Nutrition tips to stay healthy in the time of COVID-19:
While we are all fearful about COVID-19 and taking steps to limit exposure to the virus and subsequent spread of the virus, it is important to realise that there is a lot we can do to stay healthy. Our mission is one of empowerment through education and it is with this in mind that we would like to share the following:
- Prevention is key. Limit exposure to potential infection by practicing social distancing. This means, avoid social contact out of the home as much as possible. Avoid groups, gatherings. Shop quickly and disinfect hands with 70% alcohol solution or wash with running water and soap for 20 seconds. Do NOT touch your face or eat without having first washed your face.
- If you are in the low-risk category, remember that you still form a human link in society and can asymptomatically transmit the disease in its fatal form to a loved one who has chronic disease or a suppressed immune system.
- Which chronic diseases put you in the ‘at risk’ group? Thus far, it is found in this Chinese study that “After taking into account the patients’ ages and smoking status, the researchers found that the 399 patients with at least one additional disease (including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hepatitis B, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney diseases, and cancer) had a 79% greater chance of requiring intensive care or a respirator or both, or of dying, they reported last week in a paper posted to medRxiv, a preprint site that posts research before it has been peer-reviewed. The 130 with two or more additional diseases had 2.5 times the risk of any of those outcomes.” If you are in this ‘at risk’ group, be even more careful. Ask a loved one to help you with shopping or errands if at all possible.
- Foods that help the immune system are those that we have always promoted and what we also consume:
Liver is the superfood. High in B vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, copper, folate, iron and selenium among other nutrients, liver is the immune booster of note. Naturally occurring vitamin A is metabolised more easily than those found in supplements. We all know that Vitamin C is helpful to the immune system. Vitamin A is less well know. This article shows the role of vitamin A in enhancing immunity “Vitamin A has both promoting and regulatory roles in both the innate immune system and adaptive immunity; therefore, it can enhance the organism’s immune function and provide an enhanced defense against multiple infectious diseases. Currently, the VitA’s effect on immune function has been studied at the molecular level, and more research is ongoing about the therapeutic effects of VitA on preventing and curing various infectious diseases.” Liver is a great source of vitamin A and something that should be consumed once or twice a week.
Bone broth is another food that can help the immune system. Bearing in mind that 70% of our immune system lives in the gut, gut health of paramount importance at this time. Properly prepared bone broth contains minerals, amino acids like arginine, cysteine and glutamine, as well as collagen and glycosaminoglycans which all help to restore the gut lining, support the growth of beneficial probiotics in the gut and to decrease inflammation and boost immunity.
- Nutritional ketosis has been shown to be very beneficial to the immune system. See this article by Dr Phinney at Virta Health. Therefore, during this time where many fearful emotions may overcome our healthy eating habits, it may help to empower yourself to know how sticking to your nutritional plan may benefit your health.
- On the other hand, a high sugar diet including fructose, but especially refined carbohydrates can be damaging to the immune system. High sugar diets can cause neutrophils which is the first line of defence in our immune system to become less active. High sugar diets also increase intestinal wall permeability and feed the wrong microbes in our GUT. High sugar diets worsen low grade inflammation and cause high levels of hs-CRP which is an inflammatory marker in our blood and a poor health marker.
- Remember to prioritise holistic health. It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the drama. If you educate yourself and make a solid plan for yourself and your family, much of the anxiety can be minimised.
- Prioritise your sleep as much as you what to check in on the latest transmission rates in your area. Solid sleep will help you and your immune system, not to mention your giant army of GUT bacteria, stay strong.
- Remember to do things that help you feel grounded as you go about your day; relax, practice deep breathing, pray, meditate, exercise in the safety of your home, go outside in the sun if you can and if it is safe to do so. You and your close ones will remember this time for a long time. Honour yourself and humanity in this time.
Despite the exciting new therapies being tested in laboratories around the world, there is still no magic pill or cure all for COVID-19. Prevention and a healthy dose of education will go a long way.
Huang Z., Liu Y, Qi G, Brand D, Zheng SG. Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. In: Journal of Clinical Medicine. Published: 6 September 2018 Available here.
Green HN, Mellanby E. Vitamin A As an Anti-Infective Agent. In: The British Medical Journal. Published: 20 October 1928. Available here
Wrenshall LE, Stevens RB, Cerra FB, Platt JL. Modulation of macrophage and B cell function by Glycosaminoglycans. In: Journal of Leukocyte Biology. Volume 66, September 1999. Available here.
Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, Di Cara G, Frati F. Allergy and gastrointestinal system. In The Journal of Translational Immunology: Clinical & Experimental Immunology. 153 (Suppl. 1): 3–6 Available here.
About the author:
Dr Hassina Kajee is co-founder and Medical Director of The Noakes Foundation ‘Eat Better South Africa’ program and was instrumental in overseeing and facilitating the Foundation’s first ever Eat Better South Africa! intervention programme conducted in the Ocean View community. She has since advised on a number of the Foundations subsequent interventions. Her enthusiasm and passion about the LCHF eating science emanates through her. She believes that prevention starts with educating and empowering her patients and the general public with knowledge of the tenets of optimal health including optimal nutrition backed by robust science.
Dr Kajee turned her clinical practice towards chronic disease prevention after years of practicing ‘palliative’ chronic medicine at the tertiary level where she headed up the High Care Unit at Groote Schuur Hospital. She currently practices privately; in addition she advises as Medical Director of Eat Better South Africa, The Nutrition Network and as a director on the Board of The Noakes Foundation. As a wife and mother of 2 young children, she is passionate about preventative health care and believes in supporting prevention as early as possible- at the prenatal level.