Rather than stockpiling toilet paper, these are the things I am implementing as a nutritionist right now in light of the current health situation (realistically, coming into cooler, more cold and flu prone months these are my go-to’s). Apart from the recommended advice by authorities to keep good hygiene and social distancing it is important to support your body, and thus your immunity during this testing time. With that said, there is no miracle supplement or magic potion that will avoid COVID-19 – however, having a strong immune system and keeping good hygiene practices is a no-brainer in my books.
1. Zinc is an incredible immune boosting mineral. Being highly stressed, having poor gut health, a poor diet or being on the oral contraceptive pill can deplete zinc levels. You can boost it through foods such as red meat, oysters, pumpkin seeds and organ meats, or through supplementation. Taking a zinc supplement can cause a little nausea, it’s best taken with food. Look out for better forms of zinc such as ‘zinc picolinate, bis-glycinate or zinc citrate’.
2. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that supports immune function by protecting our cells. You can get so much vitamin C from food such as dark leafy greens, berries, tomato, broccoli, lemon (add it to water or drizzle on salads) and citrus fruits. If you want to supplement aim for quality and consider spreading the dose out as the body can only absorb a certain amount at a time. Vitamin C works well with zinc and vitamin D.
3. Vitamin D has a host of benefits and directly assists with immune modulation. It strengthens tight junctions which defend from cell infection. It is worth checking to see if your recent vitamin D levels are adequate (if you have them from getting a recent pathology test from your GP). Chances are most people will be on that lower level to deficient and supplementation with vitamin D3 can help build those levels back up. Research shows vitamin D supplementation has been associated with lower rates of respiratory infections. Sources are sunlight, grass fed butter, eggs, fish and some fortified foods.
4. Sleep and reduce stress where you can to allow your body to repair and replenish. Stress wipes us, sucking up key nutrients and impacting immunity. Although it can be hard to reduce feelings of stress, focus on what you can do and that’s what you’re eating and how much you’re moving – this will optimise your base and build up greater resiliency to stress. Improve your sleep quality by having no artificial blue light before bed, try chamomile tea, magnesium oil rubbed into the skin, lavender oils and if your sleep is restless ensure your diet is adequate so that your body is not being over stimulated by refined processed foods.
5. Exercise and keep moving to support healthy lymphatic flow and your immune system.
6. Focus on good quality foods above all else to give your body the nutrients it needs. Lots of fibre and colourful diverse vegetables to keep your gut bugs happy (the health of your gut is intrinsically linked to your immune system). There are so many amazing functional foods/herbs/spices such as turmeric, ginger, etc (I bet people aren’t stockpiling those!) to support our health. Lastly, don’t forget to stay hydrated, around 2-3L min per day, especially if you’re training!
Disclaimer: this is not medical advice, for individual and supplement advice touch base with myself or a qualified healthcare practitioner.