The winter season can be a challenge for everyone, but especially for those with a compromised immune system. There are many things you can do to help boost your immune system, allowing your body to fight off viruses and bacteria naturally.
This is probably the most commonly known vitamin when it comes to the immune system. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Research indicates that taking a vitamin C supplement when feeling a cold coming on can reduce the duration of the cold by 1-2 days. While that may not sound like a lot, when you are not feeling well, those couple days can seem like an eternity.
Foods that are rich in Vitamin C include guava, red bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, broccoli and others. Ideally, a vitamin C supplement, of 1,000-2,000 mg per day should be added to your daily routine during the winter months. Clinically, I recommend up to 5,000 mg per day when you feel a cold coming on to further boost your immune activity.
Zinc is often used in conjunction with Vitamin C in supplement form for the immune system. This essential trace mineral is needed for many regulatory functions (about 300 enzymes rely on zinc) in the body including growth and development, immune function and reproduction. Zinc helps in the function of both the innate and adaptive immune responses and the cells, such as natural killer cells, macrophages, T-cells, and B-cells that are associated.
Top food sources of zinc include oysters providing 25 mg of zinc per serving. Other foods include crab, lobster, red meat, beans, and pumpkin seeds.
Zinc lozenges are commonly used to help reduce the duration of the common cold. However, it is important to note that taking high levels of zinc can create acute toxicity and some unwanted effects. A good rule of thumb is to use zinc preventively to help boost the immune system. Using a supplement that contains up to15 mg of zinc along with foods that contain zinc is recommended.
The sunshine vitamin! Who doesn’t feel better with a little sunshine? There is a reason for this as Vitamin D is an important immune modulator and is involved in many other areas of health, such as bone health, calcium balance and blood pressure regulation, just to name a few. Many people are already deficient in Vitamin D, especially if you live in the northern part of the U.S. (above 34th-37th parallel). Vitamin D can be found in eggs, salmon, orange juice and milk that have been fortified with Vitamin D.
Choosing a supplemental form of Vitamin D is often a good choice for most people due to the deficient or insufficient state of most. For maximum effectiveness, be sure to take a D3 version (not D2). Vitamin D3 can be found in doses from 400 IU to 50,000 IUs. I recommend 5,000 IUs for most people on a daily basis and this can be increased if you are feeling sick. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so be sure to take your supplement with a fat-containing meal rather than an empty stomach.
Many studies have indicated that mushrooms play a role in boosting immune health. While there are many species of mushrooms, we only consume about 20 varieties as a food source. The most noted is the shitaki mushroom, which has been shown to increase T-cells activity and reduce inflammation. Among the many nutrients it contains, shitake mushrooms contain zinc and vitamin D.
You have probably heard that 70-80% of your immune system resides in your digestive tract. Maintaining a healthy digestive system will in turn maintain a healthy immune system. Most people today are walking around with some form of digestive dysfunction due to the Standard American Diet, use of prescription and non-prescription drugs, stress and other factors. While healing the GI tract can require a bit of work, probiotics are a good starting place for most. Probiotics, often called the good bacteria, are well known to improve digestive health and therefore immune health. Probiotics can be found in supplement form and can be consumed through fermented foods. The most common fermented foods that naturally include probiotics are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles and miso. However, there is a big word of caution here. When consuming fermented foods, it is best to consume those that are HOMEMADE!
An easy alternative is to choose a quality probiotic supplement with a variety of strains included, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Garlic is a great anti-microbial agent meaning it will kill off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The active ingredient, allicin, is also used for any health concerns that are bacterial, viral or microbial in nature. Some various uses include rubbing a fresh, raw garlic bulb on a cold sore to help to kill the active virus. Eating a whole clove daily (I recommend baking them) for prophylaxis. Prefer a supplement? Choose one that is enteric coated to help control the common odor that can permeate the skin and breath.
Supplement recommendations to Boost Immune Function:
Metagenics Ultra Potent C 1000
Metagenics Zinc AG
Metagenics D3 5000 or D3 liquid
Metagenics ImmuCore (contains Vitamin C, Zinc and mushroom blend)
Metagenics Probiotics: Ultra Flora Balance, Ultra Flora Immune Booster, or Ultra Flora Spectrum
Metagenics Super Garlic 6000
Feeling a cold coming?
Metagenics Essential Defense
Enter code: COLD for a 15% discount on the above mentioned supplements