The media are full of advice about how to prepare for and avoid the corona virus, such as these articles in the New York Times and Washington Post. They include instructions on thoroughly washing hands, suggestions for what over-the-counter drugs to have on hand, and of course, recommendations to get the flu vaccine. 

Chicken broth may be helpful in strengthening immune function.

But none of the articles offer any guidance for ways to support and strengthen one’s own immune system to reduce the odds of getting sick from the virus. In fact, I came across one advisory from Harvard Medical School that ridiculed some immune-supporting options: Under the heading, “Misinformation is Rampant,” the article included a warning about “unfounded recommendations to prevent infection by taking vitamin C….”

Vitamin C has long been recognized for its immune-system support.  The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) concluded in a 2017 paper on PubMed about Vitamin C and immunity: “Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.” 

We’ve seen evidence over a number of years now that raw dairy supports immune function, via European studies indicating it reduces incidence of allergies and asthma in children. Bee pollen, chicken broth, and other vitamins (like A and D) have also been associated with strengthened immune systems.

Why would the media, and the public health experts the media draw on for advice, be so reluctant to encourage immune system support? I suspect it’s a combination of things, including their traditional ambivalence about nutritional supplements and a reluctance to be drawn into specific recommendations about foods and supplements that can give the immune system a boost. Plus, in their heart of hearts, many at the CDC likely still don’t buy the connection between food/nutrition and immune function. And last but not least, they don’t want to potentially stir up the anti-vaxer crowd, since part of the expected “solution” to the corona virus is expected to be a vaccine. 

The bottom line of all this is the same as it is for much of the rest of health care: We are responsible for overseeing our health, for determining what advice being offered by the health establishment is beneficial and which isn’t. The fact that this coronavirus is rapidly becoming a worldwide health crisis doesn’t change that long-term reality.