It’s starting to feel like March 2020 out there folks and we know y’all need a little extra support this time around. Enter the COVID nutrition episode!
We’re talking nutrition for prevention, nutrition for healing infection, and how to eat for general immune support.
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So today we are covering a topic that feels really timely because everyone has COVID right now. It's. Yep. And we're all back to feeling the potentially Phantom symptoms like being like, does my head hurt? Does my throat hurt is like, is it just drying here? Do I actually have a cough? So here we are back again. Yes, totally. It's. Did I go too hard on my workout? Am I at touch hung over? Like what's the vibe, is it COVID? No, one's really sure anymore. But the good news is that this time around for this surge, we have a little bit more information on what we can do nutrition wise to help our situation. Should we have COVID or how to just prevent COVID. Yeah. So let's get rid of. Let's do it. All right. Welcome to this week's episode of wellness myths. So today we are going to be talking all about the immune system and COVID and I think, you know, for the last, almost two years, that COVID has been happening, there's been. Really binary thing thinking, and it's kind of either been, Hey, you need to get vaccinated or live healthy and exercise and eat the right foods. And there's been no in between. And we're really here to say, to do both. So we, aren't going to go into vaccines today because that's in our specialty, but nutrition is our specialty. So, we are going to talk about that a lot. Nutrition plays a large role in maintaining a healthy immune system and protecting your body against all kinds of sickness and disease, including COVID-19. Yeah. I really was thinking about that a lot as we were researching for this episode, it's kind of like an anti-vax talking point nutrition with COVID or like lifestyle factors with COVID And I never understand why it can't be both. Like, I'm not really quite clear why you can't also get the vaccine and then also like consume specific foods or supplements to improve your chances if you do contract COVID. Anyways, so. So bothersome that the anti-vaxxers kind of like co-op to this like nutrition movement and this natural healing movement, when you can totally do both things Yeah. And I mean, if you're able to, you should be doing both things. So, it's definitely not an or situation. It's a yes. completely. So, I'll kind of start by talking a little bit about how our immune system works and I'm just gonna go over this kind of briefly and just a very rough overview because I'm not going to bore you with like all of the cell names and things like that. But our body provides defenses against viruses and. So first is physical barrier. So things like skin our GI tract, our respiratory tract. So those fiscal barriers that aren't letting viruses in. And then barriers that are more chemicals, like your stomach's low pH that provides an environment that a lot of microbes aren't able to survive. And then you also have special cells that will identify destroy and prevent the replication of viruses. In addition to that, your body memorizes pathogens, so that it's able to quickly destroy them when the it encounters them again. So. For example, if you had the flu and you get over the flu, or if you had COVID and you'd get over, COVID your body's going to memorize that. So the next time that you're exposed to COVID it should be able to fight that off really quickly. So you might be wondering what nutrition has to do with all of those things. Well, to keep those barriers and cells doing their jobs, it involves nourishing our bodies properly. And to do that, we have to get the adequate amount of micronutrients to support those very important processes. Yeah, it kind of goes back to why the vaccine and your own personal nutrition and internal health is so important because. The vaccine can give you these antibodies, but your body still needs to be able to use its natural immune system as well to fend off infection. And so it's really important to keep your nutrition going that whole time to ensure your immune system functions properly. Definitely. So when we're looking at certain micronutrients, there's kind of a cluster of them that we think of the most when we think of immunity. So those are going to be things like vitamin C, vitamin D vitamin E zinc are kind of the main ones. And then also iron vitamin a B12 B six are going to be really important. Yeah, definitely. There's a lot of research going on about supplementing and how that affects your infection of COVID-19. So as far as micronutrients in COVID what, there has been a lot of research on is the ones I listed before. So vitamin C vitamin D vitamin E and zinc. I don't know. Emily, did you find any other ones that were high up for COVID? Not really, there was a little bit about vitamin a, but. there also seems to be conflicting information as is with a lot of these like smaller, newer studies. It's there's a lot of information that kind of supports each side. So why don't Yeah. break it down for us? Yeah. So when we look at vitamin C, so vitamin C is going to promote the production of antibodies. It's an antioxidant and it helps with the function of the cells that destroy viruses. And when we look at it in, you know, when we're looking at COVID patients studies have found that vitamin C so. Vitamin C supplementation reduces the risk of pneumonia. So, you know, that's not COVID specifically, but as another respiratory infection, obviously that's something that is, you know, we want to look at as really important for COVID as well. And then some studies also showed that critically