The COVID-19 pandemic has millions of people around the world wondering if there’s anything they can do to protect themselves and loved ones. Novel coronavirus disease can cause severe complications and even death in elderly people and persons with underlying health conditions. The weak immune system also puts you at a higher risk of the disease and complications associated with it. Therefore, an important way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to boost the immune system, and zinc can help. How? Scroll down to find out.
COVID-19 and the immune system
The immune system defends us from viruses, bacteria, and other types of pathogens. However, viruses are highly adaptable, and they find a way to avoid defenses of the immune system such as T cells, which circulate to find infections and neutralize them. Evidence shows that an enzyme that prevents autoimmune disease can be hijacked and used by some viruses to avoid getting detected by the immune system’s defenses.
Interferons and antibodies also play a role in the immune system defenses and protect us from viruses and other harmful invaders. But, in order for these defenses to work properly, the immune system needs to be strong. Only the strong immune system can defend us from viruses, including cold, flu, and COVID-19.
Before we dive into the benefits of zinc, it’s useful to address the reaction of the immune system to novel coronavirus disease. What happens exactly when a person is infected with COVID-19?
The truth is that the full scope of the relationship between COVID-19 and the immune system will probably be familiar soon as scientists are investigating this subject. That being said, scientists from Australia have discovered how the immune system fights novel coronavirus disease. Research, published in the Nature Medicine journal, found that people recover from the virus the same way as they would from the flu. Even though COVID-19 is not the same disease like flu, the immune system reacts in a similar manner to both. This discovery could help discover vaccines for novel coronavirus disease, but also allow scientists and doctors to predict the course of the virus and recovery.
Signs of a weak immune system
We tend to take the immune system for granted and believe everything is fine until problems occur. Many people have a weakened immune system without even realizing it. In order to protect yourself from COVID-19 adequately, you also need to work on strengthening the immune system defenses alongside regular hand-washing and social distancing.
The truth is that we should always be mindful and work to improve our immune system. There is no need to wait for something to happen in order to step things up. But, you’d probably want to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a weakened immune system, so here they are:
- Abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and other digestive problems
- Autoimmune disorders
- High susceptibility to infections i.e., a person gets sick a lot and these seemingly regular infections become more difficult to treat
- Inflammation of the internal organs
- Loss of appetite
Other warning signs of a weakened immune system include:
- Long-term stress
- Constantly catching colds
- Slow wound healing
- Feeling tired all the time
Zinc and the immune system
Zinc is an important mineral that participates in a wide range of functions in the body, such as gene expression, enzymatic reactions, protein synthesis, DNA synthesis, wound healing, immune function, just to name a few. What many people don’t know is that zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in the body, right after iron, and it is found in every cell.
According to the World Health Organization, zinc deficiency affects one-third of the world’s population. Even though severe deficiency is rare, mild-to-moderate cases are quite common across the globe. Additionally, zinc deficiency is responsible for 16% of lower respiratory tract infections in the world, 18% of malaria cases, and 10% of diarrhoeal disease.
The importance of zinc for the overall health and wellbeing is undeniable, just like its role in the immune system. Zinc stops the immune system from spiraling out of control i.e.; it keeps the immune system in check, which is incredibly important for strong defenses against viruses. Evidence confirms that zinc deficiency can impair the immune system and increase inflammation.
Studies show that zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system, and it can function as an antioxidant, thus stabilizing membranes and preventing free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes.
As you can see, zinc is crucial for the proper function of our immune system and protection against diseases. At this point, there are no studies about the impact of zinc on COVID-19, but there are tons of studies regarding the effectiveness of this mineral on the prevention and treatment of flu.
For instance, a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine found that zinc gluconate significantly decreased the duration of symptoms associated with the common cold. However, the exact mechanisms behind this action remain unknown. In the study, 50 subjects received one zinc lozenge every two hours while awake. Each lozenge contained 13.3mg of zinc from zinc gluconate.
The above-mentioned study is not the only one to confirm that zinc can help reduce the severity of symptoms of flu. What’s more, one study found that zinc can shorten the duration of the cold by about 33%. Zinc administered within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms decreases the duration of common cold symptoms in healthy people, study confirms.
Keep in mind the purpose of this post is not to say COVID-19 and flu or the common cold is the same problem, as mentioned above. The goal is to demonstrate the effectiveness of zinc to strengthen the immune function and help us combat viruses successfully, as confirmed by a growing body of evidence.
Other minerals beneficial for the immune system
The immune system requires a wide spectrum of nutrients to remain strong and effective in defending us against harmful invaders. Besides zinc, it also requires other nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and E. Below, we are going to outline how each of these micronutrients promotes immune system function.
