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No, warm water won’t ‘kill’ coronavirus: Busting immune-boosting myths of the pandemic

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WATCH: Myths busted: can food protect people from getting COVID-19? – Mar 22, 2020

Shannon Crocker says she has recently seen a lot of discussions that certain foods and supplements will protect you against the novel coronavirus.

“There is no evidence that food, supplements, or natural health products will protect you,” the registered dietitian said. “Social distancing and handwashing remain best practices for reducing risk.”

She has also seen messaging on how some diets, including the keto diet and carnivore diet, will boost your immunity and protect you from COVID-19. Again, she says there is no scientific evidence to support this.

READ MORE: Stop taking children to playgrounds, playdates during coronavirus outbreak: experts

“Also, there’s an email circulating telling people to drink warm water, gargle with water, or drink water every 15 minutes to ‘wash’ the virus from your throat to your stomach where the acid kills it,” she said.

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“This is a myth. It’s good to stay hydrated for overall health, but drinking water won’t protect you from this virus either.”

We can’t boost immunity overnight

Shahzadi Devje, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator based in Toronto, says she has been recently asked questions on whether mushrooms, ginseng and garlic will help in preventing COVID-19.

“What has been striking for me is people’s expectation to ‘boost immunity’ overnight with a handful of tactics,” she tells Global News.

“Our immune system is not a switch that can be turned on and off at will.”

“I think it’s important to put things in perspective,” Devje says.

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She said there is no one food, nutrient or supplement that will guarantee protection from this virus.

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“However, you can support your immune system and ensure it’s working at its optimum by eating a healthy, balanced and nutrient-dense diet, regularly,” she said.

“Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with healthy lifestyle behaviours, such as proper sleep, hygiene, physical activity, and managing stress.”

READ MORE: ‘Emotions can be contagious’: Advice on coping with coronavirus-related anxiety

Crocker says immune-boosting foods and supplements has been a big focus, from lemon water to bee pollen to elderberry juice and organic foods.

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Like Devje, she says you can only boost your immune system by keeping your diet balanced with veggies and fruits, whole grains, protein-rich foods (e.g. lean meat/poultry, eggs, dairy), nuts/nut butters, seeds and lentils/legumes.

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Dietitians of Canada recently released a statement following concerns of misinformation circulating on social media about unproven supplements and natural health.

“To date, the Government of Canada has not approved any product to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19. Selling unauthorized health products or making false or misleading claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 is illegal in Canada,” the statement read.

“At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 or any natural health products that are authorized to treat or protect against COVID-19. If you are self-isolating and especially if you have symptoms, it is important to maintain good nutrition and hydration. Make sure you are eating and drinking regularly, even if you have a low appetite.”

Let’s focus on the basics: cooking

Krystal Merrells, a registered dietitian based in Ottawa, says dietitian networks have been lit up recently with questions around how to stock up.

“Dietitians understood that our impact stretched further than the recommended food items themselves — our expertise on everything related to food supports public health by lessening panic buying and considering the food system and food insecurity in our advice,” she said.

“The panic may now be settling down, and I’m seeing a shift from what to eat to how people are making food and meals a reality in this time of social distancing.”

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Food shortages unlikely despite Canadians’ grocery panic, experts say

She says people are experimenting in the kitchen and planning theme-days with their families.

“And I’m seeing more and more people considering those in need, talking about donating to food banks and shelters. In the end, I truly believe this connection to other people will have more benefit on your whole health and healing than any one claimed ‘immune-boosting’ food ever will.”

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If you’re not locked down on an eating routine working from home yet, weekends are a good place to start.

“Make a list of the meals you are already comfortable making, then look at ways you can increase their nutrition with an extra vegetable or substituting in a whole grain,” Merrells said.

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“When you’re new to working at home, it’s easy to skip meal times or eat at your desk. You will get more from your meals by having some sort of ritual that distinguishes it from the rest of your day.”

Reminder for Canadians to stay healthy

Devje says we should continue to follow the guidelines of credible authorities and stick to a healthy colourful diet.

“A nutrient-dense diet will ensure you’re getting sufficient protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, healthy fats, fibre, and so much more,” she said.

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“I would pay attention to the sunshine vitamin D, especially for those who are deficient. Moderate doses of vitamin D (daily or weekly) have shown some level of protection from respiratory infections [but] not COVID-19.”
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Of course, continue essential hygiene practices set forth by the World Health Organization, she says, including washing your hands thoroughly, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and practicing social distancing.

READ MORE: Want groceries delivered? Options across Canada during the coronavirus outbreak

“Do the best you can with what you have at hand. Sure, acerola cherries and turkey liver maybe some of the top sources of vitamin C and A (important nutrients for immune health), but not everyone will have access to these luxuries,” she said.

“Enjoy pantry staples and freezer-friendly foods to achieve a healthy balanced diet.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.