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With the continuous mutation of COVID-19 variants, protection generated by a previous bout may not be able to counter new virus strains. How can you avoid the risk of repeated infection? In an interview with “Health 1+1,” Dr. Dawei Guo, director of Fu Yuan Chinese Medicine Clinic in Taiwan, shared how to supplement daily nutrition to improve innate immunity.
Nutrients Capable of Boosting Immunity
Guo said that to fight the virus, the most important thing is to increase one’s innate immunity. A healthy diet is the best way to enhance immunity. He recommends consuming food and supplements containing the following nutrients.
1. Vitamin A
Since the virus is transmitted through droplets and aerosols, strengthening the defenses of the respiratory mucosa is essential. Vitamin A can enhance the self-repairing capability of the mucous membrane of the respiratory system and reduce the chance of pathogenic bacteria and viruses entering the body. Foods containing vitamin A include carrots, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and dark green vegetables.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C has a strong antioxidant capacity. It can remove free radicals from the human body and reduce the chance of disease. Foods that contain vitamin C include kiwi, guava, apples, bananas, and fish.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D regulates the immune cells. Research has confirmed that increasing the level of vitamin D in the body can reduce the chance of infection with COVID-19 and the rate of severe illness after infection. To get enough vitamin D, in addition to sunshine and diet, consider taking a high-quality supplement.
4. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables improve immunity. This group includes arugula, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. Researchers have found that broccoli can prevent cancer and lower blood pressure.
5. Ling Zhi (Ganoderma lucidum, also called reishi)
Studies have confirmed that the triterpenoids and polysaccharides in Ganoderma lucidum—a type of mushroom—can enhance human immunity.
6. Korean ginseng
Korean ginseng is known as the “King of Herbs.” The ginsenosides and polysaccharides contained in it have the effect of improving human immunity.
Enhance Gastrointestinal Health to Strengthen Immunity
The gut provides immunity in the human body. About 70 percent of immune cells are produced in the intestines, so maintaining a healthy gut is essential for good health. Can taking probiotics help? Guo said that the intestinal tract must first be conditioned to a healthy state before the probiotics can be effective. He recommends the following four categories of foods that can improve your gut.
1. Whole grains, roots, and tubers
Oatmeal, brown rice, pumpkin, potato, and sweet potato are all rich in dietary fiber, which promotes intestinal peristalsis, increases stool volume, and accelerates the body’s digestion and absorption, thereby reducing the time that food accumulates in the intestinal tract.
Beans contain water-soluble dietary fiber, which helps to provide sufficient nutrients for good bacteria. It is best to focus on whole beans for their full nutrient value.
3. Cruciferous vegetables
The oligosaccharides in foods such as onions, burdock, and asparagus provide nutrients for the good bacteria in the gut.
Apples, kiwi fruit, and bananas contain water-soluble dietary fiber. If eaten with plain yogurt rich in probiotics, fruits will have increased benefits in maintaining the ecological health of the intestinal flora.
Chronic inflammation may cause many diseases. Inflammation can make it difficult for the body to maintain sufficient resistance to infection, such as COVID-19. Guo pointed out that we should eat more foods having anti-inflammatory substances, including the following:
- fish rich in Omega-3, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines
- tea rich in catechins
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
In addition, Guo suggested that we can eliminate several chronic inflammation causes.
1. Salty food
Food that is too salty will deter the body’s ability to excrete water, causing a sense of bloatedness or fatigue, resulting in a reluctance to move.
2. Food with too much sugar
Sugar ingestion causes blood sugar to rise so that human cells are soaked in a high-sugar environment, producing advanced glycation end products (AGEs), the products of excess sugar and protein combined. Studies have found that AGEs can increase oxidative stress and inflammation, accelerate human body aging, and lead to many chronic degenerative diseases.
3. Fried food
Fried food produces a lot of free radicals, and excess free radicals in some regions of the body can cause inflammation.
4. Staying up late
Staying up late will reduce the function of immune cells and thus degrade the body’s immunity.
Chinese Herbal Tea for Daily Health Care
Suppose you are infected with COVID-19 and do not want to take Western medicine. In that case, Guo provides several traditional Chinese medicines and some health teas daily to prevent or reduce symptoms.
You can try Da Qing Long (Major Green Dragon) Decoction if you have cold symptoms, chills, or fever.
If you have cold symptoms with no fever, try Gui Zhi (Ramulus Cinnamomi) Decoction.
If symptoms include colds and sore throats, try Yin Qiao San (Lonicera and Forsythia powder) or Sang Ju Yin (mulberry leaf and chrysanthemum beverage).
In addition to treating cough and sore throat, if you also want to moisten the lungs and reduce phlegm, the following are all good choices: Xiao Qing Long (Minor Green Dragon) Decoction, Ling Gan Wei Jiang Xin Xia Ren (Hoelen and Schizandra) Decoction, Bai He Gu Jin (lily combination) Decoction, and Zhi Ke (anti-cough) powder.
Vitality tea enhances physical strength and vitality.
Ingredients: Astragalus 3 qian (0.4 oz), American ginseng 5 qian (0.7 oz), Acanthopanax 5 qian (0.7 oz), roasted licorice 5 qian (0.7 oz), dendrobium 2 qian (0.3 oz), red dates 8-10 pieces, wolfberry 3 qian (0.4 oz).
Moisturizing tea nourishes the lungs, resolves phlegm, promotes body fluid, and relieves cough.
Ingredients: Ophiopogon japonicus 3 qian (0.4 oz), Hangzhou chrysanthemum 3 qian (0.4 oz), mulberry leaf 3 qian (0.4 oz), Luo Han Guo (Siraitia grosvenorii) 2-3 pieces, honeysuckle 5 qian (0.7 oz), red dates 5-8 qian (0.7-1 oz), licorice 5 qian (0.7 oz).
However, everyone’s constitution is different, so please consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner before taking the medicines listed here.
Points to Note When Traveling and Dining Out
Guo reminds everyone to bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer when traveling or dining out. You can bring wet disinfectant tissues to wipe the dinner plates, tables, chair armrests, and the like. To reduce the risk of exposure to the virus for yourself and your family, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Some herbs mentioned above may sound strange, but many are available in health food stores and Asian groceries.
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