Supporting you with information to improve your immune system and understand the Coronavirus

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With the current situation I have decided to put my nutritional science hat on and provide you all with a simple overview on Coronavirus and simple ways to support your immune system. I hope you find it useful, please feel free to share. 

What is the Coronavirus ?

The Coronavirus is a type of virus. The name comes from the shape of the virus, which under a microscope is like a droplet surrounded by little spikes. According to the WHO the “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases”

What are the symptoms ?

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Whilst research shows the large majority of cases are mild and similar to seasonal influenza, current information suggests those with a compromised immune system or those with an underlying health condition are at a higher risk.

What can you do ? 

It is incredibly important to be aware of regular updates, and to remember that for most people the symptoms of the virus are mild especially for children. Priority needs to be taken by all to prevent the spread of the virus to protect yourself and others. The advice below not only applies to the Coronavirus but also applies to protecting your immune health. 

  • Regular hand washing 
  • Use hand sanitiser 
  • Avoid touching your face especially eyes, nose & mouth 
  • Cough/ Sneeze into a tissue
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is ill
  • Stay home if you are unwell
  • Wipe down all surfaces often 

My top key nutrients to support immune health 

Whilst very little is known about how well cold and flu supplement trials apply to coronavirus, it is still important to build a strong immune system. The below are my top choices to support this. 

  • Vitamin C – this is always at the top of the list when it comes to immune health and support. Vitamin C is a antioxidant which helps the body to fight infection and is a great  anti inflammatory. There is vast research to support the use of vitamin C to boost immune health, it can help to shorten the duration of the common cold and is being used to clinically manage respiratory infections. Foods rich in vitamin C include a wide variety of colourful fruit and vegetables and especially, citrus fruits, berries and peppers. 
  • Zinc – zinc supports the function and proliferation of the immune cells. Mild to moderate deficiency can have a negative impact on the immune systems ability to deal with infection. The body cannot store large amounts of zinc, so its really important to consume plenty of zinc rich foods daily. Those rich in zinc include meat, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin and sesame. If you choose to supplement zinc makes sure  you balance this with copper as excess zinc can cause a copper deficiency. 
  • Vitamin D – one that really is worth supplementing at this time of the year anyway! Vitamin D has been shown to have a vital role in the functioning of the immune system. Maintaining vitamin D levels is important to support the bodies ability to fight infection and unlike most essential nutrients you can’t just rely on foods to give you optimum levels. Our main source of natural vitamin D comes from the sunshine, so at this time of year adding a maintenance dose ,via a supplement, is a great idea. 
  • Vitamin A – The immune system needs vitamin A to function, it actually regulates some of the genes involved in immune function. It is found in the diet in two forms, beta carotene (found in red, yellow and orange foods) and retinol (found in high fat animal foods, eggs, butter, liver and full fat dairy). As a supplement its best to opt for a multivitamin, high in beta carotene and include good food sources of retinol in the diet. 
  • Elderberry extract – I love this stuff and use it all the time! Elderberry has a natural anti viral activity. Studies have shown it can help to reduce symptoms of influenza, and the common cold. It is also a rich source of powerful compounds called anthoyanins.
  • Probiotics- The gut microflora is something i could write about for days! The interactions between gut health and immune heath are diverse and very much connected. Supporting the gut with probiotics and healthy bacteria is vital to build a healthy strong immune system.  

So in summary it is important to look after yourself and others !

Remember to keep a healthy immune system we need to pay attention to:

  • eating a diet rich in nourishing foods, plenty of colourful fruit and veg.
  • prioritise good quality sleep  
  • keep stress levels low
  • reduce intake of excess sugar and alcohol 

If you have any symptoms or are concerned please contact the NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

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