17 Best Nutrients and Supplements for Your Immune System to Fight Against the 2019 Coronavirus? (Evidence Based)
While many people are worried about the latest Coronavirus or COVID-19, there are several things you can do (and not do) to improve your immune system. Your immune system is your first line of defence against the coronavirus, not the treatments you would get from the hospitals. That's your last line of defence.
As of May 13, 2020, there are more than 850 clinical trials of COVID-19 treatments or vaccines that are either ongoing or recruiting patients have been registered. New ones are being added every day. The drugs or treatments being tested range from repurposed flu treatments to failed ebola drugs, to stem cell therapy, to malaria treatments that were first developed decades ago. Most of these treatments under clinical trials are still dependent on the immune system to win the battle against the SARS-Cov-2 virus. The anti-virals will reduce the viral load so that it's easier for the immune system to fight against the virus, a vaccine is supposed to stimulate the immune system to develop a specific antibody against this virus and some treatments are meant to control the immune system so that it doesn't go into overdrive i.e. cytokine storm.
Can nutrients and supplements help against COVID-19? Research has shown that supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals and other substances can improve immune response and potentially protect against illness.
However, note that some supplements can interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Some may not be appropriate for people with certain health conditions. If you are on medications, be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any supplements.
This guide can help you make sense of the options and to separate the facts from fiction. Here is the list.
1. Vitamin C
Most people turn to vitamin C after they've caught a cold. Because your body doesn't produce or store it, you need daily vitamin C for continued health. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.
Vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections by enhancing various immune cell functions. Prophylactic prevention of infection requires dietary vitamin C intakes that provide at least adequate, if not saturating plasma levels (i.e., 100–200 mg/day), which optimize cell and tissue levels. In contrast, treatment of established infections requires significantly higher (gram) doses of the vitamin to compensate for the increased metabolic demand. (PubMed).
A large review of 29 studies in 11,306 people demonstrated that regularly supplementing with vitamin C at an average dose of 1–2 grams per day reduced the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children (PubMed).
Interestingly, the review also demonstrated that regularly taking vitamin C supplements reduced common cold occurrence in individuals under high physical stress, including marathon runners and soldiers, by up to 50% (PubMed, PubMed).
Additionally, high dose intravenous vitamin C treatment has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in people with severe infections, including sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) resulting from viral infections (PubMed, PubMed).
However, note that taking large doses of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) on a regular basis lowers your level of copper, so if you are already deficient in copper and take high doses of vitamin C, you can compromise your immune system.
On Feb 11, 2020, a study on "Vitamin C Infusion for the Treatment of Severe 2019-nCoV Infected Pneumonia” was posted to ClinicalTrials.gov by Chinese researchers.
As of Mar 28, 2020, there were 2 new studies related to Vitamin C for COVID-19 on clinicaltrials.gov. One in Italy and the other in Saudi Arabia.
On the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, there is another new trial registered on Vitamin C and COVID-19: A randomized, open, controlled trial for diammonium glycyrrhizinate enteric-coated capsules combined with vitamin C tablets in the treatment of common novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19).
Time will tell what the outcome will be.
2. Vitamin D
In a 2019 review of randomized control studies in 11,321 people from 14 countries, supplementing with vitamin D significantly decreased the risk of respiratory infections in people deficient in this vitamin and lowered infection risk in those with adequate vitamin D levels (PubMed).
A study that was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2016, revealed that
elderly patients who had high doses of the Vitamin D3 were 40 per cent less likely to develop lung infections. Pneumonia, bronchitis and influenza are known to have higher death rates among older people because of their weakened immune system. Experts believe vitamin D helps to reinforce the first line of defense as people age, to prevent acute respiratory infections.
As for the dosage, anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D per day is sufficient for most people, though those with more serious deficiencies often require much higher doses (PubMed).
Buy Online: You can purchase Vitamin D as a dietary supplement online and from local health stores i.e. Guardian and Watsons.
Numerous studies reveal that zinc supplements may protect against respiratory tract infections like the common cold (PubMed, PubMed). Zinc has also been shown in a lab study to inhibit regular coronavirus (not the current SARS-CoV-2) in a 2010 publication.
What’s more, supplementing with zinc may be beneficial for those who are already sick.
In a 2019 study in 64 hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRTIs), taking 30 mg of zinc per day decreased the total duration of infection and the duration of the hospital stay by an average of 2 days, compared with a placebo group (PubMed).
Supplemental zinc may also help reduce the duration of the common cold (PubMed).
Excessive doses may interfere with copper absorption, which could compromise your immune system.
You can purchase Zinc as a dietary supplement online and from local health stores i.e. Guardian and Watsons.
Garlic has shown promise as a treatment for preventing colds and the flu.
