Covid-19 has taken the world by surprise. There is no vaccine or defence, other than the one offered by nature – our immune systems. At a time when when our health is more critical than ever, knowing how your immune system works at a genetic level may give you some of the answers you need to improve your odds of recovering from or even avoiding being infected with a virus like Covid-19.
According to Dr Yael Joffe, Chief Science Officer at 3X4 Genetics: “Covid-19 can be damaging and may be fatal. The virus triggers the host’s immune system and causes the body to react. The problem is that this immune response, in certain cases, can overreact. In order to kill the virus, the immune system floods the body with its in-built cellular defence system, but when left unchecked the response may cause damage to your own cells, and with Covid-19, particularly the cells in your respiratory system. This being said, these responses differ widely amongst individuals, partly because of how their genes respond.”
HOW KNOWING ABOUT YOUR GENES CAN HELP
It’s imperative to know how prepared your immune system is to defend your body against the virus. Fortunately, we are all gifted with a complex immune system, or cellular defence mechanisms, which spring into action when a toxin or pathogen (viruses and bacteria) overwhelms the body. But the way these mechanisms act can differ from person-to-person because of our unique set of genes. Taking a genetic test can tell us how ready our immune system is, and whether your cellular defence processes are working optimally.
“Genes are switches. When a protein or enzyme is needed by the body, the gene is switched on to make that protein, and this is true for how the cellular defence system responds,” says Dr Joffe. “A number of genes switch on when the virus is detected to mobilise against it and switch off when the virus is killed off and flushed out. The problem with Covid-19 is that the response is so powerful, cellular defence mechanisms like inflammation and oxidative stress are turned up so high that the body can be flooded and overwhelmed by the defence mechanisms themselves, causing damage to the cells. How efficiently these ‘on’ and ‘off’ processes work differs between individuals and is partly due to their own genetic makeup. Once you know how optimally your cellular defence processes are working, you can get a sense of how resilient your immune system is and the steps you can take to address shortfalls.”
NUTRITION IS THE NEXT STEP
Arming yourself with more information about your genes can help your healthcare practitioner make positive changes through nutrition to improve and optimise these metabolic processes. While many will be reaching for megadoses of supplements, its important to remember that your system is unique, nuanced, and very complex. “A single nutrient like Vitamin C, by itself, is nothing compared to the many small, calculated tweaks required at a molecular level to have your immune system work at its prime,” says Dr Christine Houghton, Founder and Chief Science Officer at Cell-Logic. “Understanding what molecular adjustments are required through diet and lifestyle is called Nutrigenomics. Specific food molecules have the power to switch on and switch off your genes.”
“As your body’s core cellular defence processes such as inflammation, oxidative stress, detoxification, and methylation are required to fight off Covid-19 and are activated and switched off via genes, their reaction time and how efficiently they respond can be adjusted using a personalised wholesome and healthy diet, together with targeted nutrigenomic supplements,” adds Dr Joffe.
THE GENE MASTER SWITCH
Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a master switch that is responsible for switching on (and off) hundreds of genes involved in cellular defence. It responds to the presence of any pro-oxidant molecule in the body, that then activates many of the genes involved in the cellular defence processes. So, if it switches on quickly you can flush the coronavirus out better, although there are Ts and Cs to this process, and complications can occur with underlying chronic health conditions. “One way in which we can optimise the function of Nrf2s is by the ingestion of a nutrigenomically active molecule called Sulforaphane. The precursor to Sulforaphane is found abundantly in raw, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage. Unfortunately, it is destroyed during cooking, and a quality broccoli sprout supplement may be required,” shares Dr Houghton.
As there are many variables, it is important to consult a specialist who can help you prepare your immune system to be strong and resilient. This is especially true in times when there is an unchecked virus on the loose.
CAN I PREPARE MY IMMUNE SYSTEM NOW?
The short answer is – yes. You can start to optimise your immune system response for Covid-19-like threats through a tailored nutrigenomic dietary plan. Make an appointment with an accredited nutrigenomic health practitioner and get a nutrigenetic test done to learn about the variability of your genes and your response to diet and lifestyle choices. This will inform them what cellular processes require the most attention. They will then recommend a nutrigenomic plan, and let you know what foods to eat to bolster your immune system to fight off a virus. This might also require some nutrigenomic supplements which mimic and optimise natural processes in your body. Nutrigenetic tests can be conducted by specialised health companies like 3×4 Genetics.