COVID Vaccine: Prepping and Recovering

This is the 3rd in a 3 part series on COVID vaccines. In part one, we weighed the risks of COVID infection vs COVID injection. In part 2, we covered frequently asked questions about the COVID vaccines. Here we’re assuming you’ve decided to move ahead with vaccination, and we’re covering how to prepare and recover.

Once again, I am not a scientist or expert in vaccines or infectious disease. I’m merely a functional medicine provider, drawing on my 20+ years of experience, and lots of Googling. I hope the information is helpful.

Preparing the Immune System for Optimal Response to Vaccination

The Role of Lifestyle

Exercise, good nutrition and stress management will all factor into your body’s immune response, including its ability to return to baseline following vaccination. In the days leading up to vaccination, try to give your body a little extra TLC.

Insomnia is likely to cause a more exaggerated inflammatory response, and therefore, more symptoms, so try to make sure you get a good night of sleep before vaccination.

Consider Timing

The X chromosome contains a higher density of immune-related genes than the Y chromosome; therefore, women generally mount stronger immune responses than men. This is one reason autoimmunity is seen much more often in women.  Historically, women also respond more strongly than men to vaccination because *estrogen amplifies the TH1 immune response stimulated by vaccines, while testosterone has a dimming effect.

*Unfortunately, data on response and adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines doesn’t appear to be reported by sex, though menstruating women could consider timing their vaccination/s during the second half of their menstrual cycle when estrogen is at its lowest.

Vitamin D’s Role in a Healthy Immune Response

Vitamin D receptors are expressed by the majority of immune cells. Immune cells are also able to locally convert vitamin D from 25(OH)D3 into its active form (1,25(OH)2D3). Vitamin D and its receptor site signaling together have a suppressive role on autoimmunity and an anti-inflammatory effect.

We find most patients require a dose of 3000-5000 IU/day to achieve the optimal blood level of 60-80 ng/mL It’s a good idea to check your level in winter and summer to establish your optimal daily dose. If you aren’t currently taking vitamin D, you can take double or triple the recommended daily amount for several weeks to more quickly attain sufficiency.

Probiotics and Vaccines

A meta-analysis published in the journal Vaccine in 2018 looked at 26 studies involving 3812 participants, investigating the effect of 40 different probiotic strains on the response to 17 different vaccines.  The authors concluded “the studies in our review suggest that probiotics offer a relatively cheap intervention to improve vaccine efficacy and duration of protection.”

When choosing a probiotic, we find that matching them to the patient works best.  Here are our recommendations:

For soft, watery or loose stool, choose a probiotic that includes saccharomyces boulardii. Take 1-3 capsules daily, lowering to once daily as stool normalizes.

For constipation, consider UltraFlora Spectrum by Metagenics. Take one capsule at bedtime.

If you don’t fall into either of the above categories, consider a broad-spectrum probiotic, like Ther-Biotic Complete by Klaire Labs, which comes in powder or capsules.  If you suffer from chronic GI symptoms, consider taking 1/4 tsp of the powder at bedtime. Otherwise, 1 capsule at bedtime should suffice.

If adding a probiotic doesn’t resolve chronic GI issues, consider consulting with a natural healthcare provider for assistance. Over 70% of your immune response originates from the GI tract, so if things are out of balance there, this will increase the likelihood of more serious side effects from vaccination or natural infection.

Minimizing Side Effects Following Vaccination

Plan to take it easy the day of, and the day after vaccination.  Keep stress levels low, listen to your body and rest if it wants you to.  Stay hydrated and eat nourishing food.

To Decrease Inflammation Post-Vaccination, Consider SPMs

Following vaccination, transient inflammation is expected, though the ability to resolve the inflammation varies. The longer it takes your body to quell the inflammatory response, the more symptoms you will experience. Specialized Pro-Resolving Mediators (SPMs) can help the body resolve inflammation that is currently present as well as reduce the severity and duration of side effects following vaccination.

Although our body can use omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil to generate SPMs, it’s a multi-step process involving enzymes and their nutrient co-factors, and not everyone is efficient at doing so. Supplementing with SPMs directly provides a more targeted and direct support that can resolve the inflammatory response, allowing the body to return to homeostasis more quickly.

We currently use two SPM products; Active SPM by Metagenics is the one I see the most consistent response with.  Take 1 gel 3 times daily, starting one week prior to vaccination, and continue for one week following vaccination. If symptoms last for more than one week, please contact your natural healthcare provider.

After symptoms have resolved, you can save the rest of your SPMs for the next time you have an inflammatory condition. They work wonderfully following a day of heavy yard work, or following a sprain/strain injury.

When to Consider Delaying your Second Vaccine

I’ve now consulted with several patients who felt noticeably unwell following their first vaccination, and the symptoms hadn’t subsided by the time their second vaccination was due. Of course, they felt even worse following the second injection. If you have not recovered from your first injection, consider consulting with someone who can help you return to baseline before you proceed with the second. Continuing symptoms are a sign that your body has been unable to resolve the inflammatory response triggered by immune activation.

Summary:

  1. Adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle to support overall body wellness
  2. Get a good night of sleep the night before your vaccination
  3. Time your vaccination for the 2nd half of the menstrual cycle when estrogen is at its lowest
  4. Take sufficient vitamin D to attain a blood level around 80 ng/mL. If you haven’t been taking vitamin D, we recommend 10,000 IU/day for 3-4 weeks prior to vaccination.
  5. Take a probiotic to support a balanced immune response and address any imbalances in the GI tract.
  6. Consider a pro-resolving mediator such as Active SPM to knock down current inflammation and help the body resolve inflammation that results from immune activation by the vaccine.
  7. Listen to your body and rest if you need to following vaccination.

And that concludes the 3 part series on COVID vaccinations and what we know now. I’ll do my best to update when I’m able if it seems necessary to do so. Please feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below in a kind and thoughtful manner.

*Please note that in order to balance my own life, I’m unable to moderate and reply to all comments on the blog. However, I am available for phone or in-office consultations if the need should arise.

5 thoughts on “COVID Vaccine: Prepping and Recovering

  1. Amy Prudhomme says:

    Thank you for this information, Patty! I have vaccine #2 on March 31 (Moderna) so have ordered the SPM you recommended. I had a mild response to the first shot (face flushing, headache, achy) but have heard the second one can pack a real punch.

  2. Christina says:

    I had a mild case of COVID in the summer, but symptoms (mostly GI) seem to have remained to some degree. Took one dose of the vaccine, felt bad for 24 hours. I could resume normal activities after the first day, but things still seemed of for a while GI -wise. I was concerned about taking the 2nd does, but just read that some long hauler’s symptoms have cleared (at least temporarily) with the vaccine! So I will show up Monday for my 2nd dose and hope that my reaction is less.
    I’ve finally been convinced that we get vaccine almost more to protect others than ourselves. I will probably continue to skip the flu vaccine, but will continue with those that protect against deadly disease and those that pose new & real threat to the public (such as COVID) even if the risk of severe consequences are minimal to myself. Thanks! Christina

  3. Lindsay says:

    Thank you so much for all of the information! I am curious, Do you have any suggestions for someone who is considering the vaccine but has had a history of blood clots as well as heart issues and is already on blood thinners?

    Also, how about individuals with MTHFR mutations that do not detox well? What should their approach be to the COVID vaccines?

    • Patty says:

      These are questions that are pretty nuanced. I never feel comfortable making any specific recommendations without having a bigger picture in terms of health conditions, lifestyle, etc. I will say that of my patients who have done our vaccine prep protocol, none have any lasting effects from the vaccine.

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