As the number of coronavirus cases escalate around the world once again (sigh), many people are looking for dietary solutions to boost their immune system. However, a lot of the conventional wisdom being shared on social media and elsewhere does not have much basis in fact.
We have seen suggestions ranging from eating ginger, spicy food, and using turmeric liberally, as a type of ‘fore field’ for people worried about the Delta variant of COVID-19.
This is not how infectious diseases work, however. Before we discuss COVID and diet, there’s a lot to be said about COVID treatment, but it’s more than we can cover in this article, so we’ve put together some great resources to help you here. Now, on to the diet stuff!
Diets and Viruses
If you end up coming in contact with the coronavirus, there is a chance you will contract it, even if you are vaccinated. Whether or not your symptoms are severe is based upon a number of factors, which differ from person to person.
It is understandable that people want to be cautious. Sometimes this results in an overreaction in the way populations act: whether it means buying (and fighting over!) dozens of rolls of toilet paper or stocking up on bottled water, it gives individuals the sense that they are somehow still in control of an uncertain situation.
There is no cure-all or miracle food that will magically ward off a virus. However, this isn’t to say that there’s nothing you can do. Nutrition matters when it comes to immunity and infection, generally speaking (see this study, which explores how nutritional deficiencies are immune responses and hospitalization).
To start, make sure you eat a nutrient-rich diet, control your portion sizes, drink plenty of water, and ensure you’re getting the proper supplements, especially zinc and B vitamins (evidence shows that mortality rates are higher in COVID-19 patients with low vitamin D levels). A lack of vitamin B can impair your immune system significantly as well.
Here’s a great article (fairly technical for those not in the medical field) on the role of vitamin B in COVID-19 prevention and symptom reduction: Be well: A potential role for vitamin B in COVID-19.
Should I Change My Low Carb Diet?
But what about people who are on low-carb, keto, vegan, or other popular diets? There is no reason to change, assuming you are consuming the right number of calories and nutrients and supplementing with a multivitamin like this, if needed. Eating well gives your body and immune system what it needs to be as healthy as possible.
Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption is a good idea, however. Too much alcohol can harm the immune system, just as too little sleep and too much stress can as well. In order to manage stress, many people find meditation, prayer, or simply moments of silence (and time away from social media) to have a calming, centering effect. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and keep your body strong.
Personal hygiene is the principal factor in the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap, 20 seconds is a good amount of time, avoid touching your face, think twice about traveling to places that have high infection rates, and if you must use public transportation, elevators, and anything else that requires you to push a button, hold a railing, etc., you may want to sanitize your hands.
If you have symptoms such as a fever and dry cough, where a mask, err on the side of caution when it comes to interacting with the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. If you think you have been exposed to the coronavirus, call your doctor immediately.
We will get through this. It may be rough for a while as governments, medical staff, and businesses learn where and how to make effective changes while researchers and drug-makers race to find a vaccine.
For now, let’s try to be kind to one another and ourselves. Treat your body well. Give it good food, plenty of water, plenty of rest, and daily exercise.