Restorative Medicine Conversations

Role of Nutrition in Recovery from Covid-19 with Dr. David Brownstein

February 02, 2021 Restorative Medicine Season 1 Episode 1
Restorative Medicine Conversations
Role of Nutrition in Recovery from Covid-19 with Dr. David Brownstein
Restorative Medicine Conversations
Role of Nutrition in Recovery from Covid-19 with Dr. David Brownstein
Feb 02, 2021 Season 1 Episode 1
Restorative Medicine

Dr. Brownstein is a board-certified family physician, who's devoted to using the best of conventional and alternative therapies for patient care. Dr. Brownstein has presented nationally and internationally about his success using natural therapies. He is also a prolific writer and educator, and is the author, at the last count, of 16 books. 

Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Brownstein is a board-certified family physician, who's devoted to using the best of conventional and alternative therapies for patient care. Dr. Brownstein has presented nationally and internationally about his success using natural therapies. He is also a prolific writer and educator, and is the author, at the last count, of 16 books. 

Liz Sutherland (LS): Hi, I'm Dr. Liz Sutherland, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Restorative Medicine, which is published by the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine. Today, it's my pleasure to interview Dr. David Brownstein. Dr. Brownstein is a board-certified family physician, who's devoted to using the best of conventional and alternative therapies for patient care. Dr. Brownstein has presented nationally and internationally about his success using natural therapies. He is also a prolific writer and educator, and is the author, at the last count, of 16 books. Welcome, Dr. Brownstein.

David Brownstein (DB): Thank you for having me, Liz.

LS: You're very welcome. I know that you treat a wide array of health conditions in your integrative medicine practice, and that one of your major concerns over this last year has been working with patients suffering from COVID infection. What are the major nutritional factors that you have seen influence recovery from COVID-19?

DB: Well, we were involved in COVID from the beginning, when it hit Michigan in March. And we felt we were well positioned to help people get over COVID, because we have been checking vitamin and mineral levels, and doing nutritional and holistic medicine for over 25 years. So we thought our patients would be in better health going into this illness than maybe the average person out there. And so, it's not easy to answer, what are the nutritional things that helped them get over this. Because we've been checking nutritional levels for 25 years and sort of correcting them as we go. And our patients have done well through COVID. I mean, we've treated over 200 now, and we have very good numbers to report on it. Our patients didn't get hospitalized, they didn't die, they didn't get the long-hauler effects anywhere near the rates being reported.

Our history over the last 25 plus years is that our patients don't get hospitalized for the flu, they don't get pneumonia, they don't die at anywhere near the rates reported. And it's because we've pretty much used these same holistic principles over those 25 years, to keep their bodies healthy and to treat them.  I guess I would go with our COVID protocol, and say vitamins A, C, D, and iodine are the core of it. We've been using high doses of those at the first sign of an illness, and then lower doses while they're sick. If patients got worse, we had them use intravenous doses of vitamin C and hydrogen peroxide, and they nebulized hydrogen peroxide and saline. We’ve used ozone as a newer therapy over the last few years as we learned about it.

That's, in a nutshell, what we've been doing with our patients. I've seen articles on vitamin D deficiency and COVID, and the associations they're reporting with low vitamin D and worsening COVID. Our patients didn't really have that, because our patients are all checked for vitamin D. I've been checking it for 27 years and correcting vitamin D deficiencies. Our patients generally went into COVID with adequate vitamin D levels, but if they got sicker, we upped their dose dramatically for a few days. And then, we found that their immune systems seemed to recover quicker, and without having to be hospitalized and ventilated in anywhere near the rates being reported.

LS: That's really fantastic news. It sounds like you're saying first of all, you have a very extensive, holistic, preventative, immune-balancing protocol that you use in your practice on any patient that needs it. And so, your patients’ susceptibility to infection was lower anyway.  But if somebody became infected, to begin with, they would use oral doses of vitamins A, C, D, and also iodine, is that correct?

DB: That's correct.

LS: And then if they became sicker, you would switch them to an intravenous protocol? 

DB: If they didn't respond, or needed more support, yes. We would treat them with the intravenous protocol.

LS: How did you vary your protocol based on patient factors such as age, sex, and immune status?

