Navigating COVID-19 is confusing. It’s hard to get good information these days about what to do.
Mask or no mask? Stay home or go to work? Supplements hurt or supplements help?
The misinformation mainstream media puts out is enough to make you lose your marbles. Many people are left feeling lost.
Even if you aim to be selective with what you consume, your brain inevitably clouds with gunk. With the information storm being hurled at us daily, it becomes hard to organize it all.
So, I attempt to do that here: organize a list of supplement recommendations for COVID-19.
In this post, you’ll find recommendations about what to take – and why – to help boost your body during this global pandemic.
Let’s start with vitamin D
About 70% of people in the United States are either deficient or insufficient in Vitamin D. This is a big number.
Vitamin D is more of a hormone than a supplement, and when it binds to receptors in the body, it activates genes. The genes carry out important functions, such as regulating immune function and improving respiratory function. In light of COVID-19, both of these things are important.
Why are people vitamin D deficient?
One study showed that people who have genetically low plasma vitamin D levels are more likely to die from respiratory infections. Since COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, this is significant. But why are people deficient in vitamin D in the first place?
For starters, we get vitamin D from the sun, and most people don’t go outside much anymore. Surprisingly, people with darker skin tones have an even harder time producing vitamin D.
If you have dark skin, your ancestors lived close to the equator. These areas have more UV-B radiation throughout the year, so you evolved to have higher levels of melanin in your skin to protect you from burning in the sun.
Melanin also blocks the body’s ability to produce vitamin D. If you’re out in the sun all of the time, this isn’t a problem. But if you’re not, it can be.
Take people that are evolved to get lots of sun but not burn from it. Put them in a place with no sun or no vitamin D supplement. The result? They will become largely deficient in vitamin D.
This goes for anyone, really, even if you have a lighter skin tone and your ancestral line is far from the equator.
People who are not in the sun most of the day and are not taking a Vitamin D supplement are likely deficient or insufficient in vitamin D.
Take a vitamin D supplement
In a study of over 25 randomized controlled trials, people were given a vitamin D supplement either daily or weekly. In the group that started with the lowest baseline vitamin D levels, the vitamin D supplement reduced the risk of acute respiratory infection by over 50%!
And here is where the statistics get a bit freakier.
In a review completed on people of the Philippines, for every standard deviation increase in serum vitamin D levels, people were 8 times less likely to have a severe COVID-19 outcome, and 20 times less likely to have a critical COVID-19 outcome.
And in Indonesia, out of the measured COVID-19 patients, 98.9% who were Vitamin D deficient died, 88% who were vitamin D insufficient died, and only 4% of patients who died were vitamin D sufficient.
What does this mean? Out of the COVID-19 patients who died, nearly all were Vitamin D deficient or sufficient, and almost none were vitamin D sufficient.
This is remarkable data.
If you’re not outdoors in the sun most of the day and you want to improve your odds of having a good COVID-19 outcome, it is probably wise to take a vitamin D supplement.
Which supplement, and how much?
The upper limit of safety for vitamin D supplementation is set at 4,000 IU per day for adults, but studies (1, 2) have shown that taking 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day for one year had no adverse effects and did not induce hypercalcemia.
Most researchers I’ve listened to recommend between 5,000 IU – 10,000 IU per day.
I take this supplement 4-5 days per week (5,000 IU/day*).
On the days I don’t take the above supplement, I take this one (2,000 IU/day) to give my body some K2 (good for your bones and heart).
Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so you can take too much.
Vitamin D also significantly increases the absorption of calcium, so if you’re supplementing with calcium, you need to be careful. If you take too much vitamin D, you can become hypercalcemic.
Work with your doctor to determine how much vitamin D you need to take to get your levels where they should be. Or, take an at-home test and work the numbers yourself.
Zinc + Quercetin
Unlike vitamin D, zinc deficiency isn’t as common in the United States, but zinc is essential for immune function.
Zinc plays an important role in the body’s inflammatory response and the development and communication of immune cells.
In one study, researchers depleted people of their zinc function, and the deficiency caused immune T-cell dysfunction.
What’s more, is zinc not only boosts immune function in a preventative way (a randomized controlled trial showed zinc lozenges dramatically reduced the length of the common cold, up to 40%), but it can be beneficial to people who are already sick.
In a 2019 study, 64 hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections took 30 mg of zinc per day. This decreased the total duration of infection and hospital stay by an average of 2 days compared with the placebo group.
This is the zinc supplement I take:
Zinc is a positive ion, meaning you need an ionophore to help it get into your cells and work for you.
Quercetin is a zinc ionophore that is often recommended to be taken with zinc.
Interestingly enough, quercetin has been found to have antiviral properties against SARS-COV1. It also has potential senolytic properties, meaning it clears out old and deteriorating cells. This is the quercetin supplement I take:
Vitamin C is the one supplement that probably comes to mind when you think of your immune system, and it could be beneficial to help fight COVID-19. One study in the United States found that 15 grams of intravenous vitamin C, hydrocortisone and thiamine for 4 days lessened the severity of COVID-19 infection.
Vitamin C can be tricky though because the efficacy comes down to how you dose.
If you only take it once in the day, your levels will peak about 5 hours after consumption and decline steadily after that. After 24 hours, you will return to baseline.
If you take the same dose and spread it out across the day, you will retain higher levels in your body consistently.
A meta-analysis of 23 clinical studies with more than 6,000 participants found that at least 2 grams per day of vitamin C supplementation during a cold had a greater benefit compared to a dose of 1 gram per day. Lower doses of vitamin C don’t work as well to prevent the common cold (a mere 4%).
So if looking for immune support, it’s probably best to take 2 grams of vitamin C spread out in 3-4 doses throughout the day. Or you can pursue intravenous vitamin C and intake much higher amounts.
Note: it is more effective to take vitamin C before you have symptoms than to wait until symptoms have begun.
This is the vitamin C supplement I take:
Multivitamin (or essentials through diet)
COVID-19 threatens the immune system, so it’s important that you give your body what it needs to work. This will give you the best shot at getting out of this global pandemic with minimal damage.
The best way to do this is through your diet, but it’s not always practical or easy to do. This is where a multivitamin comes in.
I don’t personally take one, so I don’t have a brand or product to recommend. It’s easy to find a good one on Amazon these days. I typically do three things when looking for a brand:
- Check the ingredients
- Read the reviews
- Check the sourcing/location of the manufacturer (I prefer USA-based companies)
Shop around and find one that suits your needs.
If you’re looking for supplements to take to help your COVID-19 outcome, start with:
Here’s a list of some other immune boosters that could be good to have in your COVID supplement toolkit:
While the jury is still out on this, I’ve heard from various sources that the following compounds can potentially worsen your COVID-19 outcome:
- Medicinal mushrooms (isolated polysaccharide extracts have been shown to increase a key cytokine involved in the COVID inflammatory response; note: blends of mushroom and mycelium extracts – like HostDefense products – are okay)
- Elderberry (may prevent early-stage COVID infections, but could aggravate the cytokine storm in more severe COVID infections)
- Ibuprofen (could increase ACE-2 receptors, the same receptor for COVID)
Keep your eyes and ears open, do your own research, and use your discretion. Above all, stay healthy and well.