Updated: May 4, 2020
Coronavirus needs no introduction. Right off the bat, let me say this - there is so much we have yet to understand regarding COVID-19. Combining that with how much is yet to be understood about our immune system's intricate details, we are left with endless unanswered questions and luck of the draw chances of evasion. How does it function? Are we developing herd immunity? What are long term consequences? Will social distancing really stop spread in a significant way? We truly do not have the answers, we are simply doing the best we can at the present time.
However, here is what we know for sure: when it comes to the general population, we hope that having strength of health on our side will help us avoid the complications of illness more often than not. This means a body that can absorb nutrients adequately, fight infections efficiently, recovery in a timely manner, and physically keep us resilient. Whether to evade infection or battle through it, these are the factors that will theoretically make our experience with the current state of affairs that much more manageable.
Low-carbohydrate diet: The trends have shown that individuals with chronic conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and other metabolic conditions are at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, and scientific evidence has shown that low-carb and diets leaning towards ketosis are effective in reversing these conditions. While we can't say that our elimination of grains and sugars (carbohydrates) are immune-boosting per se, we can confirm that these steps almost instantly improve our metabolic health, balance the otherwise acute rises in blood glucose which increase risks of infections, limit our inflammation triggers, and as a result benefit our immune function.
Intermittent fasting: Studies on intermittent fasting have shown that immune function is significantly boosted during a fasted state, and stem cells are given a chance to regenerate. Especially in a time where we've found ourselves with far too much time without our usual workload, this is a welcomed challenge. Try a 16:8 fast every day over the next week (at least). This means timing your meals so they all fit into an 8-hour window, and having absolutely nothing with calorie content during the remaining 16 hours. For example, delay your first meal until 11 am, and eat all your meals between then and 7 pm. From 7 pm to 11 am you can consume calorie-free drinks like water with lemon, carbonated calorie-free beverages, black coffee, tea without sweetener, etc, to tide you over.
7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily: This sounds like a cliche but you'd be surprised how few servings most of us get in one day. Every colour of produce contains a unique set of phytonutrients, so ensuring your diet is filled with a variety of these plants will heavily influence your immune response. Leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and others are ones to use up first as they will wilt, but things like kale, zucchini, celery, fennel, broccoli, etc will last weeks if stored properly, and of course even longer if frozen. Mushrooms like Reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, and maitake are almost medicinal in their function. They are rich in quercetin and resveratrol which have been under intense research as possible preventative treatments for COVID19.
Zinc-rich foods: Zinc is an essential mineral required for the function of over 300 enzymes in the body, nutrient metabolism, immune system maintenance, and repair. It is a mineral that our body cannot store, however, so we must consume it consistently in our diet to sustain proper functions. It is recommended that men consume 11mg daily, while women consume 8mg, and it can be found in meat (red meat has the highest concentration), shellfish, legumes/lentils, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, hemp), eggs, potatoes.
Probiotics: If you are not already supplementing your diet with these, you must start immediately. A healthy gut flora means a healthy environment for 77% of your immune system production. It is integral! You can consume these within your food in the form of sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and miso, or purchase supplements. Look for products that contain at least 5 billion organisms per serving, and especially those containing Lactobacillus Plantarum, and spores.
Anti-Viral Herbs: Not all herbs are created equal. Some have broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects and due to their concentration of phytonutrients, are used in Ayurveda and naturopathy to help fight a host of infections. Oregano, for example, is rich in carvacrol, a compound that has shown the ability to reduce the activity of norovirus, rotavirus, herpes simplex 1, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and more. consume fresh or in the form of oil. Fennel is another herb that showed strong antiviral effects against herpes, parainfluenza, and respiratory infections due to its compound trans-anethole. Peppermint, rosemary, echinacea, elderberry, licorice, ginger, and ginseng are all potent in their compounds and easy to implement in our diets.
