Health professionals have raised concerns over a current habit people picked up of over-consuming certain food flavours with the aim of strengthening their immune system, so as to fight the Covid-19 infection. Commonly consumed ones, they say, are ginger, garlic, and lemon.
For instance, you’ll notice more people taking water with lemon and ginger; either at home or in the office. This, they believe, is one way of fighting the virus as it aids in strengthening immunity.
Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist, says he has observed that many people do this, which is not advisable. Although the above mentioned flavours help in boosting the immune system, when taken in excess and if not well-balanced with other foods, however, could result in health issues.
“Unintentionally, one may find themselves overdoing it, or consuming in excess, which is not advisable as it may come with health complications,” he warns.
Kamanzi says studies have identified that there is no definite medication for coronavirus, although it has been ascertained that when the immune system is strong, it can fight the virus. And, of course, nutrition plays a big role in boosting immunity.
In this case, he says focusing on just specific foods is not helpful at all; the thing is to ensure you have a balanced diet all through.
For instance, the nutritionist points out that in small doses, ginger has very few side effects while high doses—like more than five grams a day—increases the chances of side effects.
“When it comes to consuming it in excess, ginger can lead to heartburn, diarrhoea, burping, general stomach discomfort, and mouth irritation. Also, some women have reported more menstrual bleeding while taking ginger,” he adds.
Studies suggest that over-consumption of garlic has the potential to induce liver damage.
According to a report published by the National Cancer Institute of Unites States (U.S), consuming fresh garlic on an empty stomach could lead to heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.
As per a report published by Harvard Medical School, garlic contains certain compounds that can cause GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Drinking lemon water on a regular basis can cause enamel erosion or tooth decay because of the acid in the citrus fruit.
Also, too much lemon water can lead to heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and gastroesophageal reflux.
What to consider
Rene Tabaro, a nutritionist at King Faisal Hospital, says diverse research suggests that one way of improving your immunity is through nutrition.
Kamanzi says some of the best foods are proteins as they help improve the cells of the immune system.
“Protein is essential to build and repair body tissue and fight viral and bacterial infections. Immune system powerhouses such as antibodies and immune system cells rely on protein,” he says.
Too little protein in one’s diet may lead to weakness, fatigue, apathy, and poor immunity.
He further notes that a weak immune system also needs carbohydrates for a boost in energy.
However, Kamanzi says, these should be good carbohydrates, for example whole grain breads, beans and cereals and products made from whole wheat flour, and avoid junk or sugary carbohydrates as they weaken the immune system instead of boosting it.
“When we are recommending energy foods, we normally emphasise on carbohydrates with less simple sugars,” he says.
Tabaro says consuming foods that are rich in vitamins and mineral salts is also ideal. These can be found in fruits and vegetables and facilitate the body to break down the carbohydrates and proteins and absorb them swiftly. This will strengthen the immune system automatically.
Tabaro says the food you eat plays a key role in determining your overall health and immunity. Eat low carb diets, as this will help control high blood sugar and pressure.
Also, focus on a protein-rich diet to keep you in good shape, and regularly consume vegetables and fruits rich in beta carotene (a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colourful vegetables), ascorbic acid (a natural water-soluble vitamin), and other essential vitamins.