Using an Anti-Inflammatory Diet during Covid -19

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Let Food be thy Medicine and medicine be thy food


I wanted to take advantage of the research that has already been done in relation to the COVID 19 pandemic. I previously decided not to voice an opinion regarding nutrition and Covid-19 as research was lacking. There is however good evidence regarding diet and Covid prevention and management so lets have a look at the evidence

Inflammation associated with having COVID-19


As we age there is a well-documented shift in the immune system towards a pro-inflammatory state (known as ‘inflamm-aging’) that leads to chronic low-grade inflammation. Lower grade inflammation is the type of inflammation that one is often not aware of and eventually progresses into chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancers and other diseases. 

Inflammation in general is caused by Cytokines in the body. Cytokines are small proteins that are crucial in controlling the growth and activity of immune system cells and blood cells. When released, they signal the immune system to do its job.   

Some cytokines act to make disease worse (proinflammatory), whereas others serve to reduce inflammation and promote healing (antiinflammatory).

Cytokines may be “good” when stimulating the immune system to fight a foreign pathogen like a virus or bacteria or attack tumors.  

They may be “bad” when there are too many Cytokines. Excessive Cytokines causes inflammatory diseases or inflammatory events, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Asthma, Crohn’s disease and many more. 

An oversupply of cytokines can be very damaging. 

Cytokines in Covid-19 Patients

It is well documented that patients with COVID-19 has shown a high level of Pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. 

On entry, SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to human alveolar epithelial cells (your lung cells), activating your immune system, resulting in the start of Cytokine Release Syndrome or Systemic Cytokine Storm

Covid Patients are known to have an overproduction of cytokines and this phenomena is often referred to as a Systemic Cytokine Storm. This Cytokine Storm causes damage and interferes with your own immune response, leading to the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

One of the major causes of death in patients infected with severe coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) ARDS is multiorgan failure, which is a result of immune system overdrive causing cytokine storms. 

Understanding that we are dealing with an overactive immune response which results in excessive inflammation makes it easier to understand how to focus preventative treatment as well as treatment during Sars Cov-19 infection.  

The cytokines that cause inflammation in Covid Patients

Culprit Cytokine – INTERLEUKIN 6 (IL-6)

IL-6 is one of the cytokines that promotes inflammation and is involved in respiratory failure, shock and multi-organ dysfunction in Covid patients. 

Covid patients have been seen to have very high levels of IL-6. Raised IL-6 is linked to increased mortality in these patients.

Other pro-inflammatory cytokines like Interleukin-2, Interleuken-7 and Tumour necrosis factor alpha has also been linked to COVID 19 severity.

Assessing your inflammatory response to an insult or virus

  • As mentioned earlier your age will make you more prone to inflammation
  • Your genes may also make you more prone to inflammation and studies suggest that inflammatory gene variants may contribute. (These variants are easily tested in the DNA Health test)
  • Having a disease linked to chronic inflammation i.e. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis and or diseases linked to chronic underlying inflammation i.e. Heart disease, Diabetes, Certain Cancers
  • Excess body weight, (Especially body fat) and overeating increases the immune response. This increased immune response causes the body to generate excessive inflammation,
  • The quality of your diet is a major contributor to inflammation. Sugar is a well know culprit that impairs the immune system 
  • Animal fats (Saturated fats) are the building blocks for inflammation, so those that eat a higher fat diet or following a keto or banting diet incorrectly would be more prone to inflammation
  • Lack of omega 3 in the diet gives rise to an unbalanced immune response and increased inflammation.  A recent study showed that more than 90% of American people consumed less than the recommended optimal value for omega-3 Fats in the diet 

What to do when you are infected with Covid -19

As it is clear that Covid infection is linked to increased inflammation, it would be advisable to focus on reducing inflammation. The starting point would be to look at your dietary fat intake.

Dietary Intake & Supplements

Certain fats in your diet can change Inflammation in your body. We refer to these fats as Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats.

Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty acids are essential for normal metabolism and it is important to know that we cannot synthesize them in our bodies and we have to get them from food, daily. 

Once consumed omega-3 FA and or Omega 6 (Depending on your diet intake) is incorporated throughout the body into the bi-phospholipid layer of the cell membrane of neutrophils

Neutrophils are the first line of defence in the body and produces different metabolites and mediators such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and maresins. Depending on the type of fat you consumed, you will produce metabolites from that fat and these metabolites have either a Pro-inflammatory or an anti-inflammatory effect in your body. 

Omega-3 FAs also increase the function of neutrophils and therefore strengthening the immune function. A lack of omega-3 FAs in the diet can also change the composition of the cell membrane and give rise to an altered immune response. 

  • Ensure a high intake of Omega 3 fats in your diet and start with a high dosage omega -3 supplements.
  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
  • Avoid omega 6 fats in supplemental and dietary format. (Fish oil tablets containing omega 3, 6 and/or 9)
  • Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates
  • Consider the use of natural anti-inflammatory food sources like Ginger, curcumin and turmeric
  • Consider the addition of an anti-inflammatory supplement. See recommendations below.
  • Below my recommended additional support for inflammation. Feel free to book a 10 min coffee chat free of charge in order to establish the best product and dosage in order to target inflammation.

Supplementing Omega 3 fatty acids preventatively or during Covid Infection

Extensive evidence has been published about levels of omega-3 fats (Fish Oil) that can produce anti-inflammatory effects  in the body.

Benefits of Omega 3 fats in the case of Covid Treatment and prevention

  • Latest research shows that Omega -3 fats enhances antiviral response and inhibits viral replication.
  • Omega-3 fats can change cytokine responses to viral invaders.
  • The omega-3 fats is known to produce less pro-inflammatory cytokines, therefore increasing omega-3 fats in the diet or supplementation could 
    • Decrease viral entry
    • Promote better immune function
    • Decrease severity of symptoms among those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Omega-3 fats might be a safe and relatively inexpensive preventative approach for those who are at high risk.
  • Note has to be taken to the Type of supplement that you are using as well as ensuring an adequate dosage.

Below is three high quality supplements which will provide the correct dosage at a dose of 2 tablets per day. In some cases it would be advisable to use a higher dosage. If you are unsure about what dosage would be correct for you, please book a free online coffee session with myself.

Other nutrients that can aid during Covid Infection


It has been shown that having adequate blood levels of vitamin D, is associated with increased anti-inflammatory and decreased pro-inflammatory cytokines in older adults. The positive influence of vitamin D on the immune system is helpful during the cytokine storm, relevant to COVID-19 patients with ARDS. In a systematic review and meta-analysis of eight observational studies involving 20,966 subjects it was noted that while the effect of vitamin D against SARS-CoV-2 infection has not yet been shown, supplementation could potentially reduce pro- inflammatory cytokines and subsequently limit acute respiratory distress syndrome associated mortality in COVID-19 patients. It has to be noted that again the required dosage to achieve the beneficial effects of Vitamin D is different for each individual and is best to have a blood test done prior to starting with a Vitamin D supplement. After your blood level is known, the adequate dosage of Vitamin D can be prescribed. Please contact me for a free coffee chat should you need advice regarding the steps for establishing the right dose and supplement for you


Vitamin C has been suggested to reduce the levels of Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines during the Cytokine Storm. Clinical studies have demonstrated that intake of 1 g/day of vitamin C increases IL-10 (Anti-Inflammatory Cytokine) secretion and in that mechanism controls inflammation.


Zinc is purported to be a vital mineral during COVID-19 infection because of its dual immuno- modulatory and anti-viral properties. A Zinc deficiency significantly increases pro- inflammatory cytokines and changes in lung tissue. This effect can partially be countered by zinc supplements. A dosage 20 – 60 mg of Zinc per day would be recommended. It would be advisable to also have a blood test done to ascertain you’re individual level as well as personal requirement.