There are many links between diet and health. One of these is immune function. Good and healthy nutrition boosts immune function, helping fight against pathogens and prevent chronic inflammation.
Vitamin C is a well-known immune system booster. A deficiency of vitamin C is associated with a high risk of infections, like pneumonia.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered interest in dietary supplements — supplements that are believed to support immune function. It is important to note that no specific supplement or food can prevent an individual from contracting COVID. But then, some nutrients are capable of boosting immune function.
A recent study examined the role played by zinc in COVID-19 treatment. Zinc is a mineral present in many foods.
Findings from this study suggest that zinc may be protective against COVID-19 by reducing inflammation and enhancing anti-viral immunity.
Ivermectin has also been considered for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Does it work? We will consider this as well in this article.
Vitamin is a very potent immune system booster. Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against disease and infection.
Vitamin D plays a very critical role in enhancing immune response. It has immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory properties and activates the defenses of the immune system (1).
Vitamin D also enhances immune cell function, including macrophage and T-cell function. Both cells protect the body against pathogens (2).
It plays such a critical role in immune function that deficiency in Vitamin D has been associated with susceptibility to immune conditions, disease, and infection (3).
For instance, low vitamin D levels are a major risk factor for respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, tuberculosis, and bacterial/viral respiratory conditions (4, 5, 6, 7).
Now, it is worth mentioning that although COVID-19 has no cure, a couple of studies have examined the effect of vitamin D deficiency or vitamin D supplementation on the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2.
According to a recent study, having at least 30 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D may reduce the risk of complications or adverse clinical outcomes and death in COVID-19 patients.
The study involved analysis of hospital data of 235 COVID-19 patients. In patients who were older than 40 years of age, those who had adequate vitamin D levels were 51.5% less likely to have complications such as hypoxia, unconsciousness, and death than those who were vitamin D-deficient (2).
Other studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency may alter immune function and increase one’s risk of developing a respiratory condition (10). Conversely, some studies have shown that vitamin D supplements can boost the immune response against respiratory infections. For example, in one study involving 11,321 subjects from 14 countries, it was discovered that supplementing with vitamin D decreased the risk of acute respiratory infections in those who were deficient in vitamin D, as well as in those who had adequate levels of vitamin D.
An in-depth analysis of the results showed that vitamin D supplements caused a 12% reduction in the risk of developing at least one acute respiratory infection. Moreover, the protective effect was more potent in those with low vitamin D levels (11).
Vitamin D deficiency initiates or enhances a process known as “cytokine storm” (12). Cytokines are proteins and a vital component of the immune system. They exert both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory effects. They also protect against disease and infection (13, 14).
However, cytokines also can induce damage in tissues under certain conditions. For example, a cytokine storm is the uncontrolled release of pro-inflammatory cytokines occurring due to an infection or other factors. This uncontrolled release of cytokines causes severe damage to the tissues and increases the severity of a pre-existing disease condition (15).
Studies have shown that cytokine storm due to vitamin D deficiency plays a major role in the onset of acute respiratory distress syndrome, multiple organ failure, and in the progression of COVID-19 (15).
For instance, it has been found that patients with very severe cases of COVID-19 release large numbers of cytokines, mostly interleukin-1 and 6 (IL-1 and IL-6) (16). And because vitamin D deficiency is associated with reduced immune function, it may also enhance the cytokine storm. This has led researchers to postulate that a deficiency in vitamin D may increase the severity of COVID-19. Medical researchers have also postulated that supplementing with vitamin D may reduce complications associated with cytokine storms and inflammation in patients with COVID-19 (17, 18).
Zinc is also a key regulator of inflammation. Yes, the inflammatory response plays an important role in the fight against infections. However, the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in excess is responsible for some of the debilitating symptoms of COVID-19.
A review presented evidence that Zinc may exert an anti-inflammatory effect in pneumonia, drastically reducing damage to lung tissue. It has also been known long before now that zinc can inhibit the replication of rhinoviruses in humans. Rhinoviruses are responsible for respiratory infections in people.
Zinc supplementation inhibits the reproduction of rhinoviruses and also stimulates the production of interferon alfa. Interferon alfa is a signaling molecule that prompts the initiation of antiviral defenses in nearby cells.
Ivermectin is safe. The World Health Organization has recommended it for COVID-19 clinical trials. The results from these trials are quite promising. Ivermectin is well-tolerated by humans, but that’s not to say you should take it as if it were nothing. It is medicine however you may see it, and as such, one should apply a great deal of caution when using it.
Vitamin D, zinc, and Ivermectin all hold great promise in the fight against COVID-19.
Studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation protects against respiratory infections, especially in individuals who are deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin D, zinc, and Ivermectin may help prevent adverse outcomes in COVID-19 patients. However, it would be best to discuss this with your healthcare provider before using any of these for treatment.