Washing your hands with soap and water, using alcohol-based hand rub, maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, maintaining personal hygiene, etc. are the measures people should apply to protect themselves against coronavirus. However, these measures are not enough to fight coronavirus. Improving your nutrition intake can help in achieving optimal immune function. Micronutrients responsible for fighting infection include vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, and E, and also folate, trace elements, and minerals iron, selenium, zinc, magnesium, copper, and omega-3 fatty acids. Lack of these nutrients is expected to result in a weakening of the body’s resistance against infections and thus, an increase in the probability of disease occurring. In this report, following conclusions has been made,
1) consumption of the above-mentioned micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids delivers effective results supporting optimal immune function
2) usage of micronutrients such as vitamin C and D should be above the RDA and under the recommended upper limits, and
3) Public health officials should support nutritional strategies to improve public health.
Keywords: immune system; COVID-19; micronutrients; vitamins; omega-3 fatty acids; minerals; vitamin C; vitamin D
Coronaviruses are a particular type of virus that cause different ailments going from the plain cold to severe diseases such as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). A new coronavirus, COVID-19, was recognized in Wuhan of China in 2019 (20). As of now, there are no medications available for coronavirus disease. As a result, it becomes all the more important to take necessary precautions to protect yourselves and those around you from this virus. A few public health measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands with soap and water, avoiding going to crowded places, etc. must be followed to avoid the spread and impact of the virus.
They might not be enough to stop the virus completely, and perhaps vaccinations will provide the full-proof solution. But it can take years to develop a vaccine. The current rate of mortality and morbidity shows the requirement of additional strategies to support and boost the immune system. (1)
Boosting your immunity system will be a more long-lasting method to fight against the attack of deadly COVID-19 and nutrition can play the most crucial role in it.
2.Impact of Nutrition on Immunity
Public health establishments never really focus much on the importance of nutritional strategies to boost your immunity system, help fight against infections, and deliver optimal functioning. Nutrients such as Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, folate, and trace elements comprising zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, copper can be vital in improving and supporting the innate and adaptive immune systems (1).
The innate immune system is a fast, non-specific, and first line of defense that the body produces against common microorganisms. It is non-antigen specific, which means it is not built for a specific antigen, but all. The adaptive immune system is antigen-specific. It is slower and built specifically based on the microorganisms presented.
Innate Immune System
The innate immune system includes physical barriers such as skin, gastrointestinal tract, epithelium cells, that play a significant role in preventing the pathogens from entering your body. Also, it consists of antimicrobial peptides and the complement system (non-adaptable and does not change throughout an individual’s life).
Besides, the presence of phagocytic (phagocyte) and other cells including natural killer cells, neutrophils, macrophages, the innate immune system can detect pathogens through the nonspecific pathogen pattern-recognition receptors. The phagocyte accurately means eating cells (21). The innate system quickly develops inflammatory responses against foreign threats in the body. It quickly identifies and terminates non-self (that do not instigate in your body) dangers through inflammatory processes and then repair the damage.
Inflammation is usually one of the first responses made by the immune system against the infection in the body. It occurs due to the chemical elements released by damaged cells. This inflammation helps in establishing a physical barrier to prevent the spread of infection in the body and to heal any damage left after the pathogen has been cleared (21).
Adaptive Immune System
The adaptive response comprises the antigen-specific cells including T ((thymus cells)) lymphocytes and B (bone marrow) lymphocytes. T lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that directly kills infected host cells in the body, activates other immune cells, generates cytokines, and controls the immune response (22).
B lymphocytes make antibodies specifically for the infecting pathogen. As compared to the innate system, the adaptive response might be slower, but it helps in generating immunological memory. In this, the immune system quickly and specifically recognizes an antigen that your body has faced in the past and generates a strong, fast antigen-specific response (3.) Using an immunological memory mechanism, the vaccines help the body fight and protect against exposure to pathogens.
Lack of adequate status of micronutrients in the body can make an unfavorable impact on the immune system functioning. It can reduce the body’s ability to fight against infections (4, 5). Omega 3 fatty acids also play an effective role in improving the immune system by resolving the inflammatory responses of your body (6).
For those, who are suffering from Vitamin C deficiency, they are prone to having acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia (7, 8, 9). According to the studies, Vitamin C supplementation can help in reducing the risk of pneumonia, risk of severe diseases and death in elderly patients, decrease the intensity and length of upper respiratory tract infections such as common cold, decrease the risk of infection due to higher physical pressure and stress (8, 9, 10).
Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to increase the possibility of respiratory tract infections occurring and its supplementation can reduce the risk of these infections in children as well as adults.
