At this point, you’ve probably heard of several natural ways to prevent or cure the Novel Coronavirus Disease (aka COVID-19). While many of these claims may be coming from well- intentioned people, most of them also come from others who have their own interests (mainly financial) in mind.
During a time where we feel like the spread of this new virus is out of our control, it’s only natural to gravitate toward wanting to make changes in our lives that makes us feel more secure. These changes often come in the form of nutrition. Unfortunately, this has led to a rise in people making false claims stating certain supplements and nutritional strategies can prevent or treat COVID-19.
So, which claims should you ignore? Here are the top 5 nutrition-related myths I’ve heard.
Mega-dosing vitamins and supplements will help prevent or cure coronavirus.
Fact: There is no good evidence that suggests “immune-boosting” supplements will help. While some supplements may not be harmful and may even provide a small benefit, they aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and can therefore potentially do more harm than good. In fact, the FDA recently issued warning letters to seven companies selling fraudulent products claiming to treat/prevent COVID-19.
You can “rev up” or “boost” your immune system.
Fact: While you can support your immune system, you can’t actually “rev up” or “boost” it… and you wouldn’t want to. If your immune system was working overtime, you’d be at risk of developing autoimmune diseases in which the immune system attacks its own tissues. What you can do to support your immune system is eat a nutritionally balanced diet (without focusing on perfection – all foods fit!), drink enough fluids, get enough sleep, stay active, and manage stress.
Eating garlic can help prevent coronavirus.
Fact: Although garlic may have antimicrobial properties, there is no evidence that suggests it can prevent coronavirus. While garlic isn’t harmful and does have health-promoting benefits, this kind of advice becomes problematic when it takes place or minimizes the importance of evidence-based advice such as hand washing and social distancing.
Drink water every 15 minutes so you can flush the virus to your stomach, where the acid will kill it.
Fact: This is very false. You cannot “flush” a virus, and there is no evidence that stomach acid can kill a virus. With that said, staying hydrated is important for overall health, so please do drink enough fluids throughout the day.
Alkalizing your body can help ward off coronavirus.
Fact: Our bodies blood pH is very tightly regulated and normally sits at a slightly alkaline range between 7.35-7.45. The numbers stay within this range with the help of healthy lungs and kidneys. In fact, these numbers only get out of their normal range when the lungs/kidneys aren’t working properly, in which case hospitalization would most likely be required. Changing your diet has no effect on these numbers.
So, what lifestyle strategies can you implement to optimize your physical and mental health?
- Maintain a nutritionally balanced diet (but remember, all foods fit!)
- Stay hydrated
- Get enough sleep
- Stay active
- Practice more frequent hand hygiene – yes, even at the barn
- Practice social distancing (which shouldn’t be too hard for us horse people)
- Look into different ways to help manage your stress. This can range from: Relaxing activities, breathing practice, lighting your favorite candle, reading a book, mindful approaches to routine activities, cooking, cleaning your tack, organizing your bits, maintaining a routine at home and at the barn, picking up or practicing hobbies and learn a new skill, paint, etc.
With all the misinformation out there, it can be difficult to know who to trust, so I’ve included resources for the most reliable information:
If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed with this situation, that’s OK. That’s human. What’s not okay is people and companies taking advantage of our fears during this vulnerable time. So, the next time you see a supplement, food, diet, etc., claiming to prevent or treat COVID-19, you’ll be armed with the facts. Since this is a new virus and is a very active area of research, things may change. If you’re unsure of something you hear, fact-check that claim by referring to the list of resources above.
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Natalie Gavi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is passionate about the power that food plays in health and athletic performance.