Information about Covid-19 virus changes daily. But at this point, we do know enough enough about the virus to make some informed decisions that are not likely to backfire on us. I will try to update this article as I get reliable info.
All viruses can interfere with our immune system. Part of why this particular virus can become so deadly is through overstimulation of our immune system, causing the development of cytokine storms that lead to lung failure.
There is a fascinating article that highlights some of the mechanisms through which this occurs. Based on the science behind these mechanisms, we may be able to make some nutritional choices that support health in this epidemic.
Foods and supplements that may make symptoms worse
Most people by now have heard to not take ibuprofen. There are conflicting suggestions on other herbal and over the counter supplements that are commonly used with colds and flus. Some articles suggestions that Elderberry and Echinacea can possibly trigger the same adverse effects that ibuprofen can. There has been previous research that elderberry can inhibit replication of other coronavirus, but there is no research on COVID-19 with elderberry. Elderberry can increase inflammatory cytokines, much the same way that ibuprofen does, which means it could possibly trigger adverse effects of the viral infection. If you do decide to take it for prevention (which I do not recommend), you should stop if you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19. Personally, given the lack of good information, and the fact that some people are not symptomic in the early stages, I think there are safer ways to boost your immune system.
Other supplements and herbs that could possibly stimulate the same inflammatory over-reaction include:
- Vitamin D
- I personally do not intend to stop my rather minimal daily vitamin D dose unless I am symptomatic, but megadoses may not be such a good idea.
- Larch arabinogalactan
- Medicinal mushroom extracts with high levels of polysaccharides
- Sambucus nigra (Elderberry)
Foods that may help
Leafy greens and beets. Nitric oxide can calm the overactivation of the immune system that results in the lung damage. Your body is capable of creating nitric oxide from leafy greens and beets, especially if you eat them with foods rich in vitamin C. Make a dressing out of lemon juice, orange juice, or eat some fruit with your salad. Smoothies? Maybe have some beet soup on hand in the freezer should you get ill or be exposed.
Fruits and vegetables. These are loaded with nutriceuticals that can assist the immune system. If you ingest such things in a whole food form, there is a much better chance that your body can use it to your advantage. Onions, apples, tomatoes, nuts and berries all have specific nutriceuticals that may help your immune system in specific ways. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables in the single best way to lower overall levels of chronic inflammation in your body. This helps your immune system work better.
Pistachios? There is an interesting connection between melatonin levels, and the level of inflammatory damage the body sustains should someone become infected. This is because melatonin works in a complex reaction as part of the bodies anti-inflammatory defense system. Some researchers believe that melatonin levels explain the linear age relationship between the infection and mortality. Children, for instance, produce much more melatonin than adults. This drops off as we get older. As with all things, I do not believe in supplementation unless it is for something that you cannot get in a whole food source. And there are food sources of melatonin. The best appears to be pistachios. Just a few pistachios appears to increase blood levels.
Several sources cite using zinc as a preventive. Some people in the natural community use brazil nuts as a source of zinc. It is worth noting, however, that brazil nuts should possible be avoided during this epidemic due to their high levels of selenium which could exacerbate lung damage from the COVID-19 virus. There are many other whole food sources of zinc, including whole grains, legumes (beans) and nuts. If you do decide to take a zinc supplement, I would not take more than 15 mg daily. Minerals interact with each other and taking large doses of one can lead to deficiencies of another.
So, in summary, the most important approaches dietarily are:
- A whole food plant based diet gives you fantastic foundation that lowers the overall inflammatory affects that increase mortality associated with this virus. Eat whole grains, fruits, veggies, legumes.
- Eat green leafies, beets, and other foods that boost nitric oxide production in the blood. 2-3 servings a day.
- Eat natural whole food sources of vitamin C like fruits and vegetables.
- Have a tiny handful of pistachios each day.
- Do using eat brazil nuts as your source of zinc if at risk of COVID-19 exposure.
- Avoid ibuprofen, echinacea and elderberry and other supplements that might trigger inflammatory cytokines if you have symptoms or test positive (or are a cautious type like me.)
Articles you might look at for more details: