause 2 main problems: 

  1. The detached iron ion is now floating in the blood causing oxidative damage to all the cells it collides with. In article 3 linked below, note that the patient had incredibly high levels of iron in the blood, an alarming and unusual finding that may suggest the iron ion of the separated hemoglobin molecule is circulating in the blood. 
  2. The red blood cells are unable to bind to oxygen without the help of hemoglobin, so they are unable to bring oxygen to the organs and tissues, resulting in hypoxia (deoxygenation) which can lead to organ failure.

This could explain why people are still dying on ventilators: the ventilator pumps pressurized oxygen into the lungs. However, if the lungs are unable to transport this oxygen to the rest of the body, most of the oxygen being pumped by the ventilator is unable to effectively oxygenate the organs. On top of that the high pressure created in lungs damages the fragile alveoli and may be causing further damage. This is NOT to say that doctors are doing something wrong by putting people on ventilators—it is their best course of action when they see their patient gasping for breath. But now that they suspect the problem is on a cellular level, treatment protocols may be updated and customized to help the body support cellular oxygenation. However, it is obviously not in the scope of this article to suggest treatments or medications for doctors to use on hospitalized patients.

What we would like to discuss is what YOU can keep in your medicine cabinet to start using to help your immune system preventatively and if you have symptoms of Covid-19. Most infected people are being instructed to stay at home to recover, because the hospital beds are being reserved for those in critical condition. So, what can you do at home?

Based on the theory above, our two goals are to improve the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen to the organs, and to mitigate the oxidative damage caused by the detached iron ions circulating in the blood. The following suggestions have been shown over years of clinical experience to improve the immune system. In addition, we will discuss the possible mechanism of action for why they might be helpful in Covid-19 infections. Take the following as a suggestion, rather than a prescription—we simply share our cumulative clinical knowledge and research and hope you will make your own decisions in conjunction with your medical provider’s guidance.

Improving blood oxygenation: Zinc

                It has been suggested that zinc binds to hemoglobin and increases the oxygen affinity of the red blood cell. Basically, it increases the chance that the red blood cell will be able to carry oxygen to the organs. There is also evidence that zinc inhibits replication of viruses by disrupting their RNA. Zinc has long been a staple over-the-counter treatment for the common cold (which is a type of coronavirus). Interestingly, Chloroquine (the anti-malarial drug being promoted by some physicians for treatment of Covid-19) works by enhancing zinc uptake in the cells.

  • Dosage: For prevention, the suggested dose is 15 mg two times per day. If symptoms appear, you may choose to take 15 mg every 2 hours (but don’t exceed 150 mg per day). Avoid zinc nasal sprays, as they have been associated with permanent loss of the sense of smell.
  • Where to get it: Unfortunately at Acu-Na Wellness Center we do not have access to zinc at this time, as it is out of stock at ALL of our suppliers. The only place we can find it is on amazon.com (we have to wonder why this large corporation has available products other wholesalers are having difficulty obtaining. This makes it difficult for us as a small practice/business to have these items readily available for our clients.

Reducing oxidative stress: Antioxidants (Vitamin C and Glutathione)

Antioxidants are molecules that have been shown to fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are compounds that circulate in the blood and cause damage to the cell walls of blood cells, tissues, and organs. In the specific case of the cellular effects of Coronavirus on the body, the free radical we are focusing on is the iron ion that becomes separated from the hemoglobin in the red blood cells. However, in the sense of general health, free radicals and toxins are constantly being produced by the body’s physiological reactions and the exposure to environmental toxins. They are removed by antioxidants.

Glutathione (GSH) is the most powerful antioxidant found in the cells of the human body. Inside the cells, GSH is unparalleled in its disease-fighting, toxin-neutralizing, immune-boosting, and anti-aging functions. Vitamin C performs the same functions outside the cell. Vitamin C and GSH form a powerful synergy, recharging and enhancing each other. When taken together, they increase each other’s absorption and allow their actions to be performed both inside the cells and outside the cells for superior effects on multiple aspects of your health.

