Social distancing, vaccination inoculations, face masks, hand cleansing, testing for the virus. All these actions have become routine, an all-to-familiar part of our daily lives due to the global spread of the Covid-19 Corona virus. These measures have success to a greater or lesser extent, but the variants that keep springing up seem to keep us all on the back foot. However, there is another way we can try to counteract the adverse effects of the virus, and we can do it ourselves.
Our diet. After all, we are what we eat. A heathy food regimen – and ingesting things that are good for us – has been proven to boost the body’s own defences by promoting a robust immune system. Now could be just the right time to look at how our diet might be able to help us in our fight against this insidious disease.
You do not necessarily need to make a lifestyle change – such as becoming a vegan or a vegetarian – to train your bodies immune system to be the best it can be, and we will be taking a look at every option available to us. Including the use of conventional and traditional medicines or herbal supplements, in this quest to help our bodies help themselves.
First off I talked to a personal trainer, qualified nutritionist, and yoga instructor I have previously interviewed, Steve Pilot. Steve told me he became a vegan a decade ago, and was surprised to discover that a plant based diet can provide more than enough protein to maintain and even increase musculature. But can a plant based diet give any benefits to the human immune system, particularly during the ongoing challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, I wondered. Steve is a committed vegan and a fitness professional, but before he answered my questions he told me that there is no magic bullet, and that he, or indeed anyone, can fall prey to Covid-19. There is, as yet, no guaranteed way of ensuring you do not become infected.
Steve told us about his views on diet and health; “A balanced vegan diet is the most suitable for all age groups, from the very young up to those in their eighties, pregnant ladies, or even the infirm. With a vegan diet that includes cauliflower, pumpkin and chickpeas this will go a long way to boosting the body’s own immune system. For Covid-19 a good way to power up the body’s defences is with an infusion of turmeric and black pepper, mixed with the juice from a lemon to make it taste good. This is a potent little tonic, and it contains a ton of antioxidants. Also consider raspberries, goji berries, strawberries, and blueberries, these are super fruits that also contain a high percentage of antioxidants. A diet high in antioxidants reduces the risk of many diseases. including heart ailments and some cancers, as well as respiratory illnesses, which are one of the primary features of the Covid infection. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals from the body cells and prevent or reduce the damage caused by oxidation within the body. Vitamins are an essential part of a vegan diet. But eat fresh fruits and vegetables to obtain the best benefit, don’t go for the supplements found in pharmacies. However, essential vitamins not found in a vegan diet are vitamin D3, K2, and B12, so a vegan should look to be taking these supplements to maintain the best level of health and fitness. Studies are continuing, but preliminary results are showing that the Covid-19 virus doesn’t appear to find a vegan body a very hospitable home. So if you have been thinking about a lifestyle change now might be the perfect time.”
The second specialist that I talked to was Dr. Erik Fleischman, a medical professional from the States, who has been a resident of Thailand for many years.
I asked him a few questions:
Are there any foods you could recommend that might help our body to deal with the effects of Covid-19, and is there anything we should avoid? He replied “The most important thing is to avoid food or drink with sugar in it. Viruses, as well as bacteria and fungi all rely on simple sugars to fuel themselves, feed and grow. Foods with a high sugar content decay the immune response and make a sweet environment for pathogens in the body to thrive.”
Which medicines for treatment would you recommend, for example – Favipravir, Ivermectin, or any of several others that you are aware of? “Anecdotally, I believe that of all the ‘home’ remedies, Ivermectin has the most hope of being an effective treatment medication. Nothing striking, but hopefully it can help to lessen the length of an illness and accompanying symptoms. Remdesivir is having significant successes, and the monoclonal antibody Regeneron is definitely a lifesaver for those at risk of severe infection with Covid-19.”
Are there any vitamins we should take, and why? Should we take electrolytes? “I suggest Vitamin C, 2000-3000mg per day, Vitamin D3 3000-5000 units per day, and Zinc 15mg per day, along with a good high B complex. These will all help to support the immune system’s fight against viruses. Electrolytes are good when you are dehydrated, but general hydration when you are sick is even more important.
Hydration and vitamins are important, so are 100% fruit juices a recommendation, or only plain water? “As I said previously, good hydration is important during any illness, but I’d stay away from fruit juices, the sugar content is way too high. I’d recommend warm water with lemon juice squeezed into it. This can add electrolytes and at the same time can sooth the throat, and a warm, strong ginger tea is good for the kidneys and the throat.”
Are there any OTC medicines that might be a help? “Take Ibuprofen and Paracetamol for pain, and over the counter medications such as cough syrup if there is a cough. Like any flu, Covid takes time to ease, control, and eradicate the symptoms.”
Thank you for your time, Dr Erik. “You’re more than welcome. Good luck to you and all your readers.”
The Mayo Clinic in the U.S. are world leaders in the development of new drug treatments. A spokesman from them said that although there is only one drug currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat coronavirus many medications are being tested. The FDA has approved the antiviral drug Remdesivir to treat Covid-19 in adults and children who are aged 12 and older. Remdesivir is an option for people who are hospitalised with Covid-19. Its administered intravenously by medical staff at a hospital, under strict supervision by doctors trained in virology. The FDA has granted an emergency use authorisation for the rheumatoid arthritis drug Baricitinib to treat Covid-19. Baricitinib is given in tablet form, and seems to be effective by reducing inflammation and having antiviral activity. The FDA suggests Baricitinib could be used in patients who are in hospital with Covid, and are on mechanical ventilators, or being given supplemental oxygen.
