The world of supplements can be a mine-field with each company promising you a quick fix to optimum health. So, what should we really be taking and why? What supplements can actually have an impact on our immune and overall health? We speak to trusted nutritional therapist and nutritionist Mays Al Ali to de-bunk some supplementation myths.
There’s plenty of misinformation and profiteering to take advantage – as always I would always recommend speaking to a registered nutritionist before embarking on complex supplementary protocols especially if on any prescription medications due to interactions.
Healthy Mays 101 Guide to Supplements
This is the foundation for any health support regimen. It’s a good way to cover the basic vitamins and minerals your body needs for day-to-day function. If you aren’t on a good multivitamin you should get and stay on one. Look for a high-quality, broad-spectrum multivitamin and mineral with active forms of the B vitamins, like methyltetrahydrofolate and methylcobalamin.
A powerful antioxidant which supports the body’s ability to fight infection. We know that vitamin C shortens the duration of the common cold, and can significantly reduce mortality in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. An interesting study conducted in Zhongnan Hospital in China has shown some success in treating coronavirus with Vitamin C. Liposomal Vitamin C is particularly effective as it is fat-based rather than water-based, like regular Vitamin C supplements, and because the liposome’s membrane is made of the same fat found in the cell membranes throughout the body, this allows the liposomal Vitamin C to pass into cells easily and be delivered directly into the cells.
Adequate vitamin D status is critical for optimal immune function, and this cannot be achieved without supplementation during the winter months. Studies have shown that people with vitamin D deficiency are 11 times more likely to get a cold or flu while supplementing with vitamin D can reduce colds and flu by 42%. It is best to get your levels of 25-OH vitamin D checked for accurate dosing. Working with a nutritionist on this is recommended. Many need 5,000 IU or more of vitamin D3 a day in the winter. Start with 2,000 IU for adults, 1,000 IU for children. And if you have darker skin you may need more than others who don’t.
This is a naturally occurring flavonoid found in plant foods which has been found to protect against disease and improve our cells ability to fight infection.
Extracts of elderberry are proven to be beneficial for reducing symptoms of influenza and the common cold.
This can be taken in supplemental form and can boost the body’s production of glutathione – a master antioxidant. Supplementation over a six month period has been shown to reduce flu symptoms and reduce days in bed.
Deficiency seems to speed up the rate that viruses can mutate, and influenza has been found to be more pathogenic in selenium-deficient mice. To ensure you have robust selenium stores, be sure to include foods like brazil nuts, oats, sunflower seeds and organic wild fish, turkey and chicken.
This plays an important role in the function and proliferation of various immune cells. Even mild to moderate deficiency can have a negative impact on the immune system’s ability to deal with infection. Multiple studies have shown low levels of zinc are associated with increased risk of infections such as pneumonia. The body doesn’t have much ability to store zinc so it’s crucial that your daily diet supplies plenty of this immune-boosting mineral. Good sources are oysters are the best source! Pumpkin seeds also good as well as, chickpeas, lentils and sesame seeds.
Several immune system functions rely on vitamin A and deficiency is known to impair the innate immune system. Vitamin A also regulates some genes involved in immune function. Vitamin A is found in the diet in two forms: beta-carotene (found in red, yellow and orange plant foods) and retinol, or ‘active vitamin A’ (found in high-fat animal foods such as eggs, butter, liver and full-fat dairy products).
Fish Oil (Arctic Cod Liver Oil)
This old-time remedy for good health and robust immunity still stands true! In addition to the good fats, this cod liver oil contains additional vitamins A and D for added immune protection. I always take this on the days I’m not eating fatty fish like sardines and salmon.
Natural Antiviral Herbs
Many herbs have broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects or immune-enhancing effects. Formulas contain different immune supporters such as astragalus, green tea extract and monolaurin. Medicinal mushrooms are also wonderful for immune support such as Reishi, Chaga, Lions Mane & Cordyceps.
Whole foods known to support your immune system:
Contains flavonoids that are believed to help block the production of virus-spreading enzymes in the body. It’s also extremely high in antioxidants and can give our bodies a much-needed boost to help fight viral symptoms when we become infected by a virus.
Can enhance your immune system and inhibit the replication of a virus. The therapeutic component in these wonderful fungi acts as antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and cell-regenerating agents. Go for raw shiitakes dipped in hummus for a super immune boost.
Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV has anti-viral and probiotic properties which are brilliant at boosting your immune system.
As well as supplementation, there are a few other easy and helpful tips to give your immune health a boost.
• Cold baths, ice-cold showers followed by hot showers and saunas (when they reopen) helps boost immunity. Sweating lots helps to release toxins from the body.
• Fasting promotes apoptosis and autophagy which means aged cells, pre-cancer cells, pre-autoimmune cells all get broken down helping to support our immunity.
• Drinking green veggie juices boost the body of antioxidants – my favourite is celery, cucumber, kale, lemon and ginger, zingy and yum and I love to add a green superfood powder with spirulina, chlorella and wheatgrass for an extra boost.
As always the above are all very generic tips and with nutrition, there is no one size fits all model since we are all individual and unique. I would always recommend a personalised nutrition consultation with a qualified nutritionist.