COVID-19 Facts & Interpretations Part 2

In the previous blog, I talked about five facts (as I see them) about COVID-19 (the variant of SARS or SARS-CoV-2).  The two biggest “facts” of the five that I have previously mentioned about this virus are:

  • Its ability to infect and the speed of spread (which appears to exponential rather than geometric). The regular Influenza A flu transmission is more geometric i.e., the spread is one person to another (an Ro of 1).  This SARS variant called COVID-19 appears to have an Ro of about 3 – which means one person can infect three others who, in turn, can infect three others.  The progression, therefore, would be 1 to 3 to 9 to 27 to 81 to 243 and so on.
  • If my number crunching is correct, the overall mortality rate for COVID-19 will turn out to be about the same as the seasonal influenza A flu – with the those over 65 years of age, elderly, the immune-compromised and those with co-existing conditions like diabetes accounting for 90% or more of the deaths. Although the total number of deaths will probably be about the same as the regular flu, its rapid spread means that the number of deaths will be compressed into a far shorter period of time – which is why our medical system is being overwhelmed by the number of hospitalizations.

covid-19 facts and interpretationsFact Six:

COVID-19 is treatable and is being treated. We have been told by the heads of our North American countries that the threat of COVID-19 will not be over until there is a vaccine available.  Vaccines fall under the umbrella of “prevention” rather than treatment.

A researcher friend of mine brought the “EVMS Critical Care Covid-19 Management Protocol” to my attention.  This protocol was developed and updated by Dr. Paul Marik, MD, Chief of Pulmonary and Critical care Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA on March 31st, 2020.  As Dr. Marik says,

“This is our recommended approach to COVID-19 based on the best (and most recent) available literature including the Shanghai Management Guideline for COVID.”

As I read this protocol, the interesting fact for me, as a Naturopathic Doctor is the author’s emphasis that we should be using a multi-dimensional approach to improve the outcome of COVID-19, rather than relying on the possibility that there will be drug “magic bullet” to cure COVID-19.  When I looked at the protocol, from the medical perspective, they do mention chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (the anti-malarial drugs) as potentially being able to decrease the duration of viral spreading – especially in the elderly.

What I found most heartening, however, is the emphasis on improving the immune system function.  For example, Dr. Marik mentions that zinc is part of the protocol because it has been shown that zinc inhibits the enzyme necessary for viruses to replicate.  Co-incidentally, chloroquine and hydroxycholoquine are “potent ionophores that “increase intracellular Zinc concentrations”.  It is possible, then, that the drugs work by increasing the concentration of zinc inside the cell where the zinc acts to prevent the virus from replicating.  Two questions immediately come to mind:  1) Can increasing zinc-containing foods and/or increase your zinc levels through supplementation do the same thing as the drugs? 2) are the elderly who have the severe presentation of the disease zinc deficient?

In the previous blog, I mentioned that – according to a recent study in Iceland – 50% of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic.  To my knowledge, they didn’t break this number down by age group.  Therefore, I am also assuming that there are individuals over 65 who have been exposed to the virus and are asymptomatic.  This means that they have been exposed to the virus and the immune system has done its job, reacted, and now they are immune, or they have been exposed and the symptoms/disease have not yet developed (if they ever do).  In other words, not all elderly people who are exposed to the coronavirus will become severely sick and need hospitalization or will die, for that matter.

This also brings up the question….what are the differences between the young and the elderly, the individual who has been exposed and never develops symptoms, and the elderly individuals who develop mild disease versus developing severe disease?  The obvious answer is the state of the individual’s immune system as the time of exposure.  Not one of the medical experts on the news that I have seen, and certainly not the politicians and their entourages, has ever stated publicly that it might be a good idea for the elderly or the population in general to consider ways to boost their immune systems.

