Boost your immunity to ward off COVID-19

Boost your immunity to ward off COVID-19

 Doctors in Oman have advised people to eat foods that help boost their immunity, so as to reduce the chances of being infected by COVID-19.

A number of nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, as well as minerals help the body fight off diseases, making eating of foods that contain these elements a priority at present.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also says that good nutrition is crucial for health, particularly in times when the immune system might need to fight back. For optimal health, according to the WHO, it is also important to remain physically active, a consensus shared by medical professionals in the Sultanate.

“The most commonly known nutrients that impact the immune system are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and protein,” explained Dr Lyutha Al Subhi from the Department of Food Science at Human Nutrition at the College of Agriculture and Marine Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University. “There are two types of vitamin A. The first, known as preformed vitamin A is found in foods that are of animal origin, such as meat, poultry, fish and dairy products.

“The second, known as beta-carotene is found in plant foods commonly available in our markets, and includes carrots, spinach, broccoli, red bell peppers and papaya,” she added.
“Foods rich in vitamin C, that aid in the formation of antibodies in addition to being antioxidant, include citrus fruits (oranges, limes and lemons), all colours of bell peppers, tomatoes, kiwi and sprouts. Vitamin E supports the neutralisation of free radicals as an antioxidant.”

“When you look at any patient, the first thing you need to do is nutrient supplementation,” said Khezia Resma, a nutritionist at Burjeel Hospital. “The most important minerals and vitamins to boost immunity are vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc. Foods rich in these nutrients are very good immunity boosters.

“Zinc is usually found in milk, eggs, red meat and nuts, and when it comes to vitamin A, you can find these in fish and some vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin and squash,” she added. “We need you to not eat repetitive food. If you change your meals every day, you get access to different vitamins, different minerals, and different nutrients from all the foods you are eating, and that is what is highly recommended at this time. Our body needs to be fighting off infection."

Adding to this, she said, “Also, you must not discount the value of exercise. It is better for people to have physical activity so that your immune system gets stronger as well.”

Dr Lyutha Al Subhi complemented this by saying that various nutrients work in unison as building blocks and help build and sustain our lives. The immune system is no exception to this, as it needs good regular nourishment to sustain its capacity and functions. Diet, which is not the sole factor that modulates the immune function, plays a significant role in our heath.

“Last but not least, the amino acids in protein, in addition to providing the building materials for our body, are found to be vital for T-cells, a type of white blood cell that protect the body against pathogens,” she explained, “Meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds all are packed with protein. But let us not forget that too much of a good thing can be harmful. Eat these nutrients in moderation.”

Her opinion was shared by Dr A Basheer, a senior internist at Badr Al Sama’a Hospital in Ruwi. He too stressed the importance of eating items rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, in addition to recommending other disease combating foods which would help build up the body’s immunity.

He also stressed on the importance of keeping well hydrated at present, saying, “The first thing you must do is drink a lot of water, because this helps purify the body. If you’re talking in terms of COVID-19, and your job requires you to go out a lot – especially if you are among the labour class – then your chance of getting thrombosis and other problems is more.

“Eat a lot of green vegetables and citrus fruits,” he added. “Citrus fruits contain a lot of vitamin C and folic acids. Eat strawberries, papayas and blueberries because they have a lot of antioxidants, while carrots have a lot of vitamin A. All of these help boost your immunity, as these are the building supplements for our cell structure. Fruits such as avocado also have a lot of antioxidant properties.”

However, Dr Basheer did go on to say that not all of the patients he visited followed his dietary suggestions, either because they couldn’t, or more worryingly, because they didn’t want to. He said that only 40 per cent of patients who came to him every day had both the willingness and the means to follow a balanced diet filled with immunity boosting foods.

“Some of the patients I see do follow the recommendations of a healthy diet, others are unable to follow it, while there are also some who neglect to follow this, so I would classify my patients into three groups,” he explained. “40 per cent of people do follow these, 30 per cent neglect to follow it, and another 30 per cent cannot afford these foods.”

Basheer added, “Every time a patient visits us, we ask them why they do not follow these tips. Sometimes, it is because this is a part of their character. Sometimes, this is due to laziness from their side because they don’t want to initiate it. The other group cannot afford this, or they are unable to get access to it, so they are unable to follow these recommendations.”

Khezia Resma also said she attempted to follow up on the dietary patterns of her patients, and had some advice for COVID-19 patients who are quarantined at home.

“I aim to follow-up on these nutrition guidelines with all my patients, and as far is possible, try to give them a varied or a balanced meal, when they arrive in the hospital,” she explained. “People who are in home quarantine, however, should try to vary their diet as much as possible. This helps because you can optimise the nutrients in your food, and get all the possible nutrients available to you.”

tag: health , blog , covid-19


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