Some meal ideas to keep you from reaching for unhealthy comforts:
Radiance Juice - Combine 1 peeled orange, 1-2 large carrots, 1 beet, 1 thumb of ginger, 1 whole lemon, and half of a cucumber. Blend until smooth and enjoy this vitamin C booster.
Glowing Green Smoothie - Combine 1 cup of water, 2-3 handfuls of spinach, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, kale (any one or a combination of a few), 1/2 of a large cucumber, 1 thumb of ginger, 1/2 of a pink lady or Granny Smith apple, 1/2 of a lemon (peeled) and blend until smooth.
Bone Broth - Place 1 chicken carcass into a large pan with 1 large onion, the juice of 1 lemon, 2-3 bay leaves, and 1.5 L of water. Cover and simmer for ~40 mins, then remove from heat and set aside to cool. Once cool, scoop out all the bones and large onion pieces, and replace any remaining chicken from the bone back into the broth. In the remaining broth add 2 red chilies (deseeded and sliced), 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1tsp garlic powder. Continue to cook until heated through once more, taste, and season further accordingly. Drink 1 cup of broth at a time or use as a base for soup.
Zesty Salmon with Roasted Beets & Spinach - Heat your oven to 180C. Cut 4 small beetroots into quarters, toss with 1/2 tsp coconut oil, 1tsp coriander seeds, and vegetable seasonings of your choice before baking them in a foil parcel for ~45 minutes or until tender. Then, open the parcel, top the beets with 2 salmon fillets, sprinkle the zest of 1 orange over top, and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, juice the zested orange, combine with 1 grated garlic clove and set aside. Combine 4 handfuls of spinach, the wedges of 1 small orange, 1/2 red onion chopped, 1 avocado sliced, and 3tbsp of pumpkin seeds into a salad. Remove the salmon and beets from the oven, serve with the prepared salad and top with the orange juice dressing.
Oriental Steak Salad - Combine 1 grated garlic clove, juice of 1 lime, 1 finely chopped, deseeded chilli and 1/2 tsp of Thai fish sauce or light soy sauce, and set aside. Plate a salad of arugula, coriander leaves, cucumber slices, radish slices and your choice of herbs. Pan fry fillet steaks for ~5 minutes on eat side, after seasoning with salt and pepper. set aside to rest, thinly slice over the salad, top with the prepared dressing, steak juices, and roasted nuts.
Batata Harra (Spicy Lebanese Potatoes) - Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan and cook medium sized cubes of potatoes (3) until crisp, then remove and set aisde on a paper towel lined plate. In another pan heat 1 tbsp of oil and add in 12 tbsp finely chopped onion, 1 tsp garlic mince, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp ground coriander, fresh ground pepper and salt to taste, and 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro. Cook until fragrant, add in the potatoes, mix well, top with the juice of 1 lime and serve on the side of protein!
Snack Ideas - Olives & carpaccio, homemade fresh juice popsicles, guacamole & baked corn tortilla chips, coconut yogurt parfaits with paleo granola, baked chickpea chips, kale chips, cucumber & tajin, watermelon or papaya & lime juice, kombucha iced tea, cacao nibs trail mix, strawberries & cocoa powder drizzle
For more delicious meal ideas, join the Inflammation Detox Protocol!
Of course, things are far from this simple, and there are many conflicting views on all advice shared during this time. But besides washing our hands, social distancing, and supporting our loved ones, small businesses, the healthcare system, and more, taking care of ourselves from the inside out is a big priority - both with the goal of evading illness, and also to ensure we are physically capable of taking care of those in need should that moment arise. This is just a small way I hope I can help take care of you in these troubled times.
Praying for you, QuaranTeam. Stay safe!
Disclaimer: This content is strictly the opinion of Dr. Mashal Khan and is for informational and educational purposes only.The information discussed is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any specific disease or medical condition. It should not be used for or in the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, are advised to consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program and with specific health questions. Neither Dr. Khan nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content.