Published on December 7th, 2022 | by Kritika Gupta


Dr. Kritika Gupta on Nutrition: Tripledemic – Can We Protect Ourselves?

Just as we thought COVID-19 was left in the past, the surging cases of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the United States suggests otherwise. Like any other respiratory disease and infection, the at-risk population includes young children, older adults, and those with a weaker immune system. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), this year the rate of RSV for children up to four years old is 36.3 per 100,000. Because the symptoms of each of these diseases are so overlapping, it often becomes difficult to have an early diagnosis. Further, anyone who comes in close contact with the infected individuals increases their risk of catching the disease.

How can you protect yourself against the tripledemic?

Yale Medicine suggest that wearing masks, reducing big gatherings, hand washing, and sanitizing are all helpful measures to prevent the spread of these diseases. However, your body’s immune system remains the most important natural protective mechanism against illness. While a certain kind of diet has not yet been discovered to be helpful against these diseases, the basics of immune system remain the same. For example:

  • Vitamins and minerals: All vitamins and minerals are important for effective functioning of immune cells. Vitamins A, D, and C, iron, selenium, and zinc are some of the important micronutrients that you should monitor in your diet to make sure your immune system is receiving the necessary nutrients.
  • Probiotics and prebiotics: The Harvard School of Public Health also suggests the critical role of probiotics and prebiotics in immune system. Probiotics like yogurt and prebiotics foods like garlic, seaweed, and asparagus help the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut and therefore help to produce antimicrobial proteins.
  • Fats: Yes, fats! The interesting fact about fats is that no matter how much you shame it, the good kind of fat is important for your body to utilize fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, and K). If your diet is high in vitamins, but minimal in fat, it will impact your body’s ability to utilize those vitamins. Now I am not suggesting eating chunks of butter and margarine. I am suggesting including healthy fat like olive oil in your diet, and get rid of “bad” fat like trans-fat from fast food, and saturated fat from butter.
  • Protein: Proteins are the building blocks of cells, including immune cells. Both vegetarian (legumes, beans, peas, tofu) and non-vegetarian sources (fish, poultry) can meet your body’s protein needs.

See a doctor!

As soon as you suspect yourself of being exposed to any of these respiratory infections, make sure you see a doctor right away. If your child has cough or fever, seeing a pediatrician is the right thing to do. Although hospitals are expected to be full, most providers offer telemedicine these days so you can request an online consult without having to leave your home.

I hope you stay safe and help those near and dear to you to stay safe during this Tripledemic!

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About the Author

Dr. Kritika Gupta holds Ph.D. in Nutrition. She currently works at the Center for Research Evaluation at the University of Mississippi. She is passionate about community-centered health promotion projects, health education projects, social determinants, and food insecurity research. Dr. Gupta gave TEDx talk "Resilience to Hunger" in 2020 and it is available on YouTube.

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