ill patients with COVID actually had a lower vitamin C status. And obviously that's something You know, is of interest. Is. Yeah, I think what you're saying with there's so many things that we can kind of. Deduce from current knowledge about supplementing. Like we know vitamin C helps us fight off infections. So we're assuming it's the same thing for COVID it's still even two years. Yes. We've had some time pass, but there's still a lot of like, just beginning research. Or research trials that were done in animals and that we're trying to attribute to a larger population. And then we're also like, while doing all this research, trying to actually manage the public health crisis. So, I think it's fair to say that something that interacts with your immune system will also interact with COVID infection. For sure. And they actually did a small trial in China as well that found vitamin C supplement, supplementation, decreased mortality and severely ill COVID-19 patients. So that's kind of cool to see as well. it's really cool to see how much research. Is out there, even if it's in the beginning stages, because literally everyone cares about this topic and everyone cares about it right now. That's kind of like how we got the vaccine so quickly. Right. So it's really cool to see like all the billion, different countries doing a billion different studies. Yeah, for sure. And so, you know, personally, I'm someone that always leans towards if I'm starting to not feel that. I, I usually will take like an emergency or something like that. Just to get an extra boost. Obviously you can get a lot of vitamin C from your diet. If you're eating. I mean, most fruits and veggies have vitamin C a spectrum, especially your citrus-y fruits and things like that. But, you know, sometimes it's helpful if you are starting to feel sick to just get a little extra boost of vitamin C to help ward off whatever is coming out. Yeah, Definitely. And also it's interesting to note too, like different studies look at different things like your vitamin C status, like your more long-term amount of vitamin C you have in your body and then also vitamin C sub supplementation. So it's important to kind of note the difference between the. Definitely. And then I feel like almost everyone has heard about vitamin D and related to COVID during this pandemic. That's been something that's been pretty Pretty publicized. That vitamin D status is really important when it comes to, you know, the severity of disease with COVID and things like that and studies have shown that incidents and severity were linked to vitamin D status. Again, that is something as far as I've seen, and I don't know if you've seen anything different Emily, but that is more of a status thing. So. Take your vitamin D. Definitely. Yeah, There's, there's actually like the vitamin D thing has been really interesting to see, because we know that vitamin D plays a role in immune function. Vitamin D is a nutrient, but it's also a hormone. It can be synthesized and body with the sunlight. You can take it as a supplement. In addition to its role in maintaining the structure of your body, like bone integrity it can also stimulate many cells, including immune cells. And so, especially in the winter time, when a lot of us are low on vitamin D It can be really important to supplement. And for coronavirus specifically, it was found that people with low vitamins, low levels of vitamin D had a higher chance of testing positive for COVID. But another report also suggested that higher levels of vitamin D don't lower your risk of viral infection, hospitalization, or severity. This was a really large study that was a million people of European ancestry from 11 different countries. And then there was another big study recently that giving vitamin D to hospitalized patients didn't help their condition or reduce their stay. And like Vanessa said, I really I'm hearing as well. It's more like your status of vitamin D and your stores then supplementing, like it's different than vitamin C, whereas like it's not going to really do anything for you in the moment. It's more about keeping your levels at a healthy amount. Yeah, for sure. And something that's important. Emily touched on this too with vitamin D. We get it from the sun. And you know, if you're in a warmer climate and you're in the sun more, let's say, you know, you have a job where you're outside a lot. Supplementing with vitamin D probably isn't very important. But if you're someone like me who lives in Michigan and it's January subletting, vitamin D is probably pretty important. Another thing with vitamin D and getting it from the. The darker your skin is the longer exposure. You need to get the vitamin D. So for me as a almost translucent person I probably don't need very much time, but the darker your skin is the longer time you would need out. For sure. It's, it's really interesting. This vitamin D thing, it just really sends you for a loop. Like there's so many different things that say different studies that have found that it's important. And then so many different studies have found, like it's not as important, but the definite trend is. The supplementation in the moment helps less. And that your storage of vitamin D is more important. So, I mean, that's kind of like, what we can leave you with is that you should be taking your supplement on a regular basis and asking for your levels to be checked when you go do your blood work, because that's the best thing you can do for prevention. Exactly. So like we meant like with vitamin C, you can start taking that one. You're feeling sick. Vitamin D start doing it now. Because we're talking status there. Okay. So vitamin E is another one that they found that higher