Keto and Coronavirus: Can the Keto Diet Help Fight the Flu?
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Keto and Coronavirus: Can the Keto Diet Help Fight the Flu?

If you’ve turned on the news, read the paper, or pretty much engaged in any social interaction in the last few weeks, then you’ve heard about the coronavirus. 

What makes this new virus so frightening is not so much what we know — but what we don’t yet know. As cases of the coronavirus continue to spread, it’s become clear that this is a time to power up your immune system and take precautions. 

The best way to do this? It turns out that the keto diet may not only boost your immune system — but it may be the key to battling viruses like the flu. Read on for all the ways getting into ketosis might help, plus other ways to stay healthy throughout flu season.

What We Know About The Coronavirus

We’re going to start with the facts and leave the fear-mongering to the 24-hour news cycle. According to the CDC, this is what we know about the coronavirus:

How This Flu Spreads

Due to the fact that this is a new virus, researchers are still trying to uncover exactly how the coronavirus spreads. What the CDC does understand is that[*]:

  • Coronavirus can spread between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is probably not the main way the virus spreads.

Symptoms of Coronavirus

Symptoms of the coronavirus range from mild to severe, and include[*]:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. 

Prevention and Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus. Therefore the best prevention is to avoid being exposed to the virus. With this being said, the CDC does recommend[*]:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Can Nutrition Help Protect You From The Coronavirus?

The fact of the matter is, at this point, there isn’t enough information about the coronavirus to give specific prevention advice. 

With that being said, it’s an indisputable fact that boosting your immune defenses will always help.

And luckily, there’s plenty of research on diet and the immune system, which can give you a leg up during the flu season and in regards to the new coronavirus. 

The food you eat quite literally becomes the stuff that makes up every cell of your body. From the protein chemical messages that turn on your immune defenses to the fatty acids that make up the outer protective layer of your cells — what you put in your body is what builds your body.

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Therefore, nutrition is one of your primary defenses against illnesses of all kinds. 

When it comes to viruses specifically, research shows:

  • Deficiencies in vitamin E and selenium, two antioxidant compounds, can result in increased risk for viral attack[*].
  • Vitamin C can help alleviate infections caused by bacteria and viruses[*].
  • Zinc can inhibit respiratory viruses[*].
  • Magnesium can inhibit the replication of the rhinovirus by enhancing adsorption[*].

But what about macronutrients? Protein, carbs, and fat — do they have an effect on immunity? 

Research shows that eating a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb diet can have significant positive impacts on the health of your immune system[*]

How Keto Can Help Boost Your Immune Defences

To get ahead of the coronavirus, your first step is to power up your immune response. Since the CDC is still unclear about how the virus spreads, it’s up to you to protect your body in the event that you do come into contact with the coronavirus. 

Keto Fights The Flu

A 2019 study found that mice eating a ketogenic diet have a higher survival rate than mice eating a high-carb diet. 

This study was profound in that the researchers learned that there is a direct correlation between being in a state of ketosis and the function of your immune system. 

More specifically, the ketogenic diet triggers the release of immune cells called gamma delta T cells. These specialized cells produce mucus in the cell linings of the lungs that can trap the virus cells. 

The mice fed a high carbohydrate diet; on the other hand, saw no such effects and were less likely to survive the flu than the ketogenic mice.

One of the researchers explained,” this study shows that the way the body burns fat to produce ketone bodies from the food we eat can fuel the immune system to fight flu infection[*].”

The Keto Diet Provides Adequate Protein

It’s well understood that protein malnutrition can cause inadequacies in immunity. Protein is a crucial factor in several aspects of immunity including[*]:

Cell-mediated immunity

An immune response that doesn’t involve antibodies, but activates phagocytes, macrophages, cytotoxic T cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. 

Phagocyte function

A type of immune cell that engulfs pathogens and cell debris, thus clearing them from the body. 

Immunoglobulin A antibody concentrations

An antibody that plays a role in the function of mucous membranes. These antibodies act as the first line of defense by protecting the lining of your gastrointestinal, respiratory, and genitourinary tracts[*].

Cytokine production

Small signaling proteins that make up a vital part of the immune system. They’re secreted from immune cells and have an effect on other cells, helping to bring your immune system into balance. 

The complement system

A system that enhances antibodies and phagocytic cells’ ability to attack and clear damaged or unwanted cells.

The ketogenic diet is a moderate protein diet that relies primarily on fat, low-carb vegetables, and protein sources like fatty fish, meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy — all of which contribute significant amounts of protein to the diet.  

Unlike high-carb diets that include dishes like pasta and pizza, on the keto diet, you’ll be opting for salmon with a side of veg or a bunless burger with celeriac fries.

The result? Lots of protein-rich meals that keep your immune system energized and happy.

