As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, everyone is doing their best to stay healthy. For this reason, many are looking for ways to support their immune systems.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the guiding voice for many Americans throughout the pandemic. Since the coronavirus arrived in North America, he has been providing scientifically-backed advice on how to minimise your risk of getting sick and spreading it to others.
Recently, the doctor offered some guidance on what will- and what will not- help boost your immune system. The verdict? Vitamin C and D.
Immune System Vitamins
In a recent Instagram Live interview with actress Jennifer Garner, Dr. Fauci gave advice about which supplements are worth taking to improve your immunity. According to the 79-year-old director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, vitamin C and D are the only two that, based on current evidence, will actually make a difference.
“If you’re deficient in vitamin D, that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection,” he said. “I would not mind recommending, and I do it myself, taking vitamin D supplements.” 
He also recommended vitamin C, saying that it is a good antioxidant. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agrees with Fauci, and says there is scientific evidence that vitamin D helps fight off respiratory infections. There is less evidence that vitamin C helps people who are not deficient in the vitamin, but Adalja says it doesn’t hurt .
How Does Vitamin D Help?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin also referred to as calciferol. It is naturally present in some foods including fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. It is sometimes present as an added vitamin in foods and is available as a supplement. Your body also produces it naturally when UV rays from the sun hit the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis .
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and maintain proper concentrations of calcium and phosphate in your blood. This strengthens your bones, reduces inflammation, and improves immune function .
Dr. Adalja says that the reason vitamin D is so helpful is because some people are deficient in it. This means they don’t get enough of the vitamin on a regular basis.
In a systematic review published in the BMJ, researchers analyzed data from over eleven thousand people. They found that people who took a daily or weekly vitamin D supplement were less likely to develop respiratory tract infections than those who didn’t. The more deficient someone was in the vitamin, the more benefit they experienced .
How Does Vitamin C Help?
Vitamin C is also known as L-ascorbic acid. It is a water-soluble vitamin, and like vitamin D is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and is also available as a dietary supplement. Unlike some animals, humans cannot naturally produce this essential vitamin, so we need to get it from our diets.
Your body needs vitamin C to synthesize collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters. It is also involved in protein metabolism and is an essential component of the connective tissue required for wound healing .
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. This is why it is often part of the discussion surrounding immune health. The research, however, is not as definitive as it is with vitamin D.
Researchers at Cochrane conducted an analysis in 2013 of more than eleven thousand people. They found that people who took a vitamin C supplement when they had a cold had the infection reduced by eight percent in adults and twelve percent in children .
Another Cochrane review found that marathon runners, skiers, and soldiers who took a vitamin C supplement had fewer colds. The 642 participants who took anywhere from 250 milligrams to one gram per day reduced their risk of developing a cold by fifty percent .
How Much is Enough?
Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, says that both vitamin D and vitamin C supplements are a good idea to take in general.
The NIH recommends healthy adults get 15mcg (600 IU) of vitamin D per day. For vitamin C, they recommend women and men get 75 and 90mg per day respectively. As always, if you’re considering adding any supplement to your daily routine you should talk to your trusted healthcare practitioner first. They will be able to guide you on dosage, brand, as well as whether or not it will interact with any other medication you are already taking .
How Much Is Too Much?
Vitamin C is water-soluble and generally well tolerated. According to the NIH, the upper tolerable limit (UL) is 2000 mg for adult men and women .
Vitamin D is fat-soluble and generally well-tolerated, however, it can become toxic in very large doses . According to the NIH the upper tolerable limit (UL) of vitamin D is 100mcg (4000 IU) for children 9 years and older, adults, and pregnant and lactating teens and women .
Other Recommendations from Doctor Fauci
Outside of taking vitamin supplements, Fauci says there are many other things you can do to keep your immune system healthy. This includes regular exercise, and proper sleep, and of course wearing your mask and keeping your distance:
The Department of Health and Human Services says that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Dr. Fauci makes sure he incorporates physical activity into his routine in order to keep his body and immune system in top shape.
“I make exercise a significant part of my regimen,” he said in an interview.
Even for someone who has been working twenty hours per day during the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Fauci understands how important sleep is for your body.
“You got to remember to eat, and you’ve got to remember to sleep,” he said .
When you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Some of them help you to sleep, and some are needed when your body is trying to fight off an infection. They also need to increase when you are experiencing inflammation or are under stress.
Lack of sleep can reduce the production of these cytokines. It can also reduce the number of infection-fighting antibodies cells your body produces.
3. Wearing a Mask
Dr. Fauci says that wearing a mask is essential if we want to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“The only time I don’t wear one is when I am alone, when I am home with my wife, or when I am speaking in public – provided there is six feet between me and the people to whom I am speaking, as was the case when I answered questions at the recent Congressional hearings,” he said .
4. Going Outside
The virus spreads much more easily indoors, which is why gatherings, restaurants, bars, and even some schools have been moved outdoors. For his part, Dr. Fauci doesn’t do anything indoors.
Only on rare occasions does he have people over on his back deck. Even then, everyone stays six feet apart, they don’t share anything, and they keep their masks on unless they’re eating.
“We always do takeout and I tell the takeout people that I want the food in four separate plastic containers, so no one has to touch anyone else’s food,” he explained. “Everyone’s food is self-contained. Also, we always stay outside. We don’t do anything inside.” 
5. Minimizing Travel
The doctor says he will not be getting on a plane anytime soon. Being 79 years old, he is aware that the risks involved with the virus are greater for he and his wife.
“I have been on flights where I’ve been seated near people who were sneezing and coughing, and then three days later, I’ve got it,” he said. “So, no chance.” 
Stay Healthy, Stay Safe
The bottom line is that regular healthy habits like exercising and getting proper sleep will go a long way in keeping your immune system healthy. When it comes to the novel coronavirus, however, special precautions need to be taken. This means wearing a mask, keeping your distance, only having social gatherings outside, and staying home when you are sick are all crucial if we want to stop the spread of the virus. As we enter the seventh month of this pandemic, we all must stay vigilant in order to protect ourselves, as well as our friends, family, and neighbours.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.