Immune Boosting Foods by Nutrition Intern Kristin Cowin

Immune Boosting Foods

Written by Kristin Cowin, BSN

In light of the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus, I thought it would be an appropriate time to talk about the important role that whole foods play in keeping us healthy. As a quick and dirty way to make sure to get the max amount of health benefits from the diet, it is beneficial to practice eating each color of the rainbow. Each whole food offers an array of nutrients that help our bodies maintain health. Today I am highlighting foods that are packed full of evidence-based nutrients that help support and enhance the immune system. The key nutrients highlighted in this article are Vitamins A, C, and E.

First, I want to address some important information about the common cold and the flu. The common cold, the most common infectious disease, is a viral infection that is relatively mild and limited to the areas of the nasal passage and the back of the throat. This infection can be caused by more than 100 different viruses, the most common of them being the rhinoviruses and coronaviruses.1 These two types of viruses are responsible for 50 to 70% of all colds. The average adult acquires 2 to 4 colds a year and children get an average of 6 to 10 depending on their age and their exposure.1 Over 50% of upper respiratory tract infections can be cause by the rhinovirus. The coronavirus accounts for 10-20% of infections, the influenza viruses causing 10-15%, and 5% by the adenovirus.1 The flu is an upper respiratory infection most often caused by flu virus types A and B. The virus has the ability to mutate rapidly making it difficult to prevent the spread of the illness.1 It is also possible for a person to be infected with a combination of viruses at the same time. For more information about the COVID-19 in particular, please check the World Health Organization at  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html and the Oregon Health Authority at https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19

Though it is extremely tempting to take over-the-counter medications, there are some potential drawbacks. Nasal and sinus decongestants dry nasal and sinus secretions which is the desired result, however, nasal and sinus passages that are too dry can increase the risk of further infection. Also, prolonged use of these drugs, more the five consecutive days, and then discontinued can cause a “rebound” effect of worsened symptoms due to mucosal dependence on the drug.1 The use of these medications is not recommended for people with cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and thyroid symptoms, and can make urinating difficult.1 it is also important to recognize that the viruses cannot survive in high temperatures, highlighting the importance of a fever as your body’s natural way to fight off the infection.

Now for the fun part, my favorite part, let’s talk about food! Like I mentioned before, there are some key nutrients that help our body’s fight off illnesses. In my son’s words, Let’s ACE the Flu!

Vitamin A

Also known as “the anti-infective vitamin” for its many important roles in the immune system. Vitamin as is tightly associated with skin and eye health. what most people do not realize is that skin included any surface of the body that is exposed to the outside world, including the linings of the nose, mouth, throat, airways, digestive tract, and the urinary tract. These areas are especially important when thinking about immunity because they are going to function as our frontline defenders against infections.4 Vitamin A is a family, the Carotenoid family, of many different inactive and active forms that all specialize in different regions of the body. The most well-known form is Retinoic acid and is found in the mucus membranes mentioned above and is associated with the Lymph nodes of the body. The lymph nodes are like the military base camps for the immune system, they are located near areas of high risk for infection.

When picking foods that are high in Vitamin A, using the color of the food as a guide is a quick and easy way. yellow-to-red colored foods are going to contain carotenoids (Vitamin A), along with some green vegetables because yellow-to-red colors are masked by green, which contains chlorophyll.4

Vitamin C

The most well-known for its immune boosting activity. Also known as L-ascorbic acid, is found to shorten the duration of the common cold but has not actually been proven to reduce the risk of getting sick. What makes this vitamin so special is its ability to protect the body from damage from harmful free radicals that are produced naturally in the body from metabolic processes and exposure to pollutants from outside of the body. Free radicals are compounds that are unstable and highly reactive. If left in their unstable form, they can cause a chain reaction in our cells that can lead to a malfunctioning, cell death, tissue damage, and even damage to the DNA. Vitamin C helps to stabilize the free radicals and stops their disastrous chain reactions in the body. Vitamin E has similar actions in the body, and vitamin C plays a role in regenerating vitamin E after is stabilizes free radicals. Vitamin C also plays a role in enhancing the body’s natural immune response to infections and tissue damage by stimulating the immune cells such as White Blood Cells, neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes, while at the same time, protecting these immune cells from damage from free radicals that they, themselves, produce during their immune responses.2

When picking foods that are high in vitamin C is always safe to assume that orange, yellow, and red-ish/pink foods are going to be a rich source. However, there is always the surprising source of green foods that can be high in vitamin C.

When it comes to cooking, vitamin C is a very delicate compound; it is sensitive to heat and is water soluble. Steaming and blanching are the gentlest methods over boiling and roasting, but all are going to decrease the amount of this vitamin in the food. Microwaving has actually been shown to be another gentle cooking method on vitamin C because of its shorter cooking times.3

Vitamin E

Is a powerful Antioxidant that goes around the body scavenging damaging free radicals, mitigating age-related weakening of the immune system. As we age, our immune system get less and less nimble increasing our risk for infection and weakening our body’s immune response to those infections.5 Vitamin E is found to enhance the body’s cellular immune responses to infections while cleaning up free radicals. As mentioned in the Vitamin C section, Vitamin C works to regenerate Vitamin E after it has scavenged a free radical. Like Vitamin A, Vitamin E is a family of compounds called Tocopherols that have varying degrees of activity in the body and research is still uncovering the actions and locations of all the Tocopherols.