plasma levels were linked to a lower risk of infection. So again, that's something that is more, a longer term kind of thing. So same with vitamin D. You want to kind of make sure your vitamin E levels are in a good spot. And even to like, these studies kind of are, are looking at just COVID and this vitamin, Right. But it's like, we know that not having enough vitamin D and not having enough vitamin E can lead to worsen other problems that you might already be having like hypertension or diabetes or heart disease. And all of these can raise your risk for severe COVID as well. So it's like, even if it doesn't like interplay directly with the virus, it's still is a big role in your body. And so ultimately you can't really downplay the importance, even if like we don't have all the research either. Right. And a big role in your immune system. So. Nobody really wants to get sick with anything. You know, whether it's COVID or strep throat or whatever it might be. Those things are still going to be important. And then the last one on the list is zinc. So, The zinc they found has the ability to inhibit viral replication, reduce inflammation and impact the course of respiratory infections. So what they found in research is that improving zinc status can be useful in both preventing and as a therapeutic measure for COVID. that's awesome. Yeah. So those are kind of, that's kind of our holy grail for immune system. And like we mentioned before, you know, these things are things you can supplement and especially if you're starting to feel sick or, you know, with the vitamin D wanna already be supplementing, but these are things you can get in your diet too. So you want to make sure you have a variety in your diet so that you're getting all of the micronutrients that you. Definitely super important. So overall the data with COVID and supplements is insufficient to support one recommendation of any single vitamin or herb that's going to completely prevent or treat COVID. And actually supplements aren't even allowed to be marketed as that. Like we couldn't put on the supplement, like prevents COVID-19 that's not allowed. And so like Vanessa was mentioning all these different vitamins, vitamin C vitamin D zinc are all really important for proper immune functions. And measuring the impact of the immune system with vitamins and minerals and other supplements difficult because there's so many different aspects of the immune system and it's made up of all these different organs, tissues, and cells. And so there's no single straightforward measure of function or resistance. And so it's really just about looking at the whole picture and looking at your information so kind of going back to what we were talking about at the beginning, Vanessa, how we were saying, like, it seems like. Suddenly the anti-vaxxers grabbed hold of nutrition, mitigation for COVID. And we weren't allowed to talk about it anymore because it seemed like you had to do one or the other. I hate when groups do that, you know why they got to do that? I know. They just like really well it's like this sect kind of already did that with like my body, my choice thing. Like nice take something from abortion culture that people have been using for a really long time and make it about you. Like not wanting. All right. so frustrating. So, but I that's par for the course and has already happened, but basically like what really kind of spurred this aspect of my research on was the fact that this meme has been going around where it's like the, government's not telling you about what foods to eat and to walk outside and to do these basic ass things basically to support yourself. And the government's just telling you, like, get this vaccine. And I'm just here to say that that's really not true. And there's a lot of different countries that are doing different things at a public health level. The problem is there's no like. The problem is that people aren't really looking for these guidelines, you know, like we released guidelines, the American association of nutrition and dietetics all the time. People are not like Googling for their guidance. So yeah, you might be like confused why it's like just the vaccine is being pushed and other public health measures aren't being pushed, but it's partially because you're not looking hard enough. You're not seeing where the data is from our public health measures and where the guidance is. And also walking, eating fruits and vegetables. Doesn't make people money like the vaccine does. And it also doesn't protect you like the vaccine does. So it's arguably, or maybe a little bit less important and less top of mind for us as a public health issue right now. So if you're wondering, like why aren't they telling us what to do for proper protection, like supplementing and do all these things it's because the vaccine is more important in protecting you. And also the fact that not everyone has access to all of those things. Like we could tell everybody to get outside in the morning for 30 extra minutes while people have kids to get off to school. Hopefully, if your kids aren't distance learning and they've got shit to do so it's not always going to happen. Yeah. That's exactly kinda what I was thinking too. I mean, even with, you know, the initial messaging at the beginning of the pandemic, it will stay inside. And you know, if you're someone who lives in New York city, Obviously staying inside is your only option to not be around other people. I live in a place where I can go outside and I don't have to see anybody or be close to anybody. So it was really easy for me during the pandemic to go outside and still, you know, kind of live my life in that way. But if we were putting out public health messages, I