28 Feb How to Optimize Your Immune System with Several Key Nutrients
With our current crisis, in addition to frequent hand-washing, eating healthy (e.g. organic fresh fruits and vegetables), daily exercise, laughter, and getting enough good quality sleep and rest, the best thing we can do to stay healthy and strong now (and year around) is to strengthen our immune system to the very core, which is our ultimate defense against outside invaders…as well as speeding your recovery, in case you do “catch” something.
There are several key, immune strengthening nutrients with powerful anti-viral activity to be aware of that will bolster your immune defenses – so that your proverbial “shields are up” – that will enable your body to mount a strong defense against any virus or micro-organism you might encounter.
So, let’s get started!
- TAKE EXTRA VITAMIN C. In addition to its calming, mood-boosting, stress-reducing benefits, vitamin C is a powerful, anti-viral nutrient that bolsters and nourishes your body’s immune system.
Vitamin C is essential for the production of L-carnitine, an important molecule in mitochondrial energy production, and serves a vital role in the production of feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. As a powerful antioxidant needed to protect the body from a wide range of chemical and physical stressors, vitamin C requirements are increased by all forms of physical, chemical, and emotional stress, exercise, pollution, smoking, heavy metals, and a wide variety of environmental chemicals.
Recommended dose: 500 – 3,000 mg of vitamin C per day is a beneficial daily dose for most people in the form of ascorbic acid, mineral ascorbates, or ascorbyl palmitate (a fat-soluble ester of vitamin C). Higher amounts up to 5-10,000 mg per day can be used orally to provide additional immune and anti-viral support.
- TAKE EXTRA VITAMIN D. Being derived from cholesterol, vitamin D is technically a “hormone” – and as such, is best described as a “super vitamin”, which regulates thousands of genes and metabolic processes in the body. In addition to its powerful anti-microbial and anti-viral activity, vitamin D is needed for the optimal production of the body’s master antioxidant glutathione, which regenerates other antioxidants, and serves a number of vital protective functions in the body.
In a 2013 study examining the influence of vitamin D status on mucosal and systemic immunity and the incidence, severity and duration of upper respiratory tract illness (URTI) episodes in endurance athletes found that individuals with higher blood levels of vitamin D were at lower risk of moderate to severe infections and had greater systemic immunity.
Vitamin D is also important in the brain’s production of serotonin, one of your “feel-good” neurotransmitters which promotes a healthy mood , and gives us vibrant energy. Although, not widely known, the brain has a very high requirement for vitamin D, which it needs for optimal functioning. Vitamin D is required for healthy cognitive function – and promotes alertness, focus, and concentration.
To derive the maximum benefit from vitamin D – for most people, this means taking 5,000 iu of vitamin D3 per day as a maintenance dose, and to get your vitamin D level tested every 6 months to keep you in the optimal window of 50-80 ng/mL. If you’re overweight, you’re going to need 2-3 times this amount because fat stores sequester vitamin D, which reduces your blood level. It’s also recommended that you take a daily vitamin K2 (Mk-7) supplement, 100-300 mcg per day, along with your vitamin D because the extra vitamin D increases your requirement for vitamin K2, which is needed to fully utilize the extra vitamin D.
For a powerful boost to your immune system, you can safely take much higher levels of vitamin D3 in the short-term, for a few days until you’re feeling better. If you feel something coming on, immediately take the following: 500-1,000 iu of vitamin D3 per pound of body weight, which will give your immune system a powerful boost, and provide you extra support against bacterial and viral infections, as well as speeding your recovery. Make sure to take this higher dose with at least 200 mcg of vitamin K2 (Mk-7), which vitamin D needs to function properly.
- TAKE EXTRA VITAMIN A. Vitamin A is an important antioxidant and mitochondrial nutrient essential for healthy energy production, brain function, immunity, and maintaining optimal cellular health.
In 1928, vitamin A was coined “the anti-infective vitamin” because of its vital role for a strong and healthy immune system. The skin and mucosal cells, lining the airways, digestive tract, and urinary tract function as a barrier and form the body’s first line of defense against infection.
A deficiency can result in fatigue, poor stamina, a weakened immune system, frequent infections, impaired healing, and night blindness. The animal forms (retinol; retinyl acetate and palmitate) and the plant forms (carotenoids) of vitamin A serve important functions in the body including red blood cell production, the formation of growth factors important in healing and repair processes, the health of all mucous membranes, preventing infections, and healthy mitochondrial function. Depleted stores of vitamin A can occur due to chronic stress, infections, and environmental or food chemicals such as mold toxins which increase your requirement for this important nutrient. Vitamin A also promotes neurogenesis (i.e. the formation of new brain cells) and neuroplasticity in the brain, which is the brain’s ability to grow and form new neural connections in response to changes in the environment.
Recommended dose: 2,500-5,000 iu per day of preformed vitamin A (retinol) from cod liver oil or retinyl palmitate (animal forms) is more active than the equivalent amount of the plant-form, precursor of vitamin A, ß-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A, as needed by the body.
For acute infections, and a powerful boost to your immune system, higher doses in the range of 10-50,000 iu can be used for several days to replenish your stores of the nutrient, and to get your immune system fully functioning and back online.
