Friday 3 April, 2020

Jamaicans encouraged to boost immune system to fight COVID-19

Senior Dietitian at the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in Westmoreland, Asha-Gaye Graham-Thompson, is encouraging persons to bolster their immune system to fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Mrs Graham-Thompson said there are ways to keep the immune system functioning optimally “which can help to keep you healthy and give you a better chance of overcoming the disease if contracted”.

She said persons should get regular sleep and exercise and eat a balanced diet, incorporating foods from the Caribbean that are rich in vitamins and minerals, also called micronutrients, and macronutrients such as protein, fat and carbohydrate.

She said they should also limit alcohol consumption and avoid sugary drinks, which deplete immune health.

“When we think of the immune system, the first thing that comes to mind is the multivitamins and minerals. One particular vitamin that has a lot of benefits is our Vitamin C, which is aligned with supporting the immune system,” Mrs Graham-Thompson said.

As such, she is encouraging the consumption of citrus fruits, as well as red sweet pepper because it has a higher Vitamin C content than orange, she noted.

Mrs Graham-Thompson said foods rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Zinc, such as carrot, sweet potato, sweet pepper, tuna, legumes, nuts and fortified cereals, should also be incorporated in the diet.

The Senior Dietitian warned against bingeing from one food group, as this could be harmful.

She is imploring individuals with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, to continue to consume their meals in moderation - but add fruits and vegetables to improve their immune system.

She is also encouraging parents to ensure that children have adequate amounts of vitamins and micronutrients in their diet.

“They will have to consume a lot of protein because the protein helps with recovery and it helps with healing and they are growing… so they need to have adequate amount of that,” the Senior Dietitian said.

For the elderly, who are most vulnerable, she said they need to consume macro and micro nutrients and ensure that they are properly hydrated.

Mrs Graham-Thompson encouraged the use of dietary supplements if individuals are unable to maintain a balanced diet.

She said that practising good personal hygiene, including regular washing of the hands, and ensuring that food is prepared in safe conditions, are key factors in ensuring that the immune system operates at its optimum.

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