The immune system has many protective and signaling functions which require an adequate availability of micronutrients to maintain a healthy immune response. Diet deficiencies of many of these necessary micronutrients, including zinc, are often found in the elderly and immune compromised. The Nutri-Facts article titled Micronutrients and the immune system states “The nutrients collaborate and complement each other in the diverse processes of the immune system”. It is crucial that we ingest an adequate supply of healthy foods with diverse micronutrients to maintain a healthy immune response. Many drugs are associated with the depletion of nutrients that are necessary for a health immune system. Corticosteroids like cortisone and prednisone cause increased zinc excretion. Homemade soups with a large variety of quality ingredients are an excellent way to get a diverse array of immune supporting micronutrients.
According to the Frontiers in Immunology article Immunosenescence (immune decline) and Its Hallmarks: How to Oppose Aging Strategically,
“The close connection between nutrition, intake of bioactive nutrients and supplements, immune function, and inflammation demonstrate the key role of dietary strategies as regulators of immune response and inflammatory status, hence as possible modulators of the rate of immunosenescence. The link between aging and disease is in part a reflection of the functional changes in the immune system of older people”.
The Blue Zones research article, Boost Your Energy and Immunity with These 13 Super “Blue” Foods, reports that you can improve your immunity by making changes in your diet. A diet focused on beans, greens, sweet potatoes, nuts, olive oil, oats, barley, fruits, green or herb teas, turmeric, garlic, shitake mushrooms and goats milk; can boost your immunity. The Blue Zones Solution lays out a proven plan to maximize your health based on the practices of the world’s healthiest people. Dan Buettner reveals how to transform your health using smart eating and lifestyle habits gleaned from new research on the diets, eating habits, and lifestyle practices of the communities he’s identified as blue zones—those places with the world’s longest-lived, and thus healthiest, people. The Blue Zones diet is naturally high in zinc. Visit the Blue Zones website to read more at https://www.bluezones.com/2020/03/boost-your-energy-and-immunity-with-these-13-super-blue-foods/.
Zinc and Immune Function Research:
Recent research into the prevention and treatment of the current virus indicate that patients who had healthy zinc blood levels naturally and through supplementation during treatment had better recovery results. A study of serum zinc levels and current virus recovery and survival:
“The study data clearly show that a significant number of COVID-19 patients were zinc deficient. These zinc deficient patients developed more complications, and the deficiency was associated with a prolonged hospital stay and increased mortality.”
An interesting review of a study of patients with the virus in Spain and India showed a significant difference between serum zinc levels at the onset of the virus between the two countries. Could diet be a factor? How is the Indian diet different than the Spanish Diet? The Indian diet consists of a variety of foods including legumes and seeds with significant levels of zinc as well as the addition of herbs and spices, which help to add to their zinc levels.
Although zinc is a necessary immune ingredient, supplementation is not always the recommended source according to the Harvard School of Public Health. If you are planning to start supplementing with zinc, please consult with your regular healthcare provider, a nutritional consultant and your pharmacist to ensure you will not be compromising your iron and copper levels.
“Zinc is available in supplement form as pills and lozenges. Excess zinc can interfere with the absorption of iron and copper. High doses can also cause nausea and even vomiting. Therefore it is important not to take supplemental zinc unless it is known that the diet is low in foods containing zinc or a zinc deficiency is confirmed.” Consult a qualified nutritional consultant to guide you in improving your serum zinc levels through diet. You can find a list of foods that naturally provide zinc at the Harvard School of Public Health.
There is much controversy over natural supplements that could help with the present virus. Here are some insights on how to safely proceed using herbs in your natural response to the virus, without contributing to the dangerous cytokine storm:
“Caution may be advisable with herbal agents such as Echinacea and Elderberry which may stimulate TNF and other cytokines. However, this danger is unclear. More important is the addition of herbs that down-regulate dangerous cytokines while also exhibiting antiviral effects (for instance, St. John’s wort, Baikal Scullcap, Salvia milthiorrhiza, Ginger, Turmeric).”1
Always proceed with caution and consult with your regular healthcare practitioner and local public health authority as you add natural strategies.
Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C., C.B.C., Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Health by Design, www.mybodycanhealitself.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org
Author of The Whole Person Well-being Equation