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Boost immunity for double whammy of third Covid wave and winter

As South Africans brace for at least one more wave of Covid-19 in the middle of the winter flu season, a clinical review recommends that healthy nutrition and supplementation with vitamins, minerals and probiotics may benefit immunity and prevent or ease viral infections.

The review notes that the immune system will need to adapt to Covid-19 and that healthy, individualised nutrition — including supplementing with vitamins C, E and D, microminerals such as zinc, iron and selenium, and probiotics — may help.

It further states that many nutrients and nutraceuticals have beneficial effects on the immune response and may prevent or mitigate viral infections. The review and related studies suggest:

  • Countries with lower vitamin D levels are linked to higher mortality rates during the pandemic, backing research that vitamin D may help reduce the incidence of colds by 50 percent. Other studies show vitamin D may reduce the risk of Covid-19 by nine percent and that low levels of vitamin D are associated with a higher risk of Covid-19 hospitalization.
  • Vitamin E protects the integrity of cell membranes from free radicals and protects both innate and adaptive immunity.
  • Vitamin C boosts immune cells, helps increase the production of antibodies, protects against oxidative stress, reduces tissue damage and may help shorten the duration of colds.
  • Studies show that zinc may help shorten the duration of colds by up to 40 percent, and may reduce risk of pneumonia in the elderly. Studies show that increased zinc levels may enhance the antiviral effect against Covid-19.
  • Research shows that selenium’s immune boosting properties may help fight Covid-19.
  • Probiotics may alter gut microbiota and generate antiviral metabolites that strengthen the immune system. Studies show that probiotics reduced the risk of Covid-19 by 14 percent.
  • Research shows that omega 3 fatty acids promote the function of T- and B-cells, are anti-inflammatory, help boost immunity and help lower the risk of Covid-19 by 12 percent.
  • Studies show multivitamins may reduce the risk of Covid-19 by 13 percent.
  • Echinacea, has been found to help prevent colds, while research has found proanthocyanidin to be a powerful antioxidant, immune booster and blood stabiliser. Pelargonium (African geranium), meanwhile, has been shown to help the healing rate for acute bronchitis and colds.

HPA Chairperson, Maria Ascencao suggests the following: “Follow a diet of fruits and vegetables, take high quality supplements, exercise, get enough restorative sleep, manage stress and practice mindfulness. This will support immunity.”

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HPA Chairperson, Maria Ascencao, at the HPA Annual General Meeting on 9 July 2020 – conducted via Zoom in order to adhere to Covid-19 regulations – presented a comprehensive and enlightening annual overview of the HPA’s achievements, projects and regulatory concerns. “July 2019 to July 2020 was another period of high-level and high-speed activity, advocacy, achievements, disappointments, challenges and advancement for the HPA – on many fronts,” she said. “There have been a significant number of changes within the industry, primarily related to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), over-regulation, strikes, political chaos, the economy…and COVID-19, which has forever changed the world. What has not changed, however, is the unique ability of this organization to continue to adapt to an environment that remains volatile and challenging, and to respond in a manner that reflects our qualities, expertise and commitment to our members.”

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Vitamins C, D, other nutrients vital to counter Covid — research

Vitamins C, D omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, iron and selenium may be essential for immunity — a vital weapon in the fight against Covid-19 — and deficiency of these may make it difficult for the immune system to defend the body, a new study has found.

The US research has found that supplementing with vitamins C, D, omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, iron and selenium are important for immunity and to help protect against viral illness such as respiratory tract infections — a common feature of Covid-19.

SA pharmacist and health expert, Giulia Criscuolo, says nutrient deficiencies open the door to viruses and endanger high-risk individuals.

Focussing on vitamins C and D, US researcher, Prof Adrian Gombart, said studies are “revealing and characterizing new pathways regulated by vitamin D and its receptor that may be essential for optimal immune function. Vitamin C is also involved in the production of antibodies, without which the body cannot keep Covid-19 in check.”

Fellow researcher, Isabelle Schiffer said high doses of vitamin C are being used to treat Covid-19 patients, adding: “…naturopathy cannot replace conventional medicine, but can complement it.”

Chairperson of the Health Products Association of Southern Africa (HPA), Maria Ascencao, said scores of studies backed the benefits of vitamin C and D on immunity, notably:

▪️ A Chinese study of 50 “mid-serious” Covid-19 patients found that no patients who were treated with high doses of vitamin C were reported to have died.
▪️ A study published in the scientific journal JAMA shows that administering vitamin C to intensive-care Covid-19 patients with lung damage reduced the risk of death by about 20%.
▪️ A US study shows that vitamin D may help prevent the immune system from becoming dangerously overactive and protect Covid-19 patients against complications and death.
▪️ A Japanese study shows that vitamin D supplementation may cut flu risk by up to 42% while UK research shows that it may cut by half the risk of respiratory infection.
▪️ Studies also show that vitamin D may be as important as vitamin C for strengthening the immune system to fight flu and pneumonia.
▪️ US research has shown vitamin D’s positive impact on immunity, including a study which found it to be a powerful immunoregulator.
Ascencao says that in addition to recommendations by the World Health Organisation to wash hands regularly and to practice social distancing, eating healthily, taking high-quality supplements, getting enough sleep, regular exercise and managing stress are important for good health.

Ascencao says that in addition to recommendations by the World Health Organisation to wash hands regularly and to practice social distancing, eating healthily, taking high quality supplements, getting enough sleep, regular exercise and managing stress are important for good health.

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