We would like to welcome Jessica from Enjoy Nutrition to our blog. Here she provides essential nutritional advice and how to boost the body’s natural defences.
This is a worrying time for us all. Coronavirus appears to be spreading but most of us should be able to get over it as we might any other virus. However, for people who have a compromised immune system or have pre-existing health issues, it might be more complicated to overcome. We ALL need to take sensible precautions to protect ourselves, our families and our colleagues who may be at risk of from this virus.
My name is Jessica Barfield and I am a Registered Nutritional Therapist at Enjoy Nutrition. Below are 10 suggestions for foods and nutrients to help your immune systems to deal with viral attack. These should be useful in helping to prevent a viral attack taking hold as well as helping if you have already to succumbed to one.
Chicken stock or bone broth is a traditional remedy for colds and flu. If you read eighteenth and nineteenth century novels, a sick person is often given ‘beef tea’, a form of boiled beef from which trend came Bovril.
Why are broths so restorative?
Bone broths are a great source of amino acids (building-blocks of proteins) and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron1. These minerals are vital for many enzymes to function properly: helping to break down molecules in the body and transforming them into new molecules that have specific roles to play in our hormonal systems, digestive systems and the immune system, amongst others. These enzymes are not only dependent on some minerals, but they are themselves protein molecules so there needs to be enough amino acids available to make them in the first place. Bone broth provides these amino acids.
When we are ill and bed-bound, even for just a few days and off our food, we often lose weight. However, this weight is mostly muscle wasting, not fat loss. This is because the body utilizes the valuable resource of amino acids and minerals stored in muscles and bone to provide what it needs to continue to function and to supply the raw materials to the immune system to fight the illness. So, you can see why bone broth might be helpful. It provides lots of beneficial nutrients in a concentrated and easily available form and saves the body from using up valuable resources elsewhere.
Garlic has been shown to act against a wide range of bacteria and most importantly here, viruses. Specific anti-viral compounds have been identified in garlic such as ajoene, allicin, and others. One of my favourite garlic supplements is called Allicin Max, as its actions have been studied in several papers and found effective. It is available in Boots. However, if you are on medications, you should check with your GP if it safe to take garlic supplements with your medication. One of the best features of garlic with regard to Coronavirus is that it is excreted largely through the lungs which is where this virus attacks most severely. For once, you can celebrate garlic breath!
Have you ever wondered why garlic only smells when you smash, slice or otherwise damage it? This is because the active ingredients are in separate compartments and when you break those compartments, the different compounds and enzymes can mix and begin to react with each other to create the beneficial sulphurous molecules that are capable of breaking through the stealthy defences of bacteria and viruses, allowing your immune system to identify and attack them. These great chemicals continue to develop, increase and change into a greater range of beneficial chemicals the longer you can leave it after crushing. It takes approximately 6 minutes for the first wave of reactions to complete. It is a good idea to prepare the garlic at the start of cooking, setting it aside to increase in powerful goodness until you need to add it to your dish.
Don’t be afraid of eating it raw. If you are self-isolating – what does it matter anyway! Grate it raw onto soups and stews.
Vitamin C plays an important role in immune function and fighting infection by increasing white blood cell function and activity and thereby raising the body’s own anti-viral defences. Vitamin C has been shown to have a direct effect against viruses by causing chemical reactions that create substances that can attack parts of the DNA of a virus. It also works as an antioxidant by neutralising unstable molecules that can cause damage to our cells. Vitamin C also helps to keep another antioxidant, Vitamin E in circulation. Vitamin E is a fatty molecule and is useful in keeping the membranes of our cells in good condition and acting as barriers to invasion by pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.
Smokers are at particular risk of vitamin C deficiency and should be sure to consume lots of high vitamin c foods.
Good food sources:
Potatoes, peppers, citrus fruits, many fruits and vegetables.
Liver and kidney
Green leafy vegetables
Vitamin D is most noted for its involvement in calcium metabolism and bone integrity. However, Vitamin D also plays an important role in the immune response. Immune lymphocytes have receptors (places where a specific substance can gain entry) to allow access for Vitamin D. If you are deficient in Vitamin D, you could be more susceptible to infections if these immune cells do not get the molecules they need.
Vitamin D is available in the diet, but we make most of it in our skin. At this time of year (March 2020) and in this country (the UK), we are probably all a bit deficient in Vitamin D. It may be no coincidence that this is the traditional time of year for colds and other infections. Vitamin D works synergistically with Vitamin A. It is also important to have plenty of Vitamin K2, especially if you are using a supplement rather than food sources. This is because Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium into the blood and Vitamin K2 ensures it can get from the blood to wherever it needs to go. Without sufficient Vitamin K2, you could have too much calcium in the blood which could then become deposited in the arteries. High levels of Vitamin K2 are found in fermented foods, particularly Japanese Natto and are made by gut bacteria.
Good food sources:
Dairy products (Top tip: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so full fat milk is better for you than reduced fat versions).
Mushrooms (Top tip: if you put mushrooms out in the sunshine for a while, they will start to produce Vitamin D, which you get the benefit of when you eat them!)
