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.”