COVID-19 and Immune System: How to Boost Your Immune System (Updated November 2020)

Of late, there are dozens of supplements and vitamins that claim to boost your immune system and reduce your risk factors for COVID-19, but which ones actually work? Below, we look at some of the best options and what the existing research says about them.



How to help your immune system

The science of how the immune system works is a complicated subject for the public. Here at One Day MD,  we try to make it a little easier for consumers to understand.

A healthy lifestyle – not smoking, drinking little or no alcohol, sleeping well, eating a balanced diet, taking regular moderate exercise and reducing stress – helps our immune systems to be in the best shape possible to tackle invading micro-organisms.

But the first line of defence is to prevent infection from entering the body.

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended basic protective measures against COVID-19 are frequent hand-washing with soap and water, or cleaning hands with an alcohol-based rub; maintaining social distancing; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and wear protective mask.

These simple actions are vital to slowing the spread of a new disease like the coronavirus – to which nearly everyone is susceptible, but particularly older people and those with underlying health conditions.

Foods (and the Nutrients Therein) to Boost Your Immune System

As mentioned above, the first line of defence is to prevent the virus from entering the body. If the virus manage to pass through the first line of defence; then your immune system will be the second line of defence. Third line of defence will be your doctor and the hospital.

How do you boost your immune system or at least make sure that it will function normally? We reviewed available evidence and have incorporated them into the relevant sections of this article. The study references are in the form of links and you can click on them directly if you wish to study the scientific details.

Just 10% of adults get enough fruits or vegetables, according to a study published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Scientists have long recognised that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Whether the increased rate of disease is caused by malnutrition's effect on the immune system, however, is not certain. There are still relatively few studies of the effects of nutrition on the immune system of humans, and even fewer studies that tie the effects of nutrition directly to the development (versus the treatment) of diseases.

Do we have large randomised controlled trials to prove that the right nutrition can combat COVID-19. No. The only real defence against COVID-19 is your own immune system, which works best when fed right. What have you got to lose?

Not just vitamins and minerals, but proteins like collagen and free radical-fighting antioxidants can be introduced to your body through the foods you eat, and play vital roles in helping to keep your body functioning at its best.

In the same way that cross training can keep your body fit and toned by working groups of different muscles, eating a variety of foods will target and work toward healing and restoring many different areas of your body, from your brain to your gut to your immune system.

Protein found in lean meats, bone broth, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds help your body repair tissue and fight infection. Studies show that amino acids in protein, such as arginine and glutamine, increase your body’s ability to heal and decrease inflammation.

Related: 15 Best Superfoods to Boost Your Immune System

Immune System Booster Vitamins and Minerals

Eating foods chock-full of vitamins is an excellent way to strengthen your immune system in order to stay healthy during this pandemic:
  • Vitamin A boosts immunity, lowers your risk of infection and supports wound healing through collagen strength. Snack on carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, organic pastured eggs and grass fed beef.
  • Important for collagen production, zinc is another protective antioxidant that helps create and activate your immune system’s white blood cells and is essential in the enzymatic reactions needed for wound healing. Zinc-containing foods include grass fed red meat (optimal amounts per day range from 5 to 7 ounces), pastured, organic chicken, spinach, nuts and pumpkin seeds.
  • Selenium is another powerful antioxidant for immune system protection, found in Brazil nuts and organic, grass fed beef, turkey and chicken. In addition, as important as any food you eat, drinking adequate water is vital for flushing food through your system, flushing toxins and keeping your body hydrated. Many turn to so-called “sports drinks” for hydrating while working out, but clear, pure water is the ideal beverage.
Vitamin D and COVID-19

Several publications and studies have suggested that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D would seem potentially beneficial in fighting the COVID-19 infection.

Do take note that you can also get good amounts of vitamins C and D, zinc, and other essential vitamins and minerals from a basic multivitamin.

Buy Vitamin D supplement in Malaysia: Vitamin D3 supplements appear to be more effective at raising vitamin D levels than D2 supplements. One can also take vitamin K2 together with D3 as vitamin K2 works synergistically with vitamin D3. D3 capsules are available in most supermarkets and health food stores such as Guardian and Watsons, as well as online.

Read more: COVID-19 and Vitamin D


Most people turn to vitamin C after they've caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells. These are key to fighting infections. Some of the most vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, from tangerines to limes, along with leafy greens, bell peppers and broccoli. Berries are another great source, and they all provide this and other potent antioxidants, which support your immune response and help to rebuild collagen. Because your body doesn't produce or store it, you need daily vitamin C for continued health. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.

