Listed here are vitamins, minerals and other supplements that can support your immune system as a whole, even though they haven’t been researched for their impact on COVID-19.
Specifically, explains Dr. Heather Tynan, a naturopathic physician explains that, “having adequate levels of all nutrients in a well-balanced system is important for immune (and overall) health.”
She also notes that it’s key to make sure you’re not deficient in certain nutrients that “play especially large roles in promoting proper immune response.”
“Our bodies burn through vitamin C at a much faster rate when defending against pathogens,” says Tynan. It’s a water-soluble vitamin (we pee out any excess), so we need to take it regularly.
Nowit’s possible to get too much of a good thing: An adult can tolerate y2,000 milligrams daily, more than that may result in diarrhea.
“Vitamin C is needed to support proper functioning of the epithelial barrier, which helps prevent bad bugs from getting into our body, It also supports a number or immune cells,”.
Your adrenal glands release vitamin C when you’re stressed, so you may need more of it during difficult or stressful times.
Citrus fruits, broccoli, and bell peppers can help you build up vitamin C levels.
Research confirms that, for adults, taking 400 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily can help prevent respiratory infections like the common cold.
Although 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 advises that you ask your health care 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 “doorkeeper” of your immune system, zinc helps both innate (built-in) and acquired immunity, and a deficiency can lead to reduced immune function. Zinc has been shown to help cut 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 extreme importance when it comes to having well-functioning immunity.”
The healthiest microbiome (the “good” bacteria that fill your gut) is “the one with the greatest diversity of beneficial microorganisms,” she adds. There’s no single best strain or brand, she says.
Look for probiotic food sources, especially fermented ones like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso paste, yogurt and kombucha.
Selenium is an essential mineral that serves as a powerful antioxidant in your body. Within your immune system, it produces a type of protein fights pathogens and helps some types of immune cells function optimally, explains Tynan.
Selenium deficiencies have been linked to slower immune responses and decreased immune cell functioning.
The easiest and tastiest way to get your daily value of selenium (55 micrograms) is by eating a few Brazil nuts daily. Fatty fish and organ meats also contain this mineral.
Research shows that taking Elderberry supplements can reduce the duration and severity of the common cold. Some studies indicate that Elderberry can shorten the duration of influenza.
However, Elderberry has not been tested with COVID-19, and there is conflicting information on whether you should take it right now.
“Until we have a better understanding of how natural treatments impact our body’s ability to fight COVID19, focus on the basics — and be safe, consult with your doctor before integrating any new vitamin, herb, or medication.”
Bonus tips for a healthy immune system
These are the basics: optimize your diet, sleep, and exercise; reduce stress and toxic exposures; continue to support your community, live with purpose, gratitude.
Here are a few other things you can do every day to support a healthy immune system.
Wash your hands. Stay hydrated. You’re mostly water, so your body needs to stay sufficiently hydrated to maintain regular bodily processes, like natural detoxification (pooping, sweating, etc.).
Limit the alcohol. Alcohol can negatively influence your immune function, so stick with the recommendations of one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Eat the rainbow. Eat real, whole foods. When possible, eat an assortment of unprocessed foods — including fruits and vegetables.
Manage stress. Stress weakens your immune function, so as hard as it might seem right now, find safe ways to cope.
Keep sharing memes. Those silly messages and photos you and your family keep sending? They prove that laughter is the best medicine.
COVID-19 best practices for prevention
The World Health Organization says these are the top 5 things we can do to limit the spread:
- Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds.
- Cough into your elbow.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Keep a safe distance of at least 6 feet.
- Stay home if you can. If you can’t, be extra-vigilant about the first four.
Although it might feel discouraging at times, it is possible to stay healthy during a pandemic — you can do this.