So what are some of the factors affecting the immune system and the expression of the disease –

According to the EVMS Report:

  • One obvious factor is the existence of co-morbidities (like hypertension, diabetes, cancer) and the use of therapeutic drugs e.g., ACES and ARBS for hypertension that do not exist, for the most part, in individuals who are less than 40. This is a very important point because the very drugs that have specific actions and can potentially prolong life also create side-effects and/or deficiencies that can affect immune system functioning. For example, there have been reports (as yet unproven), that taking ibuprofen may be detrimental if you have severe COVID-19 disease.
  • Another factor is the lack of sleep. As we get older the amount of sleep (and restorative sleep) that we get diminishes. This is probably due to a drop in melatonin.  We all know melatonin as a sleep aid.  According to the EVMS report, however, “melatonin levels plummet after age 40”, and, “very recent data suggests that, in addition to being a potent anti-oxidant, melatonin may have direct antiviral effects against COVID-19.”
  • Much of the population, especially the elderly, have sub-optimal vitamin D levels, especially in winter. Vitamin D supplementation should be considered in the elderly, since “low vitamin D levels have been shown to increase the risk of developing viral upper respiratory tract infections.”
  • Ascorbic acid or Vitamin C has proven properties (anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune-enhancing, antiviral). In particular, IVAA (intravenous ascorbic acid) has been implemented in Chinese hospitals as part of the treatment for COVID-19.  Not many elderly individuals get enough vitamin C in their diets.  The results so far indicate “in the IVAA treated group, there was no mortality, no reported side-effects, and shorter hospital stays universally” [by 3-5 days].  In some way, IVAA appears to have the ability to mitigate potential death by “cytokine storm” and ARDS (advanced respiratory distress syndrome).
  • Quercetin is a one of the bioflavinoids that often accompanies vitamin C; Early clinical evidence suggests that quercetin has broad antiviral properties – acting at various steps in the virus’ lifecycle and inhibits heat shock proteins which are “required for viral assembly”.  Taking bioflavinoids and/or quercetin may be able to act preventively for viruses, in general, and Covid-19, in particular.  The same idea holds that the elderly either don’t get enough bioflavinoids in their diet or perhaps have less ability to absorb them.


Besides the general dictum of:  eat better (more fruits and vegetables), exercise more and get better sleep, the following supplements, according to the EVMS Medical Group may be of benefit (please see url: for more details):

  1. Zinc;
  2. Vitamin C;
  3. Bioflavionoids and/or Quercetin;
  4. Vitamin D;
  5. Melatonin;

Other Possibilities not mentioned in the report might include:

  1. Amino acids and/or their derivatives e.g., N.A.C (N-Acetyl-Cysteine and L-Lysine;
  2. Olive Leaf Extract/Echinacea;
  3. Nattokinase;
  4. Curcumin;
  5. Boswellia;
  6. Plant sterols;
  7. Medicinal Mushrooms e.g. turkey-tail;
  8. Vitamin A;
  9. MSM;

This being said, please do not consume any of the vitamins, minerals, herbs or supplements listed herein unless you are being monitored by the health care practitioner of your choice – especially if you are taking drugs for a co-existing medical condition.  Do your research and ask the professionals.

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Until next time…

Dr. G

Nicotine Addiction: Fact or Fiction?

This week is National Stop Smoking Week.   I have worked with many smokers and have some views on smoking that may be useful for those of you who currently smoke and would like to quit.  To this end, I will blog several times this week in order to give you information that you will find useful.

Addiction is defined by compulsive drug-seeking and abuse, even in the face of Healthy lung shape world design logo concept idea with love heart shape symbolic sign of women human hands on blur green natural clean air greenery background: Element of this image furnished by NASAnegative health consequences.  Smokers would definitely fall under this category – but what are they actually addicted to, and how are they addicted?  Smoking addiction is in a class by itself, in my opinion.  Smokers assume that they use tobacco products on a regular basis because they are addicted to nicotine.  The truth, however, is that they are not physically addicted to the effects of nicotine. They are addicted to the psychological effects of nicotine.  I first became aware of this fact when a woman who routinely smoked at least 2 packs a day got pregnant.  She immediately stopped smoking for the entire pregnancy with no cravings and no side-effects from stopping.  How is this possible?  If she had been addicted to heroin instead, it would have been virtually impossible without severe physical withdrawal symptoms.

