The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a contagious viral respiratory infection, is currently ravaging the world. Over the past month, the global population witnessed an unprecedented exponential growth of cases that continues to rise by the thousands.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each infected person can infect up to two persons. Transmission largely depends on several factors, including cleanliness and immunity. The WHO also reports that the mortality rate of COVID-19 is higher than that of influenza, a viral respiratory infection also known as the flu.
Ideally, the immune system identifies and eliminates toxins, irritants and disease-causing pathogens. However, vital immune functions can be compromised by factors that can make the body susceptible to infection, such as poor nutrition, inadequate sleep and physical inactivity.
Currently, experts recommend observing preventive measures against the coronavirus such as personal hygiene, social distancing and self-quarantine.
Essential immune-boosting vitamins
Fortunately, the body can greatly benefit from a higher intake of immune-boosting vitamins, such as vitamins C and D, which act as antivirals. Essential vitamins like C and D cannot be naturally produced by the body itself, so it is important to regularly consume vitamin-rich foods. Often, vitamin-rich foods also contain high amounts of antioxidants and nutrients that enhance immunity.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C is often linked to immunity enhancement and a reduced risk of viral and bacterial infections. It boosts the immune system by stimulating the production of disease-fighting antibodies and white blood cells.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, high doses of vitamin C have been shown to be effective against the influenza virus. Often, infectious diseases can rapidly deplete the body’s vitamin C levels, thus impairing vital immune functions.
Vitamin C can also prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. Often, it works together with plant compounds known as carotenoids to enhance the body’s antiviral and antibacterial immune responses. Common food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables and green leafy vegetables. (Related: Chinese doctors study vitamin C for treating coronavirus infections.)
Strictly speaking, vitamin D is a prohormone produced by the liver and pancreas. When the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays hit skin cells, the pancreas converts a molecule called 7-dehydrocholesterol into cholecalciferol, a form of vitamin D. A similar process occurs in the liver, which produces a different, less potent form of vitamin D known as calcidiol.
Vitamin D plays a critical function in immunity. According to a recent study published in The British Medical Journal, vitamin D protects against pathogens that cause respiratory conditions including asthma, pneumonia and the flu. Moreover, vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infection and enhanced the body’s immunity against respiratory pathogens.
Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies due to a lack of sufficient information about vitamin D-rich foods. Enhance immunity and avoid vitamin deficiency by regularly consuming vitamin D-rich foods including fish, eggs, mushrooms, plain yogurt and whole grain oats.
A strong immune system protects the body from infections and diseases. But given the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to follow preventive measures against communicable diseases and to enhance immune functions by increasing the intake of disease-fighting vitamins. Although there is much to learn about the new coronavirus, the global population can generally benefit from an enhanced immunity.