I’ve been getting so many questions from my clients and listeners about the various COVID vaccines. I know it can feel like a real mystery, especially if you have an autoimmune issue like Hashimoto’s. I am not an MD but I know you look to me for all types of answers because I can address things from a whole body perspective, explain things in a clear way but also can be unbiased.
One of the key questions I get is whether or not someone should get the vaccine. Some have even asked if it’s better to contract COVID 19 as a way to build natural immunity.
I unfortunately can’t tell you if you should or should not get the vaccine because I think it’s very personal and the decision is yours and only yours. I am not here to tell you what to do, but my hope is that if I answer your questions and clear up some of the confusion and mystery around it, it will hopefully make the decision, whichever decision you make easier for you.
Speaking of which, research on the vaccines is ongoing and new information is coming in each week. This episode was recorded in early May 2021 and refers to the most up to date information at that time.
Impact of Symptoms
There are a variety of possible responses to both contracting COVID and the vaccine. When it comes to contracting the virus, reactions can range from a few mild symptoms to severe (fatigue, neurological symptoms, headaches, cardiovascular issues, blood clots, or death). These are often exacerbated by underlying conditions. However, research has shown that even those who have minimal symptoms can develop ‘long COVID’ or extended symptoms that last a long time. Research suggests that eating healthy, following a healthy lifestyle, and having sufficient levels of zinc and vitamin D can all lower the severity of the infection and possible symptoms. However, the long term effects are what a lot of people are worried about especially because we don’t know the full extent of them at this time so just getting Covid and “getting it over with” so to speak is certainly not that easy because even if your symptoms are mild, there is a chance for these long term issues and that is not something we want to take lightly.
COVID Vaccine Options: What’s the Difference?
If you choose to get the vaccine, there are a few options to consider, depending on where you are in the world.
There are two main differences between the options: mRNA vaccines and Adenovirus DNA vaccines.
Moderna and Pfizer are both mRNA vaccines. Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) and AstraZeneca are DNA vaccines also referred to as adenovirus vector vaccines.
COVID Vaccine Options: How do the Vaccines Work?
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines contain mRNA which code for the spike protein (those are little crowns you can see on the coronavirus when you look at it microscopically). The mRNA itself is very fragile so they have to wrap it in polyethylene glycol which is a lipid nanoparticle. Once that mixture gets into the cells, our cells then read and code it to make the spike protein. Our immune system can then respond by producing B-cells and T-cells. The B-cells produce antibodies so that if we contract COVID, we can fight it off. The T-cells attack and neutralize the virus directly.
The difference between the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine is in the dosage. Pfizer has 30 micrograms of mRNA while Moderna has 100 micrograms of mRNA.
The Johnson & Johnson and the AstraZeneca vaccine are a bit different but they’re actually not that much different. These vaccines use an adenovirus (which, by the way, cannot replicate in your cells or mutate) that has DNA injected that codes for the spike protein. The adenovirus gets into our cells, the gene for the spike protein that was inserted into the adenovirus is then read by the cell and copied to mRNA and then the process is the same as the mRNA vaccine so essentially these vaccines are 1 step before the mRNA vaccines and once it becomes mRNA the immune system takes the same steps to create an immune response. It’s important to note that these vaccines are not live viruses and as such, are incapable of viral shedding (as has been falsely shared on social media and websites). More traditional vaccines, like the chickenpox vaccine, for example, may have viral shedding but these COVID vaccines do not.
Vaccine Side Effects
With the mRNA vaccines, there are two shots required and it is not uncommon to have side effects. While nobody likes to feel bad, these side effects are not necessarily a bad thing because your body is creating antibodies. When you get the second shot (or booster shot) your body already has these antibodies and they are responding the way they should which is why those symptoms are there and for many people, symptoms don’t typically last longer than a few days.
Remember the Moderna vaccine dosage is three times as much as the Pfizer which may be why we are seeing different reactions to the two different mRNA vaccines. I still think it depends on the person and believe that your reaction to the vaccine depends a lot on your immune system.
AstraZeneca and the J&J vaccines only require 1 shot so they don’t typically have the same reactions as what people notice after the 2nd shot of the mRNA vaccines however there can be some similar reactions for a few days following the shot.
While many people have mild symptoms from either of the vaccines, there are some people, especially those who may be more sensitive, that are noticing extended reactions lasting for more than just a few days and as long as a few weeks or even longer. Some have questions whether the toxins in the vaccines can be causing these but these vaccines are different from traditional vaccines in that they DON’T have heavy metals or formaldehyde. There are other ingredients including polyethylene glycol and polysorbate 80 which, for some people, can create an allergic reaction but another mechanism of action that is not as widely talked about is an immune reaction to the antibodies themselves which brings me to our next and very important question.
Vaccine and Autoimmunity
There is a possible connection between the vaccine and autoimmune issues. This can happen because of cross reactivity, also referred to as something called molecular mimicry. A study done in January 2021 found that when you make antibodies to the spike protein they can look similar to your own tissues and can cross-react by a process called molecular mimicry. This is very similar to what happens with gluten and Hashimoto’s as well as other autoimmune diseases. For example, if your body has an issue with gluten, you would make antibodies to gluten. There are similarities between compounds on the antibodies and on various organs, like your thyroid, for example. So, if your body sees gluten and you have gluten antibodies, it attacks the gluten. And because of the similarities to say your thyroid, it might also attack the thyroid. This is why immunologists and experts are studying the potential cross-reactivity with these vaccines.
