I feel that with the current events, this is a good opportunity to talk about ways to boost our immune system. This past winter, our house was sick almost continuously. I know there are many reasons for that, but it caused me to dig deep and explore ways to boost our immune system.
Experts do not know much about COVID-19 at this time, but we do know some steps we can take to boost our immune system. Contrary to what we would all like to do, this is actually not the time to sit and veg out on sugar and treats. Now is the time to pay attention to what you are eating, decrease your sugar intake, and “eat the rainbow”.
The best way to get all your vitamins and minerals in is to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but supplementation can also be helpful. Listed below are some key vitamins to include in your diet. I will be working on a follow up article with foods high in these vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin D decreases inflammation and optimizes immune function. Most Americans are vitamin D deficient. Many experts believe it is impossible to get adequate vitamin D from food sources alone. The best way to get the recommended daily amount of vitamin D is through the sun. By standing in the sun during the brightest time of the day (10am-3pm) without sunscreen, with arms, legs, and face exposed for 5-30 minutes an individual should get sufficient vitamin D. If an individual is unable to be out in the sun, supplementation is necessary. Now is a great time to tell your elderly family members- those isolated in their nursing homes or assisted living centers to OPEN THE BLINDS, stand on their balcony or porch if they are able. These individuals are really suffering when it comes to vitamin D. For everyone else, go outside. You can easily be outside and maintain the recommended 6 ft distance from anyone else under these mandated conditions.
Vitamin C can help prevent infection and shorten the duration of a cold. Individuals should ingest vitamin C regularly, but should also increase their vitamin C intake at the onset of an illness.
Follow this link to receive $50 a purchase of $75 or more on vitamin C and other products to help boost immunity:
Vitamin A and Zinc
Vitamin A is helpful in fighting respiratory infections. Zinc can reduce the length of some viral infections. Current studies show that Zinc may prevent the coronavirus from entering the cells.
Decrease Sugar Intake
Sugar decreases the body’s ability to rid itself of infection, increases inflammation, and increases oxidative stress- all scenarios you do not want when seeking to support your immune system. Put down the candy and pop, but don’t forget, sugar can hide in many processed foods. Be sure to check your food labels for any words that end in “-ose” (dextrose, fructose, sucrose, etc.).
Warm beverages can help soothe pain in the back of the throat associated with the common cold. It can also help keep you hydrated which is highly important during an illness. Furthermore, warm beverages have been shown to moisten the nasal passages which helps with nasal congestion. If you choose to ingest a warm beverage, make sure it is not loaded with sugar or contains dehydrating ingredients (i.e. coffee). A sugary hot latte will not help your COVID-19 situation.
Stress increases inflammatory cytokines which are increased in COVID-19. One should use previous stress reduction techniques that work for the individual. For some this can be exercise, a walk outside, listening to music, guided meditation, reading a book, or yoga.
Your body repairs during sleep. Sleep also increases the body’s production of melatonin which may reduce the severity of the coronavirus. Aim to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night. No more, no less. Some things to boost sleep quality include avoiding alcohol close to bedtime; Avoid ALL forms of caffeine after 2 pm, participate in some form of physical activity during the day, and leave electronics outside of the bedroom.
What about Elderberry?
Elderberry use has been greatly increased in recent years because of the evidence of warding off the common cold and influenza. Once an individual contracts COVID-19, it has been shown that Elderberry can increase inflammatory cytokines and should therefore be discontinued with a positive COVID-19 test result or with the first signs of sickness.
The CDC currently recommends that individuals should wear masks when leaving the house. While this may not keep one from contracting the virus, it has been shown to help decrease the spread among asymptomatic carriers.
For greater details of anything discussed in this post, please refer to the links at the bottom. Information in this article is meant to inform and should not replace medical advice from your primary care physician.
Alschuler, L., Weil, A., Horwitz, R., Stamets, P., Chiasson, A. M., Crocker, R., & Maizes, V. (2020). Integrative considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Explore. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2020.03.007
Calder, P., & Kew, S. (2002). The immune system: A target for functional foods? British Journal of Nutrition, 88(S2), S165-S176. doi:10.1079/BJN2002682
Kafeshani, M. (2014). Diet and immune system. Immunopathologia Persa, 1(1), e04.
U.S Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. 2014. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27. Available at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata.
Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
Vitamin D. (2020, March 27). Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/
Boosting Immunity: Functional Medicine Tips on Prevention & Optimizing Immune Function During the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.ifm.org/news-insights/boosting-immunity-functional-medicine-tips-prevention-immunity-boosting-covid-19-coronavirus-outbreak/