Now more than ever, it is imperative that we optimize our immune function. The fact is that COVID-19 will be present and a constant threat to our health for the unforeseeable future. The baseline principle we must all focus on practicing is to eat plenty of vegetables, high-quality protein, healthy fats, and a balanced amount of complex carbohydrates full of fiber. We can gain a lot from eating whole foods, but to get the most out of our nutrition, adding supplements is sometimes necessary. In this present time, supplements ARE necessary for optimized immunity. I recommend several vitamins, protein, and several other less commonly discussed complements to a well-balanced diet. Before taking any supplement, consult with your doctor or health care provider. I am more than happy to work directly with you and your primary care provider to customize a plan for you!
Vitamins and Minerals
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is included in many multivitamins, and you can supplement independently as well. This substance reduces the severity and duration of respiratory infections and can reduce inflammation through its antioxidant effects. Increase citrus foods, broccoli, starfruit, goji berry, amla berry, peppers, and pineapple in your diet. Goji and amla berries come in powder form that is shelf-stable and you can mix into smoothies! Aim for 1,500mg daily.
- Vitamin D: This can improve immune responses. Lower levels are associated with auto-immune problems and increased infection risk, particularly respiratory ones. I highly recommend anyone who doesn’t spend >50% of their days outside supplement with Vitamin D. Get 2,000mg daily.
- Zinc: This guy is powerful against bacteria! Load up! Research shows it has great antimicrobial properties. The recommended supplement allowance is 15-30mg per day.
- Collagen: This guy promotes gut health! As I mention below under probiotics, a healthy gut leads to a healthy immune system, and even better mental clarity and mood. You can find collagen naturally in bone broth, but supplementation is easy when powders are mixed into smoothies or coffee. There are multiple capsule formulations available as well.
- Quality Protein: I still had to sneak in the benefits and necessity of consuming high-quality protein. This ensures that all of your immune cells are able to create the chemical messengers, enzymes, and hormones necessary to function optimally. Seek out lean meats (grass-fed is always preferable), fatty fish like salmon or cod, and probiotic-rich dairy if you tolerate this. For vegans or vegetarians, ensure your meal plans contain complete proteins!
Miscellaneous for Gut Health, Autoimmunity, and Antimicrobials
- Probiotics: The goal is to use a probiotic that contains a variety of species. Research shows that a healthy gut promotes immune system health. There are millions of probiotic organisms living within our gut, and their symbiotic activity within us has numerous interactions with our own bodies. They help to detoxify the intestines and digest nutrients, in addition to producing vitamin B12 and K2, secreting regulatory chemicals, and controlling the growth of bad microbes. Importantly, probiotics help to decrease antibiotic resistance, which is imperative in preventing “superbugs” from high antibiotic use. Be sure your product contains lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
- Elderberry: The goodness of this natural supplement goes back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, himself. It is often used now to relieve symptoms and shorten viral illness. There are many daily supplements you can use now that can help ward off and fight, offending viruses.
- Oregano: Who knew this cool herb, that comes in essential oil form, has antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-parasite properties? It makes a delicious addition to any Italian-style meal. To get the best effects, oregano essential oil should be used.
- Basil: When used as an essential oil like oregano above, basil has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties! Some ways to consume it are in tea or inhaling steam with basil oil-infused.
- Reishi mushroom: This is categorized as an “adaptogen”, a substance that helps the body deal with stress. One of its many benefits is the reduction of inflammation, prevention of infection, diminished autoimmunity, and liver detoxification. It also has demonstrated some antiviral properties! One of my favorite mushroom companies is Four Sigmatic, which has many different adaptogenic blends plus Reishi alone. Consume it in teas, soups, coffees, smoothies, and tinctures.
- Ashwagandha is another powerful adaptogen that assists in managing the body’s stress response. It improves overall levels of inflammation, energy, and mitochondrial health.
Finally, practice a positive mindset. Our mind-body-spirit connection is intricate. Practice hope, have faith and find cheer around you.