COVID-19: How to use diet and supplements to maintain immunity... and sanity

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Offline Shamim Ansary

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Kara Landau, founder of Uplift Food​ and author of the Good Mood Food Guide and Prebiotic Manual, says that whilst this global health crisis brings uncertainty to many aspects of our lives, there’s one things that remains certain – our diets can help get us through this.

“One thing I know for certain is that what we eat does play a role in both how we feel and in our immune health.​

“Given the connection between dietary factors, inflammation, and mood, it makes sense to try and minimize any potential nutritional deficiencies that could lead to an increase in inflammation within the body.”​

The gut health specialist who attended NutraIngredients’ Probiota conference earlier this year says that as the founder of a small startup company she understands the anxiety this situation can bring.

“It can lead anyone to experience feelings anywhere between deep concern to paralysing anxiety.”​

She points out there are foods rich in specific nutrients that are known to help alleviate and prevent anxiety and depression, reduce inflammation in the body, and ultimately help to build the immune system.


As the nutrition adviser and media representative for the Global Prebiotic Association, it’s not surprising that Landau points to prebiotics as a key dietary component for improving mental health.

She says: “With the gut-brain connection having a wealth of research to support its important role in our mental health, including our understanding that poor gut health can lead to the release of inflammatory molecules in the body, and depression and anxiety being known to be conditions not only from a chemical imbalance but also of inflammation within the body.​

“Together with the knowledge that the immune system is predominantly found within the gut - It is with reasonable understanding that the key fuel source for the diverse bacteria within the gut, also known as prebiotics, would play a vital piece in the story for both positive mental wellbeing together with strengthening your immune system.”​

She points out that the specific bacteria type that are typically targeted by prebiotics are Lactobacilli​ and bifidobacteria​, with positive changes in bifidobacteria ​the most commonly seen. What's more, the prebiotics that are fermented by the bacteria in the colon lead to the production of beneficial short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that have direct, and indirect, health benefits.

She outlines some of the key sources of gut health boosting prebiotic fibres.

“Although many of the densest sources of prebiotics are often found in less commonly consumed foods such as chicory root and dandelion greens, there are more easily incorporated foods that you can weave into your diets in situations such as we find ourselves in now, including roasting and then cooling potatoes or pasta, overnight oats or raw oats used in energy balls, incorporating onion and garlic into dishes, consuming legume based pastas, as well as blending in green banana flour or a prebiotic supplement into a smoothie.”​

Antioxidants and polyphenols​

Antioxidants and polyphenols are the ‘powerhouses’ that not only reduce inflammation in the body but also play a supportive role in many of the body's 'wellbeing systems', and more recently some have even been shown to support gut health via their own prebiotic activity, says Landau.

“If you are house-bound and do not feel it is possible to continue to purchase fresh deep coloured fruits and vegetables for any reason, additional options to attain these nutrients include Vitamin E and selenium rich nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, as well as other healthy fat rich foods such as avocado and extra virgin olive oil. ​

“I would advise to continue consuming deep coloured fruits and vegetables - and just because there are no frozen fruits or vegetable options left at the grocery store does not mean you can not purchase fresh berries or vegetables, place them in the freezer, and add into a smoothie or dish when you are ready to use them.” ​


“Often referred to as the calming mineral, Magnesium assists with the conversion of 5 hydroxytryptophan into serotonin, one of the forms you find tryptophan in within the body whilst serotonin is being produced.​

“Many people these days are unknowingly deficient in magnesium which has the potential to negatively affect your ability to boost your mood naturally through increased serotonin production.​

“For this reason, ensuring that you consume adequate dietary sources of magnesium is essential to promoting a positive mood.”​

 Landau points out that some key food sources of magnesium include: whole-grains such as oats and wheat-bran, broccoli, raspberries, nuts and seeds, natural nut or seed butters are dense sources that are often easy to incorporate into the diet, beans, bananas, and cocoa / dark chocolate.

Vitamin D

It’s unsurprising that vitamin D – the happy vitamin absorbed from sunshine - would appear on the list of mental health stabilising nutrients.

“Research has continually been uncovering how important a role Vitamin D plays in the maintenance of optimal physical and mental health.​

“Although the exact mechanisms of action are still being uncovered, what can be understood is that Vitamin D deficiency appears to be associated with a number of inflammatory conditions, including Type II Diabetes, Arthritis and even Cardiovascular Disease.” ​

She adds that in a study of almost 12600​ people over a four year period, it was found that higher blood levels of Vitamin D were associated with significantly decreased risk of depression, and in particular, this association was found to be strongest in those people whom had had a previous history of depression.

“Although sunlight is often our best option for Vitamin D, for those that are not in areas that permit this at this time, some easily accessible food options include: canned fish and eggs, and although offering the not quite as well absorbed Vitamin D2 plant based version of Vitamin D, high vitamin D mushrooms are an option for those who follow a vegan diet.”​

Omega 3 is well understood as playing a beneficial role in reducing inflammation within the body and there are three different types of omega 3’s that are commonly focused on: DHA, EPA and ALA.

