Ask the Doctor: COVID-19, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, and New Research on Natural Treatments

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Dear Vitality,  I’ve been reading your magazine since your Dec. 1999/Jan. 2000 issue. It’s beyond impressive – what tremendous good all your experts have done. Jozef Krop, Zoltan Rona, Shawn Buckley, and Sherry Rogers are just a few of the many heroic humanitarians you’ve featured. To be this successful for so many decades, and in such a tough field, is an accomplishment you can be proud of.

As a 65-year-old man with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) – to inhaled xylene, toluene, benzene, synthetic perfumes and a host of other poisons – I’m a sitting duck if my immune system isn’t strong enough to fend off SARS-CoV-2. If I can feel my windpipe clamping shut after a single whiff of diesel exhaust, what about a whiff of viruses?

800,000 Canadians have MCS. In the GTA alone, we’re 120,000. Dr. Rona’s recent advice about coronavirus (in the Spring 2020 issue) is outstanding. It will save lives generally. I wonder what additional treatments might be more helpful for sensitives specifically? Here’s a few more thoughts:

  1. Since healthy lungs have fewer ACE2 receptors for coronavirus S proteins to bind to, and cell membranes can’t be healthy without omega-3 fatty acids, we all need EFAs, right? But how much? And how does cod liver oil stack up against salmon oil? And is enteric-coated the way to go?
  2. Oral glutathione apparently can’t raise plasma GSH levels much, and is therefore unlikely to raise levels in respiratory tissues. Likewise with intravenous administration. In contrast, nebulized glutathione appears much more effective at doing this. (About a dozen years ago, after months of daily, hours-long GSH nebulizing, the severity of my MCS-related reactive airway disorder symptoms was reduced sharply. These large doses of GSH might have at least partly down-regulated my respiratory system’s Th2-dominant immune response.)
  3. What about the evidence (anecdotal) from Finland that saunas reduce the likelihood that viral infections will lead to pneumonia and ARDS? Maybe I should double my daily dose from thirty minutes to an hour? There’s likely much more besides, but perhaps these are a good start.

Best regards, Joe C., Maple, Ont.


Dear Joe, Thank you for your letter and all the good questions. You are correct about the importance of EFAs, especially omega-3. I’m usually recommending 4,000 mg daily of combined EPA and DHA. For those suffering from skin or eye dryness, I recommend an additional 1,000 mg of omega-7 from a sea buckthorn source. Both cod liver oil and salmon oil are rich in omega-3, but the ideal dose of either one should add up to at least 4,000 mg daily of combined DHA and EPA. One could easily take more, but stop at the point where the skin becomes too oily. Enteric coating is unnecessary unless one is concerned about stomach upset. For people who feel the fishy odour repeating on them, this uncomfortable side effect is resolved by using another source of omega-3 such as krill oil.

GLUTATHIONE: As far as glutathione is concerned, one easy way of boosting those levels in the body is to supplement with the aminio acid N-Acetyl-Cysteine. I usually recommend about 3,000 mg of this daily, combined with 3,000 mg of vitamin C. Another way to boost glutathione levels is to supplement with the mineral selenium. Fish, organ meats, and Brazil nuts are good food sources of selenium or one can just take a capsule of 200 mcg of selenium daily.

ZINC: People suffering from multiple chemical sensitivities can also usually benefit from zinc supplements. There is ample evidence that zinc can be protective against viral infections, and it’s well known to reduce the severity of colds and flus. A recent study suggests that zinc can effectively fight against coronavirus infections.

For the latter purpose I’m recommending 50 mg of zinc citrate, 3 times daily with food, or the equivalent dose in lozenge form. Zinc supplements should be taken with meals to prevent nausea and gut upsets, and is perfectly safe at a daily dose of 150 mg daily. Long term use of zinc (longer than 3 months) can deplete copper stores in the body, resulting in anemia and possibly joint pains. So 2 mg of copper citrate should be added with each zinc supplement, after 3 months of zinc supplementation.

SAUNA DETOXIFICATION: As for saunas, numerous naturopaths and environmental medical doctors recommend it as an ideal detoxification tool, especially those with chemical sensitivity issues. It helps rid the body of numerous toxins, especially toxic heavy metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and aluminum that might be suppressing or perverting healthy immune function. There is very good evidence that the sweat caused by a far infrared sauna contains numerous toxins that could have been stored in the body’s fat and muscle cells for many years. If you have a sauna, use it regularly up to an hour a day, but make sure you also take a multi-mineral supplement to replace any minerals that may be lost with the sweating process. Since my article on coronavirus first appeared, quite a few more natural therapies have been found by science to fight this disease with success. These also happen to be important for people who suffer from multiple immune system concerns.

QUERCETIN: Those who are fighting any allergies and chemical sensitivities would first and foremost benefit from quercetin supplementation on a regular basis. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that exists in garlic, onions, apples, and other raw fruits and vegetables. It works very well with vitamin C, enhancing its immune system benefits. The recommended amount to supplement can be anywhere from 500 mg to 5,000 mg daily in divided doses.Interestingly enough, quercetin is also being investigated for its ability to inactivate and reverse COVID-19 infections. Quercetin stabilizes the mast cell membrane preventing histamine release. It has both anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. Even at very high doses there are no reports of toxicity. Currently, drug companies are trying to tweak the molecule so they can patent it as a drug. When this fact was published in Maclean’s magazine there was a run on it in health food stores and pharmacies. Fortunately, many natural health supplement companies are making it available to the public without a prescription, so I wouldn’t necessarily wait for it to be available as a new drug.

MELATONIN: The next most important immune-regulating remedy for multiple chemical sensitivity issues is the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is made by the pineal gland and is well known for its ability to aid sleep problems and jet lag. Few, however, realize that it’s one of our most potent antioxidants and longevity hormones. It can have dramatic benefits for the immune system, and is one of the best scientifically documented supplements for helping people avoid viral infections and reduce allergic symptoms. It has been advocated by many as yet another way of fighting the COVID-19 virus.I usually recommend that people in good health, above the age of 35, take at least 3 mg of melatonin before bedtime. Those suffering from cancer could go up as high as 20 mg before bedtime. The dose can be adjusted upwards or downwards depending on symptoms. If it makes you feel groggy the next day, try taking it shortly after 6 PM and experiment with the dose.

HERBAL FORMULAS: Other supplements that I like for people suffering from multiple chemical sensitivities include some St. Francis Herb Farm combination products. My favourite one is called Deep Immune. It contains a combination of astragalus, codonopsis, eleutherococcus, reishi mushroom, ligustrum, schisandra, white atractylodes and licorice. There is also a Deep Immune without the licorice for those that are suffering from high blood pressure (NB licorice can raise blood pressure in some individuals as well as lower testosterone). The usual dose of either one is 75-90 drops (about ½ tsp.) in some water twice daily.

Another St. Francis Herb Farm immune system optimizer is called EchinaSeal. It is primarily used to fight infections of all kinds, especially those that cause a sore throat, cough and cold symptoms. The herbal remedies it contains include echinacea, goldenseal, wild indigo, myrrh, propolis and cayenne. The usual recommended dose is 60 drops (2 ml) 3 times daily with a little water. If stomach upset or heartburn occurs, just drink more water to help neutralize the symptoms. If there’s no relief with the extra water then discontinue use.

Lastly, St. Francis also produces an antiviral combination supplement named Virafect. The major ingredients of this supplement include echinacea, holy basil and andrographis. This might be another option for fighting viral infections. The dose is 60 drops (2 ml) 3 times daily with a little water.

[Editor’s note: This article is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor. Please consult with your personal physician before making any adjustments to your health care routine.]


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