Zinc deficiency can result in diarrheal and respiratory morbidity, especially in children under the age of 5 (11, 12). Similarly, deficiency of Selenium and Vitamin E results in reproducible genetic mutations and an increase in the severity of certain viruses such as the poliovirus (13, 14).
Selenium helps in the proper functioning of glutathione peroxidases enzymes that protects the body against oxidative damage or stress (includes mental circumstances leading to oxygen-related damage) and helps the body’s detoxification system. There are 8 types of glutathione hormones and 5 out of 8 require selenium. You can get selenium from food substances such as shrimp, beef, eggs, sardines, salmon, mushrooms chicken, tofu, cow’s milk, brown rice, flax seeds, sesame seeds, cabbage, garlic, spinach, broccoli, and more.
With a well-balanced diet, you can achieve the proper intake of all the required nutrients and improve your immune system.
Immunity-Boosting Foods and Nutrients
By adding certain foods to your diet, you can make your immunity system stronger and prevent cold, influenza, and other infections. Essential nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, and healthy calories can be the real developer and supporter of your immunity system in the fight against any infection, particularly with Vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, E and minerals such as Zinc, Copper, Magnesium, Iron, and Selenium. (2)
Some foods that can be added to the diet for boosting the immunity system (15) are Watermelon, ginger, spinach, garlic, yogurt, sweet potato, broccoli, pomegranate juice, etc.
Watermelon is rich in antioxidants such as glutathione, wheat germ is a source of fiber, protein and fat, garlic reduces inflammation, yogurt contains probiotics that stimulate the immune system, and sweet potato removes damaging free radicals and improves immunity.
Spinach contains vitamins, minerals, beta-carotene, fiber, antioxidants, and folate. It improves your body’s fighting ability against the infection. Mild cooking of spinach can discharge other nutrients from oxalic acid found in spinach. Also, instead of coffee, you can start taking tea as it can also boost your immunity.
Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit, tangerines, limes, red bell peppers, etc. are a rich source of Vitamin C, and broccoli contains Vitamin A, C, and E, fiber, and antioxidants.
Almonds contain Vitamin A and E and it can increase immunity. Consumption of about 6 whole almonds every day is recommended.
Green Tea has Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Some studies have shown that EGCG can control both the innate and adaptive response of the immune system (24).
Papaya fruit contains Vitamin C, types of Vitamin B, and folate and helps with overall wellbeing.
Kiwi fruit has Vitamin C and K, Potassium, and folate, and can be useful for white blood cells in the fight against infection.
Poultry contains Vitamin B6 and boosts the formation of red blood cells.
Sunflower seeds contain nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamins B6 and Vitamin E. Vitamin E helps in regulating and preserving immune system functioning. Avocado is another food that contains a large amount of Vitamin E, along with vitamins C, K, and B6, magnesium, potassium, folate, and more.
Cauliflower, strawberries, and parsley, have Vitamin C.
Beta Carotene can be found in parsley, broccoli, grapes, apples, apricot, mango, bell pepper, watermelon, etc.
Peas, nuts, olives, kiwis, carrots, avocados, sunflower seeds, raspberries, etc. contain Vitamin E.
Anthocyanins (16, 17) contain anti-inflammatory properties and it can be found in the purple color fruits and vegetables such as blueberry, strawberry, red cabbage, cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, and more. It defends your vital organs and boosts the immune system.
Zinc is vital for the development and functioning of innate immunity cells. It can be found in chickpeas, beans, lentils, red meat, etc. While zinc tablets can be consumed to meet the body’s requirements, having foods in your diet that are rich in zinc content is a better choice.
Herbs and spices such as ginger, turmeric, garlic, pepper, thyme, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. can revive your immune system.
Foods with high sugar content such as toffees, chocolates, cookies, sugary beverages, etc. are not good for your immune system. However, this point is not applicable in the case of naturally sweet fruits.
A strong and properly working immune system helps you set about your everyday life as you unknowingly get in contact with germs, bugs, microbes, other people, and your surroundings. Without a healthy and strong immunity system, you can easily get infected and some of these infections could be very serious or even fatal in some cases.
When an immune system is activated, it needs more energy to function properly during infections. Plant-based food substances that contain a high amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help the body make a proper and quicker balance in the immunity system.
Drinking fresh water is crucial for proper and healthy body functioning. You need to maintain adequate water intake every day. A dehydrated body will have a weak immune system and it will be more prone to have diseases.
A healthy gut helps in boosting the immune system. You can eat food such as yogurt, sauerkraut, curs, pickles, and other fermented foods, fiber, olive oil, etc. that encourages the growth of healthy microbes in the gut.
