The Relevance Of Nutrition To Boost Immunity And Prevent Infection In Times Of A Pandemic

While all of these play a critical role in minimizing the spread of illness, supporting the immune system with adequate nutrition is equally important to help reduce the risk and impact of virus infections.

Mr. Rajesh Sahetiya, Director, Human Nutrition and Health (India/South Asia), DSM India Pvt Ltd.

While seasonal influenza and other infections come and go, a new global public health concern has emerged with the coronavirus pandemic. More than 5.5 million cases have been reported so far in India, with more than 31 million cases worldwide.

There are a number of public health practices to help reduce the spread of infection which are important to follow: Regular hand washing, avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, and disinfecting frequently touched objects.

While all of these play a critical role in minimizing the spread of illness, supporting the immune system with adequate nutrition is equally important to help reduce the risk and impact of virus infections.

How nutrition Supports A Healthy Immune System

Essential and key nutrients work together to support a healthy immune system. These include vitamins A, B­6, B12, C, D, E, and folate, trace elements such as zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and copper, as well as the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Intake of these key nutrients in optimal amounts is necessary to support the complex immune system. Conversely, having low levels may decrease resistance to infection.

Ensuring the intake of a variety of nutrient-rich foods, and consuming a well-balanced diet is the best and simplest way to obtain these nutrients. Also eat dark green, red, and orange vegetables, as well as a variety of fruits.

Choose low-fat sources of protein, like eggs, beans, poultry without skin, seafood, lean meats, unsalted nuts, seeds, and soy products. Reduce the intake of saturated fats, trans-fats, salt or sodium, and sugar. If you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

Nutrition beyond dietary intake

However, these nutrition guidelines may not always be practical to implement, especially for certain populations or groups of people. In these cases, nutritional supplements offer a reliable and safe option to complement the diet, fill any nutritional gaps, and help support the immune system.

Parallel to important public health practices to help reduce the spread of infection, the following dietary routines can help to reduce the risk and severity of virus infections:

  1. A daily multivitamin and trace element supplementation is recommended to help meet the optimal intake of the micronutrients listed above.
  2. For some micronutrients, such as vitamins C and D, intake above the nutrient requirements may better support optimal immune function.
  3. Nutrient intake should ideally come from a well-balanced diet, which is however often difficult to achieve.
  4. Nutritional supplements offer a safe option to complement the diet and eliminate potential nutrient shortfalls.

Public health measures are central to limiting the spread of illness in communities. While nutrition alone may not prevent illness or infections, it will support your body’s immune response and may speed recovery.

To find suitable products that contain these nutrients, please ask your doctor or health food store, or trusted online outlets.

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