Nutrition and Covid-19 infections

Health 101
18-01-2022
  

Nutrition and Covid-19 infections

What role do nutrients play in the prevention of Covid-19?

Pandemic or not, food has always been a source of nutrition and energy. It is essential to focus on consuming a wholesome diet to stay fit and healthy. Given the current scenario where Covid-19 has become rampant as a global pandemic, it is even more crucial to ensure healthy eating. Your diet plays an important role in your health and immunity.

Although taking proper sanitary precautions is extremely important, what’s crucial is ensuring your body is able and ready to fight off this infectious virus. Read on and equip your body with proper immunity!

 

How does COVID 19 affect our vital organs?

 One of the main organs the virus affects is our lungs. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they release respiratory droplets, and if we come into contact with them, the virus settles itself on our mucous membrane lining our upper respiratory tract. The virus then starts replicating and infects the healthy cells. As it spreads lower and lower, it reaches our lower respiratory tract and eventually our lungs.1

 Imagine your respiratory tract like an upside-down tree. The trunk acts as your trachea which then forms smaller branches and at the end of these branches, you’ll find tiny air sacs called alveoli. This is where your blood exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide. When the virus enters the lung, it invades your alveoli and causes pneumonia making the lung inflamed and hence difficult to breathe.

With our lungs damaged, not enough oxygen is produced to reach the heart muscles, preventing it from pumping enough oxygen to other tissues in our body. This overworks our heart and injures our heart tissues. Also, when our body responds to the virus through inflammation, it may cause damage to the heart muscles leading to a reduced pumping ability and heart failure. This damage is more likely to occur in patients that are already having heart conditions.2

 

How does strong immunity help to fight the virus?

When our immune system is strong, our body can detect foreign pathogens such as the Covid-19 virus and it can attack them before the virus gets a chance to establish itself in our body so we must build strong immunity through these immunity boosters.

 

Drinking water

The first step to keeping our respiratory tract healthy is by drinking lots of water, staying hydrated keeps our lungs lubricated, and prevents irritation. It also removes toxins from our bodies and prevents infections.



 

Proteins

They’re not just for bodybuilders and weight lifters, they’re for you and me too. Did you know besides water and fat, our body is almost entirely made up of proteins? Proteins promote the synthesis of glutathione which is formed by combining the amino acids glycine, glutamic acid, and cysteine. Glutathione ensures our body’s T-cells are functioning properly, these are a kind of white blood cells that attack invaders that cause infection. Glutathione also activates natural killer cells which are responsible for killing the virally infected cells and keeping our bodies safe.

Another reason protein is really important for our immunity is because our immune system produces antibodies which are made up of proteins to attack foreign invaders. Without proteins, our bodies wouldn’t have enough antibodies to destroy these pathogens.

Sources of protein

  • Lean meats
  • Poultry
  • Dairy
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans

Selenium and Zinc

Selenium is an important antioxidant that reduces the amount of harmful substances produced by our body called as free radicals hence lowering inflammation.

Zinc is a vital component for WBC (white blood cell) formation to fight infections.

Sources of selenium and zinc 

●      Brazil nuts

●      Seafood

●      Organ and muscle meats

●      Cereals

●      Grains

●      Dairy products

Omega-3 fatty acids

When we hear about fats, we think all fats are bad and we should cut them out, but did you know there are also good fats? One kind of good fat is omega 3 fatty acids. There are 3 types of omega 3 fatty acids that we need: ALA, DHA, and EPA.

These fatty acids help to increase the number of T and B lymphocytes (white blood cells), this,  together with their anti-inflammatory properties helps to build our immune system, they also improve macrophage activity which are large immune cells that eat up bacteria and viruses.5

Sources of ALA

●  Canola oil

●  Soyabean oil

●  Chia seeds

●  Flax seeds

●  Walnuts

●  Avocadoes

Sources of DHA and EPA

●  Oily fish ( salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines)

●  Algae

Fatty acids and their important role in lung and heart infection

Our body’s immune system causes inflammation in response to the virus in our lungs.

The inflammation damages the alveoli and makes them swell and scar. It also becomes filled with fluid making oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange difficult. When we eat anti-inflammatory foods like omega 3 fatty acids and selenium, it reduces the inflammation thereby preventing lung tissues from being scarred.

