- As people are desperately loading up on supplements to boost their immunity from COVID-19, doctors warn that taking too much supplements may be dangerous.
- While vitamins and minerals can help boost overall immunity, there is no evidence of a single one that can solely influence COVID-19 immunity.
- Make sure to consult your doctor before trying out a new supplement.
As the pandemic has made people more aware about how to boost their immunity, several reports have claimed that some supplements can provide COVID-19 immunity.
But doctors warn that taking too much may be dangerous.
Melissa Majumdar, RD, LDN, a nurse and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, added that any product that claims to prevent or cure coronavirus is violating federal standards.
“There is no supplement or herb that can prevent or cure coronavirus,” Majumdar declared.
Majumdar explained that while several vitamins and minerals — such as Vitamins A, D, C, zinc, and iron — can boost overall immunity, there is no single one that can solely influence immunity.
Frank Romanelli, PharmD, a professor at the University of Kentucky, added that the reports about zinc having some antiviral effects and vitamin C helping with COVID-19 respiratory complications are all anecdotal.
Too much vitamins are dangerous
“Megadoses of vitamins can be dangerous. And they aren’t going to prevent or treat COVID or even shorten the duration of the disease,” warned Beth Kitchin, PhD, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“Nasal zinc sprays can cause loss of smell. That can be permanent,” she added. Colloidal silver, meanwhile, can disinfect surfaces, but it can cause the skin and whites of the eyes to turn a permanent grayish color when ingested.
Romanelli told Healthline, “Exaggerated amounts of any chemical — even water — can be harmful. If patients do not have a good reason to be using any supplement then they should in general avoid them.”
Majumdar advised that it’s better to focus on improving your lifestyle instead of relying on supplements. Hydrate, exercise, eat enough fruits and vegetables, and get enough sleep.
For people with nutrient deficiency, it’s best to simply get to a healthy level and not overdose.
Other immune boosters
Other natural supplements claimed to boost immunity can also pose similar risks.
However, some test tube studies suggest that it “can interact with immunosuppressants,” or prednisone, a medication used for a transplant or cancer, warned Jon C. Tilburt, MD, a physician at Mayo Clinic.
Other reports claim that elderberry supplements can actually worsen lung damage in severe COVID-19 cases because of a “cytokine storm,” which occurs when the immune system overreacts, Kitchin warned.
“There’s nothing definitive but since there’s no good data to support taking elderberry, I’d avoid it right now,” she advised.
Echinacea is believed to help with a cold, but health experts have pointed out that COVID-19 is not the common cold.
Quinine in tonic water
Quinine is a medicine distantly related to hydroxychloroquine, the antimalarial drug being tested to treat COVID-19.
However, the FDA have removed the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 after recent research determined that these drugs are not likely to be an effective treatment for COVID-19 and that its risks outweigh any benefits.
Consult your doctor first
Tilburt advised consulting your doctor first before trying any new supplement, even if it’s claimed to be “safe” or “natural.”
Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist from California, said, “There is no magic bullet to preventing COVID-19 with diet or supplements.”
For now, the best you can do is to enrich your diet with foods rich in vitamins C, D, E, and zinc.