Communities are re-opening, but is your immune system ready?
Even though we are beginning to re-open our parts of our communites, our immune systems are largely the way they were when stay at home measures began. Even antibody testing can’t yet guarantee that it is safe to resume life as it was before COVID. Even immunologists and doctors tell us that the best defense is a strong immune system–better than any medical treatment we currently employ. For those with weaker immune systems this might sound like a challenge.
For those of you that don’t know my story, about 10 years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune dysfunction of the thyroid. Shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with a second autoimmune condition called lichen planus. Lichen planus affects the skin and mucous membranes and can be itchy and painful. It is very reactive to stress, lack of sleep, and nutrition—the very things that help build a healthy immune system. I live with both Hashi’s and lichen planus daily and have learned from trial and error that healthy habits are the key to feeling good and minimizing their effects. The really good news is that auto immune conditions can be well-managed with healthy lifestyle habits. And there’s no better time than now to get your healthy habits in order to support your immune system—with or without an autoimmune condition!
Immune systems need nutrients.
Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are all used in immune defense and getting enough of them can make a big difference in your health. Getting these from food is easy to do, but it take a bit of planning and know how. One easy way to get immune boosting nutrients is to use the saying, ‘Eat A Rainbow’. When you include whole foods with a multitude of colors, you are guaranteed to get a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The colors you see are the actual antioxidants, hence the advice about eating the rainbow. in this Facebook Live event, The Nature Nutritionist and I each build an immune boosting salad (you can fast forward through the first 5 minutes) and discuss the nutrient benefits, stressors of the immune system and why these nutrients are so important. The colors of fruit and vegetables tell us about the nutrients inside them. Blues and reds convey polyphenols like quercitin, orange and yellow indicate Vitamin A compounds, while greens can mask the yellow, orange antioxidant and also contribute chlorophyll, potassium, and folate, just to name a few. Here’s a list of foods you probably have on hand that can provide the nutrients you need right now:
- Vitamin D- fortified milk and nut milks, mushrooms exposed to UV light
- Zinc–nuts and seeds, oysters, lentils, chickpeas, whole grains
- Potassium–beans, avocados, chard, brussel sprouts, apricots, sweet potatoes, dates, coconut water
- Vitamin C–oranges, grapefruit, berries, broccoli
- Quercitin–apples, berries, onions, cherries
Does food provide enough?
If you have a compromised immune system, autoimmune disorder, feel run down, or are recovering from an illness, you might benefit from the extra boost that some supplements can provide. Purchasing supplements can be confusing, and not all supplements are appropriate for everyone. While the FDA does oversee the supplement industry, there is a lack of standardization in preparations yielding many different doses, concentrations, and combinations that are beyond the lay person’s ability or even desire to decipher. So I’ve curated a list of brands and supplements below that are safe to take and have the most evidence regarding efficacy. It makes no sense to pay good money for products that are not effective or even worse are dangerous. Over my years as a functional nutrition dietitian, I’ve found the Institute of Functional Medicine to be a valuable resource to both clinicians like myself and the lay public. You can learn more about functional medicine and treating the root cause of disease here. The IFM has outlined the best supplements with anti-viral applications that might be effective in fighting COVID-19. Among them are supplements I’ve recommended for years to protect patients from the common cold and flu. You can review their report here. Below are the supplements with the best track records for safety and best evidence for usefulness. I will caution you, in supplementation, less is often MORE. Over the years, I’ve seen more symptoms of supplement intolerance and even inflammation in patients taking the most supplements. So be choosy! Take only those with the best evidence, take them only when needed, and then rely of Mother Nature’s food for your nutrients. Nutrients from food are almost always best as they contain entire complements of nutrients and not just the ones chosen to be put in a pill by a human.
- Zinc–15-20 mg/day, don’t take long term due to interference with copper
- Vitamin C–500-1000 mg/day, higher doses associated with kidney stones
- NAC (n-acetyl cysteine)–500-900 mg/day take at onset of illness
- Astragulus–Dosage varies, usually in combined product
- Andrographis–Standardized extract (typically 30% andrographolides) 100-600 mg daily
- Echinacea –dose varies, usually in combination product
If you’ve heard me lecture no doubt you’ve heard me say over and over that there is no one supplement recommendation that is right for every person. Each person has their own unique needs and a supplement protocol should always take that into consideration. If you need help or simply have questions about supplements, contact me here. A quick supplement tune up should be done at least once a year, more often when your health status changes or something like a pandemic comes along! It’s cheap, easy and can be a game changer if you struggle to get enough nutrients from food, or have a health issue that can benefit from supplementation. Good on your own? Feel free shop Fullscript to access quality supplements at a discount. This is the same source I use for all of my patients and you can benefit too!
Take your time ‘re-opening’ your immune system to the rest of world. Get plenty of anti-oxidants and nutrients to feed your immune system and feel free to reach out! Especially if you’re struggling with your health or are worried about the health of your immune system. There is lots you can do to promote your health and I’m here for ya! Stay happy and healthy my friends.