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Immune System Support – Is it possible?

During the uncertainty of the last  years, there has been a lot of debate about whether you can “boost” your immune system.  Boost vs. balance vs. support.  It’s all semantics.

What we do know for sure is that your immune system needs certain nutrients to simply function the way it’s supposed to and at its highest capacity possible.  There is NO debate about this.  It has been known for decades.

Here is a list of 5 nutrients essential for immune system support and how to get them into your diet and supplement routine.

 

Immune System Support – Nutrients

 

Vitamin C (liposomal):  1,000mg daily (start at 250 and build up to tolerance – loose stool)

Lipopsomal simply means the Vitamin C is surrounded by microscopic fat-like particles, which help with absorption rates. (1)

Did you know that people with Vitamin C deficiency are more commonly diagnosed with pneumonia? (2, 3)  With over 100 animal studies performed, Vitamin C has been shown to support the immune system in both viral and bacterial infections. (4, 5)

It is thought that Vitamin C provides immune system support by increasing the production of lymphocytes and interferon, substances responsible for the production of antibodies (think armies against viruses and bacteria) and the regulation of your immune system response. (6)

According to the Harvard School of Public Health (7), the best foods for Vitamin C are:

  • Citrus (oranges, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit)
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower)

 

Vitamin D:  5,000 IU daily

Low levels of Vitamin D have been specifically linked to an increased risk of viral infections. (8)  This has been documented in the most recent viral outbreak that has gripped our society.

As such, if you want the strongest immune system support possible, you must have adequate levels of Vitamin D.  Not only does the active form of Vitamin D minimize the body’s inflammatory response, but it also boosts production of proteins that fight microbes (viruses and bacteria). (9, 10)

According to the Harvard School of Public Health (10), the flesh of fatty fish and fish liver oils are the best food sources of Vitamin D:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna fish
  • Sardines
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolk

 

Vitamin A:  12,500 IU daily (if pregnant or nursing, do not take without consulting healthcare provider)

Many of us associate Vitamin A with our vision, but it has far reaching implications, including:  respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary systems.  And, of course, the immune system.

Supplementation with Vitamin A enhances the production of antibodies and lymphocyctes.  One study revealed a decrease in death with adequate Vitamin A, associated with many conditions, including measles, HIV, and malaria.  (11)

According to the Harvard School of Public Health (12), the best foods for Vitamin A are:

  • Leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli)
  • Orange and yellow vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and other winter squash, summer squash)
  • Tomatoes
  • Red bell pepper
  • Cantaloupe, mango
  • Beef liver
  • Fish oils
  • Eggs

 

Zinc:  25-50mg daily

Zinc is a great immune system support as it stops viruses from replicating.  With that being said, those with zinc deficiency are more at risk of acquiring viral illness, such as HIV or Hep C.  “An abundance of evidence has accumulated over the past 50 years to demonstrate the antiviral activity of zinc against a variety of viruses…” (13)

According to the Harvard School of Public Health (14), the best foods for Zinc are:

  • Shellfish:  oysters, crab, lobster
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Pork
  • Legumes
  • Nuts, seeds

 

N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC):  1000mg daily

N-acetyl-L-cysteine may be the one supplement you haven’t heard of.  NAC is a derivative of L-Cysteine and functions as a potent antioxidant. It is a precursor to glutathione (GSH), which is a critical component of the immune system.

“GSH is essential for some functions of the immune system, both innate and adaptive, including T-lymphocyte proliferation, phagocytic activity of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN), and dendritic cell functions, and is also important for the first step of adaptive immunity, consisting of the antigen presentation by antigen-presenting cells.” (15).  In other words, glutathione is essential for your immune system to do its job.  Therefore, NAC is helpful with immune system support.

As mentioned above, NAC is a modified form of essential amino acid cysteine, which can be found in high-protein foods. (16)  The best sources include:

  • Red meat
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Chicken
  • Turkey

There you have it.  Five nutrients and supplements for immune system support.

If you are interested in starting this supplement routine, let me know, and I will send you a link to order online.  Just let me know at your next appointment.

Also, keep in mind that your immune system isn’t one dimensional.  While good sources of stress like exercise and fun activities with your loved ones can have a positive effect on the immune system through enhanced resilience, the opposite is also true. Chronic negative stress can bring about inflammation and hinder the body’s immune system.  You can take all the supportive nutrients you want for immune system support, but if your life is out of balance with emotional stress, work stress, financial stress, lack of exercise, and lots of sugar, then the strategy above may not make much difference.

Immune System Support – References

1. https://draxe.com/nutrition/liposomal-vitamin-c/
2. Hemilä H, Louhiala P. Vitamin C may affect lung infections. J R Soc Med. (2007) 100:495–8. doi: 10.1177/014107680710001109
3. Hemilä H, Louhiala P. Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (2013) 8:CD005532. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005532.pub3
4. Hemilä H. Vitamin C and infections. Nutrients. (2017) 9:339. doi: 10.3390/nu9040339
5. Hemilä H. Do Vitamins C and E Affect Respiratory Infections? [PhD Thesis]. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, (2006). p. 105-18. Available online at: https://hdl.handle.net/10138/20335 (accessed December 28, 2020).
6. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2020.559811/full#B3
7. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-c/
8.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7551809/
9.  Cannell JJ, Vieth R, Umhau JC, Holick MF, Grant WB, Madronich S, Garland CF, Giovannucci E. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiology & Infection. 2006 Dec;134(6):1129-40.
10, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/
11. https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/CMR.18.3.446-464.2005
12. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-a/
13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628855/
14. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/zinc/
15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048347/
16. https://www.huffinesinstitute.org/Resources/Articles/ArticleID/410/N-Acetylcysteine-the-Obscure-Antioxidant
17. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2020.559811/full#B3

Dr. Kalaba is a chiropractor in Tucson, AZ, practicing gentle chiropractic care and providing health tips to help you live the best rest of your life.

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