DB: That's an interesting question, because we didn't vary it. And really, it's the same protocol we've used for over 25 years for flu-like illnesses, and during flu season when people get sick. I remember when I started holistic medicine 27 years ago, when flu season came around -- and at that point there was no Tamiflu, even though I don't think Tamiflu is a great treatment for flu, and those studies don't really prove that it is – but there were no drugs like Tamiflu out there. And I'll reiterate again, I'm not giving a promotion for Tamiflu, because I think it's a lousy drug with lousy side effects, and not very good benefits for the flu, but there was nothing back then. I started researching items that would support the immune system, that would allow the innate and adaptive immune systems to work better, to help patients recover, and perhaps not get as sick when they do get these illnesses. We’ve used this same therapy of vitamins A, C, D, and iodine for 25 plus years on patients, every flu season. 

The protocol didn't vary. We would use it for kids, we would use it for women, we used it for men, old, young, black, white, and it didn't really matter. Our experience has been, and we would talk about it every flu season, that we’d see these numbers: 20 to 80,000 people die a year from the flu, and maybe in a bad year 100, 120,000 die. We just don't have any [patients die]. Nothing works 100% of the time, but we just don't have anywhere near those numbers. Our patients just aren't hospitalized, they don't get pneumonia. Over the years as we learned new things, we would tweak our recipe, but the basic recipe has been pretty constant. The newest part of the recipe was using ozone about eight or nine years ago when I learned about ozone through Dr. Robert Rowen. We instituted using intramuscular shots of ozone if they needed more than what the oral therapy would give them. Otherwise, we don't vary it, it's the same therapy. Maybe with kids, we'll dose down a little bit for their weight, but they get the same basic things that the adults get.

LS: Do you usually evaluate the nutritional status of your patients? And if so, how do you test for the levels of the nutrients that you are going to supplement them with?

DB: When I mention that I practice holistic medicine, I mean that I look at the nutritional and hormonal levels of every patient that comes in. At the first visit that's what they get, a nutritional and hormonal evaluation. So from that first visit, I begin, and my partners begin, working on reestablishing optimal levels of nutrients, and optimal hormonal levels. And reestablishing balance and homeostasis in the body. And so, that's the first visit. And then, my premise has always been that if the human body has the right level of the basic raw materials and nutrients that it needs, it's well-positioned to, not only overcome any stressful situation, but to recover from a stressful situation without long-term effects. And I don't claim to be a rocket scientist by making those statements, I've just been treating patients for 27 years and I can see the effects of it.

For me, it's a common-sense argument that a patient's going to do better with any stressful situation, whether we want to call it COVID, or influenza A, or influenza B, or some emotional stress or something, if they have adequate vitamin D levels, or adequate vitamin A levels, or adequate vitamin C levels, and proper thyroid function and adrenal function going into that illness. I've seen the positive results in my practice, and my patients have seen the positive results. So when COVID came, I thought... I remember having a meeting with my partners and my staff and saying, "I think we are as well-positioned as anybody for this illness." We're working to get our patients in better shape nutritionally, and we've got a therapy to help support their immune system. It's not just waiting around to see what happens with them if they get sick, we can sort of institutes a plan to further support their innate and adaptive immune systems.

And the proof is in the pudding, because we've seen the results. I published a peer-reviewed study on 107 patients, how well they did, and how much less hospitalization, and we had no deaths in the group. That was our first 107 with COVID in March and April [2020], when people were dying at an enormous case fatality rate. We've continued treating patients, we've treated over 200 now, we're somewhere in the 230s. Before I came to do this interview with you, I was outside doing parking lot IVs as the snow was coming down, for two of my patients who met me there, who've just recently become ill. We're still doing the same therapy, and still seeing the same good results.

LS: I'm really heartened to hear that you're continuing to treat COVID patients given the climate, which is particularly hostile to using so-called unproven therapies. So, glad to hear that. I was wondering if you could talk more about iodine. I think that many people are familiar with iodine as a very effective topical disinfectant, but less familiar with use of it as a therapeutic agent.

DB: I became interested in iodine about 10 years into my practice, when I was seeing so many patients suffering from thyroid problems. I ended up having, I would say, three quarters of my patients on thyroid hormone, and it just was bothering me. Why would so many people need thyroid hormone just because they're getting older? I mean, we weren't designed that way. And so I would go back to the physiology of the thyroid gland, and the biochemistry, and look at the various nutrients and essential ingredients needed to not only produce thyroid hormone, but to activate it from inactive thyroid hormone. And so, I would try various things, and nothing seemed to work as well as putting them on a little bit of thyroid hormone when they were hypothyroid. And then, I would try iodine on and off, but it just wasn't working great. It didn't hurt anybody, but it just wasn't working great.

