Immune Support Series Part 3: Top 5 Immune Boosting Supplements
Top 5 Immune Boosting Supplements
1) Vitamin D
The “Jack of all Vitamins”? Deficiencies in Vitamin D have been associated with MANY health concerns/symptoms including: osteoporosis, PMS, PCOS, miscarriage, fatigue, low mood, depression, autoimmunity, and you guessed it….frequent illness/infection. In my practice, almost 90% of the patients I test do not have sufficient levels of Vitamin D!
Vitamin D is a FAT SOUBLE vitamin, so choose a liquid, oil emulsified supplement for maximum absorption (those chalky white tablets are poorly absorbed!).
Dosing depends on what your current levels are at, so if you don’t know – get tested! Vitamin D screening is not currently covered by OHIP and costs about $35 to get done (you want to test the 25-Hydroxy form) – WELL worth it considering the vast impact it has on our health. If you’ve been tested, make sure your levels are at least 100 nmol/L for optimal health.
Zinc is one of the best minerals to supplement with when battling a cold. It is needed for normal development and function of immune cells in the body, and can help reduce the severity of symptoms and the duration of a cold when started within 24 hours of symptom onset. Lozenges in the form of zinc gluconate may be helpful for sore throats, while supplements in capsule form are best absorbed as zinc picolinate. Nausea is a common side effect of zinc so it is best to take with food.
Did you know that over 70% of your immune system is in your gut?? If you get sick frequently as well suffer from digestive symptoms like IBS, bloating, constipation or diarrhea…your gut is compromising your immune system and making you more susceptible to getting sick! Probiotics and probiotic rich foods are important to establish and maintain a healthy diversity of gut bacteria while providing support to the immune cells. If probiotics make your digestive symptoms worse, see a practitioner to help determine the root cause. Different strains of probiotics can have different effects, so you may need some guidance in finding the right one for you!
4) Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and supports the immune system in various ways and may help to shorten the duration of cold symptoms. It is found it colourful fruits and veggies – but if you aren’t getting your 5-10 servings everyday, a supplement might be warranted (especially during cold and flu season!) Make sure to check the “non-medicinal” ingredient list on your supplements and avoid any added or artificial sugars/sweeteners and colours.
5) Botanical/Herbal Medicine
I’m leaving this last category quite broad. I prescribe herbs to all of my patients coming in with a cold or flu, but which herb(s) I prescribed is individualized, based on each person’s specific symptoms. Some of my favourites include: Echinacea, Andrographis, Astragalus, Reishi, Elderberry and Goldenseal. Herbs can be used in many different ways including teas, tinctures, infusions, tablets, capsules, essential oil inhalation or topical application.
I use acupuncture in my practice in addition to other treatments for cold and flu prevention as well as treatment of symptoms such as headache, cough, congestion, fever, aches and pains.