Diet and Coronavirus Covid-19

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coronavirus covid 19 and diet

There is a lot of misinformation flying around about Covid-19, some of it relating to diet and nutrition. I would like to attempt to clear some of the fog and share some information from reliable sources (listed below).

The first line of defense is social distancing, which all of us are now practicing. Even at home we should continue the practices of hand washing and covered coughing/sneezing. Disinfect touched surfaces often. Reduce the spread, flatten the curve and reduce deaths.1

Reducing the spread is a responsibility for every single one of us. But that doesn’t mean we have to just sit at home and wait to get sick. We can do our best to make sure we are in our best shape health wise. This will give us the best chance to fight the virus if we catch it, to make a full recovery, and to be available to help other people that might need it over the coming weeks and months.

We talk about eating certain foods to boost our immune systems. In reality, our immune systems boost themselves in response to a perceived threat – like an infection and sometimes in overreaction – like in an autoimmune condition. There is no food or supplement that acts as a switch to boost it. So a boosted immune system is not exactly what we are after. 6

We want to support and optimise the normal functioning of the immune system 2

Many nutrients in food are involved in the functioning of the immune system including:

Nutrient Sources

 

Vitamin A Liver, whole milk, cheese, butter and many reduced fat spreads (retinol). Carrots, dark green leafy vegetables and orange-coloured fruits, (carotenoids).
Folate Green leafy vegetables, brown rice, peas, oranges, bananas and fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin B6     Poultry, white fish, milk, eggs, whole grains, soya beans, peanuts and some vegetables.
Vitamin B12 Meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, yeast extract and fortified breakfast cereals are all dietary sources.
Vitamin C Fresh fruits especially citrus fruits and berries; green vegetables, peppers and tomatoes and potatoes.
Vitamin D Sunlight is the main source. Food sources oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals, meat and fat spreads.

**10ug/day supplementation is recommended in winter**

Vitamin E Vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Copper Shellfish, liver, kidney, nuts and wholegrain cereals.
Iron     Liver, red meat, pulses, nuts, eggs, dried fruits, poultry, fish, whole grains and dark green leafy vegetables are all sources of iron
Selenium Brazil nuts, bread, fish, meat and eggs.
Zinc Meat, milk, cheese, eggs, shellfish, wholegrain cereals, nuts and pulses.

A healthy balanced diet including a variety of foods including those listed above is the best way to support our immune system from a dietary perspective. Use the healthy eating guidelines 4 and the food pyramid 5 to make sure you are eating the right amounts of the right foods.

 

Supplements

There are NO supplements you can buy, either online or anywhere else that will either prevent or cure Covid-19. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is at best mistake, at worst lying to you.

Supplements are only useful where there is a deficiency in a nutrient. For example, Vitamin D – as it is made in the skin using sunlight many of us are deficient in the winter months and a supplement of 10ug/day is recommended.

If your feel your diet is not as good as it should be, it is no harm to take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.

It is a good idea to have a working thermometer in the house and paracetamol, should you need it.

 

Supplements and older adults

We know that older adults are at particular risk to Covid-19. The International Society for Immunonutrition (ISIN) has pointed out that a diverse and well-balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables is the best source of antioxidants. But specifically, in relation to older adults it may be best to increase the intake of certain nutrients (Zinc and Vitamins C, D and E) to dosages higher than RDA but below harmful levels. 7

 

If you are self-isolating at home because you have tested positive for Covid-19 2

First and foremost, contact your GP/HSE and follow their medical advice.

It is important to continue to eat a healthy diet to enhance your recovery and hydration is vital. Try to consume at least 2L water every day.

When appetite is poor, try to consume soups, smoothies and again lots of water. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of hydration as well as the nutrients you need to get better.

 

Breastfeeding and Covid-19 2

According to BDA, there is as yet no evidence that Covid-19 can be carried in breast milk. The risk is in the close contact between mother and baby:

  • Hands to be washed before touching baby
  • Any coughing or sneezing should be covered completely
  • Consider using a pump an allowing someone else to feed baby
  • Use strict hygiene with breast pump apparatus

 

Shopping and food deliveries

Bear in mind good hygiene practices. If shopping, follow the social distancing guidelines.

When food gets to your house – either by yourself or someone else consider what may be contaminated. Disinfect bag handles, food packaging, etc. Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly. Evidence suggests cooking kills coronavirus but be more aware of washing foods to be consumed raw.8

Remember, diet is only a part of the immune system. Exercise, sleep and stress management are the other vital factors we all need to be looking after at this difficult time.

 

References:

  1. https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/protect-yourself.html
  2. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/covid-19-corona-virus-advice-for-the-general-public.html
  3. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/vitamins.html?limit=1&limitstart=0
  4. https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/healthwellbeing/our-priority-programmes/heal/healthy-eating-guidelines/
  5. https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/healthwellbeing/our-priority-programmes/heal/food-pyramid-images/food-pyramid-simple-version.pdf
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-supplements-help-boost-your-immune-system
  7. http://www.immunonutrition-isin.org/docs/isinComunicadoCovid19.pdf
  8. https://www.fsai.ie/faq/coronavirus.html