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How To Support Your Immune System To Protect Against Covid-19

With winter and a possible second wave of COVID-19 on the horizon, it’s time to think about ways we can all support our immune systems.

Research has shown many viruses show seasonal incidence and are more common during the colder winter months.

Olga Hamilton, VP of Nutrigenetic Science at Nutri-Genetix offers advice on how we can integrate small changes to our lifestyle with maximum results for our health and wellbeing. 

How does supporting your immune system protect you against COVID19?

COVID-19 is proving to be a disease of the immune system. This could, in theory, be controlled. 

There’s a big difference in how people handle this virus, which is very unusual. This degree of uncertainty has less to do with the virus itself than how our bodies respond to it, which involves our immune system.

As doctors put it: “that’s not the virus; that’s the host.” 

Variation in immune responses between people is due to much more than just age or the presence of other chronic conditions.

Poor diet and obesity have been named as the most important factors that affect our immune system and, consequently, how we respond to the virus. 

It is well known that a good diet and the “right nutrients” are essential for our immune system to function properly.

This means it is absolutely necessary to consume all of our body’s requirements for macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats), vitamins and minerals,  including vitamins C and D, as well as B6, B12 and folate, zinc, copper, iron and selenium, as  well as essential fatty acids. 

We can do this through the consumption of a well-balanced and diverse diet. However, this can be difficult to accomplish for the general population where nutrient inadequacies and deficiencies are widespread. 

There is evidence to suggest that nutritional deficiencies can weaken our immune system and make us more vulnerable to infections.

Research shows that people who do not meet their individual body’s requirements for one or more essential nutrients are more likely to be at risk of picking up infections. Moreover, these infections can then last longer and be more severe. 

When the nutrient deficiencies are corrected with supplementation, the immune system function tends to improve, people become more resistant to infections and even deal with infection more efficiently.

This is where Nutri-Genetix supports each individual with optimal nutrients with a personalised, complete nutrition shake – tailored using DNA.  

Seven ways to support your immune system with your diet: 

Our body cannot “make” or create certain essential nutrients, that’s why it is absolutely critical to make sure your diet supplies all those nutrients.

Nutrient-dense foods are high in nutrients but relatively low in calories, so you get a high nutrient-per-calorie ratio.

Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.

Reduce  “empty” calories, i.e. foods that provide calories but no nutritional value such as processed foods, sweets, desserts, biscuits, cakes, sweetened drinks and sugar-laden cereals and dairy products with added sugar. 

Set yourself daily targets to consume optimal nutrients through your diet: 

1. Up your vegetable intake – aim to consume 500-600g of vegetables per day. It does not matter whether they are cooked from frozen, just got out of a tin/jar, boiled, steamed, roasted,  stewed, grilled or raw – everything counts.

Vegetables provide a great source of vitamin C  which assists in many functions of the immune system.

2. Include oily fish – aim for 4-5 portions per week. One portion is 120g, approximately the size of a small sardine tin.

Oily fish famously provide us with Omega-3 essential fatty acids,  which have important immune-regulatory functions especially our defence against bacterial and viral infections.

Eat a variety such as anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon, trout,  kippers, fresh tuna or if vegan, options include; chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed oil,  hemp seed oil and walnuts. 

3. Consume enough protein – a simple calculation is 1g of protein per 1 kg of your weight per day. For a 70kg person that would be 70g of protein per day.

120g of sardines provide 30g of protein, which is the same amount as 100g of chicken breast. One boiled medium egg has  13g of protein.

For vegans, taking a vegan protein powder would help to provide you with your daily requirements. NGX BodyFuel provides the user 27g of protein per 35g serving. 

4. Get tested! – there is evidence to suggest that nutritional deficiencies can weaken our  immune system and make us more vulnerable to infections.

DNA testing can reveal where you may require additional quantities of certain macro-and micronutrients to help prevent any potential nutritional deficiencies.

Get yourself tested to assess your genetic nutrient requirements – some genetic tests are very easy to do at home.

