We asked our resident Nutritionist Dr Shane Thurlow who has a PhD in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition for his thoughts around what we could be doing to support our health and wellbeing. He has written us a series of blogs, starting with this one. Please consult your medical doctor before doing anything in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
The aim of this post and the future posts in the series will be to present the research looking at the potential of nutritional and herbal supplements to offer protection from COVID-19 and support your health and wellbeing during this challenging time.
Chance of infection
Current government guidelines promote frequent hand washing and social distancing as the first line of defense against COVID-19. Whilst these are extremely effective in reducing our chances of infection, they offer little to support our resilience, so we suffer less and recover sooner if we are subject to infection.
Furthermore, the impact of being in an at-risk group (pre-existing health condition), social isolation, employment worries, school closures and significant changes to daily routines can lead to worry and stress. The influence this has on our overall health and wellbeing (physical and emotional) potentially makes us more vulnerable.
Promoting health and wellbeing
This enforced change to our life gives us an opportunity to develop a healthy daily routine that focuses on maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, appropriate exercise, manage stress, staying connected to family and friends, and good sleep practices.
Nutritional and herbal supplements are often sort out by people as a central line of defense for situations such as these. However, understanding which supplements may truly benefit you and your health is important.
Whilst it is impossible to refer to any peer reviewed research specifically looking at nutrition and diet (including supplements) strategies and COVID-19 as it new to us. We can look at the similarities and differences to many other viruses and specifically how this coronavirus causes infection, as there is plenty of science on this.
The nutrients and herbs that have received the most attention during this pandemic are, Vitamin D, Zinc, Vitamin C, Oregano Oil, Copper, Elderberry, Garlic, N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC), and Echinacea. This is mainly the result of their potential role is supporting the immune system and respiratory tract infections.
According to the British Nutritional Foundation (BNF), 20% (1 in 5) of the UK population have low Vitamin D levels (defined as serum levels below 25 nmol/L). These levels are reported to be associated with a higher risk of poor musculoskeletal health as well as increased risk and severity of viral respiratory infections (BNF 2020). Those particularly at risk of low status are older adults, hospital inpatients and nursing home residents. Whilst those with very little or no sunshine exposure (cocooning at home) and /or have darker skin have also been reported to be at greater risk. There are many online resources that can help ensure we eat a diet that contains food higher in Vitamin D. Though the BNF indicate that there are a limited number of foods naturally containing or fortified with Vitamin D.
In a recent publication discussing Covid-19, McCartney and Byrne (2020) have stated that, “Vitamin D may also attenuate interferon gamma and interleukin-6 inflammatory responses, both potent predictors of poorer outcome in critically-ill ventilated patients”. The researchers go on to say that those at risk, indicated above, in addition to “other vulnerable groups (e.g. those with diabetes mellitus or compromised immune function, vegetarians and vegans, those who are overweight or obese, smokers and healthcare workers) be urgently supplemented with 20-50 µg/day (1,000 to 2,000 IU) of vitamin D to enhance their resistance to Covid-19, and that this advice be quickly extended to the general adult population.
Grant and Baggerly (2020) support the prudent adoption of Vitamin D supplementation. They recommend that in order to reduce the risk of infection people should consider taking 250 µg/day (10,000 IU/day) for a few weeks to rapidly raise concentrations, followed by at least 50 µg/day (2,000 IU/day). The goal should be to raise 25(OH)D (circulating form of Vitamin D) concentrations above 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/l; testing Vitamin D status), taking whatever is necessary for that individual to achieve and maintain that level.
Preferably we should all be ensuring we eat a wide range of nutritious foods including those higher in specific nutrients that support our immune and respiratory systems, including Vitamins A, D, C, E, B6, and B12, folate, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium. These nutrients with their supporting roles may modulate immune function and reduce the risk of infection.
Bigvits have sorted a range of quality products that can help us support our Vitamin D status and strive for optimal health and wellbeing.
The next in this series will explore the potential role of Vitamin C.
This blog series is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice or act as a substitute for seeking such advice from a qualified health professional. In order to make the blog series easier to read, I have used a conversational tone in many places with personal pronouns, such as “I” and “you.” This is meant only to make it more pleasant to read, and is not meant to imply that the information constitutes any form of advice, whether personal or general.