One study gave 146 healthy volunteers either garlic supplements or a placebo for three months. The garlic group had a 63% lower risk of getting a cold, and their colds were also 70% shorter (PubMed).
Another study found that colds were on average 61% shorter for subjects who ate 2.56 grams of aged garlic extract per day, compared to a placebo group. Their colds were also less severe (PubMed).
You can purchase garlic as a dietary supplement online and from local health stores i.e. Guardian and Watsons.
A study published in 2020 by the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Labs used the most powerful IBM supercomputer to model which FDA approved compounds or supplements might interfere with the coronavirus binding to cells. To review, the coronavirus uses the ACE 2 (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme) receptor to enter cells. Once in a cell, the coronavirus virus empties its RNA contents and hijacks the cell to start producing more viruses. So preventing the coronavirus from binding to the ACE 2 receptor is a good thing as it means the virus can’t get into your cells. The study modeled various compounds and at number 5 on the list as those that has the potential to block the virus was Quercetin.
A 2004 study showed that Quercetin blocked the entry of another SARS coronavirus into cells. A 2012 study basically concluded the same thing (PubMed). This coronavirus is called SARS-CoV-2 and is different from the others in its family. So has Quercetin been shown to do anything that prevents this novel virus from entering cells? A lab study in 2020 that has yet to be peer-reviewed, demonstrated that Quercetin and other compounds showed promise in blocking the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus from entering cells.
You can purchase Quercetin as a dietary supplement online at Lazada Malaysia.
6. Molecular Hydrogen
Molecular hydrogen has been shown to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Yes, we are referring to the hydrogen gas (H2) and not some fancy new chemical entity. It was discovered and reported in Nature in 2007 by a team in Japan, that inhaled hydrogen gas could act as an antioxidant and protect the brain from free radicals. This sparked the interest in its potential health benefits worldwide and led to many published and on-going clinical research.
Published in 2017, a group of researchers in China suggested that hydrogen-rich solution therapy may be a safe, reliable, and effective treatment for Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome (MODS) induced by influenza and other viral infectious diseases (Ref).
A review in 2019 that included 113 references, has also focused on the potential mechanisms of molecular hydrogen against sepsis to provide a theoretical basis for clinical treatment (PubMed).
H2 selectively reduces peroxynitrites and hydroxyl radicals. This gives H2 a significant advantage over other antioxidants such as vitamin C, which act indiscriminately with superoxide and nitric oxide — both of which also have important and beneficial functions. H2 does not interact with either superoxide or nitric oxide. The only thing H2 can react with are the most dangerous ROS such as peroxynitrites and hydroxyl radicals (Nature in 2007).
Luteolin is a common flavonoid abundantly present in several plant products, including broccoli, pepper, thyme, and celery. Studies have shown that luteolin possesses beneficial neuroprotective effects both in vitro and in vivo. It also has antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties.
The IBM Modelling Study as mentioned above also studied other compounds and at number 3 on the list as those that has the potential to block the virus was Luteolin.
Turmeric and especially its most active compound curcumin have many scientifically-proven health benefits, such as the potential to prevent heart disease, Alzheimer's and cancer. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and animal studies indicate that it may help improve immune function (PubMed).
A lab study in 2020 that has yet to be peer-reviewed, demonstrated that Curcumin and other compounds showed promise in blocking the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus from entering cells.
You can purchase Turmeric as a dietary supplement online and from local health stores i.e. Guardian and Watsons.
On the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, a study on probiotics for the treatment of COVID-19 was posted on Feb 18, 2020.
Lipoic Acid (often called Alpha-lipoic acid) is an organic compound found in all human cells.
It’s made inside the mitochondrion — also known as the powerhouse of cells — where it helps enzymes turn nutrients into energy (PubMed).
Alpha-lipoic acid is both water- and fat-soluble, which allows it to work in every cell or tissue in the body. Meanwhile, most other antioxidants are either water- or fat-soluble (PubMed).
A 2019 review of 4 randomized control studies in 180 people found that elderberry supplements significantly reduced upper respiratory symptoms caused by viral infections (PubMed).
In a compelling article in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, Mark McCarty of the Catalytic Longevity Foundation, San Diego, CA, USA, and James DiNicolantonio, PharmD, a cardiovascular research scientist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, MO, propose that certain nutraceuticals may help provide relief to people infected with encapsulated RNA viruses such as influenza and coronavirus. According to the authors, "Given that elderberry is a very rich source of anthocyanins, there is reason to suspect that its impact on viruses might be mediated, at least in part, by ferulic acid, a prominent metabolite that appears in plasma following anthocyanin ingestion."
In the same article in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases as mentioned above, the authors wrote, "Since selenium is an essential cofactor for certain peroxidases, and selenium deficiency has been endemic in certain regions of China and other parts of the world, insuring adequacy of selenium nutrition might also be appropriate in this context. Selenium deficiency also increases the rate at which viruses can mutate, promoting the evolution of strains that are more pathogenic and capable of evading immune surveillance."