said, you know, get outside every day for 30 minutes while there's all types of people in like New York city and all these other big cities that would be going outside and putting each other at risk because they have no choice, but to be really close together. Yeah, totally. Or if you live in an apartment, like I remember, I didn't even like want to leave my unit in those first couple of weeks. Right. And not to mention, like, people don't have the funds to be buying all these supplements or the social support. I mean, the list really goes on and on, but it's, it's just a very privileged thing to say. So it's like when it comes to the vaccine, it's really easy to get that. And mostly everybody can have it. So that is why we have a major focus on that. And as Vanessa and I said, you can use all of these supplements and you can take things to support your immune system, but it's not the same as getting the vaccine. It just doesn't interact with your body the same. Well, and sorry, I just want to add this. And I mean, like we mentioned with the supplementing and you know, even the specific micronutrients that are important of course we want you to start eating fruits and veggies every day and, you know, possibly supplementing if you need to supplement, but. Also, it's not something that is going to work right away. If you are saying, okay, this is my treatment. It's not a treatment as prevention measure. And you need to start like, Years ago. So I'm not saying that you shouldn't start today. If you haven't been doing that. Of course you should. But that's, it's not going to, if you ate your first veggie today, it's not going to save you tomorrow. absolutely. Absolutely. So kind of the different perspectives across the world. For example, India released basically a press statement to their citizens saying this is what we should do to boost our immunity and prevent COVID. And these are not really like studied things. It's just kind of like, there's no references for these. It's just like what they put out. I just thought it was interesting. So in India, they instructed their citizens to take antiviral foods in your diet, like garlic, ginger, coconut oil, vitamin C rich foods antiviral herbs in your diet, like oregano and dry time. And they also ask that you maintain your vitamin D three status which is what we were just saying. And then in Malaysia, the nutrition society of Malaysia released a web statement on tips to eating healthy during COVID-19. They said, eat balanced meals, consume more fruits and vegetables guard gut, which I thought was really cool and adopt healthy cooking practices and keep physically active, even during movement control order, which I'm assuming is there like. Okay. And then the us came out with a web statement and they were trying to recommend healthy eating tips during COVID. And they said, keep up your fruit and vegetable intake swap in healthy, dried, or canned alternatives when fresh produce is not available, build up a stock of healthy snacks. Americans definitely built up their stock of food that's for sure. We did. That's like, we definitely did that. Right. If that was the right move limit highly processed foods, Which we could really do a whole deep dive into that, but we won't. And. that's kind of funny though that I feel like that's almost a contradicting message, like build up a stack of healthy snacks, but limit processed foods. So if you're building a stack of something it's going to have to be processed, or it's not going to be a stack for very long, cause it's either going to go bad or you're going to have to eat it. Yeah. definitely. It's kind of hilarious also, so vague. Right. And then they said make cooking and eating fun and a meaningful part of your family routine, which I was impressed with the U S for that, because that was a really like a social determinant of health moment for us. Yeah, and I think that's good, but so far of what you've listed the U S where we have the worst message. It's not as good as everyone. Else's. it's vague. It's Yeah. Yeah. love how. more. Yeah, I love how India was the India that was like eat like garlic and things like that. Like antiviral foods. That's really cool. Yeah. Yeah. It was super cool. And you know, I think that. These kinds of messages are really interesting for people to see from their government. And I think also it can help people build a little bit more trust, like, okay, they're looking at the holistic aspect of health, which, I mean, yeah, it's makes more sense that other places do that because in our Western culture, we don't really look at holistic health ever. Which is why our recommendations seem a little lackluster compared to other places. So there you go. The next time someone asks you why don't the USA. Fruits and vegetables. They did. You just, you just weren't really listening. You might not miss that little press statement, that web thing. So you can direct them to this information. Yeah. And I don't know. I think it's something to you know, obviously there's a big push towards vaccine, so that's kinda most of the messaging you're seeing And, you know, it would be great to maybe see some of, you know, eat fruits and veggies, but I'm also. I feel like people generally know that they need to eat fruits and veggies. I mean, it's nice to have the reminder something more specific, like India's message of antiviral foods would be kind of cool because a lot, you know, people don't necessarily just know off the top of their heads that what antiviral foods are. But I think people generally understand that they should be eating more fruits and vegetables. as a general statement. Yeah, definitely. Everyone's always kind of like struggling with that or trying to get more