Best vitamins & nutrients to boost the immune system
By Dr. Sharon Stills, NMD
So many women have gotten in touch in recent weeks because they want to know the best vitamins and nutrients to take for immune support.
To make this information as easy to access as possible, I put together my top picks and the research-based reasons why certain vitamins and nutrients make such a big difference for the body’s ability to fight off viruses.
How do you know what fits your immune health needs? Watch the video, or read the blog that follows to get all my suggestions.
Best vitamins to boost the immune system (video transcript)
Transcript has been lightly edited for readability.
With everything going on with Covid-19, women want to know how best to support the immune system, so I went through the Women’s Health Network Shop to pick out my favorite immune-boosting vitamins, nutrients and supplements. I’ll tell you the research behind why these work, and then you can decide for yourself, or with your physician, which ones are right for you.
Antioxidants for antiviral and immune function protection
Our Super C Plus contains Vitamin C and curcumin, two powerful nutrients that are anti-viral and help to support immune function.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin known to reduce intracellular oxidative stress and enhance neutrophils phagocytic capacity — phagocytes are kind of like little Pac Men in our immune system that eat up viruses.
Curcumin is known to suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines like interleukin-1 and interleukin-6. Cytokines can cause a “cytokine storm” that increases the severity and complications of Covid-19, and curcumin can help to prevent this. It also suppresses tumor necrosis factor alpha, helping to inhibit viruses from taking hold in the body.
Curcumin specifically protects the lungs through its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory bronchodilator properties. It supports ACE-2 receptors and we know that COVID-19 goes after the ACE receptors in our body, which are so prevalent in our lungs. This is why so many people are having respiratory issues with coronavirus, and curcumin certainly can help with this.
Probiotics — good bugs for strong immunity
I love our Super Biotic because it helps to support the immune system that lives in our gut by giving it good bacteria. Did you know that approximately 75% of our immune system resides in our gastrointestinal tract? It is found among this bacteria, so it's important that we supplement and feed good bacteria to our GI tract.
A probiotic is something I have almost all my patients taking as part of a holistic view of how to support the body. Remember, the virus is not a living organism and it needs a host (you and me) where it can replicate. If the host’s immune system is robust and healthy and able to handle things, then the virus is not going to have a comfortable place to set up shop and it's not going to have an impact.
Taking this approach of making the body resilient and ready for action, we have grouped Super Biotic and Super Antioxidant into an Immune Support Combo bundle to make it easier for you to get these all these wonderfully protective vitamins and nutrients. This is one area of your life where you don’t want to be good host!
Melatonin's surprising role for immune function protection
Melatonin is not just for jet lag! I know a lot of you are thinking, I don't need melatonin because the extent of my travel these days is walking from the bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen.
But melatonin is actually a very powerful antioxidant, and is something I use with my cancer patients for this reason. It’s anti-inflammatory and a “clean antioxidant,” meaning it doesn't make free radicals when it gets metabolized. It also protects mitochondria, which are so important for cellular function. Melatonin may also reduce lung injury. It specifically binds to the NLRP3 inflammasome which is one of the major inflammazomes associated with the virus's attack on the lungs.
It’s interesting to note that kids are not really being affected by this virus. Yes, they have stronger immune systems, but children also have about 10X more melatonin in their bodies compared to adults. Read my related blog: "How melatonin supports your immune system" for more on this connection.
Melatonin also protects our hormone production. So even though a lot of our main focus these days is about staying safe from the virus, we still want our hormones happy and healthy so we can feel good.
Plus, melatonin helps you get a good night's sleep! I am recommending around 3-6 mg to my patients for basic prevention. I am a doctor, but I am not your doctor, so it’s always best to check with your naturopath or your functional medicine doctor to see what's safe for you.
Vitamin D helps reduce risk of respiratory infection
Reading through recent Pub-Med abstracts on Vitamin D reminded me of just how powerful this vitamin is for immune support. Vitamin D reduces the risk of respiratory infection and is a great immune system modulator, meaning that it enhances immune response. There are various methods on how it acts to decrease viral replication and protects the lining of the lungs. Vitamin D is simply a home run for your immune health.
One of the best things you can do is get your Vitamin D levels measured. You can do that through a 25-OH Vitamin D blood test that will show you how deficient you are. I say this because almost everyone I check is deficient in vitamin D. It’s actually odd to me when I find someone who is not deficient!
However, I understand that you may not be able to easily get your Vitamin D levels checked during this time. For my patients, I generally recommend taking between 4000-5000 IUs of Vitamin D per day for prevention. If you feel like you've been exposed to a virus or you're getting sick, a naturopathic or integrated functional medicine (IFM) doctor may recommend up to 25,000 IUs for 4-6 days just to help boost the immune system. (You then go back down to the lower dose.)
Vitamin D is fat soluble so it's not like a B vitamin where if you take too much you urinate it out. There is a potential for toxicity if you take too much for too long, so talk to your doctor about supplementation.
When you take Vitamin D, it’s also important to be taking Vitamin K2. The K helps Vitamin D get absorbed properly and helps to keep your arteries clear of calcium buildup.
Nutrients for stress relief
Now let’s talk about nutrients and other supplements for stress.
As I always say, stress is a leading cause for like 99.9999% of illnesses and so it's really important we manage our stress levels. There are many ways we can do this through various stress relief techniques. But what I really want to focus on is how to balance cortisol, the main hormone we produce when we’re stressed. Cortisol, when chronically over-produced during extended periods of stress, is a known factor for depleting the immune system.
So, I first want to talk about Adaptisol. Its formula has all these delicious adaptogenic herbs and other compounds like cordyceps, astragalus and eleuthero. These help stress levels balance out and cortisol production regain homeostasis. When you're going along and then boom you have a big stress event and lots of cortisol is produced, you need that ability to come back down to homeostasis, or that even keel, and adaptogens will help you do that.
This adaptogenic formula also helps to balance your T-cells and reduce inflammation so your immune system is not triggered unnecessarily. There are lots of other really nice immune-modulating herbs in there to help you handle your stress.
How have you been sleeping lately? I love sleep and I believe it is so crucial for stress recovery. Try grabbing an extra hour if you can or really try to get that minimum of 8 hours.
I know that sleep can be hard to come by when you’re feeling anxious and your mind is racing. We have a great product to help with this. It’s called Serenisol and it contains L-theanine, passionflower, and calcium and magnesium. These ingredients help to produce a state of calm and relaxation. You can take Serinisol during the day if you're having a moment and feeling anxious, but it really helps at night to calm things down so you can get a good night’s sleep.
I hope this information has been helpful to you!
Women’s Health Network is dedicated to being your partner in this pandemic, giving you all the news and insights women need to know. I encourage you to check out all our other coronavirus-related blogs and videos and learn all you can to keep you and your family well.
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Last updated on 08/27/2020