Nutrition COVID-19 spotlight

Supplements & Vitamins for COVID-19: Boost Your Immune System!

Jacqueline Kaminski
Jacqueline Kaminski
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Since the emergence of COVID 19, preventative measures to prevent sickness became everyone’s top priority. By this time, a lot of research has been conducted to identify the best ways to avoid serious complications from contracting this virus. So, is there a special vitamin remedy that can prevent COVID? Or, what are the best supplements to take if you already have COVID?

Well, like every other virus - it all comes down to making sure you have a robust immune system. So, let’s discuss the best vitamins and supplements to take to boost your immune system for COVID.

Check out these other resources to learn more about COVID, supplements, and micronutrients:

supplements For COVID:

Zinc for Covid-19

Zinc plays a central role in the immune system by increasing the body’s ability to fight off infection. Zinc is needed for the normal development and function of cells. Still, it plays a significant role in developing antibodies, specifically neutrophils and natural T killer cells (both are responsible for fighting off viruses). Zinc is also an antioxidant, which means it helps decrease inflammation within cell membranes! (1).

So, is zinc the best supplement for COVID treatment? According to one study released in December of 2020, zinc may potentially reduce the risk of COVID and help shorten the duration and severity of the virus - especially in zinc-deficient populations (2). However, indirect evidence exists to support this claim (2) thoroughly. Although many studies used in this review are still ongoing and suggest that since zinc plays such an essential role in immunity, it is still an important mineral to take.

If you belong to any of the following populations, your need for zinc may be higher, and it would be recommended to talk with a health professional about supplementing:

  • Elderly
  • Consume mainly vegetarian/vegan diet (many plants contain elements that block the uptake of zinc)
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Children
  • People suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes & cardiovascular disease
  • Heavy alcohol consumers

Vitamin C for Covid

We are always told to drink orange juice when we are sick, but why? To increase our levels of Vitamin C, of course! But what role does vitamin C play in our health? Well, vitamin C is a major antioxidant, which means it decreases inflammation within our body. It also acts as a co-factor in many cellular functions that are responsible for developing our immune system.

Vitamin C’s role in immunity was first discovered back in the 1930s when sailors suffered from the scurvy disease. Scurvy was characterized by weakening skin collagen, poor wound healing, impaired immunity, and a significantly increased risk for developing pneumonia. Once they began introducing citrus fruits to sailor’s diets, they discovered many of these symptoms disappeared. Since then, Vitamin C has been used to help prevent and treat sickness.

So is Vitamin C worth taking to prevent COVID? Well yes! Vitamin C is an essential vitamin because the body cannot synthesize it independently - we must obtain it from our diet. Also, when we are sick, the body’s need for Vitamin C increases to help decrease inflammation and meet the increased metabolic demands of the body.

Vitamin C has also been studied for many years on its potential therapeutic effect on respiratory infections. In one review looking at the treatment of COVID with Vitamin C, several studies reported seeing improvements in patients suffering from COVID in that it reduced their reliance on mechanical ventilation and improved recovery from symptoms (5). However, much of the data included in this review were either inconclusive or still pending - and more research on the role of vitamin C in treating COVID is needed.

Vitamin D for Covid

Most of us know to take Vitamin D to help build strong bones, but Vitamin D also plays an essential role in supporting our immune system! Insufficient stores of Vitamin D have been linked with increased susceptibility to infection, and according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Vitamin D is one of the most common deficiencies reported.

Presently, there are no conclusive studies on the efficacy of Vitamin D therapy to treat COVID. However, the main issue with COVID is the presence of associated complications that all cause inflammation (8). Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with increased levels of inflammation — suggesting the importance of its use to help combat infection and disease.

Additional Supplements that can help boost immunity

Melatonin

Melatonin is also known to have anti-inflammatory actions and immune-enhancing features, which has made it a supplement of interest to help treat COVID symptoms.

Additionally, it has a very high safety profile, with doses of 10mg/day showing no adverse effects. In animal studies, the use of melatonin helped decrease viral load and reduced lung damage in respiratory virus models (9). Since systemic inflammation is the underlying cause of COVID, melatonin can help suppress inflammation, help with sleep, and boost the immune system.

Vitamin A & E

Vitamins A & E are both major antioxidants that can help combat inflammation. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many individuals are deficient in these vitamins.

Electrolytes & hydration

When the body is battling a fever, metabolism increases 7% for every degree above 98.7°F! With increased metabolic demands and increased perspiration, fluid intake becomes very important. The addition of electrolytes can help prevent dehydration by increasing water reabsorption. Therefore, when your body is battling fever/virus, it’s essential to make sure you are getting plenty of fluids!

So is there a special supplement cocktail that will prevent COVID or decrease the severity of the virus if you test positive? Unfortunately, the answer to that is no. However, many studies that have observed the therapeutic use of these different vitamins and minerals were the short term and only used them as interventions in populations that were already sick.

It should be important to note that to build a robust immune system, you must take preventative measures by taking these vitamins and minerals over a long period and making sure your diet contains various healthy foods to prevent any deficiencies.

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9701160/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7395818/
  3. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/szentgyorgyi.html
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8065688/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/
  7. https://blog.nasm.org/micronutrients
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7385774/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7102583/ 

The Author

Jacqueline Kaminski

Jacqueline Kaminski

Jackie Kaminski is a registered dietitian/ nutritionist with a Master's degree in Exercise Physiology & Sports Nutrition from Florida State University. Her first introduction to working with professional athletes was back in 2017 when she worked at the UFC performance institute in Las Vegas, Nevada. Since then, Jackie has worked with various professional fighters and other clientele and now operates under her company she started back in March, The Fight Nutritionist LLC. The Fight Nutritionist is dedicated to providing the most effective nutrition plans to ensure her athletes are performance at their absolute best. All of her plans are individualized to the athlete and are backed by the latest research to ensure complete safety and efficacy. Jackie is also a member of the international society of sports nutrition, where she often participates in different research projects and data collection with other ISSN members from Nova University. When Jackie isn’t working, you can find her at Combat Club where she trains kickboxing and Muy Thai. As a sports dietitian, Jackie’s aim is to provide her athletes with the necessary fuel to excel in training and provide the proper education to ensure her athletes are engaging in the safest health practices (as they relate to combat sports).