Then I met my mentor in iodine, Dr. Guy Abraham, who taught me that I was using the wrong form of iodine; why you need both iodine and iodide; and how iodine has antiseptic properties to it. There's no virus, bacteria, or parasite that's resistant to iodine. The white blood cells can't produce their enzymes and their peroxidases to kill foreign invaders if they don't have adequate amounts of iodine. You can't make a hormone in the body if you don't have adequate amounts of iodine. And there's more effects for iodine on the adaptive and innate immune systems. Iodine was just crucial for every cell in the body. 

I began using iodine, and I was able to lower thyroid hormone use from three quarters to probably less than a quarter of my patients. And lo and behold, their immune systems seemed to function better. I'm not claiming it's a cure for common cold or anything like that. My patients still get sick like everybody else's out there, but they just don't seem to get as sick. They don't seem to get hospitalized, develop pneumonia, the same things that I said before. Out of all the things I've done over the years, using iodine has the biggest bang for the buck. I don't think there's any doubt about that. And so, it was a basic part of the protocol. As you've mentioned, it has antiseptic properties when applied topically, but it also has antiseptic properties when taken orally. White blood cells, the innate part of the immune system can't function optimally, the adaptive part can't function optimally without iodine. I have always instructed my patients if they get sick, or at the first sign of a sore throat, or a cough to double whatever iodine dose they're taking,

I've tested over 7,000 patients, between me and my partners, and our data has found over 97% are low in iodine, most people are drastically low in iodine. We know iodine levels have fallen across the US over the last 40 years by nearly 50%. Average iodine levels are low in the US right now, according to the WHO standards. So, is it any wonder in this population of our country, in which two thirds are obese, we have all these [health problems]? Iodine is not the only nutrient that's low in people. I see people low in thiamin, B12, magnesium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. We've been checking all these levels for all these years. How does the immune system have a chance if it doesn't have the basic raw materials it needs? Iodine is one of those raw materials. We find really good results with using it. We found good results using it twenty-five years ago, we're finding good results using it today.

LS: I can see where vitamins A, C, and D improve a person's immunity by having their impact on specific aspects of the immune system. Does iodine have the immune boosting functions that you've described, because it kills any pathogens, both covert and overt pathogens, that a person might have, and therefore raises their threshold against infection? Or does it have other direct supportive effects on the immune system?

DB: It's got lots of direct supportive effects. I wrote about this in my paper, and I wrote about this in my newest book, A Holistic Approach to Viruses. Iodine is essential for proper immune system functioning. It's been shown to increase IgG synthesis in human lymphocytes, and we know lymphocytes are a problem in COVID-19 as they become deficient. Iodine deficiency is associated with decreased phagocytitic activity of blood neutrophils, that goes to the innate immune system. And as I said before, when they have decreased phagocytitic activity, then they have decreased peroxidase activity, and they can't release their substances to kill these foreign invaders. Iodine supplementation has been shown to increase the ability of granulocytes to kill infectious organisms, because it increases their ability to release peroxidase.

There have been studies showing nasal and oral gargling with small doses of povidone-iodine can kill COVID. It inactivates COVID within 15 to 30 seconds. Japan has done very well, and Tokyo in particular has done very well with COVID so far. There's been a bunch of theories on why. Tokyo has a population that's crammed in tighter, probably, than New York City, and they don't have anywhere near the death rate or illness from COVID that we've suffered with it. The Japanese get a hundred times more iodine in their diet than we do. It's my premise that perhaps the reason they are doing so much better, is because they have better phagocytitic activity of their neutrophils compared to us, and better innate and adaptive immune system ability. They can produce IgG, they can produce the immunoglobulins that we can't do.

LS: That's a really interesting theory. Thank you. You mentioned your new book, A Holistic Approach to Viruses. There's a chapter in that book entitled “This is Our Wake-Up Call.” Would you mind giving us a kind of overview of what that chapter is about?

