Natural Immune Support
The season of sniffly noses, hacking coughs, achy sore throats, and the all around feeling of ick is upon us. Dr. Jessica and Dr. Lauren have each contracted a bug or two in the past few years but both feel relatively healthy through the winter season. What do the docs do to boost their immune systems, decrease sick days when they do catch something, or prevent illness altogether? Here are some of their all-time best recommendations!
Get adjusted. Adjustments remove interference to our nervous system. Our nervous system controls every other system in our body, including the immune system. Being well adjusted allows for the optimal function of your immune system to respond to invaders (bacterial, viral, etc.) as quickly as possible.
Sleep and sleep well. During sleep, our bodies have the chance to repair cellular damage. We all need 7-9 hours of sleep for the healing process each night. And not only do we need that amount, but our most restorative sleep occurs before midnight. Every hour of sleep that you get before midnight is twice as restful as sleep that we get after midnight. Also, don’t sleep with a TV on in your bedroom. The blue light emitted by electronics messes up your circadian rhythm, which in turn affects your hormones.
Supplement your diet. Eating right is always the place to start. But sometimes we ALL suck at getting the recommended amount of vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, etc. A good quality supplement is usually food based and should say on the label the type of food that the nutrient is coming from. Plants(and fish in the case of omegas) are miracle workers and they “activate” the nutrients for us, which means that the supplement will be used in your body the way it was intended to do so. Below we will outline the benefit of each of the previously mentioned immune strengthening nutrients!
In recent meta-analyses (studies that compile information from multiple studies and compare the data), vitamin D was found to help prevent upper respiratory infections, including the flu(1). In another study, researchers found that vitamin D helped ward off symptoms of the flu in 2-3 days in comparison to 9 days of symptoms in the control group(1). We can make vitamin D when we get sunlight on bare skin. At this time of the year, that becomes a challenge. Cod liver oil from deep sea fish is the best way to get D3, the best form of vitamin D, in a supplement. The amount needed is dependent on weight, so please ask a local professional (chiropractor, registered dietitian, functional medicine doctor) for your correct dosage.
Vitamin C is best from food - citrus fruit, strawberries, frozen broccoli (frozen veggies are packaged at peak freshness which also means they have peak nutritional value), and Brussel sprouts are just a few great sources of vitamin C. Brussel sprouts are in season at this time of year which means they are also at their peak nutritional value. Aim to eat at least one piece of fruit or serving of veggies that are high in vitamin C everyday. When we get vitamin C from food, it is basically impossible to get “too much” because our bodies can get rid of excess in our urine. Furthermore, when we get the right kind of vitamin C, we also don’t need “megadoses” like the amount in packages of powdered ascorbic acid. Vitamin C strengthens our cells and tissues, acting like a shield to viruses and bacteria and is an antioxidant - it reduces oxidative stress in the body. (Oxidative stress very simply means damage to our cells.)
Zinc. Zinc is important for the function of specific cells of our immune system and is an antioxidant(2,3). Adults only need 8 - 11 mg of zinc daily (4). Foods that are rich in zinc, include: oysters, beef, crab, chicken (dark meat), lobster, beans and legumes, and nuts (4). Supplementing with zinc has been found in some studies to reduce the duration of a cold and in other studies to reduce the symptoms of a cold (4). So grab a whole chicken and make some soup or roast it! If you have never cooked a whole bird, ask Dr. Lauren for some of her fail proof cooking tips!
Elderberry concentrate. There is a good reason our elders would have jugs of elderberry wine available to sip on throughout the fall and winter. Elderberry is naturally anti-viral and helps fight the flu. It is high in antioxidants (like Vitamin C!) which helps our immune system work at its optimum. One randomized controlled study done in 2004 found that patients with the flu who were given 15 mL of elberberry juice four times a day had symptoms for four days less than the placebo group (5).
(2) The Dynamic Link between the Integrity of the Immune System and Zinc Status - https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/5/1399S/4686392
(3) Zinc in Human Health: Effect of Zinc on Immune Cells - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/
(4) Zinc Fact Sheet for Health Professionals - https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
(5) Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/147323000403200205