Nutrition & Immunity
Supplement companies would like you to believe that you can boost your immune system.
Let my impartial explanation clear this up for you:
Immunity Question: Can a healthy person, without deficiencies, boost their immune system above normal levels?
Answer: There are things we can eat to keep the bad guys out, like probiotics and garlic. But there are no supplements or foods that boost our cellular immune system like white blood cells or T cells above normal levels.
Immunity Question: Can we reduce our immunity by overdosing on supplements?
Answer: Yes, ironically.
Immunity Question: Can a healthy person still get COVID 19?
Answer: Yes, see below for details.
Immunity Question: Are we more at risk for nutrient deficiencies in the COVID 19 outbreak?
Answer: Probably. Most people right now are eating fewer fruits and vegetables, eating more processed food and fast food, and drinking more alcohol. Some people can’t afford food right now. As a result, the typical isolated person may end up with a nutrient deficiency that leads to a weakened immune system.
One viral anecdote before I explain nutrition and immunity.
Before I was a healthy eater, I would get about two or three “common colds” per year. Once I became a nutritionist and was eating better, I had only two colds/flus over the next 11 years (that’s two colds instead of the trend of 22-30 over that time).
My exercise stayed the same, hand washing, alcohol intake, sleep, stress – all stayed the same. Simply put, my immune system was stronger because of healthier eating. But I didn’t boost it. I only brought it up to normal levels, and it had been deficient in previous years.
Then in 2019 I started getting sick a few times a year when our kid started day care.
Here is what to know about nutrition and your immune system. Let’s start with high-probability deficiencies in the current isolation situation.
- Involved in many bodily functions including immunity
- Vit D is The Notorious BIG of supplements
- Why? Because Vit D is a major player.
- Vit D never goes out of style, year after year
- We feel better when Vitamin D is around. Just like we do with Biggie’s music.
- About 30 minutes of summer sun does the trick. At all other times, you need about 1000 – 3000 IU per day from a supplement.
- Few foods provide Vitamin D. Fatty fish is one food that may give you enough vitamin D.
- Involved in MANY immune functions
- Found mostly in red meat and some in other animal meats. Fortified in cereals.
- Greens like spinach have iron but our body has a hard time absorbing iron from vegetable sources
- Isolation means less red meat, less meat overall, more protein intake from low-iron sources like dairy products and legumes
- As many was two-thirds of young active females are iron deficient
- It’s really easy to become deficient – simply don’t eat enough red meat or fortified foods
- Symptoms include lethargy, pale skin
- Who’s at risk? Vegan and vegetarians. Anyone who avoids red meat. Exercising will compound these risk factors. Toddlers are also at risk. Pregnant women too.
- Supplements may cause GI stress so just remember to try different brands and you don’t have to take huge doses. A little can go a long way, but you have to be consistent!
- Cooking with cast iron improves iron levels. Parts of the pan end up in your food!
- Take iron supplements away from food, and with about 100-300 mg vitamin C
Omega 3’s and 6’s
- They help make up immune system cell structure
- Help with chemical messengers that regulate immunity (Regulators! Mount up!)
- You won’t find much Omega 3’s in canned goods or fast food – unless it’s salmon – which has a lot!
- Omega 3 supplements help a lot of other stuff. Take 3-6 g daily and DON’T take them if you’re on blood thinners unless you talk to your doctor first
- Omega 6’s – found in nuts, seeds
- Immune cells will use more C when fighting bad guys
- Found in fresh fruit and veg… unless you cook them!
- Heat destroys Vit C. The canning process requires heat.
- Research mixed on this subject but taking 200 mg a day of Vit C isn’t going to hurt you and it might help
- Vitamin C supplements improved the healthy of my gums tremendously in 2012
- Assists with various immune processes
- Found in healthy fats like avocados, nuts, or vegetable oils…. Stuff you may not get on a fast food diet
- Vit E is usually found in multivitamins
- Help immune cells reproduce
- Mostly found in animal tissue
- Who’s at risk for a B12 deficiency?
- Old people might not absorb B12 well, so they may have to supplement. Plus, have you seen an older person eat? Usually it’s lots of toast and small protein portions! That’s a problem! Old folks are also the main folks dying from COVID 19!
We are less likely to be deficient in the below, but let’s still keep an eye on them.
- Suppresses immune system since immune system is made of cells and stuff that is made of protein
- Protein deficiency is rare in healthy young people
- Fairly common in the elderly as I just discussed above. Get your old friends on some protein powder! Seriously!
- Helps immune cells reproduce
- The only way you’d become deficient here is if you stopped eating vegetables, legumes, and fortified grains. So I guess if you bought some grain that wasn’t fortified, and you ate a lot of that, and hardly any veg or legumes…. ya, totally possible.
- A multivitamin would provide enough
- Easy to get enough if you like eggs, and yellow or orange veg
- It’s also fortified in food
- BUT… maybe you don’t get enough.
- What’s it feel like? Dry skin, dry eye, poor wound healing and respiratory infections
- May suppress immune system
- If you struggle with obesity you may be wise to pay more attention to getting your vitamins
- No quick fix here but it is relevant to this article so I thought I’d mention it
So what can we do in a pandemic isolation food situation?
- Get fresh groceries safely – social distancing at the store, or order them, shop at off hours, disinfect packaging, don’t touch your face. Wash your hands after the food has been brought inside and disinfected
- Eat a salad every day with several colours of veg. Covers a lot of the above nutrients
- Red = red peppers
- Orange = carrots
- Green = leafy greens
- Blue/purple = purple cabbage
- White = onions or cauliflower
- Keep track of your nutrition days in terms of “Good or Bad”. If you have a “Bad” day – take a multivitamin, omega 3 oil, and greens powder before bed
- Take omega 3 supplements but check with your doctor if you’re on blood thinners
- Take 2000 IU of vitamin D every day
For more COVID 19 nutrition and fitness information, please visit my playlist on my YouTube Channel