Public health authorities are advising frequent hand washing and social distancing, especially in the absence of confirmatory testing for COVID-19. I don’t have any wisdom to add to these practices. Vaccines are in the works, as are anti-viral drugs—nothing to add here, either.

But let me reiterate what we do in the Wheat Belly and Undoctored lifestyles. In general, we do not treat diseases; we correct the factors that allow disease to emerge in the first place—a big difference.

Take rheumatoid arthritis, for example. In conventional healthcare, the joint pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis are suppressed with anti-inflammatory agents to reduce the white blood cell infiltration of the joint, tumor necrosis factor-blocking agents to block inflammation, opiates to block the sensation of pain. In the Wheat Belly/Undoctored approach, we eliminate the gliadin protein that initiated autoimmunity in the intestine, we correct vitamin D deficiency that permits autoimmune phenomena to emerge, correct omega-3 fatty acid deficiency that allows prostaglandin-mediated inflammation to occur, address disrupted bowel flora that helps reduce inflammation. We also reduce visceral fat that amplifies inflammation.

With the coronavirus, we are not going to “treat” the viral illness, but we can amplify or optimize your immune system response to provide increased protection to many viruses.

Those of you already following the Wheat Belly lifestyle have therefore removed wheat, grains, and sugars. This alone helps reduce frequency of viral illnesses because airway inflammation is reduced, thereby reducing susceptibility to airborne pathogens. Removing the amylopectin A of grains and removing other sugar sources spares you the drop in immune response that accompanies high blood sugars. Restoring vitamin D to achieve a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood level substantially boosts your immune response, especially that mediated via T-lymphocytes that protect you from viral infections. (It may be too early, but can you discern the start of a latitudinal gradient in COVID-19 epidemiology on this distribution map? The development of a latitudinal gradient—less at the equator, more heading north and south away from the equator—can suggest a vitamin D deficiency connection. Of course, population density confounds any potential association, but stay tuned and we’ll see if latitude can trump population density.) Those of us who have been following the Wheat Belly/Undoctored lifestyles therefore rarely have any viral illnesses, even while everyone around us is coughing, sneezing, and suffering fevers and runny noses.

But there is more you can do to further boost the immune response. They are unconventional—but then, what isn’t unconventional in the Wheat Belly and Undoctored world?—but potentially huge boosters of the human immune response. These strategies include:

Reverse the metabolic endotoxemia of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO
People think of SIBO as a process confined to the small intestine. And that is true if we are looking only at bacteria. The proliferation of unhealthy bacterial species that characterizes SIBO is accompanied by death of bacteria that, in turn, release components of their cell walls such as lipopolysaccharide, LPS. Due to the increased intestinal permeability of SIBO, large quantities of LPS gain entry into the bloodstream, a process labeled “metabolic endotoxemia, “exporting” inflammation body-wide. This explains why SIBO can manifest as rosacea, psoriasis, restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia, and neurodegenerative disorders of the brain, i.e., health conditions outside of the intestinal tract. But the metabolic endotoxemia of SIBO also increases susceptibility to viral illnesses, a phenomenon shared with autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory diseases. While there are many, many reasons to identify, then manage, your SIBO, the pandemic of coronavirus is yet another reason to take steps to eradicate this additional vulnerability. See the many Wheat Belly Blog posts about SIBO and metabolic endotoxemia. If you believe you have this condition, join our discussions in the Undoctored Inner Circle on how to manage it, even if your doctor has no idea what it is. We show you how to incorporate the AIRE device, what herbal antibiotic regimens have proven efficacy, how to stack the odds in favor of remission and prevention of recurrence.

Supplement with the probiotic Lactobacillus casei subspecies Shirota
Lactobacillus casei is a well-studied microorganism since its discovery in 1930. Since then, it has been commercialized as a probiotic drink called Yakult that, while originating in Japan, has been widely distributed in the U.S. since 2019.

This strain of L. casei has been shown to:

  • Reduce wintertime respiratory illnesses by over 50% and abbreviate duration of infections by 50%.
  • Increase responsiveness of pneumonia when added to conventional antibiotics.
  • Reduce duration of fever by 50% during norovirus infection among elderly residents of a retirement center.
  • Enhance immune system function including increased protection provided by natural killer cells that play an important role in cells that become infected with viruses and increasing anti-inflammatory IL-10. (Interestingly, our favorite strains of the bacteria, L. reuteri, also boost IL-10, the interleukin responsible for many of this species’/strains’ benefits.)

These are potent effects. This strain of L. casei is commercially available in the U.S. as the Yakult brand of probiotic beverage, available through selected retailers, only having been introduced on a national basis in this country since 2019. (Here is a store locator.) As with most commercially-prepared beverages, the manufacturer of Yakult does stupid things like use non-fat dairy and add sugar and maltodextrin, so I would not recommend consuming Yakult off the shelf. I would instead suggest getting hold of some of the product, then making yogurt (or other fermented food) yourself. And we, of course, do not subscribe to typical yogurt-making rules and instead 1) ferment for extended periods of 24 or more hours and 2) ferment in the presence of prebiotic fibers to increase bacterial counts and richness of the end-product. Each 80 ml (2.7 ounce) bottle (5 servings) contains 6.5 billion CFUs of L. casei; a tablespoon or so provides more than enough to get you started. Ideal fermenting temperature is in the 95-109 degrees F range.

Reverse age-related thymic involution
Lactobacillus reuteri reverses age-related atrophy of the thymus in experimental models. The thymus (sitting just in front of the heart in the anterior mediastinum) is the seat of much of the immune response, especially that involving T-lymphocytes. Starting at age 18, the thymus begins to atrophy such that, by age 70, it is a tiny fragment of its former self, a phenomenon accompanied by increased susceptibility to infections like flu, pneumococcal pneumonia, and sepsis. Even though this phenomenon has not yet been formally corroborated in humans, nearly every other observation made in mice with L. reuteri (or exogenous oxytocin) has held true in humans in formal clinical trials: preservation of bone density, accelerated healing, increased oxytocin, reduction of appetite, weight loss, etc. It is therefore likely that reversal of thymic involution and thereby restoration of youthful immune potential occurs, also. The collection of benefits of consuming the super-duper high amplified bacterial counts of L. reuteri add up to a substantial age-reversing effect, all in the form of a thick, rich, and delicious “yogurt.” 

I also predict that, as with all the strategies in the Wheat Belly and Undoctored programs, a synergy among combined efforts will emerge, the effect I call the “2 + 2 = 11” effect: the total will be greater than the sum of the parts.