Are immunity-boosting substances really helpful in fighting COVID-19? – Here’s what you need to know

Immunology experts say there is no way for healthy adults to improve their immunity through foods or products.

With the arrival of the COVID -19 virus, there are many words that made their entry to our dictionary in 2020. During the past nine months of us trying to protect ourselves from this deadly virus, the word ‘immune system’ has now created its own position in everybody’s dictionary. It has now become crucial for us to stay healthy as the threat of coronavirus is still on everybody’s mind.

As the coronavirus continues to spread across almost every country on the globe, having an optimally functioning immune system is more important than ever. Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, over 6.5 lakh people have died across the world, while lakhs of others have been infected. Recovery in most cases has largely been reliant on the human body’s natural defence, the immune system.

With continuous exponential rise in the number of outbreaks, it should come as no surprise that people are looking to anything, including immune-boosting products in order to stay safe and healthy. Supplements claiming to “boost your immune system” have gotten new attention during the pandemic.  

Fruit juices, vitamin pills, zinc tablets, hand sanitisers, face masks — despite the lockdown, the market has been flooded with these products that claim to boost one’s immunity. Television ads also focussed on claiming the same. But the question still persists: Do these products really protect you from Covid-19? Or, can functional food or nutraceuticals (dietary supplements) boost your immunity?

Are immunity boosters effective?

Indian scientists during these nine months often claimed that “immunity-boosting substances” like consuming mustard oil or tea, homoeopathic solutions or ayurvedic preparations, or modern medicines like hydroxychloroquine, won’t provide any known or validated protection against Covid-19. Immunology experts say there is no way for healthy adults to improve their immunity through foods or products.

Medical professionals say it is important not to rush to buy supplements and vitamins that promise to enhance your immune system; there isn’t much evidence that such products do any good. Experts believe that these claims about boosting immunity are irrational and unscientific.

The novel coronavirus is barely a year old, there is a lot we don’t understand about how COVID-19 works, including how to protect yourself from infection beyond wearing masks and maintaining social distance. So, it is not possible for an immunity-boosting substance to protect an individual from such a tricky virus. The connection between immunity and COVID-19 is complicated.

What adds to the myth? 

Immunity boosting is a quintessential example of individual consumerism on which a capitalistic society depends. Nowadays, most of the TV commercials are trying hard to indicate that the body’s natural defences can be strengthened or enhanced by the consumption of certain foods or the use of specific products.

Brands nowadays have become experts in exploiting this loophole, and therefore, are continuously bringing new products into the market to gain profit from people’s fear. In light of the pandemic, it is not just foods but also products that have come up in the market that claim to boost an individual’s immunity. However, it is important to note here that there is no product in the market that is effective in improving a person’s immune response. Therefore, it becomes necessary for us to understand this fact and be cautious about our selection.

Stick to mundane, but proven, approaches:

  1. Keep your stress levels down: Stress can certainly hurt your immune system. The more you stress about the virus, the more likely you are to suffer from it mentally.
  2. Get adequate sleep: For adults, that means getting seven to eight hours of sleep during the night is necessary. Sleep is the most adequate part of an individual’s life and in order to stay perfectly healthy, the individual should have a proper amount of sleep.
  3. Stick to a healthy diet:  Healthful and balanced diet filled with lots of colourful fruits and vegetables is important to ensure that you’re getting enough zinc and vitamin D and other important vitamins and minerals in your body.

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