Maximizing the Immune System during a Pandemic

Ultimately, we all DO want to know how to maximize our health during this crazy time, right? Well, it all comes down to our immune system. Genes-plus-environment determine how our body is affected by outside invaders, and while we can’t change the genes we were born with (like a tendency toward asthma), we CAN change how those genes are expressed through our environment. One area we have at least some control over is our toxic load.

Toxins are the things our bodies are exposed to from the outside that it has to process, filter and eliminate. Cleaning products, detergents, skincare products (lotions, soaps, makeup), food (including pesticides), drink, mold exposure, pollution and stress all contribute to our “toxic load,” or the burden our body is faced with due to the collaboration of the above items. If we can make some healthy swaps during this time, we can reduce the stress on our livers and other immune system organs so they can focus on reacting to more imminent exposures, such as aggressive and extremely contagious viruses.

Viruses enter a host and do what they can to survive. Not only do our immune systems respond better when we are nutritionally supported, but also the virus itself is less likely to adapt and mutate when our defenses are up, so this protection is extremely helpful.**

I contracted Covid19 at the end of April sometime, and started showing symptoms on April 29, 2020. I tested positive on 5/1. Overall, I had a mild case (see my story here) and was back to work on May 18 after being cleared by my doctor (but not retested- supplies were low at this time and mild cases weren’t requiring retests). For me, I believe my toxic load was potentially high. While I eat what I consider to be a healthy diet, it had definitely slipped a little due to quarantine with the need to stock up on pantry-stable items. I was taking my vitamins but not consistently, and I’m sure I wasn’t getting enough water. Work was super stressful due to patients having Covid and the constant fear of contracting it myself. I do use safe skincare products (Beauty Counter) and less toxic household cleaners when possible. It turns out, my viral load (the amount of and intensity of exposure to the virus) was also extremely high and I did not know it. We had a few known Covid cases in my building so far but I was wearing PPE and was careful to not touch anyone at home before changing and washing up. Within days after I was out of work with the virus, my coworkers informed me that nearly all of my patients had just tested positive as well, some of whom I had been feeding meals to and was therefore very close to in proximity. At that time we were wearing masks and gloves, but not eye protection. It is possible I transmitted it to them, but it is more likely they had been previously exposed given their recent hospitalizations. Many patients had been tested in the hospital and came back negative, but then began to show symptoms after arriving to the facility. False negatives or errors in testing procedures may be to blame, but we will never really know.


Detoxification frees up the burdens on your organs by cleaning out the “junk.” Filtering toxins out allows different systems to do their intended jobs, thus optimizing your health. Detox comes in many forms, some methods more effective than others depending on your body chemistry. I am going to list a bunch of detoxification methods below, but I need you to understand something first. Without focus on basic nutrition and optimizing proper digestion, detox pathways will be clogged and detoxing “harder” won’t do much besides make you feel sick. Poor fat digestion, for example, clogs your lymph system and your liver, your main detox pathways.

So the first order of business is to clean up your diet of processed foods, hydrogenated oils and refined sugars. If you can minimize gluten, alcohol and pasteurized dairy products, even better. These strategies will repair your gut lining, restore proper levels of stomach acid and promote efficient digestion (thus opening detox pathways)! While you’re cleaning up your diet and reducing your toxic load, you can try some of the methods below that seem manageable to you. Regarding the more invasive methods, consider speaking with a doctor, naturopath or other functional medicine practitioner for guidance. This list is for information only and is not medical advice.

Methods of detoxification (this list is not exhaustive):

  • fasting
  • sauna
  • sweat lodge
  • herbs
  • water
  • rest
  • meditation
  • enemas/colonics
  • exercise/bouncing
  • body work
  • dry brushing
  • juice fasting/green drinks
  • raw food diet
  • detox diets
  • detox shakes
  • hydrotherapy
  • hot/cold showers
  • massage
  • oil therapy rinse
  • hot&cold towels/wet sheets


In addition to digestion, there are other things we can do to boost our bodies’ defenses against foreign invaders. Water, listed above, is of course a major way we can increase the speed of filtration of toxins through our kidneys (one of our detox organs). Increase your intake of filtered water to half your body weight in ounces, and you just might notice a difference in how you feel! In our house, we also use supplements to boost nutrients that support our bodies’ various systems. I am in no position to give medical advice, so this information is not prescriptive.

  • Juice Plus:
    • Whole food based nutrition supplement
    • Comes in capsule form or gummies (that actually taste good!)
    • Like a vitamin, but not: instead of containing synthetic versions of vitamins, it is literally fruit and veggies that have been pureed, freeze-dried and pulverized into a powder so the nutrients are full-spectrum and easily absorbable by the body
    • Full disclosure, I am a consultant! They cannot be found in stores. Use this link to buy through me.
  • Zinc:
    • Shown to prevent viral illness when taken regularly, and shorten duration of a cold/virus if taken at the onset of symptoms
    • Research has yet to be done specifically for COVID19
    • Zinc picolinate is the version that I take because research I have done indicates it is a form that is more absorbable by the body than some others
  • Elberberry:
    • Antiviral properties
    • High in antioxidants
    • Most take it in syrup form and I have also found gummies
  • Vitamin D: 
    • Best form is mid-day sun. Aim for 15 minutes without sunscreen.
    • Vitamin Code by Garden of life is one reputable brand.
    • Viruses tend to be less common in the warmer months, and research suggests that Vitamin D could be a contributing factor in preventing such illnesses. This research has not been conducted yet for Covid19.


“The Concoction-“ LAST BUT NOT LEAST! This is what is pictured on this post next to the tea, and I mix it up whenever I feel a cold coming on. I feel like it has nipped symptoms in the bud several times for me and I swear by it!

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (1-2 tbsp)
  • Raw honey (must be raw)
  • Warm water (not HOT, that cooks the honey and kills its enzymes)
  • Turmeric (ground, a few dashes)
  • Ginger (ground or fresh grated, a few dashes)
  • Cayenne pepper (ground, quick dash)

We are all doing our best to get through these uncertain times, and it gives me peace of mind knowing I am trying to maximize my immune system through it all!

Check out these related blog posts:

6 Ways to Stay Healthy During Quarantine 

My Covid19 Experience

**More information about the above supplements and research related to immunity can be found in a multitude of places, but information here is from Super Immunity by Dr. Joel Furhman**. I don’t agree with all of his views on nutrition but I respect his research and take on immunity.

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