The basic role of our immunity is to protect against any micro-organisms, including viruses. People with immune system disorders are more susceptible to various infections, therefore, our aim should be to maintain immunity to maximize the chance of coping with viruses (including coronavirus).
To help our immune system, we have asked nutritionist Charlotte Bennett (BA Hons, DipCNM, mBANT, CNHC) to share with us some immune boosting tips to help cope with the current coronavirus pandemic. Prevention and discipline are our current best tools. Charlotte has a deep knowledge in nutritional therapy and we hope you'll find the below information useful.
There's lots of clinical data on Vitamin C and its antiviral properties. It's a potent antioxidant and contributes to immune defence by supporting many cellular functions of the immune system, including inhibiting viral replication. Low levels of Vitamin C can impair immunity and increase susceptibility to infections.
Vitamin C is water soluble and can’t be stored in the body. To best support your immune function, eat Vitamin C rich foods at least three times a day. Here are a few of the foods highest in Vitamin C:
- Red peppers
- Berries (fresh or frozen)
- Citrus fruits
- Kiwi fruit
Consider supplementing with at least 500mg of Vitamin C, which is best to take 2-4 times a day. If you have symptoms you can take 1000mg every hour for 6 hours.
Reduce your intake of refined sugar and processed foods, which suppress your immune system. Glucose (sugar) and Vitamin C use the same receptor in the body, so too much glucose is thought to affect the ability of Vitamin C to get into the cell, which may compromise immune function.
Optimal levels of this vitamin are really important. It modulates the immune system and promotes innate immunity (which allows you quickly and effectively to fight off invaders before they can develop into full blown infection). The main source of Vitamin D is through sunlight, so most of us are low during the winter.
Increase your intake of vitamin D rich foods such as:
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines & herring)
Supplementing - ideally you should test your levels before taking a Vitamin D supplement. You can do an easy home test. Otherwise, I'd suggest that you're taking at least 1000IU - 3000IU a day.
Zinc can reduce the duration and the severity of the cold. It plays a key role in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pathways, keeps the immune system strong, supports growth and promotes wound healing. Zinc rich food sources include:
- Shellfish and meat
- Chickpeas, lentils
- Nuts and Seeds
It's very hard to get the minimum requirements for zinc through food so consider supplementing - you want to be taking 15-30mg daily.
Selenium is a key nutrient for the immune system, providing defence against bacteria and viruses. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Eating 2 brazil nuts a day is enough to ensure adequate selenium levels in your body.
Mushrooms contain beta glucans which have a stimulatory effect on the immune system by activating macrophages and natural killer cells (which kill off the bad stuff!). Eat them as much as you can. Buy some dried shitake or porcini mushrooms and add to soups/stews/casseroles.
Garlic contains compounds that can enhance the functioning of the immune system so add lots of it to every meal.
Research shows that elderberry substantially reduces the duration and severity of cold and upper respiratory symptoms. It has been shown to have potent antiviral activity reducing symptoms of flu. See below for supplement options.
70% of our immune system is in our gut (microbiome). The beneficial bacteria in our gut plays an important role in our health and immune function. To support your immune system increase the diversity and quantity of plant based fibre that you eat. The recommended daily amount of fibre for an adult is 30g (with many people consuming far less than this). As a rule, aim for 2 portions of fruit and 8 fist sized portions of vegetables a day. Also include nuts, seeds, oats, beans, lentils and wholegrains.
Atablespoon of fermented food daily (kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir) is beneficial for gut and immune health, as it is a rich source of probiotic bacteria.
Research shows polyphenols are antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, regulate the immune system and support gut health. Polyphenols are found in fruit and vegetables. Aim to eat the rainbow every day so as much diversity of colours as possible.
Some beneficial things to include - turmeric, ginger, cocoa, raw cacao, green tea, red grapes, blackcurrants, berries (cranberries, blueberries, blackberries), apples, cherries, citrus fruits, flax seeds, red onion, legumes, cruciferous vegetables broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress, cabbage), spices (cinnamon, cumin, coriander), herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano), olive oil.
Drink 2 litres of water a day.
Sleep is important for resilience and for supporting the immune system. Natural Killer cells are essential in the early immune response against viruses. Their function is reduced by poor quality sleep. Prioritise 8 hours sleep and try and improve your sleep with the following:
- Sleep in a dark, cool room
- Don't use screens 2 hours before bed, exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin production
- Put your phone on airplane mode at night and charge it in another room
- Expose yourself to daylight within 30 minutes of waking
Long term stress lowers the activity of your immune system, making you more prone
to illness. Try and make time for something you find relaxing each day. Laughter has been shown to increase Natural Killer cell and immune function. There's not much to laugh about at the moment but try and do something you enjoy every day, even for 10 minutes.
As a rule, I'd recommend as a minimum taking a good quality multi, Vitamin C and Zinc. There are lots of good brands I can recommend: Cytoplan, Biocare, Viridian, Lamberts, Wild Nutrition, Nutriadvanced.
Pukka Elderberry Syrup
Bee Prepared Immune support
For nutritional advice you can contact Charlotte on firstname.lastname@example.org.