The best basic steps for protecting , improving and boosting your immune system to fight the corona-virus.

Nutrition

Fruits, veggies and seeds

Getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, and seeds is a common recommendation seen on many sites, but the evidence is inconclusive if it truly helps. In one often-quoted study, elderly volunteers were randomized to less than two or greater than five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

They found the group with the higher fruit consumption had a better immune response to the pneumonia vaccine but not to the tetanus vaccine.

Another claim is that “eating the rainbow” and getting “adequate phytonutrients” improves immune function and reduces infection risk. Unfortunately, “eating the rainbow” and getting “adequate phytonutrients” are poorly defined terms, and such messages are usually compromised by being based on nutritional epidemiology studies heavily impacted by the underlying diet (i.e mostly in high-carb diets) and healthy-user bias.

Therefore, we cannot conclude that any one specific food will improve your immune function. However, as with many other potential health benefits, it makes sense to stick to a diet that provides adequate essential nutrition and is rich in minimally processed natural foods. It may not be more complicated than that.

Refined carbs and sugars

Laboratory evidence suggests sugar may impair white blood cell function, but no credible evidence shows eating it makes you get more infections.

However, other evidence suggests acute rises in blood sugar may increase risk of infections and complications.

Therefore, it would make sense that we want to limit these blood sugar elevations. Refined carbohydrates and simple sugars are two of the biggest offenders for blood sugar spikes and therefore should probably be avoided.

This is different than saying studies show avoiding these foods results in fewer infections. (We don’t have that evidence.) Plus, as we have mentioned many times, it’s difficult to isolate the effect of one food since any food’s effects have to be studied within the context of the underlying diet (i.e. standard American diet vs. a low-carb diet).

However, one simple solution is to use the measurement of your own blood sugar as a guide. If higher blood sugar is associated with more complications, it makes sense we want to limit that.

We suggest measuring your blood sugar either with a regular glucometer or, even better, with a continuous glucometer (CGM) if you have access to one. If the foods you eat cause your blood sugar to rise above 140mg/dl (7.8mmol/L), consider eating something different.

Studies show that a low-carb, moderate protein, higher fat diet effectively reduces blood sugar and can even reverse type 2 diabetes.

We don’t have proof that this will “boost your immune system,” but it may help keep blood sugars in check which may be associated with decreased infectious risk.

Chicken soup/bone broth

Treating colds and the flu with chicken soup may be the most popular urban myth of all time. Surprisingly, it may not be 100% a myth.

One study showed chicken soup “inhibited neutrophil migration,” which the authors suggest could improve our ability to recover from infections.

However, this is one of those instances where laboratory findings may not translate to clinical improvements such as fewer or less serious infections. But it’s hard to argue with a tasty homemade soup with chicken, a few low-carb veggies, and plenty of real salt. Immune booster or not, it sounds like a great meal for a wintery day in self-isolation. We chalk that one up to good self-care.

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