Boosting Your Immune System
Wow, it’s April. Finally. I think most of us thought March would never end! But here we are, and this pandemic continues. Great job fellow Seattleites on your social distancing and staying at home. All signs indicate things are working, so stay the course and we will get through this!
Before we talk immune system, a few housekeeping items …
Don’t forget, nutrition is essential! Our services are still considered an essential service and in-person visits are allowed, however I wanted to remind you all that I am also here for virtual consults any day of the week. Virtual consults are covered by insurance so there is no reason to put off your nutrition needs for later. Let’s get that taken care of now while you might have more flexibility with your time and likely a whole lot more freedom to focus on your diet! One easy thing to get checked off your list.
Also, a lot of people have been asking me about appropriate supplements for immune support. If this is something you want to talk over, give me a call or send me an email. I am happy to have a quick chat to help you decide what you need. For more in-depth discussions, schedule an appointment and we can go over all that during the session.
If you already know what you need and want to save some money, consider ordering through my online store at Fullscript. Send me an email (email@example.com) and I’ll forward you a link. The bonus of ordering supplements through me is that they are a good 20% cheaper than retail, so this is a great time to stock up while saving a ton of money!
Ok, back to this month’s topic!
Now who would have thought we would be talking about immune boosting in the Spring? Unusual times for sure. But given that immune support is a hot topic right now, I thought I’d run through some basics, including supplements, that you may want to consider this month to keep you and your family healthy. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and have a read through.
First, the basics…..
An oldie but a goodie, wash your hands! As frequently as possible. Number one recommendation. First thing you should always do before you go out and definitely when you return home is wash your hands. For kids too!!!!
To mask or not to mask? That has certainly been the topic of some uncertainty. It looks like the new recommendation is for everyone to wear masks when out and about. I don’t know about you, but I don’t own a mask (yet). They are hard to find. Make one if you can, or wait until they become available. Use scarves or bandanas in the meantime. Do what you can to protect yourself and others.
This leads into the importance of staying home right now. Guess what? You don’t need a mask if you stay home. But of course, we all need to venture out for groceries and other necessities. I venture out for runs or walks several times a week. But do your part and stay put as much as possible.
Are you a smoker? This is a great time to quit. Easier said than done, but given what we know about lung health and this virus, you want your lungs in tip-top shape.
Are you getting enough sleep? I know this can be a tough one. If it is just an issue of getting to bed earlier, definitely do that! If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, consider talking to a professional, if you haven’t already, for some advice. I’m always happy to talk about ideas to support healthy sleep patterns through good sleep habits, good nutrition, and occasionally a few select supplements. We know sleep is essential for our immune system to perform optimally, so make this a priority.
Stress much? Another hard one. I always joke with my clients that I’d love to recommend “less stress” and poof! it would happen. Unfortunately stress doesn’t work that way. Obviously as much as you can avoid situations that increase stress and do activities that help you reduce it. Consider reaching out to a therapist. If you want more personalized advice on this definitely set up a time to talk. Decreasing stress can have a dramatic positive impact on your immune system.
Are you finding time to exercise? I know, gyms are closed! You know what isn’t though? Walking or running outside. Yoga or online workouts inside (or even outside!). I too have had to be creative. I discovered my back deck is actually a nice place to do some HIIT and weights workouts while my kids are playing. I have space in my basement with workout mats put down as well. I drag my seven-year old along on his bike while I run. Do whatever you can to get in some movement. We know exercise is good for so many health reasons, but one of them is keeping your immune system charged. And truth is, you DO have the time! Please get in touch if you want some links to my favorite online workouts or other ideas.
Last basic tip is a a no brainer, but eat healthy. Yes supplements can help us, but a well balanced diet is our first defense. All of those “supplements” we think we need are actually found in the foods we eat every day. Choose fresh, non-processed ingredients and cook from home as much as possible. Fill your plate with colorful vegetables (goal is half your plate veggies at most meals) and also eat more high fiber foods such as beans, various types of whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fruits. Remember that goal you had to eat healthy in January? NOW is the time to revive it!
Ok, so yes, supplements can be helpful as well, assuming you’ve tackled the above recommendations first. Full disclosure, I take various types of supplements during the winter (and now Spring), to keep my immune function at its best. Most of these are easily acquired in a well balanced diet as mentioned above, but a little extra in some cases can be useful and certainly makes sure you’ve got the bases covered.
For references and further reading, check out the Linus Pauling Institute:
Do note: We have very limited research on this new virus and what does/doesn’t work specifically against Covid-19. These are just general immune supportive supplements that can help put your immune system in a good spot should you get sick. These are definitely helpful against the normal flu and colds that are still going around this time of year. Not all of these are appropriate for everyone, so always discuss first with your trusted health professional before initiating any new supplementation.
Here are a few specific options that we know support the immune system in various ways. I added a few brief notes on why each are important. Remember that any of these vitamins you can get from food. A good quality multivitamin will have most of these as well. I also included a few herbs and extracts that you may have seen on the market and which I think could be helpful for some.
Vitamin C: Potent antioxidant. Protects cells from reactive oxygen species that are generated by immune cells to kill pathogens. May help increase many types of immune cells as well as antibodies.
Zinc: An essential cofactor in hundreds of reactions in the immune system. Even marginal deficiency can weaken the immune system. Especially important for the elderly where zinc is commonly deficient.
Vitamin A: Needed for the proper functioning of immune cells. May actually aggravate respiratory conditions in high doses, however, so if you become ill with a respiratory infection, stop taking.
Vitamin E: Another important antioxidant. Protects cells from oxidative damage. May enhance immunity in general, especially in the elderly.
Vitamin D: Supportive of many types of immune cells. May play a role in decreasing the risk for autoimmune disease. Anti-inflammatory properties.
B vitamins: Helps in the creation of new immune cells.
Selenium: Yet another critical antioxidant. Being deficient can impair immune function and even prolong a viral infection.
Coconut oil: Contains lauric acid which may have anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.
Astragalus Root: A medicinal herb with anti-viral, anti-microbial and antioxidant properties.
Medicinal Mushroom blends: General immune stimulant.
Elderberry syrup: Studies support its role in preventing and shortening the length of the flu. Does it work for Covid? We really don’t know.
There is a bit of controversy with elderberry however. I’ll go a little longer into this one as I think it’s worth mentioning. There are claims that elderberry is so effective at boosting the immune system that in the face of this virulent virus, it might even create what is called a cytokine storm, effectively causing your system to go into overdrive and produce so much inflammation that you may not be able to recover from it. Just want to point out here, which was a fantastic detail presented in a recent webinar, that for so long we were told by the mainstream medical community that elderberry was nonsense, and now it might be so powerful it could over-induce the immune system when confronted with something like Covid-19? Huh. I’d say this is more proof that elderberry works.
In any case, currently there is no evidence to support that claim. On the contrary there are studies to show that elderberry syrup can help with viral respiratory illnesses, but we still don’t know for sure with Covid. If you feel any symptoms coming on, stop taking elderberry and consult your physician.
Read this website for more information if interested:
If you made it through all this, congratulations! This long list of immune supportive ideas is by no means exhaustive, but it does cover the basics. I hope all of this has been helpful in some way. Feel reach out to schedule a time to talk if you want to discuss in more detail what is right for you. We WILL get through this.
Stay healthy friends.