Eat for respiratory resilience

It is widely agreed that eating a healthy diet can be one of your body's first lines of defence against illness. It is understandable that many people currently, would like to know what they can do to support their body's natural defences against illness in general.  

It is still early days in understanding this new coronavirus, so finding natural therapies that might help the body's natural defences against this virus specifically are limited. However, we do know that it is a virus which mainly affects the respiratory tract. We also know that it impacts the elderly and immunosuppressed most severely - ageing is one of the critical risk factors in reacting gravely to the infection.

It is associated with an impaired immune system and low-grade systemic inflammation due to nutrient deficiencies. As such, eating foods to build respiratory resilience and supporting longevity may be an essential prevention strategy against viral respiratory diseases.

Here are the critical nutrients identified in scientific evidence which support the immune health of your respiratory tract:

  • Zinc: Zinc has been shown to have antiviral activity and is active with both acute (short term severe) and chronic (long term moderate) viral infections. Studies show that once symptoms start, those who take zinc within 24 hours are more likely to recover quicker.
    The elderly are less likely to have adequate levels of meaning; their defences against viral infections are not as strong. Zinc supplementation is relatively safe, and it is worth considering to prevent more severe illness in those who are vulnerable.
  • Vitamin C: Increasing vitamin C in people who are infected with a virus has been shown to shorten the duration of the illness and prevent further complications. In China, studies are investigating the effect of high dose vitamin C in severe COVID-19 cases. The patients who were given high dose vitamin C vs. those who weren't had better outcomes. If you develop symptoms consider supplementing with vitamin C or eat vitamin C enriched foods such as pepper, kiwi fruit and broccoli.
  • N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): The evidence to support NAC's effect on bolstering the immune system and its antiviral impacts are limited. However, NAC's effect on the body may help prevent the severe onset of viral diseases such as pneumonia. A study involving influenza demonstrated NAC's ability to inhibit viral replication and stop the recruitment or inflammatory molecule called cytokines, which can cause more damage to the respiratory tract and lungs. NAC may also help repair any damage caused by the immune response to the virus. As NAC can become corrosive in the body at high doses, it is best to work with a health practitioner to decide on the right dosage for you, if needed.
  • Vitamin A: There has been some controversy with vitamin A, as its effects are dependent on a person's vitamin A status. In those with nutrient deficiencies increasing vitamin A consumption does support the immune response. However, in those who already have optimal levels of vitamin A, increasing levels of vitamin A can suppress the immune system, so you are more exposed to an attack from a viral pathogen. As such, it is best to consume vitamin A enriched foods through the diet, which comprise organ meat (liver), orange and yellow vegetables, and dried apricots.

Eating to protect yourself against respiratory tract infections is a great way to maintain overall health and wellbeing. Rather than focusing on immune-boosting and getting carried away buying every antioxidant and antimicrobial, you can get your hands on, start simple.

Increase colourful vegetables and fruit in the diet, eat more healthy fats and eat nutrient-dense foods such as organ meats and shellfish to reset and build a resilient and healthy body that is durable for any provocation.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London W1G & Harrogate HG2

Written by V J Hamilton | Autoimmune Disease Expert | BSc (Immunology), DipION, mBANT

London W1G & Harrogate HG2

Victoria is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and member of BANT, focusing on autoimmune disease including skin disorders, heart disease and neurological issues, gut health and fatigue. Victoria has a BSc in Biochemistry & Immunology which she uses in her practice, using only evidence-based nutritional therapies to support chronic conditions.

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