Researchers are also studying other potential treatments for Covid-19, including Favipiravir and Merimepodib. The corticosteroid Dexamethasone is another anti-inflammatory drug that researchers are studying to treat or prevent organ dysfunction and lung injury due to inflammation. Studies have found that it reduces the risk of death by about 30% for people on ventilators and by 20% for patients receiving extra oxygen. Doctors have warned, though, that Dexamethasone and other corticosteroids may be harmful if given for less severe Covid-19 infection.
Researchers are continuing to study the use of a type of immune based therapy. The FDA has granted emergency use authorisation for treatment by convalescent plasma therapy. Convalescent plasma is blood donated by people who have recovered from Covid-19. It is high in antibodies and may be used to treat people in a hospital who are early in their illness, or who have weakened immune systems. In the U.S. and other countries around the world research is continuing in its quest to find a way to deal with the virus during the pandemic.
In Thailand the herbs to go under the microscope have been green chiretta (fah talai jone, or Andrographis Paniculata) and fingerroot (Chinese ginger, Boesenbergia Rotunda), DPM and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said recently. The Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTTAM) has reported that green chiretta is effective in suppressing the Covid virus and hindering it from replicating. In July 2021 the Thai government approved the use of fah talai jone after a trial on prison inmates, in which 99% of 11,800 subjects with mild symptoms reportedly recovered. The government is hopeful that wider availability of the herb will help relieve pressure on the public health system.
Dhanin Chearavanont, Chairman of Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, and one of Thailand’s richest businessmen, said that he has set aside about 100 rai (16 hectares) of CP Group’s land in Saraburi Province to grow fah talai jone. The herb is used to make an anti-inflammatory drug to treat coronavirus patients, and the company will also build a factory to turn the herb into capsules, and provide them to the public for free.
Vitamins, minerals and probiotics can help maintain a healthy immune system. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has informed that while natural remedies can have a positive impact on health that they are not a medically proven treatment for fighting Covid. But although no food or supplement has yet proved to be able to cure or prevent Covid, a healthy immune system and proper nutrition are fundamental in keeping us fit during these difficult times. They could be a precious defence, alongside social distancing, hand washing and vaccines. Vaccines against the virus which are now entering their second generation, and are designed to cope with the emerging variants.
Plants have been used for centuries in almost all cultures across the world as natural remedies to treat chronic infections, including viral diseases. More than 2,500 years ago, the father of western medicine, Hippocrates, said: “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” The introduction of important medicinal food plants into the general public’s daily diet could be an easily achievable game changer in the fight against viruses and diseases, strengthening and improving people’s natural immune systems, and aiding general health.
I have found, after researching extensively, that there are a few fruits, vegetables and herbs that might help tackle Covid-19. Pomegranate peel extracts could help inhibit viral internalisation, when the virus enters the body looking for a host cell. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina found pomegranate polyphenols extracted from peels of pomegranate fruit can play a role in inhibiting coronavirus infection. The extracts have previously been shown to have beneficial effects for other diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, inflammatory diseases and even some types of cancer. Most importantly, they have shown significant antiviral activities against viruses other than Covid, preventing influenza virus entry and RNA transcription. They could be an aid in treatment or prevention of Covid-19.
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The idea that ginger can boost energy levels and the immune system and relieve the symptoms of other diseases, such as a cold, is rooted in its actual medicinal properties. Ginger has been used for centuries not only as a spice, but also as a herbal medicine to relieve pain, nausea and vomiting.
Dandelion, a plant that grows naturally in meadows and fields, is one of the many plants scientists are testing for potential use in the fight against Covid. A study conducted by scientists in Freiburg, Germany has found evidence that the common dandelion is able to block interaction between the spike S1 protein and the human ACE2 cell surface receptor (the protein on the surface of many cells the virus attaches itself to). Another study looks at data coming from Sweden and the UK, both consumers of dandelion as a food. It is thought possible that the plant can prove to be useful against Covid. Although we still know very little about the effects of dandelion on health, it is also being looked at for potential use against prostate and breast cancers.
Curcumin is a natural compound found in the spice turmeric, and is another promising herb scientists are looking at. A study published in the Journal of General Virology found that curcumin can prevent infection from transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), a coronavirus that infects pigs. Curcumin has also been shown to inhibit the replication of viruses including dengue fever, hepatitis B, and the Zika virus. In the context of Covid, it is thought that curcumin can hinder cellular entry and replication of the virus, but once again more evidence is needed.
A balanced diet that includes vitamin A, B, C, D, E, and K, together with micronutrients such as sodium, zinc, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorus may help maintain general wellbeing and strengthen the immune system, thereby decreasing the chance of infection. There is ample evidence to suggest that vitamin D might help to protect against getting contaminated from developing serious symptoms of Covid. Vitamin D may ensure protection against it in two different ways; firstly, it helps to boost our bodies’ natural defences against viruses and bacteria, and secondly it has the capability to prevent an overwhelming immune system attack upon our own bodies, which has in some cases been seen to attack healthy tissue in the lungs. The suggested dietary dosage of vitamin D is 600 International Units. A deficiency of vitamins and minerals in our bodies leads to a reduced performance of our immune system, opening the door to the unwelcome guest that is Covid-19.
After my interviews and research, I believe that we will overcome this hellish disease that has caused so many deaths, emotional pain, and has resulted in so many livelihoods to be lost.
We will win… “The only way is up, baby!”