Supporting our Immune System During Covid 19

In these uncertain times surrounding corona virus it is easy to be sucked in to the marketing messages around ‘boosting your immune system’. It is very early days at the moment and so it is unclear if supplements have any impact on protecting us against corona virus.

Having a healthy immune system is important not just in this pandemic but throughout our life, so after doing a lot of reading and research on how we can eat to support our immune system I thought it would useful to you to do a summary blog post…

Having a healthy, balanced is not just the easy public health message out there to help us with weight management, it is to ensure that every cell and chemical compound in our body can function properly.

The immune system is no different, it is a complex network of both cells and chemical compounds that defend our bodies against infections. There is not just one immune ‘boosting’ nutrient out there (I am looking at you, vitamin C) there are several different nutrients that SUPPORT our immune system.

The British Nutrition Foundation have a great table on these nutrients and their role in the immune system which I have put below:

NutrientRole in immune systemFood Sources
Vitamin AHelp support T-cells (a white blood cell that helps identify pathogens)Liver, whole milk and cheese are dietary sources of retinol. Dark green leafy vegetables and orange coloured fruits and vegetables e.g: carrots, sweet potato, papaya are dietary sources of carotenoids, which can be converted into vitamin A by the body.
Vitamin B6Helps produce new immune cells, metabolise antibodies and helps immune cells to communicatePoultry, fish, fortified breakfast cereals, egg yolk, yeast extract, soya beans, sesame seeds.
Vitamin B12Helps to produce new immune cellsMeat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, fortified yeast extract and fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin CHelps immune cells attack pathogens, help clear away old immune cells from the site of infection and helps maintain the skinCitrus fruits, blackcurrants, strawberries, papaya, kiwi, green vegetables, peppers and tomatoes.
CopperHelps to protect and fuel immune cellsBread, breakfast cereals, rice, quinoa, meat, fish and shellfish, pulses, avocado, dried fruit nuts and seeds.
Vitamin DRole not clear but low status is associated with reduced immune responseOily fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, spreads and dairy products.
FolateHelp produce new immune cellsGreen vegetables, pulses, oranges, berries, nuts and seeds, cheeses, bread and fortified breakfast cereals.
IronHelps maintain the health of immune cellsOffal, red meat, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds, fish, quinoa, wholemeal bread and dried fruits.
SeleniumHelps produce new immune cells and can help to strengthen response to infectionNuts and seeds, eggs, offal, poultry, fish and shellfish.
ZincHelps produce new immune cells, helps develops ‘natural killer cells’ that help to fight off viruses and supports communication between immune cellsMeat, poultry, cheese, some shellfish, nuts and seeds, wholegrain breakfast cereals and wholegrain and seeded breads.
Reference: British Nutrition Foundation

‘Can’t I just supplement them?’

This is a question I get asked a lot when I am recommending foods rich in micro-nutrients.

Although some research has been done to suggest Vitamin C and Zinc may reduce the duration of the common cold, it is not clear whether this would be true against most infections such as corona virus.

If you don’t think your diet will provide you with these nutrients then a supplement could be considered however, the BNF state that: “it is best to eat well as a healthy diet can provide a range of natural compounds that you will not find in supplements.”

If you have any questions about supplements then please get in touch, I am currently taking online clients.

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