In addition to nutrition other components that boost immunity
A healthy way of life can protect you from harmful elements. You can follow these strategies:
- Regular Exercise
- Listening to music to relieve stress
- Eating foods rich containing Vitamin D
- Avoiding excess medication
- Drinking green tea
- No smoking and drinking, or drinking moderately
- Removing toxic foods from the diet
- Maintaining good hygiene
- Laughing and staying positive and happy
- Keep a healthy weight
- Getting proper and adequate sleep
Exercising – Regular exercising promotes macrophages cells that fight against bacteria causing upper respiratory tract infections. It can also eradicate both bacteria and viruses present in the system.
Listening to music to relieve stress – Music therapy can help reduce stress and boost immunity, especially in the current times of the corona pandemic. You can listen to your favorite music or play an instrument for about 30 minutes every day. Music therapy has shown a positive impact on health and blood parameters. The book ‘The Healing Power of Music’ by Music Therapist Mrs. Rajam shows how music can be used for remedial purposes.
Vitamin D – Eating food that is rich in Vitamin D and spending time under sunlight might help balance the levels of Vitamin D in your body. There are also Vitamin D supplements. But they are not for everyone. They should only be taken under a physician’s guidance. They will know if you need supplements or not.
Avoid excessive medicines – Excessive use of medicines can reduce cytokines in the body and impact the immune system, liver and kidney function, and reproductive function adversely. No Coffee, Drink Green Tea – Coffee may lead to dehydration and it might hamper the absorption of calcium, potassium, and magnesium in the body. Instead, drink green tea as it contains polyphenols and flavonoids that help in fighting diseases.
No Smoking and Drinking – Smoking and drinking can weaken your immunity and make your body more prone to infections.
Say no to toxic foods – Foods that contain artificial colors, chemical preservatives and additives, pesticides, etc. are not good for your immune system.
Better hygienic habits – Maintaining good hygiene through better hygienic habits can keep your immunity intact. You should not touch unclean substances or surfaces, keep hands away from eyes, nose or mouth, brush teeth at least twice every day, keep your nails short, trim, and clean, take baths, especially after you have gone outside your home, etc.
Get proper sleep – Lack of proper sleep can leave you feeling tired, lead to a decrease in T-cells, and reduce the power of immunity in your body. So get good and enough sleep to increase your immunity.
Maintain proper weight – By maintaining a healthy weight, you can stay healthy, stress-free, and feel an improvement in your immunity.
Laugh and stay positive – Good mental health is also very important for good immunity. Feel free to laugh and keep a positive attitude, especially in these times of corona spread.
Even if the lockdown period is almost over in many parts of the world, the dangers of corona pandemic are not over. You still can’t just go outside for shopping, work, or leisure activities without taking proper precautions. You mustn’t leave your household unless it is extremely important. If you need to buy vegetables, fruits, groceries, etc. to make nutritional meals, there are precautions you need to take into consideration. Here is a list of the Government’s instructions on how to manage COVID-19 situations and keep your family safe and healthy.
Make nutritional meals during COVID-19 period with these tips
- Keep storage of potatoes, onions, peas, yams, Kabuli chana, cowpeas, whole black grams, ragi, and more so that you won’t have to go out to buy them time and again.
- You can cut or grate the fresh vegetables, or make a paste of them. Then, pack them in quantities for daily usage and freeze them. ∙ Fresh vegetables can be cut, grated or made into a paste, packed in daily usable quantities and frozen. Thaw them whenever you need them and make your meal.
- You can dry curry leaves, mangoes, onions, and most other herbs. You can also make a powder of curry leaves and other similar herbs.
- Store fresh lemon or lime juice with added salt and use it later with vegetables, curries, or chutneys.
- Grate the fresh coconut and keep it frozen for longer usage.
- You can sauté palak, fenugreek, and other similar vegetables and convert them into a paste. You can freeze the paste for longer usage if you want.
- Keep milk powder or tetra-pack milk sachets.
- Keep ginger garlic paste at home. You can make it at home.
- If you don’t have tamarind, you can use dry mango powder, lemon or lime juice, kokum, pomegranate molasses, etc. to add sour tang to the dishes and make them flavorful.
- Store tomatoes in puree form.
You can even grow vegetables on your roof garden. Make an integrated bed and fill it with nutrient-filled soil. Then spread seeds that can grow in a week. You can use seeds such as fenugreek, mustard, coriander, etc. you must grow the sprouts for at least 2 weeks and cut them using clippers or scissors. The home-grown leafy vegetables will be a lot more nutritious as compared to what you buy at the market.