A study done by Drs Vojdani and Dr. Kharazzian found that the immune system’s response to covid antibodies (which we would get from contracting covid or getting the vaccine as both make antibodies) can be connected to autoimmunity because out of the 50 tissues they tested, they saw cross reactivity with 28 tissues including thyroid, pancreas and mitochondria. Interestingly, it is thought this cross reactivity does not necessarily happen in only those with known autoimmune diseases but those that do not have a history of autoimmune diseases as well.
Reducing the Risk of symptoms and Cross Reactivity that may lead to Autoimmunity
Having a balanced immune system seems to be the key to reducing symptoms and reducing the risk of cross-reactions. Many people think that they should boost their immune system before getting the vaccine, however if you have an autoimmune disease, you want to be careful because the last thing you need is a hyper-vigilant immune system (given that it could over produce antibodies that could then cause a cross-reaction).
Understanding your autoimmune triggers is also very important in reducing your risk. I talk more about that in episode 32, so please give that a listen to learn more about triggers.
What you can do to balance the immune system and offset reactions
There is a lot you can do to offset the potential side effects from the vaccine as well as COVID or long-COVID when you use the whole body approach to health.
First, make sure that you are eating a clean diet. This includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains (for those of you who can eat them, otherwise clean starches like sweet potato and squash for good carbs). Choose organic whenever you can. Avoid your food sensitivities whenever possible.
Do what you can to manage your stress. This includes getting exercise (but not so strenuous that you increase the stress on your body), meditation, breathwork, doing things for yourself that you enjoy and get enough sleep (8 hours is ideal)
Supplement Strategy for the COVID Vaccine (this is also recommended when Fighting COVID)
If you choose to get the vaccine or if you have COVID and want to do everything you can to help prevent long covid, here are my recommendations. Remember, we want a balanced immune system so the supplements should help balance and not up-regulate or down-regulate your immune system.
Instructions For Vaccine Support – Start this protocol a few days before the 1st shot and continue until 2 weeks post 2nd shot. If you are getting the J and J or Astrazeneca Vaccine then you would start a few days before the shot and continue for 4 weeks.
Vitamin D: Make sure levels are optimal. Aim for 50-80. Depending on your levels and where you live, this might mean taking anywhere from 2000 – 10,000 IU per day to get to that optimal level. You can use capsules like Vitamin D Synergy and Vitamin D Supreme and liquids like Emulsi D Synergy. If your levels are very low and you need to raise them quickly naturally, my favorite is the Hi Po Emulsi D. It has 2000 IU of D per drop and I have seen levels go up the quickest using it. It does not have vitamin K though like the other options I listed so it would be important to make sure you have K in your multivitamin or that you take additional K. Alternatively you can switch to one of the above D and K combination formulas after 1-2 months of this one once your levels are in a better range.
Vitamin C: I recommend 3000 mg per day. You have plenty of options for vitamin C supplements including Quicksilver’s liposomal liquid vitamin C (great if you have GI issues). Another option is in the powder form like C+ BioFizz by Designs for Health which I love because one spoon gives you 2500 mg — almost your daily requirement. You can also take vitamin C in capsules form such as Stellar C (also by Designs for Health) — each capsule has 700 mg so you’ll want to take 4 or 5 per day. (If you test positive for covid, you would want to use this protocol along with the “emergency” protocol for infections which I discuss in detail in Episode 83)
Curcumin: It is very balancing to the immune system and I’ve seen great results with it. I used Curcum-Evail by Designs for Health, taking one tablet in the morning and one in the evening.
Glutathione: I’ve talked in the past about how glutathione is the master antioxidant but it’s also a really important immune balancer. It does a great job of keeping the immune system from getting hyper-vigilant without down-regulating or suppressing it. The challenge is that glutathione can be difficult to absorb which is why I like glutathione in liquid form. I take one teaspoon per day of the Trizomal Glutathione from Apex Energetics (please note that you have to be logged into our website to view this product. You can simply create an account or log in and this link will appear). You can also use the Therasomal Glutathione from Quicksilver which comes in a small bottle if you are getting the J and J and don’t need to take it for as long – take four pumps twice a day or eight pumps once a day.
Specialized Pro Resolving Mediators: These mediators come from fish oils but at a much higher potency than you could get from eating fish or taking fish oil or omega capsules. You may not have heard of this before but my colleagues and I have been getting great results using this to minimize side effects. They help regulate inflammation reactions that may be caused by the vaccine, antibodies, or long-COVID symptoms. I recommend the SMP Supreme by Designs for Health. You only need to take one capsule per day with a meal.
Multivitamin: And finally, taking a good Multivitamin is important. Make sure it has adequate B vitamins (in the methylated form – for example B12 should say methylcobalamin).
I hope this episode sheds a bit more light and helps you with your decision. Whether you decide to get the vaccine or not, in order to build resilience, we really want to look at things from all of the angles. Please be mindful of your diet, your exercise, your sleep, your lifestyle and your stress levels while supporting everything with the right balancing supplements. When you support your body from all angles, you can build true resilience.
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