By Dr Zulfikar Bux
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Vanderbilt Medical Center
It’s been more than six months and we are still waiting on the miracle cure for the COVID-19 infection. It has always been challenging for the scientific world to develop treatment cures for viruses. For the most part, supportive care and allowing our immune system to “fight out” the virus has been the mainstay of care for most viral infections. We have always known that a strong immune system is key to fight off viral infections such as the flu and common cold. It is no different with the COVID-19 infection. Our immune system is our body’s defense against foreign pathogens such as the coronavirus. If there has ever been a time the world needed everyone’s immune system to be strong, this is the time. The stronger your immune system, the better your chances of surviving a COVID-19 infection. I will shed some light on factors that science has shown to boost our immune system and help effectively fight off viral infections such as the coronavirus.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient with many roles in our body. Vitamin C helps our immune health in several ways. Its antioxidant activity can decrease inflammation, which may help improve your immune function. The vitamin also boosts the activity of phagocytes, immune cells that can “swallow” harmful viruses and other particles. In addition, it promotes the growth and spread of lymphocytes, a type of immune cell that increases your circulating antibodies, proteins that can attack foreign or harmful substances in our blood. We can get our daily requirement of Vitamin C from supplements or the following foods:
• Citrus (lime, Orange, Lemon, Tangerine)
We need 65 to 90 mg of Vitamin C Daily.
Zinc is a mineral found throughout cells in our body. There are a number of ways in which zinc boosts the immune system but primarily, it activates enzymes that break down proteins in viruses and bacteria so they are less able to spread. It also increases the activation of cells responsible for fighting infections. It also helps to reduce inflammation that can occur during viral infections. We can get our daily requirement of Zinc from supplement or the following foods:
• Seafoods such as crabs and lobsters
• Beans and nuts
• Ground beef
We need 8 to 12mg of zinc to meet our daily requirements.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient, which has many roles in our body including fighting off infections. It plays a critical role in promoting immune response. It has both anti-inflammatory and immune regulatory properties and is crucial for the activation of immune system defenses. It enhances the function of immune cells, including T-cells and macrophages that protect your body against pathogens such as viruses. Low Vitamin D levels are also associated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases such as viral and bacterial respiratory infections. We can get our daily Vitamin D requirements from supplements or the following foods:
• Sunlight- While this is not a food, daily exposure to sunlight is needed to help our body make Vitamin D active.
• Egg yolks
• Fatty fish such as tuna and mackerel
• Beef liver
We need 25-100 micrograms of Vitamin D daily.
Quercetin is a natural pigment present in many fruits, vegetables, and grains. It is a potent antioxidant that can bind to and neutralize free radicals formed from infections such as COVID-19. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties which is very handy since the COVID-19 infection triggers a massive inflammatory response in our body that worsens the illness. You can get quercetin from dietary supplements or from the following foods:
• Black tea
• Citrus fruits
Daily intake of 500mg quercetin is sufficient to help your body.
Regular exercise, reduce stress
Stress has been shown to cause inflammation and suppress our body’s immune response. Exercise has the opposite effect. The more we exercise and less we stress, the stronger our immune system gets.
While we wait for preventative or curative treatment options to come out against the COVID-19 infection, we need to prepare our immune system in the event that we do get infected. It’s the main defense that we have and the best way to ensure it is prepared is to utilize the options discussed today. Let us start preparing our immune system and remember to stay home, wear a mask if you have to go out and practice proper hygiene.
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