in. So I agree. We don't really need to be telling people to do more of that. I mean, it's kind of obvious And that's another reason why this information isn't like pumped far and wide because you know what you're supposed to be doing, you know, that you're supposed to be eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more water. That's something that you know is pretty across the board. Generally understood. And I think it's just one of those things. A lot of people know they need to do it. They just don't know how and that's kind of where it becomes more individual. So it's harder to put out a public health message in that. Yeah, definitely. And one thing I want to touch on is kind of like the anti diet portion of our messaging today and also our weight neutral portion of the messaging today. There's so much information out there that has you kind of wondering if being in a larger body is a risk lots of these studies talk about how a high percentage of people with. Larger bodies or according to the like dumb BMI scale obese are hospitalized. And a lot of these studies are population measures where like, yeah, 40% of people are classified as obese. So 40% of people in the hospital are obese. This is just like common sense. Most studies in the past that. are longitudinal and. Have been done with large populations, show that those in the overweight category of BMI usually have a longer lifespan. And also another note here, people in larger bodies tend to avoid healthcare at times. So it's really not surprising. Like if we do get a worse outcome, But that can be really due to the fear of going to your doctor and looking for advice and being dismissed. Fear of being shamed at the doctor for being quote unquote overweight. So your co-morbidities might be less controlled just because of the way that you're treated for your body at usual primary care visits, much less having to access healthcare for a big issue. You know, shortness of breath for COVID. So that can also play a role in it. So just looking at that, those studies kind of with a critical eye and knowing that everybody is really individualized and body size is not like a COVID death sentence, or it's not like a COVID right sentence. There's plenty of people in smaller bodies that are not able to Recover from COVID-19 and body size has absolutely nothing. Body size has really nothing to do with how well you're covering recovering from COVID-19. There's a lot of different factors going on just like the immune system. So leaving you with some final tips. Regarding nutrition around COVID. We spend a lot of our time today talking about COVID prevention because that applies to everyone. But with cases on the rise majorly we thought we'd give you some quick facts for COVID patients who are recovering at home. Only 12% of people infected with COVID will require hospitalization. So this information is really important and can apply to most folks who. I ended up contracting the virus. When it comes to nutrition recommendations, they're saying about three courts, three liters of fluid per day calories, we're saying 2000 to 2,500 calories per day. Your needs are kind of increased with a high fee. Your fever can also be associated with excess loss of fluids and increased metabolism. So that's the reason why we're asking you to have maybe a little bit extra water and a little bit extra calories aiming for 75 to a hundred grams of protein per. And what's really important too, is that you spread your fluids out throughout the day. So at a minimum you should be drinking two to four ounces of fluids every 15 minutes. I know that sounds aggressive. This is the optimal situation. So do your best. If you do end up getting COVID and needing your fluids clear liquid beverages are great. Water, you can have a fluid that has calories and protein, like a little meal shake or something. Electrolyte drink. Whatever you've got on hand. They're recommending that you eat a high calorie, high protein diet. You could try eating six times a day, every couple hours. In this case you really want to eat, even if you are not hungry. It's still really important to get your calories in. And this is an aspect of intuitive eating, where nutrition comes in as self care. Calories are really important to protect against breakdown of muscles for energy. So due to the increased stress from COVID, you might need more calories than normal. Protein sources. That's about 10 to 14 ounces of a protein source. 75 to a hundred grams. You could try peanut butter, milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, any sort of meat products, protein shakes, tofu, Tempe, all that stuff. We know it can be really hard to eat during this time. You might have a decreased appetite. You may even have loss of taste. But it's really not the time to restrict your calories, eating nutrient dense foods, fruit juice, milk calorie, containing beverages. Are your friends You can try doubling the portions of added fats or oils. Like if you're cooking some veggies, make sure you add a ton of butter, olive oil in that pan getting any extra calories in when you can. And this is true for any sort of bug that you have a fever with too. Right? This is kind of like where a lot of this is stemming from, as I mentioned earlier So all in all, it's really important to continue to eat and drink fluids that will support your body's ability to fight the virus and support your body's immune function. Yeah. So whether you have COVID or you're trying to avoid COVID nutrition is certainly a valuable tool among others that we have. So definitely a good idea to, you know, make sure you're eating balanced meals, eating lots of fruits and veggies and supplementing. If you need to see you next time.