While large controlled studies demonstrating vitamin C's effectiveness in COVID-19 are still lacking, there are many such studies underway. You can review the status of these trials on clinicaltrials.gov. As of November 2020, more than 40 studies have been launched to investigate the benefits of vitamin C against COVID-19.

Word of Caution - Taking large doses of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) on a regular basis lowers your level of copper, so if you are already deficient in copper and take high doses of vitamin C, you can compromise your immune system.

So, whereas temporarily taking megadoses of vitamin C supplements to combat a case of the cold or flu is likely not going to cause a problem. For long-term, daily use, your best bet is to eat a diet that is full of high quality organic vegetables and fruits that are minimally processed. Not only will you get vitamin C, but you will get all the other accessory nutrients and micronutrients that are needed to optimize it.

Related: 10 Best Vitamin C Supplements in Malaysia

Zinc and COVID-19

Foods that are high in zinc include oysters, crab, lobster and mussels.

Zinc has been shown in a lab study to inhibit regular coronavirus (not the current SARS-CoV-2) in a 2010 publication.

As of November 2020, there are 40 studies that have been launched to investigate the benefits of Zinc against COVID-19. You can review the status of these trials on clinicaltrials.gov.

Taking zinc long term is typically safe for healthy adults, as long as the daily dose is under the set upper limit of 40 mg of elemental zinc (PubMed).

Excessive doses may interfere with copper absorption, which could compromise your immune system. 

However, too much zinc can also negatively affect your immune system as it can offset your zinc and copper balance

The ideal dose for prevention while the COVID-19 risk is high is 40-100 mg/d, a portion of which comes from zinc lozenges to spread the zinc through the tissues of the nose, mouth and throat. It should be accompanied by at least 1 mg copper from food and supplements for every 15 mg zinc.

Zinc Sulphate is also part of Dr. Vladimir Zelenko anti-coronavirus experimental protocol. Please take note that the protocol is experimental and has not been 100% proven. Do discuss with your doctor before taking the medication as per the protocol. You can check out his publication in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents

Based on the statement released on 2 October by the U.S. president’s physician, zinc is also part of the treatment given to the US President. According to the president's physician, "Trump has been taking zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and a daily aspirin.”

Editor's note: Hydroxychloroquine is a zinc ionophore. If increased intracellular Zn ion concentration is required to disrupt viral replication, perhaps using multiple zinc ionophores would increase that concentration thus decreasing viral replication further. Other OTC (over the counter) zinc ionophores include quercetin (QCT) and epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG – green tea extract).

You can purchase Zinc (+copper) as a dietary supplement online and from local health stores i.e. Guardian and Watsons.

Quercetin and COVID-19

The initial MATH+ protocol was released in April 2020. In early July and August, it was updated to include quercetin and a number of optional nutrients and drugs, not only for critical care but also for prophylaxis and mild disease being treated at home.

There is evidence that vitamin C and quercetin co-administration exerts a synergistic antiviral action due to overlapping antiviral and immunomodulatory properties and the capacity of ascorbate to recycle quercetin, increasing its efficacy.

For prophylaxis, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Working Group, FLCCC recommends:
  • Vitamin C — 500 mg
  • Quercetin — 250 mg to 500 mg
  • Zinc — 75-100 mg/day (acetate, gluconate or picolinate). Zinc lozenges are preferred. After one month, reduce the dose to 30 mg to 50 mg per day
  • Melatonin (slow release) — Begin with 0.3 mg and increase as tolerated to 2 mg at night
  • Vitamin D3 — 1,000 to 4,000 IUs per day
The at-home treatment for mildly symptomatic patients is very similar, but adds several optional drugs, including aspirin (ASA), famotidine (an antacid), ivermectin (a heartworm medication that has been shown to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 replication in vitro). (For dosages, see the Critical Care Management Protocol summary, available on the Easter Virginia Medical School’s site.)

They also recommend monitoring your oxygen saturation with a pulse oximeter and to go to the hospital if you get below 94%. The medical evidence to support each drug and nutrient can be found under “Medical Evidence” on the FLCCC’s website.

You can purchase Quercetin as a dietary supplement online at Lazada Malaysia.


You may know about melatonin as a supplement that can support your healthy sleep cycle. Assisting sleep and rest is already an immune system-supporting benefit, but melatonin has more to offer. It is a powerful antioxidant that supports your immune health, brain, eyes, digestion, and more.

Melatonin is a hormone synthesized in your pineal gland and many other organs. While it is most well-known as a natural sleep regulator, it also has many other important functions. For example, melatonin is a potent antioxidant with the rare ability to enter your mitochondria, where it helps “prevent mitochondrial impairment, energy failure and apoptosis of mitochondria damaged by oxidation.” It also helps recharge glutathione and glutathione deficiency has been linked to COVID-19 severity.

