Can improving defenses help us fight the Coronavirus?

During the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) that we are experiencing in recent months, several questions related to food have been raised: what do we have to eat, what diet can help us maintain a strong immune system and if there really is or there are no foods that increase our defenses. For this reason, in the following article we are going to see what are the nutrients involved in our immune system  and how a correct diet and a healthy lifestyle can help keep it strong and healthy.

Nutrients and immunity

The immune system is in charge of protecting us from those microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi) that are harmful to our health. That is why it is essential to keep it healthy and strong. This immune system is modulated by different vitamins (A, B6, B9, B12, C, D and E) and minerals (Zinc, Selenium, Copper and Iron), which are indispensable helpers of its correct maintenance and operation 1,2,3  as well as proteins that will be necessary for the formation of the antibodies themselves and the dietary fiber, due to its anti-inflammatory effect 2 .

That is why having a healthy diet, which provides us with all the necessary nutrients, and avoiding those foods that are not, is essential to ensure a good state of health of our immune system. The immune system will be in charge of actively fighting against infection, in this case against COVID-19.

It is important to emphasize that a food alone will not help us fight infection, but it will be the set of nutrients that we obtain from food that will help the correct functioning of our immune system , and this will be in charge of fighting the infection . But it will not be the food as such that will prevent or cure the infection.

As we can see, there are a multitude of nutrients that will directly or indirectly influence our immune system. This can lead us to think that if we eat large amounts of these nutrients we will boost our immunity . This does not work at all like this: if we start from an optimal state of health without any type of deficiency, no matter how much the amount of these nutrients increases by abusing certain supplements, that will not improve the immune system , but in some cases the opposite effect can happen and compromise our immune system 4 or produce other types of effects on our health.

An example would be the case of vitamin A, an excess of this vitamin in the short term can cause symptoms such as nausea, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, dizziness, dry skin, peeling and brain edema 5 .

The best thing we can do to keep our immune system in check is to obtain the different nutrients from food, from a healthy diet. This will provide us with enough of these nutrients without the need to resort to any type of supplement.

In the only case that supplementation in any micronutrient would be recommended, it will be in those cases where there is a diagnosed deficiency of the nutrient in question, with prior analysis and with a medical prescription, when there is a risk of deficiency or that the requirements are increased, for example , folic acid supplementation in pregnant women . 

Actions to modify that will improve your immunity

Now, what can we do? There are different situations, actions and decisions that we make every day that can compromise our immunity. In general, we focus on the foods and supplements that we can take to improve health, looking for some type of food or miracle pill that counteracts all the unhealthy habits that we must avoid in our day to day life. Instead, we must emphasize the foods and actions that we can modify so as not to harm our health. Suppressing certain habits and foods are key to ensuring a strong and healthy immune system.

Next, we are going to see what daily actions we can change and avoid, and that have a direct positive impact on our immune system:

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