DB: It's interesting you bring that up. I almost titled the book, This is Our Wake-Up Call, and I was going back and forth between the title of A Holistic Approach to Viruses, and This is Our Wake-Up Call. I was asking people their opinion. People seemed to like A Holistic Approach to Viruses a little bit better, but, This is Our Wake-Up Call is certainly apropos to what's happened today. The US has 5% of the world's population and something like 30, 35% of the world's deaths from COVID. We've suffered dramatically compared to other Western countries. I wrote that chapter because I said in there, "I don't know why we should be surprised about this. We have been an unhealthy population for decades." We finish last to second to last in every single health indicator from the World Health Organization for determining the health of a country. From neonatal mortality, to maternal mortality at childbirth, to longevity. 

We spend the most money on healthcare, almost 20% of our GNP, compared to the next major Western country that spends 12%. Most of them spend less than 10%. Other countries live longer, they have less hospitalization, less disease, less chronic illness. The numbers are astounding when you look at it. “This is Our Wake-Up Call” was written to say, "This should be nothing surprising, that COVID nailed us." And now, perhaps we should have a Manhattan Project for our health, and it should be from the highest reaches of our government. We're taking more drugs than anyone on the planet, and clearly that's not the way to do it. That hasn't helped. We take more vaccines than anyone on the planet. Well, I mean, more vaccines don't seem to be the answer, because we have more illness in our kids, and autoimmune disease and health problems in our kids than any other Western kids on the face of the planet.

I don't believe we should have to suffer poor health. We shouldn't stand for it. The human body wasn't designed to be unhealthy as it gets older, and yet here we are. The purpose of that chapter was to say, we need a new plan instead of relying on drugs. I was taught in medical school to diagnose pathology and prescribe the drug to treat that pathology. The problem is the drug to treat that pathology primarily works by poisoning enzymes and blocking receptors in the body. I don't think we were designed to do that. There's a time and a place to do that during acute crises, like heart attacks, or strokes, or something like that. But we should be in better health so we don't get those in the first place, so we don't need these rescue therapies. We'd save a lot of money, we wouldn't have been hit so hard with COVID, and we wouldn't be in the mess we're in right now.

LS: It would truly be wonderful if this pandemic becomes a silver lining in the approach of, this country in particular, to preventative health and supporting wellbeing in its population. Is a focus on the health of the microbiome part of your wake-up call?

DB: Of course. The microbiome is huge. Our microbiome is a mess right now. I see all the patients that are complaining of all the GI complaints, and suffering with poor GI health. The number is growing, and now it’s happening in younger and younger kids. That's just one more thing that shows how unhealthy we are. I was talking to my partner about it the other night after work. We'd worked a long day, and I said, "Rick, if people just ate better, and they cut sugar out of their diet, and they cut refined carbohydrates out of their diet, half our business would be much easier to deal with." And he said, "Oh, Dave. It's not half, it's about 75, 80%." You wouldn't have the microbiome problems, you wouldn't have the immune system problems, you wouldn't have the thyroid problems, you wouldn't have the liver problems, and so on, and so on. So, absolutely, the microbiome's an important part, just as everything else is.

LS: It continues to be shocking how little awareness there is of the connection between the nutrition we take in and our health. Dr. Brownstein, before we end, I want to make sure there isn't anything else that you would like to say, or a question that I haven't asked you, that you would like to weigh in on.

DB: Just one comment. You mentioned at the beginning, these were tough times. I had been censored over what I was writing at the early parts of COVID. I had to take all my blogs down that were just reporting on how our patients were doing. Look either we learn to talk about this stuff, and we learn from each other, or we're just going to continue the mess we're in right now. Everyone's focusing on the vaccine right now, the vaccines that are coming out. Well, guess what folks? These vaccines don't work if your immune system doesn't respond appropriately to the vaccines.

So, you need a healthy immune system, whether you're going to survive COVID, whether you're going to get the vaccine, or whether you're not. Because vaccines aren't going to work in an unhealthy body. I think that we need a new focus. We need a new Manhattan Project. This should come from the highest reaches of our government. Unfortunately, with big pharma controlling the narrative, I'm skeptical that it's going to happen anytime soon. But hopefully, when people decide they've had enough, they'll rise up, and let the representatives and the senators know, we've had enough. We're paying too much for substandard healthcare.

LS: Dr. Brownstein, thank you very much for this interview, and for your compelling ideas, and obviously rousing dedication. Thank you so much.

DB: Thank you for having me, Liz.