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With stress levels rising and people looking for ways to boost their immunity levels and get proper nutrition, wellness experts say this could be an ideal time for you to start a supplements routine. Adding a couple of easy-to-take supplements to your daily food intake and exercise regimen could go a long way towards keeping you healthy — and sane — during these unprecedented times.
“Ideally, you’d get all of your nutrients from a healthy diet, but the reality is that many people struggle to eat well and that certain nutrients are difficult to get, even with a well-planned diet,” says Samantha Cassetty, a registered dietician, and nutrition and wellness expert. “Beyond just meeting your basic needs, certain supplements can optimize your well-being. Though full-fledged deficiencies are rare,” she continues, “I often see insufficiencies—people taking in inadequate amounts of certain nutrients. In these cases, supplements can be helpful and are easy to take regularly.”
And while coronavirus fears have people running to their nearest drugstore or stocking up online, experts caution that there hasn’t been enough research yet into how supplements could help with symptoms or target COVID-19 directly.
Still, Chinese e-commerce giant, JD.com, reported that sales of vitamin C dietary supplements on its platform increased five-fold after the outbreak of COVID-19. Clinical trials using high-dose vitamin C have also begun in China (more on that later).
“It is important to note that though we are dealing with a virus, COVID-19 can’t be compared directly to the flu, and thus all of the same recommendations may not apply as of yet,” says Bela Patel, Pharm.D. and Certified Holistic Health Coach and Founder of WholisticPharmacist.com. “So while we do see benefits with vitamin C and zinc with the flu and common cold, sufficient studies aren’t yet available to show if they will respond similarly to COVID-19.”
These supplements may not curb the coronavirus, but experts say they all play an important function into your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Whether you’re looking to boost your immune system, heal your gut or just need to calm some anxious thoughts, here are the best supplements to take right now.
“While there isn’t one specific supplement that is the magic pill for immunity, you can consider a daily multivitamin if you feel your diet isn’t filled with a colorful array of fruits and vegetables,” Patel says. “The micronutrients essential for adults can often be found in most multivitamins.”
2. Vitamin C
Everyone knows that the best way to get vitamin C is through fresh fruits and vegetables, but as grocery stores continue to face shortages, that’s easier said than done. And while a number of meal delivery services have stepped up to deliver fresh produce to your door, you can’t beat the convenience of a vitamin supplement.
“This vitamin is very important for your health,” Patel stresses. “It acts as a powerful antioxidant, which helps to fight free radical damage caused by the environment, processed foods, and stress, which eventually causes cellular damage. Vitamin C acts to neutralize these free radicals preventing this inflammation,” she explains.
Need more proof of its benefits: As a result of vitamin C’s anti-inflammatory activity, Wuhan University in China started clinical trials in February to assess high-dose vitamin C infusion as treatment against severe acute respiratory illnesses associated with the coronavirus.
3. Vitamin D
“Vitamin D is hard to come by in food and while you can get it from sunshine — which activates your body to make it — most of us don’t get sufficient, unexposed sun time,” Cassetty says. Those popular light therapy lamps can mimic the appearance of sunshine, but they won’t have the additional health benefits of vitamin D.
“Vitamin D supports a healthy immune system and supplementation has been shown to protect against respiratory infections,” Cassetty says, “so if you aren’t already taking it, you might want to consider it.”
“A number of studies have found that when using zinc lozenges during a cold, the duration of the cold was reduced by one day,” Patel says. “While its specific mechanism is unknown, theories include that it prevents the [cold] virus from entering cells and/or that it decreases the inflammatory cytokines in the blood.”
In addition to boosting immunity, Zinc also has a number of additional benefits, including helping to speed up the healing of wounds, improving brain function, and helping the treatment of acne. These quick-dissolve tablets are easier to take than traditional pills or capsules, too.
If you just need to calm down a little bit, you’ll want to keep some magnesium in your medicine cabinet. “Magnesium is a relaxation mineral,” Cassetty explains. “It helps counter the effects of stress in your body and supports a healthy sleep cycle, so it’s especially relevant right now. It’s also involved in your immune response.”
Cassetty recommends taking magnesium in powder form (mixed with water). “Magnesium is a larger mineral so pills are hard to swallow,” she says. The flavored packets from OMG! Nutrition are highly-absorbable, and make it easier to get your daily dose of magnesium, while being easier on your stomach (“The most common form of magnesium pills — magnesium citrate — can cause stomach discomfort and a laxative effect,” Cassetty says).
“Your gut hosts the majority of your immune functioning, so it’s important to maintain the integrity of your GI tract,” shares Cassetty. “That takes a multi-pronged approach that involves eating a diverse, high-fiber diet, including colorful foods that are rich in polyphenols, and enjoying fermented foods, like yogurt, regularly. This strategy makes sure that you’re feeding the beneficial bacteria as well as consuming foods that supply them.”
Still, probiotic supplements can come in handy, both if you don’t have access to fermented foods easily, or if you want to add an extra boost to your gut health and digestive health.
“If you’re shopping for a probiotic, look for one that has strains that have been clinically shown to produce the response you’re looking for,” Cassetty says. “For example, the strain in Culturelle has been linked with immune benefits.”
These capsules are vegan, gluten-free and contain no dairy or soy, making it easy on even the most sensitive stomachs. Additional benefits of taking a probiotic: these pills can help relieve diarrhea, gas and bloating.
“If you’d like to experiment [with supplements], give them a shot while also trying to eat better,” Cassetty says. “At this point, you also can’t overlook hand-washing, regular activity, stress-reducing techniques and social distancing (while still connecting with people and nurturing relationships from afar) as good things to do to stay healthy.”
Adds Patel: “I believe that maintaining a healthy immune system and relieving anxiety during this difficult time is multifactorial. Use this time to press the ‘reset button’ on all of your healthy habits. Look at this quarantine time as an opportunity to focus on yourself, which in turn will keep you healthy and will support your immune system as well.”