References:

1.  Mario R, Julie J. Colds and influenza: a review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations. Alternative Medicine Review. 2007;12(1). http://archive.foundationalmedicinereview.com/publications/12/1/25.pdf. Accessed March 13, 2

2.   Higdon, Ph.D. J. Vitamin C. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C. Published 2020. Accessed March 16, 2020.

  • Higdon, Ph.D. J. Vitamin A. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-A#immunity. Published 2020. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  • Higdon, Ph.D. J. Vitamin E. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-E#aging-immune-function. Published 2015. Accessed March 20, 2020.

 

March 24: Schedule a Nutrition Phone or Video Consultation

Hollywood Senior Center’s Nutrition Intern Kristin Cowin, a graduate student at the National University of Natural Medicine, will do free phone and video consultations with Hollywood Senior Center participants while we’re closed to the public. Simply click the link below and select a day (Monday or Friday) and time.

https://calendly.com/kristin-cowin/nutrition-consultation?month=2020-03

March 22: Coronavirus Update–Please Read

On Friday we shared important news that we had been made aware that a participant had recently tested positive for Covid-19. Since then we have received a number of emails from concerned individuals who are fearful that they may have come into contact with that individual on March 11. We felt that is was important to notify you as it was the first case of which we were made aware. The individual attended a committee meeting in Classroom B (next to the kitchen) hosted by a partner organization. The meeting was between the hours of 12:30 and 2pm. Members of that committee have been notified of possible exposure by the partner organization. We were notified as a host site.

It is our understanding that this individual was also in the Center earlier in the month on Tuesday, March 3, between the hours of 10am and noon on the stage. Please remember that this individual was asymptomatic during both visits to the Center and that we had increased the level of cleaning and disinfecting in the building beginning Monday, March 9. We also want to share that this individual is home, recovering and receiving support from friends.

It’s important for all of us to remember that during the next few days and weeks it is very likely that each of us will know someone whose doctor has given them a likely diagnosis, with or without a positive test. Given the number of groups and individuals who use the Hollywood Senior Center on a daily basis, it is likely that we will receive news that others who had visited the Senior Center over the last month will test positive or display symptoms.  

As we move forward, we are making a change to our COVID-19 notification protocol: Because we have been closed since March 14, we will not send mass updates. Instead, if we are made aware, we will work to notify any individuals or groups that we believe might have been in contact with the individual within a certain time frame.

Please remember how critical it is that we all maintain social distancing and behave as if anyone we interact with could be infected. Stay home. Stay healthy.

March 20: Center Extends Closing Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

The Hollywood Senior Center will now close through March 31 and possibly longer. If we do reopen in April, our programming will look very different given our population and the recommendation from the state and federal government that gatherings of older adults (those 60 and older) should be limited to 10 and under. It is in the best interest of everyone that we implement social distancing as much as possible during this time to help slow the pace of the virus and reduce risk. 

Hollywood Senior Center continues to be proactive in reducing the spread of the coronavirus in our community. Recognizing that the population we serve is in a higher risk category, it’s even more critical that we enact policy and procedures to protect those around us. We want to be sure we continue to be transparent in our communication and keep you updated on recent developments. 

Today, a partner organization that meets monthly at the Hollywood Senior Center notified us that one of their senior committee members tested positive for COVID-19. This individual was at the Hollywood Senior Center Wednesday, March 11, in the afternoon. The individual was asymptomatic at the time. Symptoms appeared on Tuesday, March 17.
 
Because this is the first confirmed case associated with the Hollywood Senior Center, we felt it was important that we share this update. We understand that this individual has self-isolated and is currently at home recovering. Out of respect for this individual, we ask that we all honor their privacy and avoid sharing details publicly in social media, creating speculation, shaming and adding panic.

We do ask that if you were in the Center on March 11 to take extra safety precautions at this time. For accurate and up-to-date information about the virus, please refer to Multnomah County’s dedicated Covid-19 information. We also wanted to share that effective March 9, the Hollywood Senior Center has had nightly thorough cleanings of the facility. These cleanings continue even while we are closed. 

Since closing our physical doors, HSC Staff has shifted our service delivery model to provide critical support to case-managed clients remotely. Staff are committed to communicating regularly with clients to assure that they have the necessary support and resources they need. Hollywood Senior Center Staff is now working remotely, but will continue to respond to emails and voice messages.
 
We have been so fortunate to receive an outpouring of support from community members who have offered to provide telephone reassurance and letter correspondence to isolated older adults during this time.

These community efforts bring much-needed joy and comfort to isolated seniors. This week, two community members delivered canned foods and toilet paper to a low-income senior apartment complex in dire need of these staples. These acts of kindness and generosity carry so much weight during this challenging and uncertain time. 

