Supplement the Fend off Coronavirus

No one can accurately say how supplements affect disease, but if you are one of those who believe in natural health and supplementation, here's some advice.

Bottom Line:  Follow your doctor's advice.  Maintaining your healthy status is whatt you do in advance of an illness.  A few supplements are said to shorten a respiratory illness.

There is modest evidence for cold and flu resistance:

  • Vitamin C can reduce the duration of cold symptoms if you’ve started taking it regularly before falling sick. This seems especially true for athletes and older people.[28][29][30][31]

  • Vitamin D can help prevent upper respiratory infections.[32][33][34][35] People’s spending a lot of time indoors in the winter is tied to seasonal flu through higher viral transmission in closed areas and a lack of sun (in addition to allowing your skin to synthesize vitamin D, solar UV rays can inactivate viruses).[36][37]

  • Zinc oral lozenges can reduce symptom severity, due to inhibiting viral replication at the back of your throat.[38][39][40] Swallowed tablets aren’t effective, and nasal spray may cause permanent adverse effects.[41] Zinc acetate lozenges may be a bit more effective than zinc gluconate lozenges, although perhaps not significantly so.[40][42]

Weak or preliminary evidence for cold or flu:

  • Garlic has many more antibacterial studies than antiviral studies.[43][44] Limited evidence exists for the prevention (but not the treatment) of the common cold.[45]

  • Echinacea has some evidence, although the benefit shown is very small.[46][47]

  • Elderberry has some evidence, but very few studies exist thus far.[48][49]

  • Pelargonium sidoides also has few studies, and only on treatment, not on prevention.[50][51]

  • Probiotics aren’t one monolothic thing. Certain specific strains may help with prevention, although evidence is mixed, and efficacy may vary greatly by person due to everyone having a different gut microbiome.[52][53][54][55]

  • N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) has limited evidence for reducing flu episodes,[56] and a combination of L-cystine and L-theanine has limited evidence for reducing episodes of the common cold.[57] Note that NAC has evidence for tumor initiation in animals when used regularly at high doses.[58][59][60]Supplements aren’t automatically safe just because they’re available without a prescription. Buyer beware!

Some supplements have evidence for prevention or symptom reduction, but that’s for the flu or the common cold — nobody knows how well this evidence applies to COVID-19. A limited number of supplements have multiple, large, well-conducted randomized trials supporting their use. Most have fewer or smaller trials, often of weaker methodology. Supplements may have unstudied or understudied dangers and also vary in potency by brand.

Nutrition and lifestyle interventions

A poor diet is tied to an increase in general infection risk, and lack of sleep is possibly an even greater factor. Yet when it comes to infection prevention and treatment, way more trials look at supplements than at dietary and lifestyle strategies. Don’t be fooled! There’s greater financial incentive to run supplement trials, and they are much cheaper, shorter, and easier to conduct than diet trials.

Moderate evidence:

  • Sleep. If you don't sleep enough, your immune system is impaired,[61] making you more likely to catch the flu and common cold.[62] Sleep quality is also important.

  • Less ultraprocessed food. High amounts of processed carbohydrates and refined fats can interfere with proper immune function.[63] Even short-term hyperglycemia can impair your response to infection.[64]

Very, very weak or preliminary evidence:

  • Gargling. A small number of trials suggest some benefit for upper respiratory tract infections from gargling with water.[65][66] Salt-water gargles are common for sore-throat relief, but evidence is scarce.

  • Honey. Cell evidence suggests anti-influenza properties,[67] but there have been no human trials. Relatively stronger evidence indicates that honey may help with coughs, though.[68][66][69]

Practice good personal hygiene and aggressive handwashing.  Avoid touching your face, and keep a distance with others.  No hugging, kissing, or handshake.