Nutri-Genetix offers a  comprehensive DNA test that generates a personalised nutrition report for the user to explore in detail their unique nutritional requirements.

Following this users can subscribe to their bespoke  NGX BodyFuel mix, tailored specifically to their needs. 

5. Pack in immune-supporting micronutrients such as; 

Selenium: Brazil nuts, seafood, and organ meats are the richest food sources of selenium. 

Your recommended daily allowance is 55 micrograms, which translates to 50g of tuna, or if vegan, look to incorporate whole grains such as brown rice, oats or just one Brazil nut per day.  

Zinc: Zinc is considered a “gate-keeper of immune function”. Zinc supplementation has been found to benefit patients suffering from viral and bacterial infections among other conditions. 

Oysters contain more zinc than any other food, but red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, certain types of seafood provide good amounts. 

The recommended daily allowance is 11 milligrams for males and 9mg for females, which translates to just 13g of oysters, 135g of beef or 128g of pumpkin seeds per day.  

Vitamin A: Liver and fish oils contain the highest concentration of provitamin A (a precursor of vitamin A, also called beta-carotene, that our body converts to Vitamin A).

Other sources include dairy products and eggs, as well as leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits, and some vegetable oils.

The recommended daily allowance is 900 micrograms for males and 700mcg for females, which translates to just 12g  of beef liver, 75g of sweet potato or 250g of cooked spinach per day.

Do keep in mind that our vitamin A requirements are affected by our genetics as some people cannot convert beta carotene into its active form efficiently and may need to supplement with retinol.

This is especially important for vegans, as retinol only comes from animal sources. 

6. Up your Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin. While we are still allowed to go for a walk or exercise in a park once per day – do use this opportunity to top up your vitamin D levels.

We all know that vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins that support the immune system. 

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infection.  

7. Supplement appropriately – supplementation is a very good idea during this time and acts as an insurance policy just in case you are deficient in any of the essential nutrients.

Research has shown that people who do not meet their individual body’s requirements for one or more essential nutrients are more likely to be at risk of picking up infections. Moreover, these infections can then last longer and be more severe.

When the nutrient deficiencies are corrected with supplementation, the immune system function tends to improve, people become more resistant to infections and even deal with infection more efficiently. 

How genetically personalised nutrition is the key to boosting immunity 

DNA testing can reveal where you may require additional quantities of certain macro-and micronutrients to help prevent any potential nutritional deficiencies.

In other words, making sure that your individual genetic differences are considered when tailoring your nutrient intake ensures that you are less likely to develop any nutritional deficiencies.  

For example, we all know that selenium is one of the most important micronutrients that supports the immune system.

Selenium is an antioxidant that helps boost the body’s defenses against bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells. It may particularly help to protect against certain strains of the flu virus.

The important biological functions of selenium, including antioxidant properties, are exerted through selenoproteins that are made by our genes; a genetic variation of the selenoenzymes  genes may have a negative impact on their activity and/or functionality.

In the NGX DNA report, we test your variant for selenium-dependent GPX1 gene to see whether you require increased selenium intake as deprivation of body selenium causes GPX1 activity to fall extremely low. 

Research has shown that increasing selenium serum levels up to 100 ng/ml helps to reduce oxidative stress and enhances the activity of GPX1. 

However, the daily intake of selenium in Europe is estimated at around 40 μg /day, which is very low compared to around 90–134 μg /day of daily selenium intake in the USA. 

There are three genotypes of the GPX1 gene: C/C, C/T, and T/T. Currently, 30% of the population has a genetic variation (genotypes C/T and T/T), which causes a reduction in the effectiveness of the GPX1 gene. 

Those with variants of the GPX-1 gene can benefit from supplementing their diet with higher doses of selenium in order to counteract the effect of their GPX-1 gene variation.

If you have a  genetic mutation, your BodyFuel formula will contain a higher dosage of selenium in order to compensate for this and ultimately ensure that your selenium intake is optimal.