Research indicates that nicotine acts on the brain’s reward pathways – and those involving the neurotransmitter dopamine.  Nicotine increases dopamine in the “reward” circuits.  All the effects that smokers attribute to nicotine are actually the result of dopamine stimulation in the brain.  Nicotine is rapidly distributed to the brain with peak levels occurring within 10 seconds of inhalation.

Nicotine is also rapidly eliminated from the body, so the nicotine-stimulating effect on dopamine is short.  In order to maintain the drug’s effects, the smoker has to take another nicotine “hit”.

The problem with smokers is that they are usually dopamine deficient to begin with – and nicotine makes them feel “good”. The unfortunate thing about most current treatments for nicotine addiction is that they concentrate on the supposed physical Cigarette stub with smokeeffects of nicotine withdrawal.  Take the patch, for example.  The patch is designed to give decreasing nicotine doses over time assuming that this will allow a smoker to “wean off” nicotine.  The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t give the smoker more dopamine I.e., it doesn’t address the dopamine deficiency.  A chronic smoker will actually experience symptoms relating to “not enough” dopamine  (irritability, craving, depression, anxiety, cognitive and attention deficits, sleep disturbances) rather than nicotine “withdrawal” symptoms. In order to quit smoking, the dopamine deficiency must be addressed.  If we can get the smoker’s brain to make more dopamine or find another way to stimulate dopamine release, then

Stopping smoking can become relatively easy – and I have never met a smoker who really didn’t want to quit.

Until the next installment…

Dr. Gatis

Pesticides Are Linked to Lower Sperm Counts

Arzt untersucht Tomaten mit Stethoskop auf Gefahr fr GesundheitA recent study by Jorge Chavarro, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, published in Human Reproduction, found that men eating fruits and vegetables high in pesticide residues had lower sperm counts and more oddly-shaped sperm than those who had lower levels of dietary pesticide exposure.  Researchers classified the produce as high or low-to-moderate levels of pesticides.  The men who ate the high-pesticide fruits and vegetables had a 49% lower total sperm count and a 32% reduction in normally-shaped sperm as compare to the men eating the least amount of high-pesticide produce.

One study isn’t definitive proof of pesticide effects on sperm – but for those men demonstrating low sperm counts, it should be concerning.  It isn’t good enough to just eat 5 to 9 fruits and vegetables per day.  We all need to find ways to thoroughly wash the pesticides off the food we eat and/or eat organically, if possible.

Here are the fruits and vegetables that were tested ranked from highest level to lowest level of pesticide contamination:

  • Green, yellow and red peppers;
  • Spinach;
  • Strawberries;
  • Celery;
  • Blueberries;
  • Potatoes;
  • Peaches and plums;
  • Apples and pears;
  • Winter squash;
  • Kale, mustard greens and swiss chard;
  • Grapes and raisins

Until next time…

Dr. Gatis

Marriage Does Have Its Advantages

Marriage can be a tax break – and most of us have made a joke about marriage “breaking” us.  Research shows, however, that healthy, unmarried people who rated their health as “excellent” were, on average, 75 percent more likely to die during the 20 year period studied than married people.  The benefits declined, however, as people’s health or marriage declined.  Unmarried people in “fair” health were only 40 percent more likely to Dollarphotoclub_70805976die than married people.

The American Psychological Association found that couples who later divorced had 34 percent higher levels of norepinephrine in their blood.  Norepinephrine is a stress hormone – and the implication is, of course, that being married is less stressful, or not being married is more stressful.  Professor Janet Kiecolt-Glaser, from the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University states that “marital quality is a good predictor of subsequent health” and how personal relationships, especially marriage, can translate into positive health outcomes.  When a new Star Trek movie comes out, Mr. Spock will have to change his greeting to ….”Get married, live long and prosper”!

Until next time…

Dr. Gatis