Are you confused yet on what information is fact and what is myth regarding Covid-19? We are bombarded with daily updates, emails, notifications, and social media and it all is overwhelming and hard to determine what to believe. There is much that is unknown and much speculation when it comes to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). What we do know is if you are a senior or someone with significant health conditions, you are at a greater risk for complications. A common factor in individuals expressing more serious complications is a weakened immune system. What can we do to help strengthen the immune system? Feed the body healthy foods and/or supplement with vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D and beta-carotene (vitamin A) to fill the gaps not met by a healthy diet. It is important to always talk to a professional before taking any supplements as some may be contraindicated for you. It is also important to know if you are taking the correct dose. More does not always mean better!
Many immune cells require antioxidants, including vitamin C, E and A (beta-carotene), to create free radicals to kill viruses and microbes. When immune cells do not get enough antioxidants, they are unable to protect themselves from the free radicals they produce and in turn are damaged and become less effective or immunosuppressed.
Your first defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Every part of your body functions better, including your immune system when you follow these healthy strategies:
- Don’t Smoke
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables – Eat a COLORFUL diet
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get adequate sleep
- Minimize stress
- You have now heard this 1,000,000,000 times – Wash hands frequently and maintain good hygiene
- Drink alcohol in moderation
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that naturally occurs in some foods, especially fruits and vegetables. As we get older and our immune function declines and we require more vitamin C per day. In 2017 a study review published in the Journal Nutrients by Anitra Carr and Silvia Maggini, focused on lung infections, vitamin C, and pneumonia stated, “Beneficial effects of vitamin C on recovery have been noted in pneumonia. In elderly people hospitalized because of pneumonia, who were determined to have very low vitamin C levels, administration of vitamin C reduced the respiratory symptom score in the more severe patients. In other pneumonia patients, low-dose vitamin C (250 – 800 mg/day) reduced the hospital stay by 19% compared with no vitamin C supplementation, whereas the higher-dose group (500 – 1600 mg/day) reduced the duration (hospital stay) by 36%. Vitamin C supplementation also showed a positive effect on the normalization of chest X-ray, temperature, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (a marker of inflammation and infection). Since prophylactic vitamin C administration also appears to decrease the risk of developing more serious respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, it is likely that the low vitamin C levels observed during respiratory infections are both a cause and a consequence of the disease.”
Vitamin D is vital for our body to function optimally and reduce expression of disease. In our region supplementation of vitamin D is necessary in most individuals. There are some people that need to be cautious with vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D is fat soluble, and you can accumulate too much in the body if you are not careful. A vitamin D blood test can determine specific needs. We are able to perform vitamin D testing in the office to insure you are getting the right dose. In the Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2010 the researchers determined vitamin D affects cells with the help of cathelicidin. Cathelicidin is a virus-killing secretion that punctures holes in the viral and/or bacterial cell membranes assisting to destroy the invader and preventing infection. The respiratory tract is lined with immune cells that have vitamin D receptors. When vitamin D attaches to these immune cells they can improve immunity and increase secretions of cathelicidin.
Vitamin A, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E are also shown to be important in immune function. Vitamin A and E are fat soluble, and individuals can reach toxic levels. It is important prior to taking these vitamins to talk to your doctor to get the proper dosage and get a high-quality form. Individuals expressing deficiencies in vitamins and trace minerals are known to have decreased immune function.
It is important to understand that you should be obtaining your vitamins and minerals primarily from food and not relying on only supplementation. If your diet consists primarily of junk food, high sugar and highly processed, you will be creating lowered immunity and decreased function. Seek out foods that are located around the perimeter of the store, limiting dairy and processed meats. Not all vitamins are created equal and I cannot stress enough the importance of getting high-quality vitamins that your body can absorb. Lastly, it is important to know just because a supplement was recommended to someone you know it may not be recommended for you. Make sure you talk to a medical professional who has additional knowledge in this area to determine what is best for you! We are here at Venture to help educate you and empower you to be your healthiest self!
–Melanie Dockter DC CAACP