Micronutrients are those which are required in very small quantities, but very essential for the body.
Micronutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin D, Zinc, Selenium possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, that can enhance the natural immunity in the body and keep you protected and stronger so that you can recover faster even if you get sick. They help in strengthening our immune system that stimulates good immune responses in the body required to fight the infection and disease, especially in the present pandemic situation.
These micronutrients act through different immune responses like the ability to fight free radicals, increase natural killer cells, increase lymphocytic activity and increase white blood cell count, which is all part of the immune system in the body. They are also needed for various enzymatic processes in the body and contribute to overall health & wellness.
Role of Micronutrients In COVID-19
Vitamin C is known as Ascorbic acid and is a water-soluble vitamin. Vitamin C being a potent antioxidant helps to strengthen the immune system and plays an important role in preventing and treating infections especially respiratory infections. Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antithrombotic, antiviral, and immunomodulating properties which make its intake, very essential for the body to fight against infections in this pandemic situation.
Role of Vitamin C in the pandemic of viral infections:
- Vitamin C helps decrease the severity of the infections and helps in faster recovery.
- It can neutralize the free radicals released due to viral infection that can damage the tissues in the body and lead to severe disease. It has the ability to help a person get less serious and recover faster, in view of its Anti-Oxidant properties.
- The duration and severity of cold caused by the virus can be reduced by vitamin C.
- It has been found that in persons with sufficient levels of vitamin C, there is a decrease in the length of ICU stay, reduced sepsis, and better outcomes in severe cases.
- As vitamin C has the property to repair tissues it helps in the healing of wounds and disease.
- Vitamin C favorably modulates the host response to prevent viral infection and also protects from severe disease caused by the COVID virus in this pandemic.
- Vitamin C also helps cut down the cytokine storm and protects the endothelium of the lung from oxidative stress and prevents/reduces injury to the lung.
How to improve vitamin C levels in the body?
- Since vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, daily intake of the vitamin through diet or as supplements is necessary to improve vitamin C levels, to build natural immunity in the body.
- Vitamin C is found in many fresh fruits and vegetables such as oranges, amla, strawberries, lemon, mangoes, red peppers, and broccoli.
- Supplements of Vitamin C are available in capsule, tablet, powder, and chewable forms over the counter.
- Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is a fat-soluble vitamin and an important micronutrient, derived in the body through diet (20% of vitamin D) and synthesized by the skin on exposure to sunlight (80% of vitamin D).
- Vitamin D3 is the most active form of vitamin D and is helpful in improving overall health and makes one strong and fit.
- Vitamin D3 helps in calcium absorption in the body which is necessary for strong bones and teeth.
- Enough levels of vitamin D3 support in modulating immune functions in our body, which helps to prevent respiratory infections/ disease.
- Vitamin D3 can strengthen the immune system naturally and improve the immune responses to fight the COVID 19 pandemic.
How does vitamin D3 help in the present pandemic situation?
- Vitamin D 3 is known to help fight respiratory infections including COVID-19 and helps in the improvement of pulmonary function.
- It has been found that Vitamin D3 in enough levels in the body can contribute to immunoregulatory functions which down-regulate the cytokine storm and helps to decrease the severity of infection in COVD 19 patients.
- Several studies have shown that vitamin D3 is helpful in reducing the risk of acute viral respiratory tract infection and pneumonia by direct inhibition of viral replication or ant-inflammatory effect or immune-modulatory effect.
- Hence those persons who are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency during the present pandemic situation should take vitamin D3 supplements along with a healthy diet to maintain enough levels of the vitamin in the body.
What are the best sources of vitamin D3?
- In India, vitamin D deficiency is extremely common due to various factors.
- Hence vitamin D3 intake should be increased through diet, exposure to sunlight, and supplementation.
- Though sunlight is the best source many persons do not get enough exposure to sunlight, so diet and dietary supplements become the mainstay of vitamin intake.
- Foods that are a good source of vitamin D are milk, egg yolk, sea fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, beef liver, cooked mushrooms, and fortified whole-grain cereals and milk products.
- Vitamin D supplements are available as tablets, capsules, liquid, chewable, and an injectable form and can be taken as required.
- Zinc is an important micronutrient and an essential trace element found in all cells of the body and helps the person to stay healthy.
- Zinc is essential for the human body as it is responsible for many metabolic processes involving more than 100 enzymes, for adequate functioning of the immune system, for making genetic material (proteins and DNA), and maintaining cellular health.
- Zinc helps wounds to heal and is important for senses like taste and smell.
- To improve natural immunity in the body Zinc plays an important role.
Zinc and immune system during the present pandemic:
- Zinc is needed for the normal development and function of cells mediating immunity, white blood cells, and natural killer cells.
- Zinc’s antioxidant property helps to prevent damage to cells from free radicals in the inflammatory process.
- Zinc helps to improve the function of macrophages which help to engulf foreign pathogens like bacteria or viruses.
- Multiple studies have established Zinc as a strong immunomodulatory agent and a potential anti-viral agent thus making it necessary in the body to combat infections.
- It has been found that Zinc is efficient in inhibiting the replication of RNA viruses including the COVID virus, by blocking the RNA dependant RNA polymerase enzymes.
- Zinc deficiency can weaken the immune cell functions in the body which can make you susceptible to infections/disease.
How can you increase the Zinc intake?
- Zinc cannot be stored in the body and needs to be supplemented through diet and supplements.
- A diet containing foods rich in Zinc should be taken to get enough Zinc naturally, such as oysters, seafood like crab and lobster, red meat, poultry, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals.
- Zinc supplements are available in capsule, tablet and lozenges form which when consumed provide enough Zinc and have a good impact on health.
- Selenium is an essential mineral and an important micronutrient for our health.
- Though Selenium is required in small quantities in the body, it is important for many processes including metabolism, thyroid function, and immune system.
- Selenium is an essential mineral for boosting the immune system and for defense against viral infections.
Selenium’s effect on immune functions in the present pandemic:
- Selenium plays an important role in improving the immunity naturally in the body.
- The antioxidant property of Selenium helps to lower the oxidative stress caused by a viral infection, which leads to increased damage of cells in the body.
- Selenium is necessary to maintain T (Immune) cell maturation, function and for producing T cell dependant antibodies which are a part of the immune system.
- It has been found that Selenium strengthens the immune system by increasing the proliferation of natural killer cells and improving the T cell immune response.
- Selenium reduces the formation of blood clots in blood vessels, as the formation of micro clots in coagulation disorder causes death in patients with COVID 19 infection.
- Hence it was found that Selenium deficiency can cause an increase in severity and progression of severe viral infection due to an increase in oxidative stress and poor immune response in pandemics.
How to get a sufficient amount of Selenium in the body?
- Selenium intake can be increased through diet and supplementation.
- Selenium is found naturally in foods grown under soil such as legumes and nuts.
- Selenium supplements are available in a single form or in combination with other micronutrients, as oral preparations.
It is important to build a strong immune system that can stimulate strong immune responses to help our body fight against infection in the present pandemic. Some of the micronutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D3, Zinc, and Selenium are helpful in improving the immune cell functions and strengthening the defense against viral infection.
When the levels of the micronutrients are enough in the body, they help to protect the healthy cells from damage by free radicals and oxidative stress, caused by the viral infection. A combination of micronutrients (vitamin C, vitamin D3, Zinc, Selenium) may help build a strong immune system, prevent the spread of the virus, and reduce the progression of the disease to severe stages.
Therefore maintaining sufficient levels of the micronutrients in the body through diet or dietary supplements is essential in the present pandemic situation.