Dosage: For prevention, the suggested dose is 1000 mg Vitamin C and 450 mg GSH daily. To treat symptoms, you may choose to increase frequency of this same dosage to 3-4 times per day. High doses are not thought to be dangerous, however too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea.

Where to get it: Acu-Na Wellness Center has GSH and Vitamin C in stock. Email clinic@acu-na.com to arrange contact-free pickup.

                When taken together, GSH and Vitamin C have these additional benefits for wellness:

  • Neutralize environmental toxins in the body
    • Reduce the effects of exposure to chemicals pesticides, poisons, and heavy metals
  • Protect against carcinogens and help destroy cancer cells
  • Strongly boost the immune system
  • Repair and synthesize DNA
  • Protect the brain to prevent Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, and psychoneurological disorders
  • Defend the heart to reduce atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, and reduce heart attack damage
  • Support the lungs, reducing the effects of asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis
  • Protect the eyes to prevent cataracts and glaucoma
  • Strongly support the liver, reducing the effects of cirrhosis, hepatitis, fatty liver disease, and damage from alcohol or prescription drugs.
  • Strong anti-aging effects for the prevention of arthritis, osteoporosis

Elderberry is another strong antioxidant.

Chinese Herbal Formula– One of our classical formula prescriptions is traditionally used for weak lungs and has been also been used for centuries to mitigate altitude sickness. It is classically prescribed to treat symptoms of fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Its function is to improve the strength of the lungs and increase oxygenation throughout the body. We also have this formula in stock at Acu-Na Wellness Center.

The Institute of Functional Medicine, a reputable source used by integrative physicians, has the following suggestions for boosting immunity amid the coronavirus outbreak (see link). Their suggestions include vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, selenium, honey, garlic, and probiotics. https://www.ifm.org/news-insights/boosting-immunity-functional-medicine-tips-prevention-immunity-boosting-covid-19-coronavirus-outbreak/

For questions or clarification, contact us at clinic@acu-na.com or 828-974-7058 and leave a voicemail.

Side note: You may have seen the article saying that Covid-19 patients with Type O blood seem to have better clinical outcomes than people with Type A blood. The article didn’t propose a reason why, but we theorize that the coronavirus’ action on blood cells has something to do with it. Blood types are determined by the antigen on the cell membrane of the red blood cells. People with Type O blood have a different type of antigen that is not recognized by the immune system to be foreign. This is why you often hear that Type O is the universal donor—the immune system of the recipient will not reject it. The other blood types have antigens that can be attacked by the immune system, so people with Type A blood can’t receive the Type B antigens or they will have an autoimmune response. So, in terms of the coronavirus, having Type A blood somehow increases the likelihood that the combination of the viral attack plus your immune response will cause damage to the red blood cells and impair oxygenation.

* This document is only intended to identify modalities that may boost your immune system. It is not meant to prescribe any treatments, nor have any of these modalities been proven effective against coronavirus. Always consult your physician or healthcare provider prior to using any of these modalities. For up-to-date information on COVID-19, please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.

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Source Links:

  1. Summary of effects of Covid on hemoglobin: http://web.archive.org/web/20200405061401/https://medium.com/@agaiziunas/covid-19-had-us-all-fooled-but-now-we-might-have-finally-found-its-secret-91182386efcb
  2. Video of doctor saying ventilators aren’t working because it’s not just pneumonia: https://prepforthat.com/ny-doctor-says-its-not-covid-19-we-are-dealing-with/
  3. Personal account of a pulmonologist with Covid-19 who had harmful immune response and high levels of iron ions in blood: https://www.salon.com/2020/04/05/what-it-feels-like-to-survive-covid-19s-dreaded-cytokine-storm/
  4. Video about effect of zinc on viruses: https://youtu.be/BIymfznD7YA
  5. Article about blood type and coronavirus: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/does-your-blood-type-increase-your-risk-for-coronavirus

Lily Gach, Licensed Acupuncturist at Acu-Na Wellness Center Hendersonville NC

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