The COVID-19 pandemic, and the response to it, has radically changed our way of life over the past few months. As states across the country are now beginning to reopen, I wanted to share with you what I believe to be the three most essential nutrients to support the immune system during the COVID-19 outbreak.
These three nutrients are recommended by the International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine, International College of Integrative Medicine, and the Institute for Functional Medicine. As COVID-19 is caused by a novel virus, there is not yet published peer-reviewed research to show the effectiveness of dietary, nutritional, or lifestyle interventions for its prevention or treatment. Nevertheless, the following supplement recommendations are intended to optimize essential nutrients to support the proper functioning of the immune system against future viral infections. The following dosages are recommended for adults; children would need smaller doses based on their age.
1) Vitamin D
Emerging research is showing a significant association between vitamin D levels and COVID-19 outcomes. Patients with sufficient vitamin D levels are more likely to have mild symptoms, whereas patients with vitamin D deficiency are more likely to experience severe disease and poorer outcomes. Moderate exposure to direct sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. If this is not possible, taking a vitamin D3 supplement (2,000 IU per day) can help prevent vitamin D deficiency and reduce the risk of acute respiratory tract infections. Avoid taking more than 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day, unless you are doing so under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.
2) Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a role in antioxidant defense and enhances immune function. The Linus Pauling Institute recommends a vitamin C intake of 400 mg per day for adults. Unless you are working with a healthcare practitioner, I wouldn’t recommend taking more than 2,000 mg of vitamin C, in divided doses, per day. If you are working with a healthcare practitioner and are experiencing an acute illness, they may recommend 3,000 mg or more of vitamin C per day for a short period of time.
Zinc assists in the production of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells, and is critical for normal immune function. Supplementing with 15 mg (for women) and 20 mg (for men) of zinc per day can help the immune system in fighting off infections. Do not take more than 40 mg of zinc per day, unless you are doing so under the strict guidance of a healthcare practitioner.
I believe the above three nutrients are essential for supporting the immune system amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic. Other supplements that might be helpful include: probiotics, garlic, cod liver oil (EPA/DHA), N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), melatonin, elderberry, and colloidal silver sprays (for sore throats).