Resveratrol is a powerful plant compound found in grapes, berries and red wine. This immune nutrient acts as an antioxidant and helps to optimize your immune system. Resveratrol may also help to calm a cytokine storm. In one animal experiment mice were given superantigen staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB), in order to induce lung inflammation. SEB can lead to respiratory failure and treatment options are limited to supportive care.
The study has found that the administration of resveratrol had anti-inflammatory benefits on pulmonary inflammation. The study has shown that resveratrol may be effective in suppressing the potent immune responses induced by a superantigen and may help to reduce the risk of acute lung inflammation.
These findings are incredibly exciting when it comes to the prevention and treatment of respiratory infections.
14. EGCG (EpiGalloCatechin Gallate)
EGCG is a powerful plant compound and immune nutrient primarily found in green tea. It is known for its many health benefits. This immune nutrient is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants. It may help to lower oxidative stress, decrease inflammation, improve heart health, support brain health, and aid weight loss. Research on COVID-19 treatment and prevention found it to be potentially beneficial (Healthline).
The study we’ve discussed under the curcumin section found that EGCG among other herbs may show benefits as a potential treatment for COVID-19. The study also indicated that EGCG may also act as a COVID-19 inhibitor, and recommends it for further treatment and drug treatment research.
EGCG ranked number one against all proteins, including 6lu7, 6lvn, 6vw1, 6vsb, 6vww, 6lxt, and 6yte of COVID-19. The study suggests taking 800 mg of EGCG or 16.67 gm of green tea a day. Brew it for 3 minutes in boiling water. Let it cool a bit then drink it 3 to 4 times a day every 4.5 hours.
Beta-glucans are beta-D-glucose polysaccharides that are naturally found in the cell walls of cereals, bacteria, and fungi. They have been used for a number of issues, including the flu, swine flu, digestive issues, ear infections, allergies, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and more. It is not surprising that research on COVID-19 prevention looked into beta-glucans for its potential benefits (WebMD).
The study we’ve discussed under the curcumin section found that beta-glucan among other herbs may show benefits as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Beta-glucan ranked number three against 6lu7, number four against 6vww, and number five against 6y2e.
You can get beta glucans in medicinal mushrooms such as Cordyceps, Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake. These are great things to include in your diet and to supplement with.
You may know about melatonin as a supplement that can support your healthy sleep cycle. Assisting sleep and rest is already an immune system-supporting benefit, but melatonin has more to offer. It is a powerful antioxidant that supports your immune health, brain, eyes, digestion, and more. It may even be helpful when it comes to COVID-19.
One recent paper discussed that melatonin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative molecule that may be protective against acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This is important because most serious complications of COVID-19 happen because of a cytokine storm that can lead to ALI, ARDS, and even death.
The paper notes that melatonin is a safe supplement that has already shown benefits for other viral infections and may be helpful for cases of COVID-19 by calming the cytokine storm.
Most recently, the paper (Ref) “COVID-19: Potential of Microalgae Derived Natural Astaxanthin as Adjunctive Supplement in Alleviating Cytokine Storm,” published April 21, 2020, on the research library website SSRN, addresses the use of astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant supplement derived from microalgae. The full paper is downloadable from the link.
As explained in this paper, astaxanthin has a very unique molecular structure that allows it to penetrate the bilayer membrane of cells. The ability to quench reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals in both the inner and outer layers of the cellular membrane allows it to provide superior protection against oxidative stress, compared to other antioxidants.
Vitamin E and beta-carotene, for example, only work in the inner side of the membrane, and vitamin C only works on the outer side.
Please take note that the dosages for micronutrients are higher for treatment as opposed to maintenance. This is probably due to higher demand or the deficiency of the micronutrients are worse during a complicated viral infection. However, for prevention or maintenance, the dosages for most of the micronutrients are much lower.
Aside from supplements, there are other ways that may help improve immune response and to prevent you from catching the coronavirus.
- Wear protective face mask. This is to protect not only yourself but others.
- Abundant evidence suggests that eating whole in fruits, vegetables and whole grains—all rich in networks of naturally occurring antioxidants and their helper molecules—provides protection against free radicals.
- Getting Enough Sleep
- Avoid Sugar
- Don't smoke.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Try to minimize stress.
- Drink enough water to keep your body hydrated.
- Avoid excess alcohol.
- Regular physical activity (outdoor activities may not be allowed in countries with 'lock-down').
For those with a weakened immune system, existing heart or lung problem and the elderly, please see your doctor immediately if you suspect that you have been infected by the Coronavirus. If you have high blood pressure, please make sure that your blood pressure is well controlled, as the fever will likely to increase the blood pressure, raising your probability of getting a heart attack or a stroke.