In just a few short weeks, the COVID 19 Pandemic has drastically changed all of our lives. We’ve had to wear many hats to keep our families safe. Maybe you’re like some women and have been fortunate enough to work from home while simultaneously juggling round the clock childcare and supporting kids through the trials and tribulations of online education.
It’s safe to say we’re all currently adjusting to social distancing, and this too shall pass.
I want to be clear. Today’s blog isn’t about spreading more stress or panic. We’re all just looking for ways to keep our family members safe, healthy, and happy. I want to start by covering the basics of the immune system and seven key supplements you can easily introduce into your daily diet to boost your immune response.
How Does the Immune System Work?
Think of the immune system as a complex network of cells that essentially work together to protect your body from harmful invaders. It is constantly on the lookout for anything foreign to the body like viruses and bacteria. A normal cycle there is an infection/invader followed by an immune response followed by resolution.
There are two fundamental components of the immune system, the innate and the adaptive immune system. How well it works depends on your inflammatory status at baseline. It’s important to get rid of inflammation caused by stress, poor nutrition, sleep issues, smoking, and overtraining. These conditions can contribute to a poor immune response or cause a chronic inflammation to exsist making your immune system compromised.
Let’s say a microscopic intruder enters the body. The innate immune system activates because it’s our first line of defense. Its goal is to neutralize the threat quickl; Natural Killer cells are a part of the innate immune system. The adaptive immune system is the second line of defense and activates if the intruder is recognized. What makes the adaptive immune system so significant is its ability to differentiate between harmful pathogens or microorganisms, launch an appropriate attack, and remember each pathogen if it invades again from the production of antibodies. Sometimes the adaptive immune system gets confused and attacks itself, creating an autoimmune disease.
Immune Building Toolkit
Most invading organisms enter our body via hollow organs like the respiratory, genital-urinary, or gastrointestinal tract. What the three have in common are mucous membranes. The GI tract is a long tube, starting at the mouth and ending at the anus, that breaks down the food we eat into essential nutrients and energy. Over 80% of the immune system is in the GI tract. Which is why the foods we eat can make us or break us.
Everyone deserves the occasional quarantine salty or sweet snack; however, countless studies prove that a nutrient-packed diet is essential to fighting off disease. As Americans, it can be tough to get enough vitamins and minerals to support a strong immune system. The following seven supplements are a great place to start boosting your immune system while you hunker down.
Zinc keeps the immune system strong by activating T cells. T cells are a special category of white blood cells that are designed to recognize harmful bacteria and particularly viruses. Zinc works within the cell and acts as an anti-viral. You can find zinc in pumpkin seeds, garlic, spinach, sunflower seeds, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, whole grains, and seafood (especially herring). Zinc Picolinate 30 mg is one of my favorite methods for boosting my zinc levels daily so I can stay healthy.
Selenium is a significant antioxidant that reduces stress and inflammation in your body, enhances immunity, and helps various other necessary bodily functions at the cellular level. Selenium also reduces mutations of viruses and other dangerous pathogens. It acts as a glutathione “cofactor,” meaning it helps your body produce more natural defenders.
If you’re looking for a salty snack that fights disease, try Brazil nuts. They have the world’s highest concentration of organic selenium, and they taste great too! Other sources of selenium include brewers yeast, fatty fish like salmon or tuna and sardines, mushrooms, and whole grains.
Vitamin C is clinically proven to stimulate the production of white blood cells, one of the most important soldiers in your body’s army. Medical professionals will use high doses of IV vitamin C to boost Natural Killer cells to fight off infection. I advise all of my patients not to take high doses of vitamin C with meals. Vitamin C is known to increase iron absorption if taken with food, which could worsen active infections.
Vitamin C is found in tons of delicious foods, broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, orange juice, papaya, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.
You can learn more about the power of vitamin C and other nutrients by reading Primal Panacea by Dr. Thomas Evan Levy MD JD. It’s an incredible quarantine worthy page-turner.
Researchers say COVID-19 disease directly attacks the respiratory system, specifically targeting the lungs and making it difficult to breathe. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble substance that increases Natural Killer Cell activity to combat viral infection and promotes healthy lungs, especially for mature women with preexisting lung disease. Vitamin E and C work together to lower the risk of contracting upper respiratory tract infections.
Increase your Vitamin E intake by eating more sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, avocados, squash, kiwifruit, trout, shrimp, olive oil, wheat germ oil, and broccoli.
Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q-10)
Co-Q-10 is a nutrient the body naturally produces to energize us by working to fuel the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell.
I like to refer to Vitamin D3 as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s generated in the skin from natural sun exposure or tanning booths. In its active form, vitamin D3 supports healthy immune function by activating Natural Killer Cells. Researchers have found that a vitamin D3 deficiency can cause various health complications, like respiratory infections, asthma, lack of DNA repair, influenza, and respiratory infections.
If you can’t get enough sunlight, you can also increase your vitamin D3 levels by eating beef liver, fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel and salmon, milk, cheese, orange juice, and cereals.
The most powerful anti-inflammatory found in every cell in the body. Glutathione is hard to absorb from the gut, so I recommend IV Glutathione. NAC (n-acetyl cysteine) is less expensive and helps with the natural production of Glutathione.
On your next grocery store run, make a list of some of the nutritious and tasty foods to fortify your immune system. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors or recipes! If you’re looking for more advice to jump-start your immune system, give us a call to schedule an appointment in the office or a Telemedicine visit.
Remember skin is also a part of the immune system, hand washing is a part of our defense.