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With the world’s attention focused on Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, people might wonder if there is something that will help improve recovery if infected. We all know that vitamins and minerals are vital for our immune systems, but which vitamins should you take to boost your immunity against viruses and bacteria? And is there any evidence that these supplements do support a stronger immune system?

           Vitamins play a central role in helping our immune systems protect against infection and fight disease. Vitamins C, D3 and B6 all support healthy, normal immune responses to pathogens like viruses, as do minerals like zinc, selenium, iron and copper.

           Deficiencies of these nutrients can leave us more susceptible to infections or less able to shake off illness.

           So, should we all be taking supplements to make sure we’re getting enough of these vital nutrients to keep our immune systems working properly?

           The following are recommended by WHO and health care professionals; however, talk to your doctor before starting any vitamin, mineral or supplement – especially at higher than recommended daily doses – to make sure it is not contraindicated for any health conditions you might have and won’t interfere or interact with your current medications.

Zinc 15mg, 1-2 a day

Research indicates that adequate zinc status increases immune reactivity. Correspondingly, an inadequate zinc supply may predispose the human body to infectious diseases of the upper and lower respiratory tract. Higher zinc levels in the body contribute to the prevention of pneumonia and its complications due to the anti-inflammatory effects of zinc. Zinc also has the ability to kill micro-organisms and block viral attachments. By coating the cell membranes, zinc makes it harder for viral penetration of the cells and inhibits viral replication.

Selenium 200mcg daily

Selenium is an essential micronutrient important for immune response, healthy thyroid function and oxidative stress damage prevention. Normal levels of selenium can prevent thyroid disease. Studies have shown that viral symptoms and infections are more severe when selenium is deficient. In an analysis of 25 observational studies, an increase of 50 per cent in selenium blood serum levels was associated with a 25 per cent reduction in the risk of heart disease. Studies have also indicated that, due to selenium’s ability to protect against oxidative stress and, in turn, reduce inflammation, it can help reduce asthma and lung-related symptoms.

Vitamin D3 1000IU, 1-2 a day

The main function of Vitamin D is to promote calcium absorption to enable normal mineralisation of the bones. However, studies have shown that Vit D plays an important role in modulating the innate and adaptive immune responses and therefore has a function in infection control. Deficiency in Vit D is associated with increased autoimmunity, as well as increased susceptibility to infection. According to a study in 2015, Vit D supplementation can halve the risk of respiratory viral infection – and that Vit D helps prevent viral replication.

Vitamin C 1000mg, 1-2 a day

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant in the epithelial lining fluid in the lungs. There is strong evidence of its positive contribution to the functioning of the bronchial epithelium. Laboratory tests have also indicated that a great number of people are Vit C deficient – equivalent to scurvy levels (serum plasma levels, 0.2mg/d).

Magnesium Sulfate 500mg, 1-2 a day

Magnesium sulphate came into medical use in 1618 and is on the WHO’s list of essential medicines. Magnesium is important for the functioning of the innate and adaptive immune system, helps white blood cells to function better, lowers blood pressure (American Heart Foundation) and has an effect on blood clotting. Often used to treat heartburn, acid indigestion and constipation.

Probiotics Broad Spectrum daily

Probiotics are known to give the immune system a boost and prohibit the growth of harmful bacteria. They promote the production of natural antibodies in the body. They boost the immune cells like the IgA producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells.

The Bottom Line

While we all await a vaccine or a cure for Covid-19, we need to remain careful and cautious. Practising social distancing, wearing a face mask in crowded places, washing our hands frequently, sanitising our hands and home or work surfaces often, staying alert to the risk of a person to person contact and keeping the immune systems of ourselves and our loved ones as strong as possible are all recommended to reduce the chance of infection and transmission and to overcome this virus that has caused so much panic and, ultimately, changed so many lives. Together we can beat this.