You’re doing your part to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19 — swapping happy hours for Google Hangouts with friends, unrolling your yoga mat at home instead of at your favorite studio, and washing your hands all 👏 the 🧼 time🚰— right?
COVID-19 is still relatively new, but we do know this, according to the CDC:
- It’s mainly transmitted through close contact between people (that’s why we need to stay 6+ feet apart), via respiratory droplets.
- You can be a carrier and transmit the disease to others even if you feel totally fine.
- The virus can also be transmitted through contact with a contaminated object or surface.
There’s no cure for COVID-19. No vaccine. No known treatment that works every time — at least not yet.
That said, preparation is power, and there are some vitamins, minerals and other supplements that can support your immune health. They don’t hold any special magical powers against COVID-19, but they can help your immune system do its job.
8 vitamins and mineral supplements for a strong immune system
Certain vitamins, minerals, and other supplements can support your immune system as a whole, even though they haven’t been researched for their impact on COVID-19 specifically.
“Having adequate levels of all nutrients in a well-balanced system is important for immune (and overall) health,”explains Dr. Heather Tynan, a naturopathic physician.
Dr. Tynan notes that it’s especially crucial to make sure you’re not deficient in certain nutrients that “play especially large roles in promoting proper immune response.”
Here’s a look at eight of them:
“Our bodies burn through vitamin C at a much faster rate when we’re fighting off a pathogen,” says Tynan. It’s a water-soluble vitamin (we pee out any excess), so we need to take it regularly.
But you can get too much of a good thing: The tolerable daily intake for adults is 2,000 milligrams, and if you take more than that, you might get diarrhea.
“Vitamin C is necessary for proper functioning of the epithelial barrier, which helps keep bad bugs from getting in in the first place, as well as a number or immune cells,” adds Tynan.
Your adrenal glands also release vitamin C when you’re stressed, so you may need more of it during tough times.
Citrus fruits, broccoli, and bell peppers can help you load up on vitamin C.
Research shows that, for adults, taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 to 2,000 IU can help prevent respiratory infections like the common cold, says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in the NYC area.
While there’s no proof this prevents COVID-19, “we’ve known for a while that vitamin D is helpful for immunity,” she adds.
Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, Tynan recommends asking your healthcare provider to check your base levels before deciding on a supplement.
You can also get vitamin D from sunlight, mushrooms, fortified milk, fatty fish, and eggs.
“Zinc is one of the minerals most commonly associated with immune health — not surprising, considering the many immune cells it affects,” explains Tynan.
The “gatekeeper” of your immune system, zinc helps both innate (built-in) and acquired immunity, and a deficiency can lead to impaired immune function. Zinc has been shown to help reduce the duration of the common cold, but again, there’s no research on zinc and COVID-19.
Oysters are the food richest in this mineral, followed by beef, crab, and lobster.
Most of our immune system resides in our gut, explains Tynan, “so having a healthy microbiome is of utmost importance when it comes to having well-functioning immunity.”
The healthiest microbiome (the “good” bacteria that populate your gut) is “the one with the greatest diversity of beneficial microorganisms,” she adds. There’s no single best strain or brand, she says.
Opt for probiotic food sources, especially fermented ones like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso paste, yogurt, and kombucha.
Also try some Beta Glucan which does have some prebiotic properties, and helps the beneficial bacteria of the gut to thrive. Studies are still being conducted to figure out the indications of prebiotic and probiotic functions of Beta Glucan.
Selenium is an essential mineral that acts as a powerful antioxidant in your body. Within your immune system, it produces a type of protein that’s used to fight pathogens and helps certain types of immune cells function optimally, explains Tynan.
Selenium deficiencies have been linked to slower immune responses and impaired immune cell functioning.
The easiest and tastiest way to get your daily value of selenium (55 micrograms) is by eating a couple of Brazil nuts a day. Fatty fish and organ meats also contain this mineral.
For a full spectrum of minerals including selenium try Life Minerals, your daily dose of plant based easily absorbed minerals and trace elements that give your body the best chance of great health. Get your daily mineral needs with just one serving.
Life Minerals is rich in naturally occurring minerals sourced from deposits of humic shale/clay. These huge deposits were formed by plants growing more than 65 million years ago and have been protected by a layer of sandstone and contain over 70 different minerals and trace elements.
Tynan says vitamin A is an antioxidant that gets an “honorable mention” for immune health. She recommends getting beta-carotene (which our bodies convert into vitamin A) from whole foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and other yellow and orange fruits and veggies.
Vitamin A is fat-soluble, so you can overdo it, since your body stores extra in your tissues. “It’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor first,” Tynan says.
She also gives the antioxidant vitamin E an honorable mention for immune function. This is another fat-soluble vitamin that’s best sourced through foods, according to Tynan.
Get your vitamin E from leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and avocado, among other sources.
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