Nutritional Supplements for COVID-19. Save the Elderberry for the common cold!

December 1, 2020 by Chris Bramich, MS, CNS, LDN, BCHN®, FNTP, CGP
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With instances of COVID-19 on the rise again, many are wondering what they can do to maximize their body’s ability to stay healthy. It’s been over eight months since cases began pouring into doctor’s offices and local emergency rooms. The health community has a lot more experience now than it did back in March. Furthermore, COVID-19 is a virus and viruses have been studied for over a century. There are certain general precautionary strategies that will be beneficial towards any virus including the one currently dominating headlines.

First, let’s talk about dietary considerations. You can take all the supplements that I’ll list in a moment, but they won’t be as effective if your diet is sub-par. Although experts differ on some points, there is universal agreement that minimizing sugar is critical for overall health. Sugar is a refined carbohydrate that increases both glucose and insulin levels. Sedentary individuals end up converting their excess glucose into fat, which increases the body’s total inflammatory load.

Eliminating sugar is difficult because of its addictive qualities, but it becomes easier after the first few days or reducing or eliminating intake. To give yourself a hand here, eat plenty of healthy fats and proteins. Yes to products like olive oil, avocado and coconut milk or oil, but also to grassfed meats and dairy raised on pasture (if it’s tolerated). Dairy can be congesting or allergenic for many (even grassfed), so let your body be your guide. Cut back or eliminate dairy if you experience any symptoms like sinus congestion, gastric discomfort or even gas and bloating. Nuts and nut butters can also help with feelings of satiety and keep you feeling full so that you’ll be less likely to crave sweets.

With COVID-19, it’s important to reduce or control any current inflammatory loads. Excessive body weight, imbalances in blood sugar, anemic deficiencies, high blood pressure or exposure to stress can all decrease immune system efficiency. While the holidays are signs of joy, they can also be accompanied by a great deal of stress. If you anticipate an increase in stress this holiday season, find a local or online support group, have a sit down with your pastor, begin breathing exercises or explore other strategies for mitigating stress.

As far as nutritional interventions, here is my top five list of supplements:

  • 1. Vitamin D (5000-10,000 IU)
  • 2. Zinc (30 mg)
  • 3. Vitamin A (10,000 IU)
  • 4. Vitamin C (500-1000 mg)
  • 5. Melatonin (9 mg +)
  • The doses listed here are for adults. They’re also for those who are not pregnant, lactating or already taking a multi-vitamin. They are safe for pregnancy, but usually pregnant and lactating women are already taking a pre-natal vitamin and it’s best to avoid oversupplementation. It’s also beneficial to be in touch with a nutritional professional who is monitoring your health and can give you specific guidance geared to your own situation and context. For instance, if lab testing shows your Vitamin D levels are already sufficient, you don’t need to take 5000 IU’s of Vitamin D per day.

    One supplement that is often a go-to for many people during illnesses of all types is Elderberry. You’ll notice that is not on my list. Elderberry can be helpful for certain conditions, but it’s not ideally suited for COVID. Elderberry works by increasing inflammatory cytokines, which is important at the beginning phase of an illness. Cytokines are messenger proteins that help manage and stimulate the body’s inflammatory response during infection. COVID, though, is known for creating a “cytokine storm,” which consists of an excessive amount of these messengers. For COVID, it’s going to be better to have antioxidants on hand like Melatonin and Vitamin C, which can help buffer the oxidative stress created during the immune system’s handling of the virus. Save the Elderberry for the common cold.

    There are additional herbs, supplements and protocols which can be helpful, but it’s best to be under the supervision of a professional, especially if you’re currently on medications or have other pre-existing conditions. If you’ve contracted COVID-19 and are having a difficult time with recovery, additional strategies should be considered.

    A recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) review study (Visit ) covers many of the interventions that I’ve discussed in this article today. As a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) and a Functional Medicine (FM) Practitioner, I work with individuals experiencing a wide range of challenges to their health. I also work with clients virtually and can make recommendations even when you can’t get out of the house for an appointment. Please visit my website at or email me at to learn more or set up your first consult.

    Chris Bramich graduated with distinction from the University of Western States with a Masters in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He is a Certified Nutrition Specialist, a Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and is Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition. His practice is located in Fort Worth, TX.

    Chris Bramich, MS, CNS, LDN, BCHN®, FNTP, CGP
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