Article by Lindsay Martin, MS, RDN, LDN
As kids head back to school and adults are heading back into the office, life is getting back
to a “normal” routine. But let’s be sure to armer up against all those colds, flu season and now all
the different Covid-19 stands. There are several things we can do to
help protect ourselves from getting Covid- 19 and colds and flus this season.
Because COVID-19 comes with cold and flu-like symptoms, Vitamins B, C and D, as
well as zinc may be helpful in boosting your immune system and fighting the illness in
the same way they can help you get over a cold or flu. Good nutrition can help fight off
almost anything, but it does take good sleeping habits, a good night sleep 7-9 hours
each night, regular exercise routines, and reduced stress to help keep your immune system at its best.
Generally, vitamin C can help you fight a cold faster or ease your cold symptoms if you
are taking it prior to getting sick. As an antioxidant, vitamin C can help reduce
inflammation—and lung inflammation is a severe symptom of COVID-19, which can
lead to respiratory distress and even death. It doesn’t hurt to
start increasing your vitamin C intake now. Try adding lemon to your water, or even add fruits
and vegetables into snacks as much as possible. A great snack to consider would be
bell peppers and hummus– bell peppers are full of vitamin C and hummus
(chickpeas) is a great source of zinc.
The primary function of vitamin D is to help your body maintain optimal blood levels of
calcium and phosphorus, which you can get through exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet
rays, or through foods like dairy.
Getting enough vitamin D can also protect you from respiratory infection. Vitamin
D supplementation significantly decreases the chance of respiratory tract infections,
based on clinical studies published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics.
Vitamin B6 is essential to keeping your immune system in top condition. Be sure to get
enough vitamin B as a supplement, as part of your daily diet. You can easily get your
daily intake from fortified cereals, eggs, cheese, milk, fish, spinach/ kale, and meats.
Popping a zinc throat lozenge or taking an over-the-counter cold remedy with zinc in it
(as a syrup or tablet) helps shorten the length of rhinovirus colds. Zinc also helps
symptoms—nasal congestion, nasal drainage, sore throat, and cough.
Zinc has also been found to help produce and activate T-cells (t-lymphocytes), which
trigger the body to respond to infections, according to the NIH. Zinc helps the body heal
by fighting off bacteria and viruses. It is required for growth, reproduction, metabolism,
and blood clotting. Found in all body tissues, it acts as an antioxidant, blocking free
radical damage and helping control the aging process. Furthermore, we need this
mineral to help produce certain proteins and DNA, so it is essential to get enough each
day to stay healthy and maintain a robust immune system. Many healthy foods contain
enough zinc to meet the daily requirements, naturally.
For a faster recovery, start taking zinc to treat your illness within the first 24 hours of
symptoms. A proper dose of zinc is 75 mg, but beware: taking more than 150mg per
day of zinc could cause zinc toxicity and have a negative impact on your immune
If you’re taking more than one zinc medication, check with your doctor first to prevent
Looking to get higher zinc sources in your diet? Try making your own trail mix with nuts
and seeds like pumpkin seeds and cashews. This can be an excellent snack idea and
easy as an on-the-go option.
There are so many other things to consider as well to keep our immune systems at
peak. Like staying hydrated helps to keep your immune system up and flushing
out toxins our body no longer needs. Proper and regular hand washing helps keep
those germs at bay. Use soap and warm water and sing “happy birthday” to know
you’re washing long enough—that’s a trick I always tell my kids! Find ways to reduce
stress. Let’s face it, stress is inevitable but coping with it is key—going for a
walk, talking with a friend, and meditating are all ways we can reduce the stress in
our lives. Also, get plenty of rest each night—7-9 hours of sleep is the recommendation
which at least 4 of those hours being REM cycle sleep according to the National Sleep