Supporting Your Immune System & Protecting Yourself From Viruses
Written by Nutrition Writer Antonia Brogna
As we approach the one year mark of facing the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers are learning more and more about what we can be doing to protect ourselves from this dangerous virus. Some of these methods may be as simple as boosting our intake of certain vitamins.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that has only increased in popularity over the past year. Numerous studies have found that Vitamin D levels may play an important role in the body when it comes to fighting COVID-19.
One study published this year in the journal Endocrine looked at Vitamin D levels in patients who had been hospitalized with the virus. Low Vitamin D levels are already associated with bacterial and viral infections, but these researchers found that patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 often exhibited a deficiency in the nutrient. In fact, they reported that “almost half the infected population” showed a blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D that was below 12 ng/mL, which is the threshold for Vitamin D deficiency. The researchers wrote that “such very low levels could have devastating effects upon the host’s ability to contain the required immune response as well as bolster its cellular defense mechanisms,” meaning that people with lower blood levels of Vitamin D may struggle to muster up the immune defenses to fight off COVID-19, as well as other infections.
Many people know Vitamin C as an immune-boosting nutrient, but it also offers its strengths in the arena of COVID-19. This vitamin is packed with anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating and antioxidant properties, making it an excellent candidate for protecting and fighting against viruses and other infections.
Late last year, a literature review appeared in the journal Nutrients looking at Vitamin C’s abilities to assist with conditions including sepsis, respiratory infections and COVID-19. They shared that Vitamin C deficiency, known as scurvy, is often linked to an increased susceptibility to pneumonia and respiratory infection. The report also shared that one study looked at 21 critically ill COVID-19 patients placed in the ICU. A majority of these patients had “hypovitaminosis C,” another term for Vitamin C deficiency. They wrote that “low Vitamin C levels are common in critically ill hospitalized patients with respiratory infections, pneumonia, sepsis and COVID-19.”
The review goes on to discuss the important role Vitamin C plays within both the innate and adaptive immune systems and also helps to treat acute respiratory infections and inflammation, both of which are extremely common symptoms of COVID-19.
This essential trace element plays a vital role in the immune system. It is known to help fight against the common cold, but studies have also found that zinc offers antiviral properties that can be especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, the journal Advances in Nutrition published a study discussing the element’s antiviral impacts. One section looks specifically at the relationship between zinc and various respiratory tract infections, including coronaviruses, the category that COVID-19 falls into. The research showed that zinc had the ability to inhibit the replication of various viruses, including influenza, as well as coronaviruses that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome. The study says that this finding indicates that zinc offers some kind of inhibitory mechanism on various viruses. As these viruses are similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 infection, it is possible that zinc can also help inhibit viral replication in COVID-19.
Many patients who have had COVID-19 have faced severe inflammation in the form of inflammatory pneumonia. Quercetin is a flavonoid found in fruits and vegetables that offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it another important nutrient when trying to protect against COVID-19.
The Journal of Inflammation recently shared an article looking at quercetin’s impacts on COVID-19 infections. Researchers wrote that quercetin can help treat the inflammation associated with COVID-19 by suppressing regulators that generate different inflammatory factors like cytokines. This helps to limit damage caused by the virus. The article also shared that quercetin may offer antiviral activities that help to inhibit aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, helping to halt its replication.
Advice from Chief Scientific Officer Jerry Hickey, Ph
These four powerful nutrients can be beneficial for boosting your immune system and your overall health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Chief Scientific Officer Jerry Hickey, Ph. has discussed several of them in various podcast episodes and even provided his own recommendations for listeners on how to use these nutrients for their health.
“You want to get your Vitamin D levels above 35,” he said in his podcast episode ‘Update: Vitamin D, Lung Health & the Coronavirus.’ “I would recommend taking about 6,000 units every day with food for seven days. After that, you can go down to 3,000 units a day. This should get you up to a nice sweet level pretty quickly.”
As for Vitamin C, Jerry made the following recommendation in his podcast episode ‘Why Medical Professionals Are Utilizing Vitamin C for COVID Patients, Part 2’: “My recommendation for daily use depends on your health. If you’re a smoker or a diabetic, you need more. I would give a diabetic 1000mg three times a day with their food to saturate their blood with this vitamin. For you and me, 500mg twice a day if you’re not sick should be plenty. If you start to get sick, go up to 1000mg twice a day.”
Jerry also shared his own routine and advice for consumption of zinc in the podcast episode ‘Zinc for Immunity During the Coronavirus,’ saying, “Currently my wife and I are taking an additional 30mg of zinc a day; this is in addition to the 15mg we are already getting in our multiple vitamin. This is plenty because it has had time to build up in our systems. I choose Zinc Picolinate, but lozenges are also a great choice. If you are first developing symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection use a lozenge and take about 30mg 3 times a day (no more than that).”