Get Your Immunity Boost On!
For many of us, the last few weeks have been difficult ones. Although there is much we cannot control, one of the best defenses against this virus is to keep yourself healthy – this IS within your control. Much of the discussion by physicians has been around the fact that many of the people who have sadly died from this deadly virus have been either older or they have had some kind of underlying health conditions. These include respiratory conditions, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes – many of which can be addressed through diet and lifestyle changes.
While it may be easier said than done, during this challenging time it is important to focus on eating well, staying hydrated, incorporating some movement into each day, getting good sleep and maintaining some social connection with friends and loved ones – even if only through Zoom! These are all important ways to stay healthy both physically and mentally. There are also a number of nutrients and herbs that are natural immunity boosters!
These are just a few of my favorites and I have been trying to incorporate as many of these as possible into my daily routine.
Reishi Mushroom and Other Medicinal Mushrooms
This is one of my favorites! I take it every winter to stave off colds and flus. It is referred to in Eastern medicine as the “mushroom of immortality,” it is a powerful little immune booster. It has also been shown to have some antiviral properties. A number of supplements combine it with another powerful immune boosting herb called Astragalus, as well as other medicinal mushrooms (i.e. Cordyceps, lion’s mane, maitake, shitake and turkey tail)
Reishi mushroom also provides other health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure, as well as regulating blood sugar. Reishi can be found in supplements, teas or liquid extracts – there is even a coffee that has it in it.
Vitamin C + Zinc
Long known for its benefits to the immune system – remember mom making you drink orange juice as a kid, especially when you are were sick? Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, which fights off free radicals, which naturally reduced the risk of inflammation and disease. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the severity of respiratory infections and even shorten their duration. For an even better boost, combine Vitamin C with zinc, which is also known to shorten the duration of colds and other respiratory conditions.
Key Food Sources:
Vitamin C is abundant primarily in fruits and vegetables, namely citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberry, pineapple, papaya, mango, peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes and spinach.
Zinc is primarily found in animal-based foods like meat, poultry and fish (grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey, salmon), eggs, yogurt/kefir, chickpeas, cashews, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms.
Vitamin D primarily functions as a hormone and deficiency is very common, as there are limited food sources. The best, most efficient source of Vitamin D3 is via the sun and production by the skin. However, limited outdoor time, especially in colder climates, and the fact that we often wear sunscreen when we are outdoors further contributes to this common deficiency. Supplementation is often required, however note that this a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that it should be taken with a meal that has some fat in it for optimal absorption.
Rule of thumb for getting Vitamin D from the sun:
· 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight without sunscreen daily for medium to fair skin tones.
· Darker skin tones up to 40 minutes daily.
Vitamin D plays key role in our immune function and although not necessarily causative, there is a correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and a number of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, allergies, asthma, thyroid dysfunction, high cholesterol, depression, arthritis, chronic inflammation, diabetes, as well as cognitive issues.
Key Food Sources:
Vitamin D is found in fish like wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, canned tuna, cheese, full fat milk egg yolks, beef liver, mushrooms.
Rich in antioxidants, as well as immune boosting anthocyanidins, elderberry has also been shown to have some antiviral properties, especially against respiratory infections. It can help to shorten the duration of colds and may reduce flu symptoms. Supplements are commonly found in health food stores.