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While Flu Season is always a reason to think about how strong our immune systems are, this year, with COVID-19, it is even more top of mind. So, what can we do to stay healthy? First, to get this out of the way, there are basic steps you can take which we have been bombarded with:

  • WASH YOUR HANDS – thoroughly and often and correctly. If any good comes out of the COVID-19 situation, it is a renewed awareness of the importance of basic hygiene to keep us healthy.  
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, getting adequate sleep, if you drink, do so in moderation and of course, don’t smoke.

 

But what “extra” steps can you take to stay healthy and what can you do if you start feeling sick? The media is being blocked from speaking about this so you get to hear it directly from me!  

“Boosting your Immune system” is a trendy topic, especially right now. But, what does it mean? 

 

Nutrition: 

Common sense tells us that good nutrition means a healthier body so for general health, eat a nutritious diet. But supplements fill any gaps in our diet as well as lifestyle factors and genetic traits that affect our nutritional status.  

Stress:

Stress suppresses immune function, so during this particularly stressful time, it is extremely important that you do things to help moderate stress. Things like meditation, breathing exercises, taking walks in nature, spending virtual time with friends and family (or real time with family you live with), laughter, invigorating activities that increase your heart rate for at least 20 minutes per day, the list of self-care activities goes on! Be sure to have a regular routine, even for sleep and wake times as well as meals.

What else can you do for stress? Take adrenal adaptogenic herbs, these help maintain healthy stress hormones in the body that can cause problems such as anxiety. depression, sleep issues, and more. How stress affects the body is my area of specialty because it is the root cause of so many daily health issues, especially women suffer from. Here is a short list of my favorite adrenal adaptogens:

  • Rhodiola
  • Ashwagandha
  • Eleutherococcus
  • Reishi
  • Cordyceps

Sleep:

Getting good sleep may be easier said than done for about 60 million people (and more women than men by the way). I treat insomnia in women by balancing hormones and the stress response since that is the root cause of insomnia. But for the purposes of this article, just know that sleep is crucial for all aspects of health including optimal immune function. 

Now that we have the basics covered of how to stay healthy so you have a strong immune system, let’s look at some of the top natural immune boosters!

Vitamin DThis is a basic, foundational supplement that I believe every person needs to include in their daily health routine. You must have your level tested to know how much you need to supplement to have healthy optimal levels of vitamin D, optimum level is between 60-80 ng/mL. In general, if you do not know what your level is, a safe daily dose would be about 4,000 iu per day. An immune-boosting dose would be up to 50,000 iu per day short-term.At first signs of cold or flu symptoms, an antiviral dose can be calculated at 2,000 iu per kg body weight. Ie; 150 lb person would take 136,000 iu for 3 DAYS ONLY.

Vitamin C.  We all have been told to up our vitamin C when we feel sick. We all know citrus is rich in vitamin C, but did you know that strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli are also good sources? High doses of vitamin C at or before the onset of cold or flu symptoms may help to prevent or shorten the duration of symptoms. The way to do this would be taking vitamin C to “bowel tolerance” (as high a dose as you can take before getting loose stool), something like 2,000 mg 2-3 times per day or more. Studies are even being done currently using IV vitamin C in COVID 19 patients to help reduce time required on a ventilator and has even shown to reduce death rates of the disease.

Vitamin A. An antioxidant made in the body from beta carotene (derived from eating orange and green colored foods), vitamin A is extremely important for respiratory tract immune health. Normally getting lots of natural carotenoids from a diet rich in colorful plant foods is great, however for flu season or to help protect against exposure to respiratory viruses such as the coronavirus, I would recommend a healthy person takes about 5,000-10,000 iu per day. Taking up to 20,000 iu per day short term might be appropriate for some individuals.

Zinc.  Zinc is an important antioxidant and immune system nutrient. Having plenty of zinc can help prevent the most common cold virus, rhinovirus, from multiplying and lodging in the mucous membranes of the throat and nose. If supplementing this, doses of up to 30 mg per day are adequate. During cold and flu season taking zinc in the form of a throat spray or lozenge can help prevent an initial viral infection.

Astragalus. This is an amazing immune-modulating herb which means it will stimulate immune function or calm an overactive immune system (good for autoimmune disease). Itt has antiviral properties and helps with liver and kidney function as well as acts as a stress adaptogen. It is great to use as a preventative for colds and flu as well as other viruses.

Elderberry.  Elderberry has been shown in multiple studies to prevent certain viruses (including influenza) from entering cells. This is why it has been so popular during the COVID crisis (and for some controversial) leading to products selling out everywhere! There are also studies that show its effectiveness in helping treat upper respiratory tract infections as it has an affinity for the respiratory tract. Definitely good to have on board as preventative and as adjunct treatment.

Echinacea.  This is an herb used to fight infections, especially the common cold and the flu. Uses vary depending on the species, angustifolia versus purpurea (we’ll be discussing this at greater length later this month!). from taking it at the first sign of illness to stop the cold from developing to taking it after cold or flu-like symptoms have started to decrease the severity of the illness or help it resolve faster.  

Andrographis. A powerful antiviral and respiratory tract herb, andrographis has been shown to inhibit key enzymes of the coronavirus. It can reduce severity of symptoms as well as the duration of a flu or other viral infection.

Isatis. This herb has been used to prevent viral entry into cells as well as decrease post-entry viral replication. It has been used as part of traditional Chinese medicine in treatment of greater than 85% of COVID 19 cases in China.

 

If you are curious about a natural cure that isn’t covered here, let me know in the comments and I will share my view in a future post. Also watch out for my individual posts on social media about these amazing herbs! Until then, stay healthy.

Visit our online supplement store to stock up on immune boosting supplements!

*Consult with your naturopathic physician before starting any new supplements*