South Africans should brace for another Covid-19 infection wave in the middle of the winter flu season.

A clinical review recommends that healthy nutrition and supplementation with vitamins, minerals and probiotics may benefit immunity and prevent or ease viral infections.

“Follow a diet of fruits and vegetables, take high-quality supplements, exercise, get enough restorative sleep, manage stress and practice mindfulness. This will support immunity,” suggests Health Products Assocaition (HPA) Chairperson, Maria Ascencao.

Individualised nutrition important

In this regard, the review notes that the immune system will need to adapt to Covid-19 and that healthy, individualised nutrition — including supplementing with vitamins C, E and D, microminerals such as zinc, iron and selenium, and probiotics — may help.

It further states that many nutrients and nutraceuticals have beneficial effects on the immune response and may prevent or mitigate viral infections. The review, along with related studies, suggest:

  • Countries with lower vitamin D levels are linked to higher mortality rates during the pandemic, backing researchthat vitamin D may help reduce the incidence of colds by 50%.
  • Other studies (see here and here) show vitamin D may reduce the risk of Covid-19 by 9% and that low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation.
  • Vitamin E protects the integrity of cell membranes from free radicals and protects both innate and adaptive immunity.
  • This study shows that vitamin C boosts immune cells, helps increase the production of antibodies, protects against oxidative stress, reduces tissue damage and may help shorten the duration of colds.
  • A study shows that zinc may help shorten the duration of colds by up to 40%, and may reduce the risk of pneumonia in the elderly. Studies show that increased zinc levels may enhance the antiviral effect against Covid-19.
  • Research shows that selenium’s immune-boosting properties may help fight Covid-19.
  • Probiotics may alter gut microbiota and generate antiviral metabolites that strengthen the immune system. One dtudy shows that probiotics reduced the risk of Covid-19 by 14%.
  • Research (here and here) shows that omega-3 fatty acids promote the function of T and B-cells, are anti-inflammatory, help boost immunity and help lower the risk of Covid-19 by 12%.
  • One study shows that multivitamins may reduce the risk of Covid-19 by 13%
  • Echinacea has been found to help prevent colds, according to this research.
  • Pelargonium (African geranium), found in various products, has been shown to help the healing rate for acute bronchitis and colds.