“I’m so afraid of getting the Covid-19 virus!” “What can I do to protect myself?” These are the thoughts on the minds of so many people during these uncertain times of the pandemic. It doesn’t matter if we are rich, poor, famous, male, female or a child. We are all susceptible to this equalizer that can invade a human body regardless of race, color, status or creed. We feel helpless and wonder what more we can do to protect ourselves. We are told to wear masks, wash hands well, and social distance.
Well, there IS more we can do. We can eat foods known to strengthen our immunity and thus help
our bodies fight the virus.
What we know:
-The virus binds itself to cells using a protein on the surface of the cells called ACE-2. ACE-2 is an entry receptor for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for coronavirus disease 19 (COVID 19). These ACE2 receptors are found throughout the body in blood vessels; on olfactory bulbs that provide a sense of smell; on kidneys in the gastrointestinal tract, and even in the brain.
-Covid-19 is a vascular disease because it affects the endothelium present in the lungs and organs of the body. Even if one recovers, it often leaves a “tail” of other symptoms that can go on for weeks and months causing various degrees of dysfunction.
-We know that people with underlying medical conditions are more susceptible to the severity of the disease. This means their immunity may already be compromised.
-The virus has an affinity for fat cells, making people with Diabetes Type 2 and obesity more likely to be more severely affected.
-When the virus infects a cell, it tricks it into replicating itself thus producing symptoms.
But we do know that:
The body is always working to heal itself. When a virus invades the body, our bodies normally work to fight them off with NK (Natural Killer) cells which are large granular lymphocytes (LGL) that help our bodies to provide a rapid response to virus-infected cells. They are known to play vital roles in controlling and eliminating both virally-infected and cancer cells. The more NK cells, the stronger is our immunity to fight a virus.
The Good News: Foods known to enhance our immunity
Here are foods that through randomized controlled trials have been found to enhance our NK cells thus giving us a better chance to fight off the virus? These foods are known to enhance our immunity.
Broccoli Sprouts: The University of North Carolina, University Children’s Hospital Basel, Stanford University, enrolled 29 healthy volunteers. They ate 2 cups of broccoli sprouts in a shake (or placebo) daily for 4 days. Sprout eaters had 22 times more NK T cells and more killing power. They had fewer flu virus in the nose.
(Müller L, Meyer M, Bauer RN, et al. Effect of broccoli sprouts and live attenuated influenza virus on peripheral blood natural killer cells: a randomized double-blind study. PLoS One. January 28, 2016;11(1):e0147742. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147742.)
Blueberries: In a small randomized placebo controlled study of 25 well-trained runners to test the anti-oxidant anti-inflammatory, T-cells and natural killer (NK) cells after eating 250 mg. (1 cup) of blueberries daily for 6 weeks before a 2.5 hour run. The results showed significant increases in NK cells in the subjects consuming the blueberries relative to the controls who did not consume blueberries daily as well as acute ingestion significantly reducing markers of oxidative stress &; increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines. (McAnutty, Lisa et al, Effect of blueberry
ingestion natural killer cell counts, oxidative stress, and inflammation prior to and after 2.5 h of running.
Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2011: 36: 976.)
Cranberries: Consumption of cranberry polyphenols enhances human gamma-delta T cell proliferation by 3.2 fold &; reduces the number of symptoms associated with colds and influenza by 16% in 54 healthy subjects in a randomized, placebo-controlled intervention study. (Nantz etal Nutrition Journal 2013. 12:161
Mushrooms: Dietary intake of white button mushroom (WBM) (Agaricus bisporus) accelerates salivary immunoglobulin A secretion in healthy volunteers. Secretory IgA acts as the first line of adaptive
humoral immune defense at mucosal surfaces when fighting infections including viruses, Be sure to eat the stems that are full of immune boosting power. (Sang Chul Jeong PhD, (www.nutritionjrnl.com =journal homepage Nutrition 28 (2012 527-531) A small study (20 persons)showing that adding !/3 cup/day of WBM x 1 wk caused a 144% increase in salivary IgA which remained elevated x 2wk.)
There is ample evidence that there are a variety of whole natural unprocessed plant foods that can be helpful in improving your overall immune status as well as decreasing the chances of a severe infection from Covid-19 without any adverse effects. So why not eat them?