Foods That May Prevent Covid-19

COVID-19

What you need to know::

  • Covid-19 is a coronavirus, which is a class of viruses that infect animals and humans.
  • Covid-19 may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms and may cause fever. It can range from mild or asymptomatic to severe and life-threatening. 
  • It is primarily spread through person to person transmission. 
  • Covid-19 vaccination can relieve symptoms and can significantly reduce the chances of contracting the disease. 
  • Social distancing, wearing masks, practising good hand hygiene, and quarantining when you are ill can help prevent disease transmission. 

Symptoms

According to CDC.org, the symptoms range from mild to severe. The symptoms can manifest between 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. The most common symptoms are a persistent cough, sneezing, fever, dizziness, muscle spasm, headaches, loss of taste and smell, stomach pain, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. 

You must call the doctor immediately in case of severe symptoms such as confusion, pale skin, or nail beds with a blue or grey undertone.

The symptoms of flu and Covid-19 are quite similar. However, covid symptoms usually take longer than flu symptoms to appear. 

Food and Covid-19: How Can It Help?

Your diet can have a major impact on your immune system. Certain foods can help to avoid catching the disease or aid the recovery process.

Foods rich in vitamins and minerals, such as B6 and B9, make the immune system more effective and help the body fight the virus and ease the symptoms.

On the other hand, processed foods can cause inflammation that can make symptoms worse. Inflammation can block the airways to the lungs, making it difficult to breathe and potentially completely blocking the respiratory system.

While some foods aid digestion, others - especially fatty foods - can put stress on the gut. The added workload may weaken the immune system. This means that the body will be less effective at fighting the virus and recovering from any symptoms.

Immune Boosting Foods

No food is a cure for Covid, but a healthy and balanced diet can help boost your immunity to the virus by improving your immune system. Below are some examples of foods that are rich in nutrients and great for your overall health:

Dark chocolate (magnesium)

According to healthline.com, foods like dark chocolate and green grapes contain antioxidants and other important nutrients that improve our body’s ability to respond to the virus quickly. Dark chocolate also has polyphenols, which are anti-inflammatory and is rich in magnesium, which reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) and helps the body’s recovery.

Citrus and leafy greens (Vitamin C)

Vitamin C in leafy greens makes the cells in our immune system stronger and more robust. It also promotes phagocytosis, the process in which our body fights and kills the virus cells. 

Vitamin C may also reduce the severity of pneumonia, as well as other covid symptoms. Vitamin C supplements of up to 200mg/day can be effective in easing the symptoms of covid.

Nuts and seeds (vitamin E, selenium, magnesium)

A diet rich in nuts and seeds is important for a healthy immune system. Vitamin E in nuts increases antioxidants to combat inflammation, which makes our immune system more effective and increases the production of antibodies. 

In addition to vitamin D and vitamin E, vitamin B can be beneficial for covid patients, particularly regarding the gut bacteria. Gut bacteria feed on vitamin B and aid digestion. Bacteria in your gut are also an important part of your immunity and so can help manage covid.

The use of vitamin supplements for managing covid symptoms is not clinically proven. However, the benefits of vitamins on the immune system are worth noticing and giving a try.

Garlic and onions (anti-viral properties)

Garlic and onions are well known for containing antiviral chemicals. Quercetin in garlic and allicin in onions are the best agents to combat coronavirus. They are also good for gut microbial growth, which is essential for  proper digestion and absorbing micronutrients that help our body’s defences function better.

On top of this, onions  are a great source of vitamins B, C, and D, and are full of antioxidants that prevent cell damage, DNA damage, and reduce inflammation. These foods also have prebiotics that help maintain the gut’s ecosystem.

Seafood and Omega-3 fatty acids

Fish such as salmon, mackerel, and cod are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and bolster our immune system.(1) In severe covid cases, Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to reduce the risk of death

Mushrooms (vitamin D, zinc)

Mushrooms are often regarded as great immune-boosting foods due to their vitamin D content. Typically, they are filled with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory minerals like zinc. Maitake mushrooms are filled with polyindoles, carotenoids, and polyphenols that aid the defence mechanism of the body.

Some medical mushrooms like Basidiomycota have anti-inflammatory properties that act as a precautionary measure against severe covid. Other mushrooms such as hercium are rich in antiviral and antimicrobial activity that help in combating covid.⁽²⁾

Yoghurt (Gut health, may improve immunity)

According to Forbes, poor gut health upsets all the organs and systems in the body. Good gut health is necessary for the body to function well and strengthen its immunity. About 70% of the body's immune system defence activity is in the gut wall. Yoghurt contains lots of probiotics (‘good bacteria’). Eating yoghurt on a daily basis maintains a healthy gut and boosts your immunity to more severe forms of covid and other viruses. 

Healthy Proteins (making of white blood cells)

One should consume 0.8-1g of protein per pound of body weight from lean meat, eggs, fish, soy, and cheese - all of which are excellent sources of protein in a diet. This will help increase the number of white blood cells in the body.

Long Covid

Long covid refers to symptoms that remain for a long time after getting over covid. Symptoms involve loss of smell or taste, distorted smell, muscle weakness, fatigue, breathlessness, and digestive problems such as diarrhoea.

Age, obesity, and asthma are some factors that may increase your likelihood of long covid. The usual recovery period may take 3 months or more.

It is crucial to take extra care of your diet if you are suffering from long covid. Nutrients that boost immunity can help you recover quicker and ease the symptoms as well.

Low Histamine diets?

Long covid is usually associated with low histamine tolerance in the body. Reducing histamine intake for 2-3 weeks can help ease the effects of long covid. 

Cut down on alcohol, spinach, tomatoes, avocadoes, fatty fishes, processed meats, citrus fruits, and grains containing gluten. You could add fresh meat and fish, non-citrus fruits, leafy greens except spinach, eggs, dairy substitutes, and gluten-free grains such as quinoa or rice to your diet.

Summary

Foods are important for stimulating the body’s anti-inflammatory response and increasing the production of antibodies that help to fight coronavirus. Food may also help to alleviate severe covid symptoms or any health issues that get worse due to covid. Eating a healthy diet also strengthens the body’s immune system and prevents covid infection. Food is also important to those suffering from long covid as a way to beat it quicker.

References:

  1. Dmitriev, A., Machulina, I. and Shestopalov, A., 2021. Omega-3 fatty acids as components of nutritional and metabolic treatment of patients with COVID-19 and other viral diseases (literature review). Medical alphabet, (17), pp.63-70.
  2. Hetland, G., Johnson, E., Bernardshaw, S. and Grinde, B., 2020. Can medicinal mushrooms have prophylactic or therapeutic effects against COVID‐19 and its pneumonic superinfection and complicating inflammation?. Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, 93(1).

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Aarthi Narayan

Master of Science (M.S.), Biological science, University of Illinois Chicago
Scientist with 10+ years of strong industry, academic experience in Molecular biology, Tissue culture, Protein purification techniques. Mid-level experience in Diagnostics and start-ups. Excellent at completing large scale projects and experiments with minimal supervision in a timely and efficient manner.

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