The 8th Annual U.S. Naturopathic Week, designated by Congress to recognize the practice of naturopathic medicine, will be held on October 4-10, 2020. Reflecting back, Naturopathic medicine has made amazing progress throughout the years on being at the forefront of natural therapies. Naturopathic doctors stress the importance of a healthy diet, lifestyle modifications, and nutritional supplements, such as vitamins and minerals, for immune system support and decreasing inflammation for disease treatment and prevention, and maintenance of optimal health. Naturopathic doctors have been on the cutting edge of nutritional supplements, such as probiotics, well before they became mainstream.
This past week with President Donald Trump’s diagnosis of COVID-19, CNN reported the therapies President Trump received includes the natural supplements: vitamin D, zinc, and melatonin. There are numerous studies on the benefits of vitamin D, zinc, and melatonin. One study states, “evidence supports the beneficial effects of vitamin D and melatonin as being helpful against lung pathologies in pulmonary infection by COVID-19”. These nutritional supplements that President Trump is taking are accessible to the general U.S. public for a low cost and with little to no side effects if taken correctly.
As of yet, there is no known treatment for COVID-19. COVID-19 is a new virus and it will take time for studies to show what therapies can effectively prevent and treat it. Meanwhile, the FDA has been issuing warning letters to companies manufacturing supplements that have been making the fraudulent claims of treating COVID-19.
Here are some insights on the therapeutic benefits, dosages, and potential side effects of vitamin D, zinc, and melatonin:
Vitamin D comes from exposure to the sun, food, and supplementation. Food sources of vitamin D include fish, mushrooms, milk, and eggs. However, the amount of vitamin D is quite low in food sources compared to sun exposure.
In my 13 years of practicing naturopathic medicine in San Francisco, I have only had 2 people who were not taking vitamin D supplements have blood levels within the normal range. The rest were insufficient or deficient in vitamin D. San Francisco is located far north of the equator, and with limited time outside, wearing sunscreen and/or clothing that covers the skin, adequate vitamin D is hard to obtain through sun exposure. Supplementation is necessary.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a host of problems including osteoporosis, increased risk of autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and digestive disorders. Many clinical studies have demonstrated that vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of developing respiratory infections. Vitamin D supplementation can reduce complications related to respiratory tract infections. High doses of vitamin D have been shown to decrease ICU admission and mortality in people with COVID-19.
The dose of vitamin D depends on each individual’s diet and exposure to the sun. Lab testing is the only way to determine the proper dosage of vitamin D supplementation. The average dose of supplementation is 1000 to 2000 IU/day.
Vitamin D toxicity rarely occurs from high exposure to the sun or from a balanced diet. Common symptoms of overdoses of vitamin D supplementation can include abdominal pain, frequent urination and thirst, dehydration, and confusion. Studies have shown that 20,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day did not have any evidence of toxicity.
Zinc is found in oysters, red meat, and poultry. Beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, dairy products, and fortified breakfast cereals also good sources of zinc. Zinc supplementation is commonly found in lozenges for colds and in capsules.
Zinc is essential in proper immune function. It is necessary for proper growth and maintenance. Zinc helps hair growth, vision, thyroid function, wound healing, and has anti-viral properties and known for the ability to decrease the severity of the common cold.
One article states, "The fact that zinc deficiency is responsible for 16% of all deep respiratory infections worldwide provides a first strong hint on a link of zinc deficiency with the risk of infection and severe progression of COVID-19 and suggests potential benefits of zinc supplementation."
The daily dose of zinc supplementation is 10-15 mg. Higher doses of zinc needs to be balanced with copper.
Excessive consumption of zinc can lead to copper deficiency. Often gastrointestinal effects such as bleeding can occur with high doses. Lethargy, anemia, and dizziness can also occur.
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the body. It can be found in foods such as eggs, fish, nuts, mushrooms, cereals, germinated legumes or seeds, and in tart cherries.
Melatonin is best known for its use in insomnia but has vast therapeutic benefits from it's anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and anti-aging effects. It can be used for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
It is suggested that melatonin inhibits lung fibrosis, which could prevent further lung injury from COVID-19. An article published on October 2, 2020 states, "although the direct protective action of melatonin against COVID-19 is unknown, its extensive application in animal studies and human clinical trials has repeatedly verified its efficacy and safety in a broad range of disorders. Therefore, melatonin practical usage in the current COVID-19 outbreak is suggested to be beneficial."
The therapeutic dose of melatonin varies widely depending on the disease condition. Melatonin is taken at bedtime, and the average dose is 0.5-3 mg.
Melatonin has been well studied and does not cause adverse effects even with high doses when taken short-term. Mild side effects of dizziness, headache, nausea, and sleepiness have been reported. Long-term use of melatonin causes the same adverse effects as a placebo. The effects of long term use of melatonin on children and adolescents are unknown, and there is a lack of studies on pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Vitamin D, zinc, and melatonin have been in the toolbox of naturopathic doctors for a long time. If you are looking to purchase these supplements, it is important to use reputable companies that have products that use Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). You can find them here on Wellevate.
Although Naturopathic medicine is recognized by Congress, Naturopathic doctors are often overlooked to be at the forefront of medicine due to its traditional values and holistic approach.
The foundation of naturopathic medical practice uses the following principles:
- The Healing Power of Nature: Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in people that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic doctors act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.
- Identify and Treat the Cause: The naturopathic doctor seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
- First Do No Harm: Naturopathic doctors follow three guidelines to avoid harming the patient
- Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat;
- Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; and
- Acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process.
- Doctor as Teacher: Naturopathic doctors educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
- Treat the Whole Person: Naturopathic doctors treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic doctors encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.
- Prevention: Naturopathic doctors emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness.
If you are interested in learning more about Naturopathic Medicine, reach out to us at (415) 564-3200 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule your appointment with Dr. Minna Yoon, ND, L.Ac.
Bay Natural Medicine is located in San Francisco, California.