Novel Ideas to Combat COVID-19: Potassium, Melatonin and the Alkaline Diet

March 23, 2020

Novel Ideas to Combat COVID-19: Potassium, Melatonin and the Alkaline Diet

ReferencesMedRxIVArchives of VirologyJr Envir Public HeatlhJr of Bone and Mineral Research,

Want an idea that you can do to keep yourself healthy and prepared for when COVI-19 gets to you? Yes, you have self-isolated. No, you haven't gone to the grocery store and have started getting pick up instead. You only saw 4 people yesterday and didn't shake any hands. You washed your hands 4 times yesterday to boot. And you didn't touch your face at the average rate of 19 times an hour. 
What else? Yes, you are taking 5,000 IU a day of Vitamin D and 25 mg of zinc. Yes, you are at home practicing guitar and watching Netflix. No, I don't want to hear you playing John Davidson songs.

So, this study from China about potassium caught my eye. Almost every patient with COVID in China was noted to be hypokalemic, low on potassium. The thought is that COVID-19 attacks the cells in your kidneys that excrete potassium, and you can reverse that with ACD-inhibitors. Hmmmm.

Let's just review what has happened with potassium in America in the last 200 years. We used to eat more potassium, much more. The ratio of potassium to sodium used to be 8 to 1. Now it's one to three or four. That's a 24 fold shift and reversal of the ratio. But due to the ions that travel with potassium and sodium, it's also a reversal of pH. When you are potassium dominant, for complex metabolic reasons, your urinary pH will be 8, alkaline. When you are sodium dominant, your urinary pH will be 5.5, acid. Did you know that some viruses multiple as much as 1,000 fold faster in acid pH? Is that all viruses? It hasn't been studied and we have no clinical proof whatsoever. All we have is the observation that COVID patients are low in potassium. Does replacing potassium ahead of time help? We don't know. Is there any harm to doing it? None. What happens if you eat an alkaline diet? We know for a fact that potassium citrate alkalizes your urine, increases your intake of potassium and improves calcium balance, thus protecting your bones. We know that if you eat nothing but vegetables, your urine will be naturally alkaline. Will increasing your potassium balance make you ready for COVID-19? It has no harm unless you are on drugs that block potassium excretion, like ace-inhibitors. 

How about melatonin? Well, here again, we have to get to how viruses become deadly. If your immune system has never seen a particular viral antigen, it ramps up to fight it. Your innate immune system has a ramping up, and a calming down process. If you don't have prior exposure and no immune memory, your ramping up spirals out of control into a "cytokine storm". Here is the fascinating nugget. Melatonin acts as a brake on cytokine storms. You make lots of melatonin when you are young. By age 40 your melatonin production starts to degrade badly. By 60 and 70 you are making virtually none. One-year-olds have a melatonin of 325 pg/ml. Seventy-year-olds peak at 25 pg. Who is getting sick and dying with COVID? Melatonin turns off that cytokine storm. Pregnant women in their third trimester of pregnancy triple their blood level of melatonin. Do you find it interesting that there have been no victims of COVID-19 who are pregnant? Hmmm. Want some melatonin? Again, it's harmless. Dose? Start with 1 mg. Ramp up to 3, or 5, or 10. At bedtime.

WWW: What will work for me. These are simple things you can do to prepare your body for the assault of COVID. Eat lots of vegetables that are steamed so they still have their potassium and magnesium. Consider taking some potassium citrate to alkalize yourself. The OTC potassium citrate is 1 meq per pill so you have to take a lot of them. You can buy it in bulk and make your own capsules. A 00 capsule will hold 10 meq. A great little machine can be purchased at Swanson. (The research on bones was with 60 meq per day, which is what I'm taking myself and have had no increase in blood potassium levels. But prolonged potassium in folks with renal failure or some meds may accumulate and should be monitored.). Take melatonin at bedtime. Some folks get drowsy at 1 mg a day, or 3, or 5 or 10. I personally take 10. If I'm in the hospital, I want Holly to smuggle in melatonin. But we are all in this together. Don't forget to wash your hands and stay 6 feet away. Cut your boxes up and dispose of your grocery bags immediately on bringing home, then wash your hands before you touch your face.

Pop Quiz

  1.  An observational study showing that those who die of COVID in China, all have low potassium, means supplementing with potassium will prevent death from COVID-19. T or F. Answer: No proof at all. Loose, tangential association. But may be true. No time to study right now and no harm in trying, unless you are on potassium-sparing drugs or have renal failure.
  2. Do we eat enough potassium compared to historical records? T or F. Answer: Pants on fire false. Our intake of potassium has plummeted. Every membrane in your body depends on sufficient potassium.
  3. Viruses multiple better in an acid medium? T or F. Answer: Only one study on it from 40 years ago but an intriguing idea. Our diet has also become acidic because we eat many more animal products.
  4. Melatonin is naturally what? Answer: Discovered as your "sleep" hormone, it is also a very potent anti-cancer drug, and a very potent modulator of the "cytokine storm" tornado your immune system makes in those viral infections that kill people quickly with multi-organ failure and respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). That's what all the ventilator talk is about.
  5. A seventy-year-old makes just as much melatonin as a 1-year-old. T or F. Answer: Pants on fire false. Ratio of 25 to 350, less than 10%. Good news, you can take it orally and it's cheap. Do it!