Staying Healthy & Strong
TouroCOM Professor Niket Sonpal Shares How to Keep Your Immune System in Tip-Top Shape
The age-old saying of starve a cold and feed a fever has stuck through the ages. The classic saying suggests that a cold can be squashed with adequate food intake, while a fever will burn off faster if you are fasting. However, this adage could not be further from the truth. It turns out our bodies need calories while fighting an infection and nutrients to keep the immune system in tip-top shape.
With the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important to understand that no supplement, diet, or other lifestyle modification, other than physical distancing, also known as social distancing, and proper hygiene practices can protect you from COVID-19. That said, by providing your body with enough essential nutrients, you can ensure the various components of the immune system are able to function properly. Here are a few to consider:
The BIG C
We have all been told to get lots of fluids and vitamin C during colds. A large review of 29 studies in 11,306 people demonstrated that regularly supplementing with vitamin C at an average dose of 1–2 grams per day reduced the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children. That is not a big change, but we do know that it helped reduce colds most effectively in those under high physical stress, like marathon runners and soldiers, by up to 50%. I would even venture a guess that healthcare workers fall into this category.
In a 2019 review of randomized control studies in 11,321 people, supplementing with vitamin D significantly decreased the risk of respiratory infections in people deficient in this vitamin and lowered infection risk in those with adequate vitamin D levels. Daily supplementation may be protective but more data is needed.
In a 2019 study, 64 hospitalized children with lower respiratory tract infections took 30 mg of zinc per day and saw a decrease in the total duration of infection and the duration of the hospital stay by an average of two days, compared with a placebo group. There is a lot of data still to be collected but zinc may help protect against respiratory tract infections and reduce the duration of these infections. If you eat a balanced diet or take a daily multivitamin you should be getting adequate amounts of zinc.
Finally, supplements such as astragalus, garlic, curcumin, elderberry and echinacea may offer immune-boosting properties. Still, they have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and more research is needed. If you plan to start any supplement consult with your doctor first.