The new immunity toolkit

September 7, 2021

By Susan Bowerman, Senior Director Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training, Herbalife Nutrition

Susan Bowerman

The most recent development in world of health and medicine has been the acceptance that we will be living with COVID-19 into the longer term. Masks, social distancing, vaccine passports and travel restrictions will now bean inseparable part of our daily dealings. While most of these initiatives serve the common purpose of safeguarding people and curbing spread of the infectious disease, there are simple and small measures around our diet and lifestyle that can help support the immune system.

Since most of this information is available to public on various government websites, the concern is not really about lack of awareness. Research has shown that most nutritional and health initiatives are not adopted in individuals due to lack of habit formation. For adults who have spent a larger part of their lives with lesser focus on nutrition or a healthy diet, this time might pose many challenges. Healthcare practitioners (HCPs) have been looked up to for the most credible advice on nutrition – something which was also reflected in a Nutrition Myth Survey conducted by Herbalife Nutrition in 2020. And therefore, we HCPs must do more to help consumers in this journey of achieving a healthy immune system and lifestyle.

Here are a few tips that can help you create an “immunity toolkit” for patients and consumers:

  1. Advise less added salt and sugar

Sugar is the known culprit for impacting innate immunity of one’s body, and recent evidence has linked high dietary sodium intake to sodium toxicity which is associated with comorbid conditions of COVID-19 such as hypertension, kidney disease, stroke, pneumonia, obesity, diabetes, and a few others.

The severity of these complications is well known to the health care community. However, the emphasis may not be as well understood by consumers. Therefore, encourage your patients and consumers to reduce their intake of added salt and sugar, particularly from highly processed foods that are often the primary sources of sodium and sugar.

  • The Dos don’t come without a habit

WHO recommends individuals to eat four servings of fruits, five servings of vegetables, 180 g of grains, and 160 g of meat and beans, in their daily diet. Now, for individuals who have not been following any regime for their diet, this might come as a severely complicated process to follow. More so, in absence of a habit, this might fizz out too soon.

Meal plans are often underrated but very useful when it comes to forming habits. The beauty of a meal plan is in its flexibility, and the fact that it doesn’t feel like following a strict regime. As HCPs, we can help patients develop the right meal plans to suit different body needs and health conditions. In addition, various meal plan tools and apps exist to aid a faster and more effective adoption process.  Having a healthy meal pattern to follow is more likely to lead to better dietary habit formation, rather than a rigid, prescriptive diet.

  • Talk about the“boosters”

Once the dos and the don’ts have been well addressed, share additional tips with your patients. We can encourage a diet of nutrient-dense foods, including plenty of whole fruits and vegetables, more whole grains than refined grains, lean proteins from both plant and animal sources, as well as healthy fats from nuts, seeds, seafood, avocado and seed oils. Examples of some specific nutrient-dense “superfoods” include tea, nus, spinach, berries and red beans.

Nutrition supplements can help, especially when there is a deficiency in the body which is going unnoticed. Many people do not meet the recommended intakes for several vitamins and minerals including potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and D.  HCPs can recommend regular nutrition check-ups for those who lead very active lifestyle or suffer from impaired nutrient absorption. 

Regular physical activity is imperative for a healthy body and it works in tandem with nutrition. In a recent review, it was noted that several micronutrients, including selenium, zInc and vitamins A and D as well as nutraceuticals and probiotics may be beneficial in enhancing immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this toolkit, you can follow the progress of your patients, making sure they are engaged, forming healthy habits and being conscious about what they are consuming. Consumer education about nutrition and healthy living is more important than ever, and it’s become a driving agenda and responsibility for many in the HCP community.

Read also: Study: immunity post-Covid-19 infection lasts up to 8 months

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Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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