With small changes in your everyday diet and lifestyle, you can boost your immunity system to fight against infections including corona. You can cook your food with herbs such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, etc. as they can be quite beneficial in developing immunity. Food is a much better and healthier alternative as compared to supplements to improve immunity. With varieties of foods rich in different nutrients, you can find many natural ways to fight against possible infections.
A set of nutritional recommendations (2)
1) Supplementation to improve health with Vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C, D, E, folate and trace elements such as Zinc, magnesium, iron, copper, selenium, and omega 3 fatty acids is a safe and effective method and it helps in realizing the optimal immune function.
2) The usage of micronutrients for supplementation should be above the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance – the projected amount of a nutrient) and under the recommended upper limits.
3) Public health officials should support nutritional strategies to improve public health.
References Phillip Calder Anitra C Carretal (2020 12th March 2020) Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well Function Immune System is an Important Factor to Protect Against Viral Infections WWW.preprimts.org.  U.S. Centers for Disease Control Take 3 Actions to Fight Flu. Available online:  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/preventing.htm (accessed on Mar 2, 2020).  Murphy, K.; Weaver, C. (2017) Janeway’s Immuno-biology, 9th ed.; Taylor & Francis: New York, 2017; 1– 35.  U.S Centers for Disease Control Take 3 Actions to Fight Flu. Available online:  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/preventing.htm (accessed on Mar 2, 2020).  Murphy, K.; Weaver, C. ( 2017) Janeway’s Immunobiology, 9th ed.; Taylor & Francis: New York, pp. 1 – 35.  Hemilä, H.(2017 ) Vitamin C and infections. Nutrients 9, 339.  Hemilä, H.; Louhiala, P (2013).Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Issue 8. Art. No.: CD005532. DOI:  Hemilä, H.; Chalker, E. (2013) Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000980. DOI:  Aggarwal, R.; Sentz, J.; Miller, M.A. (2007) Role of zinc administration in prevention of childhood diarrhea and respiratory illnesses: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics 119, 1120–1130.  Roth, D.E.; Richard, S.A.; Black, R.E. (2010) Zinc supplementation for the prevention of acute lower respiratory infection in children in developing countries: meta-analysis and meta-regression of randomized trials. Int JEpidemiol39, 795–808.  Beck, M.A.; Levander, O.A.; Handy, J. (2003) Selenium deficiency and viral infection. J Nutr2003, 133, 1463S-1467S.  Beck, M.; Handy, J.; Levander, O (2004) Host nutritional status: the neglected virulence factor. Trends Microbiol12, 417–423.  James SC Hed reviewed by Katherine Maringo CDN RD (2019) specialty in Nutrition Healthline.com/health food-nutrition-foods that boost the immune system.  Harvard Health , Harvard Health Medical school, Boston 2019  Caroline E Childs (2020) : A well-functioning immune system is critical for survival Human development Medicine, University of South Hampton UK  Hallie Levine ( 2020 ) 5 ways to boost your immunity, Healthy Living .  Dr. Lin MD Practicing pediatrician and specialist in family and internal medicine.at cleave landclinic USA.  https://openwho.org/courses/introduction-to-ncov  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innate_immune_system  https://teachmephysiology.com/immune-system/cells-immune-system/t-cells/  https://journal-inflammation.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12950-015-0097-9#:~:text=Background,arms%20of%20the%20immune%20system.
Recommended Intakes of Selected Nutrients to Support Optimal Immune Function (2)
Vitamins and trace Elements
Supports the cells and tissues of the immune system. The deficiency of these micronutrients can harm the immune system and its ability to fight infections.
Taking a multivitamin & trace element supplement that meets the body’s nutrient requirements ( 100% of US RDA)(20) including Vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, E, folate, and trace elements such as zinc, magnesium, iron, copper, and selenium. Also a well-balanced diet.
A prescribed amount of more than or equal to 200 mg per day. Reaches a saturation point in the blood, decreasing the risk, seriousness, and period of upper, lower respiratory tract infections. The body needs more Vitamin C during infection.
A healthy individual should consume no less than 200 mg per day. For sick individuals, 1-2 extra g/day is suggested.
Daily consumption reduces the risk of upper respiratory tract infections.
Daily consumption of 2000 IU/day (50 micrograms per day). (USA)
Zinc deficiency can weaken immunity and might increase the morbidity rate due to diarrhea and respiratory problems, especially in children.
A daily intake of 8-11 mg/day.
Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA + DHA)
Helps in building an effective immune system, and resolves inflammatory responses.
Daily consumption of 250 mg/day of EPA + DHA
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. Anti Vibration Technologies does not claim responsibility for this information.