Here is a list of 10 foods and vitamins that might help boost your immune system. Before listing them, the tenuousness of these claims must first be noted. Julie Stefanski says, "The medical profession still doesn't know exactly how to influence the immune system, despite what supplement products may claim”. Furthermore, little of this information is specific to COVID-19, meaning that even if these foods and vitamins do help with other health conditions, there is no guarantee that this will be the case with COVID-19 as well.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C an ascorbic acid and is very good for us. Yalda T Alaoui, founder of Eat Burn Sleep, told the Metro that, “Vitamin C is essential to boost the immune system. Focus on whole foods as juicing makes for a huge nutrient loss. Raw apples, carrots, crudités are packed with vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants. In a supplement form, liposomal vitamin C is more effective as it is slow delivery.” However, with regards to vitamin C’s ability to help fight the coronavirus, Dr. William Schaffner said, “If there’s going to be an advantage, it’s going to be very modest”.
Zinc: According to the Metro, Melissa Snover, founder and CEO of Nourished, claimed, “This is necessary for a healthy immune system. A lack of zinc can make a person more susceptible to disease and illness. This essential nutrient helps maintain the body’s ability to make new cells and enzymes, process carbohydrate, fat and protein in food and also increases the speed of healing muscles and wounds. Some evidence also suggests that zinc is helpful in the prevention of colds and viruses and minimises symptoms for allergy and hay fever sufferers.” With regards to the current pandemic, Dr. Mark J. Mulligan has said that there is no evidence that Zinc will help fight COVID-19.
Fermented Foods: According to the Metro, Sara Davenport, health expert and author of Reboot Your Health, states, “If you like sauerkraut, miso, kefir and their immune-boosting relatives, add just a spoonful or two each day to your diet. Fermented foods encourage the growth of good bacteria in your gut and when their levels are high, so are your immune levels, defending you from viral infections. With sauerkraut, avoid shop-bought which is likely to have been pasteurised by heating and stuffed with sugar, which will kill the bacteria off and make it generally unhealthy. Instead, make your own by grating raw cabbage and putting in a jar to ferment with salt.”
Ginger: Ginger is an antioxidant believed to fight off cold and flu symptoms, as well as nausea. A 2013 study showed that fresh, and not dry, ginger, assists in boosting the respiratory system against HRSV. The Metro claim that Euan MacLennan, herbal director at Pukka Herbs and medical herbalist at an NHS practice in London, said that ginger is a “warming herb, known as “the universal medicine”, in Ayurveda. Ginger stimulates defensive responses in the upper respiratory and digestive mucosa helping the body fend off infections. I would recommend ginger for bacterial and viral infections such as colds, flu, chest infections and sore throats.”
Elderberry Tincture: Sara Davenport claims, “Viruses clad themselves in sharp spikes, to protect themselves and to attack and enable them to overrun your healthy cells. Research has shown that protective compounds in elderberries wipe out those spikes in a couple of days, preventing any further spreading of the virus – hence its nickname the ‘virus terminator’. An Israeli study, looking at viruses and the efficacy of elderberry syrup, showed that those who took a daily dose recovered far more quickly than the control group – 20% were better within 24 hours, 70% in 48 hours, and 90% had recovered completely in three days.” However, with regards to COVID-19, Abby Langer says, “"There is nothing on elderberry and its effects on coronavirus or COVID-19, which we all should know by now is nothing like cold and flu”.
Bone Broth: Yalda T Alaoui says, “Bone broth is full of L-Glutamine, an essential amino acid that the body cannot manufacture and can only get from foods. Glutamine supports cells repair, including the intestinal tract wall. A healthy and sealed gut is essential for a strong immune system.”
Garlic: Garlic was initially used for medicinal purposes before it became popular in food recipes. It is high in immune-boosting compounds like fibre, vitamin B6 and C. Sara Davenport states, “Garlic is a potent anti-viral, anti-fungal agent, and eating it raw, or as an uncooked puree alongside your normal food (add it to salad dressings) will wipe-out most miscreants.” A study in which participants ate garlic or a placebo, found that 63% of those who had the garlic were quicker to recover and were less likely to get a recurrent cold. Despite this, according to the World Health Organisation, “there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.”
Beta Glucan: Melissa Snover claims, “This is a soluble fibre, comes from yeasts. It can positively stimulate your immune system, reinforcing it against ailments like asthma, allergies, Crohn’s disease, and more.” However, research investigating whether it can improve the immune system is inconclusive.
Mushrooms: Euan MacLennan says, “There are approximately 400 species of fungi that have been identified with medicinal properties, and many have antiviral, antimicrobial or anti-inflammatory qualities. Mushrooms are high in beta glucans – natural substances found to help “prime” our immune system, making sure it’s ready for action to fight off infection.”
Andrographis: This is an anti-inflammatory herb. Euan MacLennan states, “Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote the production of antibodies and reduce the severity of infection, andrographis contains compounds that rally the immune system to fight effectively against invaders such as viruses.” However, there is a lack of conclusive scientific proof that it can fight off colds or flu.