- TAKE EXTRA SELENIUM. Selenium is an essential trace element that protects and nourishes each of our 50 trillion cells. It’s absolutely vital to our physical and mental well-being, and for a strong immune system. Though due to a variety of factors including food-processing techniques, nutrient-depleted soils, increased nutritional requirements, and environmental antagonists such as mercury and glyphosate – many of us are not getting what our body needs for optimal health and well-being. A sufficient intake of selenium is important in maintaining healthy tissue levels of the body’s master antioxidant and detoxifying molecule, glutathione, which is also important for a strong immune system. To derive the maximum benefit from selenium, the optimal daily range* for most men, women, and children is 100-200 mcg per day of selenium as a maintenance dose*. For people, 100-150 lbs, up to 400 mcg per day can be used in the short-term to replenish depleted stores and give a powerful boost to the immune system (used in a manner similar to vitamin D3), or if you weigh more than 250 pounds, 300-400 mcg per day is a safe and healthy dose range. High-selenium yeast or selenium (glycinate) are the most bioavailable, and preferred forms of the mineral, though other forms such as sodium selenite, selenate, or selenomethionine also provide benefit.
* The optimal dose is a function of body weight and your individual nutritional needs. Brazil nuts are nature’s richest source of selenium providing on average 45-100 mcg/nut, though since soil concentrations of the mineral can vary considerably, a 10-fold difference (10-100 mcg/nut) in selenium levels can exist between different sources, so to make sure you’re getting a known and reliable level of selenium every day, it’s recommended that your multivitamin or nutritional supplement provide you with 100-400 mcg/d (at the higher end of the range if you weigh >250 lbs since nutritional doses are based on weight, current nutritional status, heavy metal exposure, and individual nutritional needs).
- TAKE EXTRA MAGNESIUM. In modern industrialized nations, nearly 3 out of 4 people are deficient in magnesium resulting in a myriad of symptoms such as chronic fatigue, depression, a weakened immune system, irritability, cognitive impairment, ADD/ADHD, tics, tremors, chronic pain, headaches, and sleep disturbances. Magnesium serves as an essential co-factor in over 300 enzyme systems in the body and is needed for the functioning of all of your “feel-good” neurotransmitter systems – endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and oxytocin – all need sufficient magnesium for their optimal functioning. Magnesium is depleted by a number of factors including chronic stress, traumatic brain injury or other traumas, heavy exercise, refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, phosphoric acid in sodas, calcium supplementation, and certain medications.
For optimal immune support, 200-400 mg per day of a highly-bioavailable form such as magnesium malate, taurinate, or glycinate, which can be increased (or doubled), as desired, for its calming, stress-reducing activity.
- TAKE A HIGH-QUALITY MULTIVITAMIN CONTAINING NATURAL VITAMIN E AND ZINC. A good, high-quality, multivitamin will have a broad-spectrum of important immune enhancing nutrients such as small, but beneficial amounts of vitamins A, C, D, Natural Vitamin E (e.g. d-alpha tocopheryl succinate or d-alpha tocopherol), B-complex, folic acid (or folate), B12, and zinc. Note: one of the prime indicators of a good, high-quality multivitamin is that the best ones use natural vitamin E, not the synthetic form (dl-alpha).
The amounts of vitamin A and D can vary considerably from supplement to supplement, so if yours has at least 2,500 iu of vitamin A then you’re good as far as vitamin A goes with respect to a good maintenance dose. The vitamin D you’ll have to supplement separately since most multivitamins have 2,000 iu or less of vitamin D. Most multivitamins have between 5-30 mg of zinc. If yours is in the lower range from 5-10 mg, you might want to consider adding a separate 15 mg zinc supplement, which also contains a small amount of copper (1-2 mg).
Like vitamins A, C, D, E, and selenium, zinc has powerful anti-viral activity, so taking additional zinc lozenges containing 5-20 mg of zinc gluconate or acetate per lozenge (i.e. highly-ionizable forms of zinc; it’s the Zn2+ ions that possess the viral inhibiting activity) can also be beneficial especially with viral infections affecting the mouth and throat, which will saturate the tissue with zinc ions.
- TAKE SOME EXTRA IODINE. Iodine is needed for the healthy functioning of the thyroid, and all of the body’s glands, organs, and tissues. Iodine has powerful antimicrobial, immune-enhancing activity. Take 1-2 kelp tablets per day for a gentle, but effective boost for your immune system.
To put it simply, the key to staying healthy in this day and age is a strong immune system.
The way to do this involves a combination of eating healthy (e.g. focus on organic fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats, organic pastured eggs; the highest quality food possible), reducing sugar intake, reducing toxin exposure (e.g. get rid of chemical air fresheners, perfumes, deodorants, harsh cleaning agents, and substitute with natural, safer versions), getting enough rest and good quality sleep at night, moving your body and exercising daily, and keeping your nutrient reserves optimized.
Use the above as a quick reference guide for staying healthy and strong year around.
With the above in your toolbox, your immune system will have the proper resources it needs to function optimally, so that you can handle whatever comes your way. As the late great, Benjamin Franklin once shared, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, very true.
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