Supplements to add to your COVID-19 defense

Both vitamin D & zinc can help you fight the virus, experts say. We know…

Both vitamin D & zinc can help you fight the virus, experts say.

We know masks, social distancing, and handwashing can help us fight the coronavirus, but another defense might be in your medicine cabinet.

When we learned about President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis last week, we noticed he takes vitamin D and zinc. I asked Dr. Grace McComsey, Vice President of Research and Associate Chief Scientific Officer at University Hospitals, about the supplements. She’s been researching them, too, and says they seem to have a significant effect on COVID-19.  

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Here in Northeast Ohio, our vitamin D levels are notoriously low because we get limited sunlight in the fall and winter months. Research shows low levels put us at high risk for COVID-19.

“If your blood level of vitamin D is low, you’re up to double the risk of dying from COVID if you get it,” McComsey said, adding it may also explain why African Americans are being impacted more severely by the virus.

When it comes to zinc, McComsey says research shows it blocks the entry of the virus into the cells. However, don’t start popping pills like crazy, because too much of a good thing is not good.

“For example, if you take super high doses of zinc for a long time, you can have copper deficiency,” she said, explaining that deficiency can lead to blood disorders.  


McComsey advises no more than 25 mg of zinc daily or 25 mg every other day. Taking too much can lead to zinc toxicity, which may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, or worse.  

In addition to copper deficiency, too much zinc can also suppress your immune system and lower your HDL, or good cholesterol. You should take it on an empty stomach, but it’s okay to take with food too if you have a sensitive stomach. 

As for vitamin D, if you’re not taking a prescribed supplement by your doctor and you’re buying it over-the-counter, McComsey recommends 1,000 iu daily. While the recommended dose (depending on age) is about 600-800 iu daily, she says over-the-counter brands often don’t deliver the amount indicated on their label, so if you take 1,000 iu it at least give you the recommended dose. 

Also, you need to take vitamin D with some sort of fat to help your body absorb it. Avocados, nuts, seeds, eggs, and full fat dairy products are good sources, so take it with a meal.

It’s always best to get your vitamins from natural sources, such as food, but if you need a boost, McComsey says adding a supplement isn’t a bad idea during a pandemic.