Fish, especially oily ones like wild salmon and sardines (especially if you eat the tinned ones and eat the bones as well).
Eggs, especially the yolk.
Liver and other offal.
Fermented foods like Natto, cheese, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi
If you choose to supplement, get one that is either oil-based, or ensure that you take your supplement with oily food. Once again, if you are on medications, you should check that a supplement will not interact with them.
Vitamin A is most closely associated with eye health, but it is also very important for maintaining lining tissues, including those of the nose, mouth, throat, mucus membranes, sinuses, as well as of the lungs, stomach and intestines. The stronger these lining tissues are, the better they are able to perform their protective function of keeping out pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
Vitamin A comes in several different forms and is found in many different foods. Active Vitamin A is found in dairy and meat foods. Vitamin A can also be obtained from plant sources as carotenes, but these do need to be converted to active Vitamin A in the body, and the extent of this this conversion can vary depending on health and dietary status.
I think a good supplemental form of both Vitamin D and Vitamin A is cod liver oil. The only one I recommend is Rosita Cod Liver Oil as it is produced in such a way that does not destroy the naturally occurring vitamins. Most cod liver oil is so heavily processed that the vitamins are destroyed and have to be added back in. Whilst the vitamin D is often the natural form, it is often the synthetic form of Vitamin A that is put back in, and there can be problems of toxicity with this form of the vitamin. There is little chance of toxicity when using the naturally occurring food source found in real cod liver oil.
Real cod liver oil is not cheap. You can get a 10% discount by registering as my Practitioner Client at Rosita Real Foods, using my name, Jessica Barfield, and using the code 1376. (I do get a 10% commission for each sale, which I cannot avoid, but which goes towards the unpaid research work I do for my clients. I would recommend this product with no commission.)
Good food sources:
Cod liver oil
Grass-fed meats (the animals have already performed the function of converting the beta-carotene in grass to active Vitamin A).
Carotenes are found in red and orange fruits and vegetables, as well as some leafy greens where the chlorophyll pigment overpowers the yellow carotene pigment.
Leafy Greens such as spinach, beet greens, kale.
This one is courtesy of Tom O’Bryan at www.thedr.com. He says that early research is showing that coronavirus cannot exist in an alkaline environment, which means a pH of about 8.0 or more. Different parts of our bodies maintain different levels of acidity or alkalinity. It is the body’s ability to maintain balance that needs to be supported. How can you do this? Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, which will also support your body’s defences by providing plentiful antioxidants. You should aim for 7 – 9-a-day, rather than the usual 5-a-day. Click here for my Fruit and Vegetable Challenge.
Minimise Unnecessary Substances
Remove things your body doesn’t need to waste precious vitamins, minerals and enzymes dealing with so that if the virus attacks, the body has the energy and resources to deal with it. In other words, those resources are not diverted elsewhere from where you may need them most.
This means either buying organic vegetables and fruit which will have fewer chemical residues on them, and/or washing whatever fresh produce you buy in either a special veg wash, or in vinegar: put your veg/fruit in a large bowl or salad spinner, cover them with water and a couple of tablespoons or so of vinegar. Leave to soak for 2 – 3 minutes and then use a brush or your hands to rinse them well under clean water. This helps to remove any pesticide residues, which are fat-based chemicals and do not wash off simply with rinsing under the tap. Why do I suggest this? These chemicals are not inert in the body, the liver has to process them through the mechanisms it uses for dealing with all substances entering the body, including food, drinks and medicines as well as waste products from processing things.
Stock your cupboards with good food if self-isolating
It is somewhat disappointing that the first foods that are bought as panic-buys are pasta and rice. These are largely empty nutritionally. Sure, they have calories, but virtually no nutrition, unless you have bought brown rice instead of white, in which case you will be getting a generous supply of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron. (Wild rice is even richer in protein and vitamins). If you do feel the urge to panic buy food, try dried beans and lentils instead. They are cheap, a small packet goes a long way and they are full of protein and micronutrients such as B vitamins and minerals.
Some people call the proteins in beans, grains and lentils “inferior proteins”. This is not true. The amino acids are exactly the same. The difference is that in animal foods, you get the complete range of essential amino acids and in a larger quantity. In the plant foods, not all of the essential amino acids are present in every food. In order to get a complete range of essential amino acids to make proteins from plant sources, mix a grain with a bean or lentil in the same dish.
Drink plenty of water
Water keeps everything moving well in the body. It is the vehicle for the elimination of waste products and therefore helps to keep your immune system working at peak capacity.
WASH, WASH, WASH YOUR HANDS
You have heard this one already I know, but it is SO important.
Those of us who work in offices or shared spaces need to be considerate of the needs of our colleagues and their families. If it irritates you to have to do this, think about how you might feel if someone else’s carelessness meant that you picked up the virus on your hands and transferred it to a vulnerable person that you love. Being conscientious about hand washing is simple and effective, and a small ask really.
I hope that might have given you some ideas about how you might keep viruses at bay, or how you could strengthen your defences if you come down with a virus.
I am accustomed to dealing with complicated health issues from a nutritional angle. If you would like to know more about me and my clinic, please take a look at my website enjoy-nutrition.com
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