Landau explains: “DHA - docosahexaenoic acids - are long chain fatty acids that make up part of the cell membranes of our brains cells, and play a role in the transmission of chemical signals from cell to cell therefore is usually promoted for heart health. ​

“EPA- Eicosapentaenoic acid - is also a long chain fatty acid which helps to reduce inflammation and therefore is associated with improving your mood.​

“DHA and EPA can be found in fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, mackerel and halibut. They are also found in vegan micro-algae sources from which are thought to be where they actually originate in the food system, to begin with. ​

“ALA is found in hemp seeds, sacha inchi seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and some dark green leafy vegetables, including kale and spinach. Only a very small percentage of ALA is converted into EPA (around 6%), which can then be converted into DHA (around 3.8%). Therefore ALA is not as potent for mood elevation or heart health as EPA and DHA coming from the alternative sources.” ​

"Many thanks to Allah who gave us life after having given us death and (our) final return (on the Day of Qiyaamah (Judgement)) is to Him"

Offline Shamim Ansary

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The Best Natural Cough Remedies

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Generally speaking, coughing is perfectly normal. A cough can help to keep your throat clear from phlegm and other irritants. However, sustained coughing can also be symptomatic of a number of conditions, such as an allergy, a viral infection, or a bacterial infection.

Sometimes a cough isn’t due to anything related to your lungs. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also cause a cough.

You can treat coughs due to colds, allergies, and sinus infections with a number of over-the-counter medicines. Bacterial infections will require antibiotics. However, for those who prefer to avoid chemicals, we’ve listed a few home remedies that can help.

Honey is a time-honored remedy for a sore throat. According to one studyTrusted Source, it can also relieve coughs more effectively than over-the-counter medicines that contain dextromethorphan (DM), a cough suppressant.

You can create your own remedy at home by mixing up to 2 teaspoons of honey with herbal tea or warm water and lemon. The honey does the soothing, while the lemon juice can help with congestion. You can also simply eat the honey by the spoonful or spread it on bread for a snack.

Shop for honey.

Probiotics are microorganisms that can provide a host of health benefits. While they don’t relieve a cough directly, they do help to balance your gastrointestinal flora. Gastrointestinal flora are the bacteria that live in your intestines.

This balance can support immune system function throughout the body. EvidenceTrusted Source also suggests that Lactobacillus, a bacterium in dairy, can reduce the likelihood of a cold or flu and sensitivity to certain allergens, such as pollen.

Fortified milk is a great source of Lactobacillus. You should be cautious, however, as dairy may make phlegm thicker. You can also purchase probiotic supplements at most health food stores and drug stores. Each supplement manufacturer may have different daily recommended intakes. Probiotics are also added to some yogurt types and are present in miso soup and sourdough breads.

Find probiotics online.

You don’t usually think of pineapple as a cough remedy, but that’s probably because you’ve never heard of bromelain. There’s evidence to suggest that bromelain — an enzyme found only in the stem and fruit of pineapples — can help suppress coughs as well as loosen the mucus in your throat. To enjoy the most benefits of pineapple and bromelain, eat a slice of pineapple or drink 3.5 ounces of fresh pineapple juice three times a day.

There are also claims that it can help relieve sinusitis and allergy-based sinus issues, which can contribute to coughs and mucus. However, there is insufficient evidenceTrusted Source to support this. It’s also sometimes used to treat inflammation and swelling.

Bromelain supplements should not be taken by children or adults who take blood thinners. Also, be careful using bromelain if you’re also on antibiotics such as amoxicillin, as it can increase the absorption of the antibiotic. Always speak to your doctor before taking new or unfamiliar supplements.

Get bromelain supplements.

Peppermint leaves are well known for their healing properties. Menthol in peppermint soothes the throat and acts as a decongestant, helping to break down mucus. You can benefit by drinking peppermint tea or by inhaling peppermint vapors from a steam bath. To make a steam bath, add 3 or 4 drops of peppermint oil for every 150 milliliters of hot water. Drape a towel over your head, and take deep breaths directly above the water.

Shop for peppermint oil.

Marshmallow is made from Althaea officinalis, a perennial that flowers in summer. The leaves and roots of the herb have been used since ancient times to treat sore throats and suppress coughs. There are no well-controlled studies to support these claims, but the herb is generally considered safe.

The marshmallow herb contains mucilage, which coats the throat and soothes irritation.

Today, you can get marshmallow root as tea or in capsule form. The warm tea can be soothing to a cough that’s accompanied by a sore throat. Marshmallow root is not recommended for children.

Get marshmallow root tea or capsules here.

Thyme is used by some for respiratory illnesses. One studyTrusted Source suggests that the essence extracted from thyme leaves mixed with ivy can help relieve coughing as well as short-term bronchitis. The leaves contain compounds called flavonoids that relax the throat muscles involved in coughing and lessen inflammation.

You can make thyme tea at home using 2 teaspoons of crushed thyme leaves and 1 cup of boiling water. Cover the cup, steep for 10 minutes, and strain.

While the remedy may seem relatively simple, a salt and water gargle can help soothe a scratchy throat that causes you to cough. Mixing 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water can help to relieve irritation.

Note that children under age 6 aren’t especially good at gargling. It’s best to try other remedies for this age group.

In addition to learning how to treat a cough, you might want to learn how to prevent them in the first place. To protect against flu, make sure you get your annual flu shot, usually starting in October. Other steps you can take include:

    Avoid coming in contact with others who are sick. If you know you are sick, avoid going to work or school so you will not infect others.
    Cover your nose and mouth whenever your cough or sneeze.
    Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
    Clean the common areas of your home, work, or school frequently. This is especially true for countertops, toys, or mobile phones.
    Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing, eating, going to the bathroom, or caring for someone who is sick.

With allergies, you can reduce flare-ups by identifying the allergens that affect you and avoiding exposure to them. Common allergens include trees, pollen, dust mites, animal fur, mold, and insects. Allergy shots are helpful as well and can reduce your sensitivity to allergens. Talk to your doctor about what plan is right for you.

"Many thanks to Allah who gave us life after having given us death and (our) final return (on the Day of Qiyaamah (Judgement)) is to Him"