The Foods + Supplements Said to Fight COVID

Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Throughout this entire pandemic, the questions being asked for how to fight coronavirus have been many. And with good reason: we have no clue what articles or social media posts hold any truth to what will keep us safe against COVID.

It's pretty obvious that we can't predict when anyone within a 6-foot range already has COVID and is in the shedding phase; just as we can't predict if it's in the air at any given store or public place we've dared visit.

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Part of the problem is that it's so difficult to predict how each person will respond to the virus. Although it was established pretty early on that the elderly population, as well as those with compromised immune systems and specific pre-existing conditions, were at a much higher risk of complications or death, the wide array of responses to COVID from seemingly healthy people is still puzzling.

One good thing about being this far down the road in the pandemic is that legitimate researchers have jumped into action to figure out what things will help all of humanity in this health struggle (ya know, besides masks and frequent hand-washing).

Many things can help, as stress can dampen your immune system, and rates of stress, anxiety and depression are on the rise since quarantine started.

Here are the supplements and foods that have the potential to help fight COVID and how they work, based on scientific studies, reviews, or trials.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C has long been connected with boosting the immune system and helping to fight the common cold. Past studies have shown that mega-dosing during a viral infection of the cold prevents the virus from replicating, thereby giving your immune system a chance to catch up. It also helps control inflammation, which has been a big factor in COVID outcomes.

You can get the highest doses of Vitamin C in foods from guava, kiwifruit, bell peppers, strawberries, citrus (grapefruit, oranges, and pomelo have the highest DV per serving), papaya, pineapple, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomato, snow peas, and kale. (This list is not exhaustive, but can get you started on natural sources.)

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is yet another required vitamin that has a distinct connection with the immune system. Recent studies have shown an extremely strong correlation with adequate or higher levels of Vitamin D and lower rates of contracting coronavirus.

This becomes more important during the colder months as less people are getting into the sunshine. In fact, Vitamin D is thought to be important enough that England is giving everyone a daily dose of 10 micrograms for free.

If you don't know your levels, ask your primary care to run bloodwork and see what your current vitamin and mineral levels are. This will tell you if you're deficient, and whether you can use a standard daily dose to keep yours in check, or much larger doses to get your levels back up to protect yourself.

If you'd rather get it from food sources, look for oily fish like herring or salmon, red meats, and egg yolks.

3. Zinc

Zinc is another mineral that's required by our bodies for several mechanisms of action, but most notably is for our immune system. Zinc levels have been shown to be depleted from several medications, specifically antihypertensives and statin therapy, which are highly prescribed in the US. As zinc levels are requried for antiviral immunity, it is an important mineral to maintain proper levels of.

I feel like it's important to note that certain virus preventatives don't actually contain zinc. The brand Zicam is sometimes mistaken to contain zinc, but it's actually homeopathic. It has studies supporting its treatment for the common cold, but there is no evidence that Zicam or it's generic alternatives can help with coronavirus.

Good sources of zinc are oysters, beef, crab, lobster, pork, baked beans, chicken, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and chickpeas.

4. Melatonin

Melatonin is usually thought of as "the sleeping supplement", but the hormone actually has several important roles in the body. Some of these include anti-viral, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Although the research hasn't yet specifically been focused on COVID, the prior SARS viruses have been around long enough that studies have covered those and have found significant enough reason to recommend it as a prophylaxis.

5. Probiotics: Specifically-- L. gasseri

We've been hearing for years now about the newest research proving we know very little about how important the bacteria is in our bodies. A Korean researcher, in spring 2020, found that when coronavirus begins attacking the membrane on a cell, it needs purine for energy.

The probiotic L. gasseri helps prevent activaton of purine, thereby inhibiting the virus from the energy it needs to replicate. This probiotic was found in sea buckthorn berry, but can also be found in capsules.

6. Plant flavonoids: green tea, chocolate, muscadine grapes

A recent study done at the University of North Carolina has identified specific plant flavonoids in foods that include cocoa, green tea, and muscadine grapes as contenders for nutrition that could help fight COVID. The study showed that each of these foods contained specific flavonoids that help inhibit Mpro activity in coronavirus.

This is important because the Mpro enzyme controls the replication of the virus inside the body. The ones that showed the most promise were green tea extract and the extract of two types of muscadine grapes. Dark chocolate and cocoa helped, but reduced activity by only 40-50%.

7. Selenium

Yet another key nutrient in the immune system, selenium has been studied several times as a risk factor for mortality with COVID infections. The research shows a deficiency in non-survivors compared to normal serum blood levels in survivors.

But selenium's role in the body is to regulate excessive immune response and inflammation, which could potentially control the cytokine storm that's been a concern for those that have tested positive for coronavirus.

8. CBD

Another inflammation mediator is CBD, which has been a bit controversial in recent years. Mainly because either people don't understand what it is, or because poorly regulated manufacturers have gotten away with subpar crops that contain amounts of THC above the legal limits.

But legal CBD can give huge benefits to those with COVID because of it's proven ability to reduce inflammation and its possibility of also being antiviral. In fact, new research is showing that CBD (in combination with terpenes) works twice as well as corticosteroids in pulling down inflammation from COVID.

9. Omega 3's

Omega 3 has already been touted for years as a fatty acid we should be making efforts to increase. Part of that is because of its ratio to omega 6 and the balance needed to mediate inflammation in the body. Emerging studies are still showing the benefit of omega-3 for cardiovascular benefits and lowered inflammation, but more studies are still needed for the specific effects from COVID.

Overall it appears the connecting factors to all (or most) of these recommendations are having optimal nutrition so the body can do its job in fighting an illness and controlling inflammation. This can be a challenge when there are underlying and/or pre-existing conditions.

That being said, we do live in a day and age where we have the education to boost nutritional status, whether by supplements or straight from our foods.

All in all, there is no one magic bullet. But the combinations of proper nutrition, focusing on the immune system, appear to be our best defense in the event we are exposed to coronavirus.

{Photo credit: DOSE Juice, unsplash.com}

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My mission is to always find the magic middle where healthy + efficient merge. As a nutrition specialist and certified health coach with a master of science in nutrition, I firmly believe in nourishing the body, mind, and spirit with proper food, rest, movement, and stress management. My mission is to teach people how those CORE 4 things work together, how to do them on the daily, then put them on autopilot.

Montgomery, TX
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