Vitamin A is important for our skin, vision, reproduction, and improved function of kidneys, heart, lungs, and other organs. This vitamin is also important for the function of our immune system. Crucial immune organs need a constant dietary intake of vitamin A to function properly. For reference, immune organs are tissues or organs that realize the immune function and are also the places where immunocompetent cells proliferate. Studies reveal that vitamin A has both promoting and regulatory roles in both the innate and adaptive immunity. That’s why this particular vitamin enhances our immune function and provides a stronger defense against multiple infectious diseases.
Vitamin C is widely known for its potential to strengthen the immune system, which is why we up the intake of this micronutrient during winter to avoid flu. A growing body of evidence confirms that vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting numerous cellular functions in both innate and adaptive immunity. For example, vitamin C supports the epithelial barrier function against pathogens and acts as an antioxidant, thus protecting us against environmental oxidative stress. This also explains why many anti-aging products contain vitamin C in their formula. Mechanisms of vitamin C also extend to killing microbes, decreasing tissue damage, and enhancing differentiation and proliferation of B- and T-cells, both of which play a crucial role in our immune system. Deficiency in vitamin C impairs our immunity and puts us at a higher risk of infections. It’s also worth noting that regular supplementation with vitamin C can reduce the duration of the common cold.
Vitamin E is a micronutrient best known for its antioxidant role, but it is also involved in immune function, cell signaling, regulation of gene expression, and other metabolic processes. Deficiency in vitamin E impairs immune parameters and increases the incidence of infectious diseases. On the other hand, supplementation with vitamin E improves cellular immunity and contributes to the differentiation of T-cells. Other mechanisms of action associated with vitamin E include the improvement of effective immune system formation in naïve T cells, lower production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and the reduced production of PGE2, a major mediator of inflammation.
Sources of zinc
The strong immune system can help protect you against viruses, and improving zinc intake is one way to make it happen. For example, you can eat more foods that are rich in this mineral. They are:
- Dark chocolate
- Green beans
- Whole grains
Although many foods are abundant in zinc, we do not consume them enough. We strongly recommend taking a dietary zinc supplement as a practical way of increasing your zinc consumption safely and naturally.
Best zinc supplement for immune defence (our recommendation)
When it comes to a high quality zinc supplement, look no further than the suitably named Immune Defence. It is a zinc supplement specifically designed to promote the function of the immune system and strengthen your defenses against the common cold and other viruses. Unlike other supplements on the market, Immune Defence comes in the form of soothing aniseed flavor lozenges that dissolve on the tongue, meaning you get to experience the effects faster. Regular intake of the supplement can protect you against flu and cold or reduce their duration, fight oxidative stress, and make you stronger and healthier. Besides zinc, the supplement also delivers vitamin A, C and E. The combined effects of these powerful micronutrients can help you combat stress, which, as mentioned already, is a major sign of immune system problems. Since these lozenges are suitable for children, Immune Defence can be a trusted ally to the whole family.
Our zinc supplement recommendation: Immune Defence
Other tips to boost the immune system
There are tons of things we can do to be more resilient and allow our immune system to protect us against viruses, infections, and other problems that arise.
The most important thing is to modify our diet and get rid of junk food and other foods with little to no nutritional value. Instead, we should consume a well-balanced diet and foods rich in a wide range of nutrients. Different food groups deliver different nutrients, so versatility is significant. Some foods that boost immune system function include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, yogurt, almonds, turmeric, papaya, green tea, kiwi, poultry, sunflower seeds, shellfish.
Besides adjusting the diet, it’s also important to get enough sleep. After all, sleep deprivation increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol and thereby negatively affects the immune system. When we say you need to get enough sleep, it means the regular schedule is crucial. A person should go to bed every night at the same time and wake up every morning at the same time. Sleep schedule can make a huge difference in our lifestyle, including the immune system’s defenses.
Other things you can do include:
- Practice yoga
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid or reduce intake of alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Manage underlying health conditions properly, as advised by your doctor
- Use products that don’t contain toxins, natural items are always better
- Reduce exposure to highly polluted areas
The significance of the immune system is largely overlooked, and most people don’t think about it unless problems occur. Novel coronavirus disease has made millions of people think about their immune system and how strong it is. The good thing is that there are many things you can do to improve the immune system’s functions, and one of them is supplementation with zinc. As seen in this post, studies confirm that zinc is crucial for our immunity. When it comes to protection against COVID-19, you should also wash hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water, maintain social distancing, avoid spending too much time outside, especially close to other people. Although it can be difficult to do, you need to remember that by protecting yourself, you’re also protecting others.