Ketosis is Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is a natural part of your body’s immune response. However, when your inflammatory response becomes chronic or severe, it can have a negative impact on your health. Too much inflammation can use up energy and put more pressure on your immune system.

Therefore, keeping your inflammatory response balanced is crucial if you want a healthy and balanced immune system.

One of the many benefits associated with following a ketogenic diet is the effect of ketone bodies on inflammation. This is especially true for the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate(BHB). 

Research shows that BHB has an inhibitory effect on something called the NLRP3 inflammasome, which is a multiprotein complex that instigates inflammation through stressors and environmental irritants[*][*].  

In addition, BHB upregulates anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds like Nrf2, to help combat inflammation[*].

When you get sick with a virus or cold, your inflammatory response is heightened. While this may provide some potent immune stimulation in an acute infection, prolonged inflammation can lead to damage to your vital organs[*].

Therefore, sticking to a naturally anti-inflammatory diet like the keto diet is one of the best ways to keep your inflammatory response in check so that your immune system doesn’t get overloaded. 

Provides Alternative Fuel to Glucose

When your body relies on glucose as its primary fuel, you’re also relying heavily on the proper function of the hormone insulin. Insulin acts as a chauffeur to shuttle glucose into your cells so it can be used for fuel. 

The problem is, acute infection (bacterial and viral) can invoke insulin resistance. That means that when you’re fighting off these infections, your ability to utilize glucose is impaired[*]. 

Insulin resistance is associated with a wide range of metabolic imbalances such as enhanced oxidative stress, inflammation, high blood triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, and an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease[*].

Unless your cells have another source of fuel, you may not get the proper nourishment your body needs to get well — and you could also be driving further imbalances.

Fortunately, when you follow a keto diet, you provide your cells with an alternative fuel source that can take over for glucose, and doesn’t require insulin as a chauffeur into energy-hungry cells.

Support Your Keto Journey

Getting into a state of ketosis can be tricky if you’re a first-timer, but your efforts will pay off not only for your immune health — but for longevity in general. To help you ease into keto, and assist in maintaining a keto lifestyle, we have some great products that can support you.

High-Fat Snacks 

While to keto diet continues to gain traction, you still may find yourself in a pickle now and then when there aren’t any keto-friendly snacks around. For this reason, it’s always best to have a high-fat keto snack on hand. 

Some great options include Perfect Keto Bars and Perfect Keto Nut butter. The bars come in a variety of flavors, including birthday cake, cinnamon roll, chocolate chip cookie dough, lemon poppyseed, almond butter brownie, and salted caramel. And the nut butters come in chocolate hazelnut, snickerdoodle, almond butter and jelly, and macadamia vanilla flavors. 

Both the bars and the nut butters make excellent on-the-go snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated. 

Electrolytes

During your transition period into ketosis, you may go through something called the “keto flu.” Don’t worry — the symptoms are much different than the coronavirus, so you won’t be confused as to whether you got sick or are just transitioning. 

Typical keto flu symptoms include brain fog, lethargy, lack of appetite, and trouble sleeping. While these symptoms do tend to pass within a week or so, adding in electrolytes can do a lot to help you through this transition period. 

The Perfect Keto Electrolytes supplement includes a balanced combination of potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium to help keep your fluids in check and your electrolytes where they need to be.

MCT Oil Powder

MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) and kind of like a magic supplement for keto dieters. Due to the way that MCTs are processed, they go straight to your liver and are turned into ketones for quick fuel. 

The Perfect Keto MCT Oil Powder comes in a variety of flavors so you can mix it up with vanilla, chocolate, matcha latte, salted caramel, or unflavored. Pro tip –it goes great in coffee as a creamer replacement.

Bottom Line: The Keto Diet May Boost Your Immune Defenses Against the Coronavirus

With escalating concern about the new coronavirus, you really can’t be too careful about how you take care of your body to ensure your immune system is strong. 

While micronutrients play a crucial role in keeping your immune system strong, a macronutrient ratio like that provided by the keto diet could be even more impactful to your immune health. 

Keto not only helps to calm inflammation, but it supplies protein to support immune functions, fat to fuel your cells and increases targeted immune defenses that are known to combat other viruses like influenza. 

If you’re considering a diet to boost immunity, give keto a try. 

Read Next: Keto Diet For Beginners

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One thought on “Keto and Coronavirus: Can the Keto Diet Help Fight the Flu?

  1. Overall a good article. I liked the fact it has references to the sources. What is missing and misleading though is the fact that:
    Doing ketogenic diet without intermittent fasting is basically torchuring if the body. 18-23h a day would help to fight infection plus will make body more energetic. IF daily plus Fasting once a week or every other week is a good starting point.

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