Data from Cleveland Clinic supports the use of melatonin. Here, the researchers analyzed patient data from the Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 registry using an artificial intelligence platform designed to identify drugs that may be repurposed.

"Patients who used melatonin as a supplement had, on average, a 28% lower risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. Blacks who used melatonin were 52% less likely to test positive for the virus."

As of November 2020, 8 studies have been launched to investigate the benefits of melatonin against COVID-19. Ultimately, the results of the above trials will offer more definitive evidence.

Molecular Hydrogen and COVID-19

Molecular hydrogen has been shown to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is 'the one and only' antioxidant that can both penetrate the mitochondria and neutralize the reactive oxygen species (ROS) (Med Gas Res. 2020).

Published in June 2020 (Reactive Oxygen Species), the aim is to review the current research into COVID-19 and to better understand how treatment with molecular hydrogen is likely to affect cellular responses during COVID-19 infection.

Application of H2, may provide an effective adjunctive medicament to O2 inhalation in the treatment of COVID-19 for the critically ill. Although this method is recommended and practiced in the People’s Republic of China with oxygen/hydrogen mixed gas noted to significantly reduce dyspnea, it is not widely used elsewhere. To date, only one clinical trial using oxyhydrogen for the treatment of COVID-19 infection has been registered with the US National Library of Medicine, with a further four clinical trials registered with The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM).

It is the authors’ opinion that inhalation of H2 would be a more effective delivery mechanism for patients with moderate/severe symptoms of COVID19. Also worthy of notation is that currently, most, but not all clinical trials have been based on inhalation of H2, with this also being the preferred delivery method as recommended by The National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China.

Published in June 2020 (Journal of Thoracic Disease. 2020), this China study is the first multicenter randomized clinical trial that verifies the efficacy and safety of H2-O2 (mixed hydrogen gas and oxygen gas) inhalation in patients (n=90) with COVID-19.

Patients with COVID-19 frequently presented with dyspnea, coughing, chest pain and distress, and oxygen desaturation which cannot be rapidly relieved with other existing therapies (including oxygen therapy). The therapeutic effects of H2-O2 became significant as early as days 2 and 3 and the reduction of most respiratory symptoms persisted till the end-of-treatment.

The authors also concluded that the safety profiles of H2-O2 have rendered H2-O2 inhalation particularly suitable for relieving difficulty in breathing and other breathing symptoms in patients with COVID-19, regardless of the disease severity.

It was discovered and reported in Nature in 2007 by a team in Japan, that inhaled hydrogen gas could act as an antioxidant and protect the brain from free radicals. This sparked the interest in its potential health benefits worldwide and led to many published and on-going clinical research.

As of November 2020, 18 studies have been launched to investigate the benefits of molecular hydrogen against COVID-19. Ultimately, the results of the trials will offer more definitive evidence.

You can purchase Izumio (hydrogen infused water) from an authorised distributor in Malaysia. For more information, please feel free to WhatsApp: +60 12-749 2112.

Immune-Strengthening Vitamins: ‘B’ Is for Boost

B vitamins may constitute a long list, but each one is important for different reasons. Other “B’s” for boosting your immunity are especially effective when you combine the foods containing them so they can all work together for maximum effect. These include vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and B7 (biotin).

B12, also known as cobalamin, is a powerful cold- and flu-fighting nutrient in your system, as is vitamin B6, another important, germ-combating vitamin that naturally benefits and strengthens your immune system and even protects against the damaging effects of air pollution.

Vitamin B9 and folic acid help repair tissues and aid in cell metabolism and immune support. They’re found in dark leafy greens, wild-caught, cold water fish like herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, and pastured, organic chicken.

You can find B-vitamin supplements on Lazada Malaysia.


Getting Enough Sleep

Studies show that not getting the sleep you need — for most people eight hours is the minimum for functioning at your best — can compromise your health in ways you may not have considered.

Another study noted that cutting just one hour of sleep a night increases the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk and stress.9 Consistently sleeping less than six hours a night increases your risk for numerous psychological and physical effects. The upshot is, lack of sleep quickly decreases your immune function, leaving your system wide-open for environmental influences, including viruses like colds and flu.


Avoid Sugar

If you were looking for a food to eat that would compromise your health in numerous ways and absolutely ruin your health, sugar in its many forms — would win the prize.

To keep your immune system functioning at its best, one of the most effective strategies is to avoid sugar, pure and simple.


Disclaimer: All information presented is not intended to replace the guidance from your healthcare practitioner.

References:

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