 Omega 3 fatty acids also lower high triglyceride levels which are bad fats that increase our risk of heart diseases and stroke. It also helps to decrease blood pressure levels in heart patients who are at higher risk of getting Covid-19 heart damage. Another benefit of this fat is that it helps to prevent our blood platelets from clumping together and causing blood clots which are identified in hospitalized coronavirus patients.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a crucial nutrient for boosting immunity. It acts as an antioxidant that protects your body against damage due to oxidative stress and improves symptoms of respiratory stress and flu.

Sources of Vitamin C

  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts

In short,

  • A low-carb diet helps control your blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
  • A protein-rich diet will help in body repair and cell growth.
  • Eating foods rich in various vitamins and minerals will help boost your immunity and build your body’s resilience to infections.

What you should eat and drink

  • Drink warm water and stay hydrated.
  • Drink a glass of lemonade or any other citrus fruit juice with honey and jaggery.
  • Include spices in your daily cooking like cumin, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and carom seeds.
  • Focus on taking healthy fats like nuts and seeds.
  • Eat a protein-rich diet that includes lean proteins like legumes, pulses, lentils, sprouts, and white meat.
  • Fiber-rich foods like millets, vegetable soups, and leafy greens to be included.
  • Your plate should be as colorful as the rainbow with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Add seeds like pumpkin, chia, sunflower and nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts to your daily diet.
  • Try to include one cup of yogurt or buttermilk to improve your gut flora.

 



 

Dos when you are at home due to social distancing

  • Meal prep for your family beforehand. Buy your groceries well in advance and prepare your meals ahead of time.
  • Stock up on healthy snacking items like carrots, nuts, cheese, boiled eggs, yogurt dips, hummus, and chopped fruits.
  • Keep water handy always. Place a bottle of water in every room and close to your workspace.
  • Simple workout or yoga stretches at home. 

 

 Don’ts

  • Avoid eating outside food or food cooked in unhygienic surroundings.
  • Stop yourself from consuming cold drinks, canned juices, aerated drinks and other artificially colored and flavored drinks.
  • Reduce your intake of salt and sugar.
  • Stop snacking on processed foods, oily and junk food.
  • Avoid foods made with refined sugar, confectionery, and baked foods.
  • Stop smoking and avoid drinking alcohol.

 

Tips for food safety

Apart from eating healthy during Covid-19, it is crucial that you focus on keeping your food safe before you consume it. Practice food hygiene and safety to ensure good food habits. Follow these steps to maintain food safety and clean eating.

  • Keep your cooking area clean and tidy.
  • Separate raw food from cooked food while handling salads, meats, and fish.
  • Cook your food thoroughly and avoid eating uncooked foods.
  • Store meat and fish at safe temperatures to avoid spoilage.
  • Use portable clean drinking water to cook your food and clean your raw veggies and fruits.

 

Add these immunity boosters to your diet and share this valuable information with your friends and families!

 

References

  1.  WebMD. 2021. What Does COVID-19 Do to Your Lungs?. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/lung/what-does-covid-do-to-your-lungs#1>

 [Accessed 23 July 2021].

  1. Citroner, G., 2020. How COVID-19 May Damage Your Heart. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-covid-19-may-damage-your-heart#Concern-over-heart-failure,-drugs-may-worsen-symptoms>

 [Accessed 23 July 2021].

  1. Dröge, W., &Breitkreutz, R. (2000). Glutathione and immune function. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 59(4), 595–600. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0029665100000847
  2. Khatiwada, S., &Subedi, A. (2021). A Mechanistic Link Between Selenium and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Current nutrition reports, 10(2), 125–136. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-021-00354-4
  1. Hathaway, D., Pandav, K., Patel, M., Riva-Moscoso, A., Singh, B. M., Patel, A., Min, Z. C., Singh-Makkar, S., Sana, M. K., Sanchez-Dopazo, R., Desir, R., Fahem, M., Manella, S., Rodriguez, I., Alvarez, A., & Abreu, R. (2020). Omega 3 Fatty Acids and COVID-19: A Comprehensive Review. Infection & chemotherapy, 52(4), 478–495. https://doi.org/10.3947/ic.2020.52.4.478
  1. Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan. (2020, November 2). New cause of COVID-19 blood clots identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201102142254.htm