What times are those we live in!
The situation is unprecedented, as is the ammount of information about the new coronavirus and the ways to protect ourselves from it. There is a lot of talk about the role of nutrition in protecting us against the virus that often leads to excessive intake of vitamins and the dangerous feeling that we are protected.
We need to clarify things regarding the role that nutrition can play in our defense, based on scientific data and reports from the competent bodies. Dietary shield studies against coronavirus are widely accepted by all the frightened people who are looking for an ally for the new enemy of their bodies. However, paraphilology is intense, and in this issue fake news also dominate (magic superfoods that kill the virus).
Immune system and nutrition
Our immune system recognizes, attacks and destroys the pathogens that infect the body. The immunobiological response is determined by factors such as genes, environment, lifestyle, fatigue, underlying diseases and nutrition. Ιt becomes clear then, that it's not only determined by nutrition. In fact, a complete and proper diet can not replace and cover the deficiency of our immune system that can result genetically. These factors interact and only one of them is not enough to determine how efficient our body's response will be. The genetic factor, that is how well-made our immune system is, is perhaps the most crucial one. Therefore, nutrition plays an important role, but not the most critical.
Which nutrients enhance the action of the immune system?
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that the human body synthesizes through sunlight. This vitamin affects the function of immune cells, the production of antimicrobials and relieves autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Its supplementation, however, has not shown a clear antiviral effect in studies. Although it can be found in many foods, such as cereals and celery, it is mainly synthesized in our skin under the effect of sunlight.
Immune cells contain vitamin E in their membranes, while vitamin E itself can reverse the, due to age, decrease in specific lymphocytes, important for our defense. Clinical trials have conflicting results regarding the effect of supplementation on viruses. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Zinc deficiency affects the growth of immune cells. The elderly often develop zinc deficiency. This can lead to impaired immune function and increased risk of infection. Studies show that zinc supplementation is associated with reduced pneumonia mortality. We can get zinc by consuming sprouts of foods such as wheat, garlic, sesame, pumpkin etc.
Ω3 fatty acids
Ω3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, while many data seem to be related to these acids and the activation of the body's defenses. It's clearer how they related with the remission of autoimmune disorders. Ω3 can be obtained from many plant foods such as flaxseed, walnuts, soy, legumes etc.
Probiotics are microorganisms that protect the intestine and respiratory system. They act on some pathogenic microorganisms, but not on viruses. They can be found in significant quantities in unripe bananas, dark chocolate, garlic, sauerkraut, potatoes etc.
- Vitamins B6, B12, C. These vitamins are important for supporting the body's defense biochemical reactions, with simultaneous anti-inflammatory and antiviral action. They are found in nuts, broccoli, spinach, avocado, beetroots etc.
- Nutrients such as iron, copper, selenium, strengthen and contribute to the proper function of the immune system. We can find them in fruits (bananas, apples, pears), in legumes, garlic, potatoes etc.
Clinical studies have not shown the clear ability of a nutrient to fight not only viruses but also to boost the immune system, beyond its genetic potential. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution that many experts call for. It is clear, however, that the lack and insufficiency of nutrients, in relation to the proposed limits, significantly reduces the function and ability of the body's defense to react.
A balanced diet and complete intake of all nutrients in sufficient quantities is proposed. On the other hand, it's not recommended to take them in large quantities, since their effect in this case seems to be mainly psychological and not substantial, beyond a certain limit.
Of course, we must not forget that any disorder and lack of nutrients can lead to immediate immune weakening, which many times we do not attribute to our nutrition. A well-planed vegan diet provides the right amount of all the nutrients, allowing the immune system to function at its optimal performance. After all, those who follow a vegan diet, are usually informed and aware of the positive effects of getting the right nutrients, both in the immune system and in other systems of the body.
In conclusion, the immune system must be strengthened nutritionally every day. Especially in the era of this new enemy, so that it can perform as best it can in time of need. We just hope we're properly genetically programmed, and with the help of our nutrition, and other factors mentioned above, we can tackle the infectious agents effectively.