We are currently living in a challenging time of fear, uncertainty and panic centered on staying healthy and avoiding the highly infectious Covid-19. One of the best ways to do that (apart from washing your hands and staying indoors) is to ensure your immune system is in peak condition. But how does one go about that?
A balanced diet is key, but it’s not always enough. Sometimes, you may need supplementary vitamins and nutrients. But it is very daunting to walk past row upon row of tablets promising to ease muscle pain, increase immunity, help you relax, suppress appetite and so on. Navigating those bottles can be overwhelming, but Banin Shanine, nutrition manager at Fitness First, has provided a breakdown of some of the vital supplements to assist cell repair and regeneration as well as support the renewal process.
Before you race off to the pharmacy to stock up, Shanine offers a word of advice. “While a multivitamin pill may be convenient, it is not effective. In fact, vitamins and minerals are more efficient if taken individually because some supplements can cancel the benefits of one another if taken together.”
Here are a few supplements to get your body’s immune system in ship-shape.
It’s known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ for a good reason: Vitamin D is produced when ultraviolet light – specifically UVB rays from the sun – strikes the skin and stimulates its synthesis. But a staggering 90 percent of the UAE’s population is estimated to have a Vitamin D deficiency. It is important to check with a doctor as to how much of it you need so you can consume the correct dose.
“Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to autoimmunity, increases the susceptibility to infections in the body and plays a vital role in boosting the immune system,” explains Shanine. “It acts as a hormone that is identified within the gastrointestinal tract, brain, breasts, nerves and various other tissues and regulates the immune system while promoting cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function.”
Try: Source Naturals, Vitamin D-3, Dh50, iherb
This vitamin is key essential in helping to repair tissue, heal wounds, fight free radicals and boosting immunity.
“It facilitates the absorption of iron, which supports production of haemoglobin (the protein that transports oxygen to the blood) and healthy red blood cells,” says Shanine.
As Vitamin C is water soluble, it can be easily lost in the form of sweat, tears and urine, and is also destroyed by heat. As these are our body’s natural methods of discharge to maintain internal balance, it’s essential to replace the important nutrients lost in the process.”
Try: Solgar Vitamin C With Rose Hips, Dh139, Amazon
Vitamin E is used in beauty treatments due to its anti-inflammatory qualities and it turns out this natural fat-soluble compound is good for your insides, too.
“It is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells from free radical damage,” says Shanine. “Consuming the right amount of Vitamin E ensures the strength of the immune system. Having quality Vitamin E supplements can help fight against viruses and harmful bacteria, support vision and strengthen muscles.”
Try: California Gold Nutrition, Sunflower Vitamin E, Dh71, iherb
An essential mineral that our bodies neither produce nor store, zinc influences almost all vital functions of the human cell.
“We need to nourish our body with food or supplements that are rich in zinc. This mineral aids in the process of effective healing by speeding up the process of collagen synthesis,” says Shanine. “For example, it stimulates more than 300 enzymes that promote the biomechanical reactions in the body. Zinc also significantly reduces the risk of developing age-related diseases as it supports the immune system and boosts mental function.”
Try: Mason Natural Zinc, Dh59, Amazon
While this isn’t a supplement per se, protein does provide a crucial piece of the nutritional puzzle and insufficient protein will have a negative impact on many of the body’s vital functions.
Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acid which are needed to build muscle, maintain a strong respiratory system and repair body tissues, says Shanine.
“Protein also supports your immune system by building antibodies to fight viral and bacterial infections. A good way to meet your protein requirements is by eating eggs, chicken and lean beef. Protein powders are also an excellent alternative.”
Try: Garden of Life Plant-based protein, Dh83, iherb
An Aussie journalist with a passion for snowboarding, CrossFit and the outdoors, Caitlyn is an freelance writer based in Dubai. She's previously worked at Time Out, 7DAYS UAE, Arabian Radio Network and Lovin' Dubai and has a serious coffee addiction.