No supplement will cure or prevent disease.
With the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s especially important to understand that no supplement, diet, or other lifestyle modification (other than social distancing and proper hygiene practices like washing your hands) can protect you from COVID-19.
As of this writing, there is no research that supports the use of any supplement (or hydroxychloroquine) to protect against COVID-19.
Keeping your immune system healthy year round is key to preventing infection and disease. Making healthy lifestyle choices by consuming nutritious foods and getting enough sleep and exercise are the most important ways to bolster your immune system.
However, note that some supplements can interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Some may not be appropriate for people with certain health conditions. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any supplements.
Dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD is a great resource to help you find what foods have key supplements that’ll boost your immune system. Here’s what she had to say:
Vitamin C: This is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all. In fact, a lack of vitamin C can even make you more prone to getting sick. Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli. Daily intake of vitamin C is essential for good health because your body doesn’t produce or store it. The good news is that vitamin C is in so many foods that most people don’t need to take a vitamin C supplement unless a doctor advises it.
Vitamin B6: This is vital to supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system. Vitamin B6-rich foods include chicken and cold water fish such as salmon and tuna. Vitamin B6 also is found in green vegetables and in chickpeas, which is the main ingredient in hummus.
Vitamin E: This is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight off infection. Foods rich in vitamin E include nuts, seeds and spinach.
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A simple rule can help you when choosing fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or farmers market: The more colorful the fruits and vegetables are, the better.
While vitamins and supplements can help fill in the gaps in your diet, the best way to load up on essential nutrients is to get them straight from food. Your body absorbs and uses vitamins and nutrients better when they come from a dietary source.
For these reasons, experts say it’s best to get vitamins through food rather than supplements.
Staying hydrated can boost your immune health too. Water helps your body produce lymph, which carries white blood cells and other immune system cells. So try limiting coffee (we know, we know…) or adding more water heavy food into your diet like cucumbers.
Moderate exercise has been shown to improve the flu-fighting power of vaccines in seniors. But during the outbreak, stay away from exercise partners!
Solo exercises include jogging, jumping rope, and a variety of at-home workouts from yoga to interval training. Some prefer gardening, which can also be great exercise.
Moreover, chronic stress has been shown in some studies to leave us more vulnerable to infections.
Being stressed out leads to increased levels of suppressor T cells, which suppress the immune system. When this branch of the immune system is impaired, you are more susceptible to viral illnesses including respiratory conditions like colds, flu, and the novel coronavirus infection.
You can reduce stress through breathing exercises, meditation, working out, talking to a therapist, and getting out into nature, along with many other ways.
Getting the right amount of quality sleep can help your natural infection resistance, too. Several studies confirm the link between sleep and a healthy immune system. For most adults, that means 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted slumber.
If you find it difficult to get this much, you can try to improve your “sleep hygiene” by waking up at the same time each day, avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evening, and following a bedtime routine you find relaxing.
All in all, staying relaxed, eating a variety of colorful food, staying hydrated, and getting enough quality sleep will all help you keep your immune system in tip top shape for this crazy coronavirus season.