The pandemic we are experiencing has led to a lot of questions about how we can improve our immune systems. Though we do not know exactly what can prevent the disease since it is so new, we do know there are physiological mechanisms we can address with nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle. When we address these specific mechanisms, we can improve our immune system function.
Dietary Tips for Immune Health
Most of you likely already know basic dietary tips for immune system health. These include:
– Eat a whole foods diet, high in fruit and vegetables
– Avoid sugar and processed foods
– Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
The importance of diet cannot be stressed enough. When we add specific supplements, our immune system can function even better. This blog will review the physiology behind why the supplements may be beneficial in mounting an immune response.
Mucosal Membranes and the Immune System
Viruses can enter our body through our mucosal membranes. These include our mouth, nose, intestines, and respiratory system. They are surfaces that come in contact with the external environment. Our mucosal membranes can be healthy, or they may not have very good integrity. When your mucosal membranes do not have good integrity, you are more at risk when you breathe, have germs on your hands, or get bacteria in your gut.
Supporting the mucosal membranes with specific supplements can help. Licorice root and glutamine are two key players that can help maintain mucosal integrity. Avoiding foods you are sensitive to is also extremely important. The most common inflammatory foods include gluten, dairy, corn, and soy, though these may not be specific to you.
Your lungs are part of the mucosal system. When infection settles in the lungs, it creates inflammation. N-acetyl cysteine and glutathione are two of the most potent antioxidants that may be helpful for stopping the inflammation in the lungs and improving the lung barrier.
Viruses proliferate in the body by penetrating the cell membrane and replicating. A key step in fighting a virus is to try to stop the replication process. One key supplement that may help to stop the replication is zinc. In addition to zinc, selenium is an antioxidant that has also been shown to decrease replication in viruses, as well as Vitamin A and C.
If a virus has gotten into the system, it creates inflammation and free radicals. This is another reason antioxidants are so beneficial. Additionally, herbals such as olive leaf can help stop the inflammation.
Cells in the Immune System
In your immune system, you have cells called Natural Killer cells. Think of these as your internal army, waiting to attack any invader. One key player in this process is vitamin D. It activates natural killer cells to go out and attack. Unfortunately, most people are deficient in vitamin D, so the ability to fight off viruses is depressed. Especially now, it is crucial to supplement with vitamin D. To determine exactly how much is needed, lab testing can be done.
Inflammation and the Immune System
Getting an infection sets off a set of reactions that produce inflammation in the body. Therefore, supplementing with key anti-inflammatory supplements can go a long way in supporting the immune system. Turmeric and resveratrol are some of the most researched supplements to decrease the inflammatory components that are elevated.
Stress and the Immune System
The threat of getting sick and worry about financial obligations has created a lot stress. When we are stressed, it then creates inflammation, creating more stress. It is a cyclical pattern that continues, which then suppresses the immune system. In addition to stress reduction techniques, adaptogenic herbs can improve the body’s response to stress, thereby having a positive effect on the immune system.
Supplement Approach for the Immune System
With these recommendations, we can address:
– Protecting the mucous membranes
– Stopping viral replication with anti-viral herbs
– Neutralizing free radicals
At Functional Health Unlimited, we seek to promote wellness in our patients, not just during a pandemic, but all throughout the year. Through targeted testing, dietary and lifestyle recommendations, and supplementation, we offer a comprehensive approach to wellness. Keep in mind, in no way can we say that we will cure or prevent any specific illness. However, we can provide you key recommendations for the health of your immune system.
If you would like to discuss how to support your immune system, we are offering complimentary telemedicine consults to make some recommendations. Contact us if you need help navigating your health. And BE WELL!