We are also actively working to shift some of our onsite activities to virtual programming so that you can continue to participate in the classes and groups at the Hollywood Senior Center that you enjoy and benefit from. We’re looking at creative ways to offer programming to our participants who are at home and craving social, emotional, physical, and intellectual connection. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.

Hoping you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. We miss all of you and look forward to returning to our regular schedule when it is possible.

March 17: Stay Active at Home!

First of all, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We will celebrate in Hollywood Senior Center style when our daily lives are back to normal.

If you’re missing your regular fitness routine at the Hollywood Senior Center, here’s a link to our Arthritis Exercise class video. Sandy Morales, who is certified by the Arthritis Foundation, is a wonderful instructor.

CLICK HERE FOR ARTHRITIS EXERCISE VIDEO

Enjoy! We miss you and hope you are staying healthy.

March 13 Coronavirus Update: Hollywood Senior Center to Close Next Week

Hello from the Hollywood Senior Center,

Hollywood Senior Center has been working diligently to be proactive in reducing the spread of the coronavirus in our community. Recognizing that the population we serve is in a higher risk category, it’s even more critical that we enact policy and procedures to protect those around us.

Out of an abundance of caution, in light of recent announcements from the State of Oregon, City of Portland and Multnomah County, the Hollywood Senior Center will close to the public for at least one week starting Monday, March 16th for all non-essential programming. At this time essential programming will consist of AARP Tax Assistance and Footcare appointments.

Legal Aid and Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) appointments will now be offered by phone. We will look into rescheduling some of the special events that we had on the calendar this month. At the end of next week, we will reassess subsequent weeks and evaluate programming for future events. We will provide updates accordingly.

This decision was not made lightly. It’s challenging as we weigh the many benefits participants receive from accessing HSC services with the potential risk of exposure. Ultimately, we feel it’s in the best interest of everyone that we implement social distancing as much as possible during this time to help slow the pace of the virus and reduce risk. We are currently exploring ways to partner with caring community members to provide telephone reassurance and letter correspondence to isolated older adults during this time. We hope to share more in the coming days.  

In the interim our Case Managers will be contacting all case-managed clients by phone throughout next week.  At this time, Hollywood Senior Center Staff will continue to respond to emails and voice messages. We will provide more updates on what scheduling and programming will look like in the coming weeks soon.

For accurate and up-to-date information about the virus, please refer to Multnomah County’s dedicated Covid-19 information.

Please continue to following the advice of public health officials and take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Sincerely,

The Hollywood Senor Center Team

March 9: Coronavirus Update

To the Hollywood Senior Center Community,

Hollywood Senior Center is taking precautionary measures to ensure that our employees, volunteers and participants are doing all they can to prevent contracting coronavirus. The health and safety of our community is our highest priority. As we are aware, those of advanced age and with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk. 

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread throughout the country and cases are increasing daily here in Oregon, I want to share some of the actions that Hollywood Senior Center is taking to help protect those around us. 

As this situation continues to evolve, we will closely monitor guidance from the CDC and local health officials. Updated information can be found HERE.

As of Wednesday, March 4, the Oregon Health Authority is holding weekly calls with community partners on Wednesdays from 1:00 to 2:00 pm, to provide support and address needs and concerns related to COVID-19. Hollywood Senior Center is participating in these calls and will continue to rely on their recommendations and expertise to inform our decisions.

Currently we are:

  • Increasing the frequency and level of cleaning and sanitization at the Hollywood Senior Center. Tables and chairs are being cleaned throughout the day. Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes are readily available for participants.   

  • All HSC staff, volunteers, instructors/facilitators, and participants who have a cough or have symptoms of the flu are being asked to stay at home rather than risk exposing others. Also, if you are particularly susceptible to the virus or feel uncomfortable in public spaces, please stay home.

  • Our volunteers for Meals on Wheels luncheons on Tuesdays and Thursdays are already required to wear both hairnets and plastic gloves when working with food in the center, and staff strictly adheres to state food service sanitation guides and regulations. Signs about how to prevent coronavirus have been posted throughout the Center

  • Based on current guidance and recommendations, at this time the Hollywood Senior center is open regular hours with most classes and activities offered as scheduled. Please note that this may change at the discretion of the instructors or Center Staff. We will do our best to immediately notify anyone of changes to our schedule. Changes will be posted on FB and our website.

  •  Please be aware that as a precautionary step, the March 13th Pizza/Movie lunch has been cancelled. 

  •  Contact us if you have any questions about our calendar of events or questions regarding our current policy and protocol in response to the current situation. 

We recognize that this is an unsettling time. As circumstances continue to develop, know that the Hollywood Senior will make our decisions with your health and well-being of greatest priority.

Please email or contact us with any additional questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Amber Kern Johnson
Executive Director

March 18: Gordon Neal Herman represents “Ella Fitzgerald: Queen of Jazz”

Wednesday, March 18, 1-2pm | FREE! | Donations welcome for presenter | Call 503-288-8303 to register.

Ella Fitzgerald is one of the great jazz singers of all time. From her start with the Chick Webb Band to her long solo career, Ella caught the attention of both the audience and musicians. This program will trace her rise from homeless teenager to universally-loved, scat-singing jazz star.