I’ve said it before – eating healthy whole foods and making healthy lifestyle choices is a great everyday insurance policy against illness and disease. And if you’re looking for ways to improve immune system you can add to that supplements that boost immune system and you’ve just increased the value of your policy.
We all know winter is the time for multitudes of gang busting bugs to spread their wings, take full flight and leave their germy little trails everywhere. Public places are inundated with them – from the workplace, the kids’ daycare and schools, gyms, restaurants – to the handles of our grocery carts. You name it, they’re there.
Especially with winter season about two months away, now would be a super important time to start giving your immune system some extra love. There’s still enough time to start building up a good line of defense against these nasty bugs.
Super Bugs Galore
The other thing I really think is worth mentioning is the super power of today’s bugs! Have you noticed how much more powerful they are and how much more severe the side effects of certain bacteria and viruses have become?! It’s pretty crazy. Gone are the days when rest, fluids and chicken noodle soup would cure the common cold or flu in a few days and we were back to normal.
These super strains now come in intense forms with crazy names like H1N1, MRSA, swine flu and bird flu…..what the?! And they land you a nice pricey hospital stay to boot. I have seen many people in this predicament recently, and not just from colds and flu but other bacterial infections that take residency after a bite, injury or wound – it’s really quite awful.
Immune System 101
The immune system literally performs life saving acts 24/7. It’s the first line of defense protecting us from millions of foreign invaders that would love to take up residency in our bodies – microbes, bacteria, viruses, toxins and parasites. For the most part it’s “quiet kung fu like actions” go unnoticed when we are feeling well and healing from common things like cuts, stings, bites or injuries. When the immune system is functioning optimally our bodies are nothing short of amazing.
From the immune system’s first line of defense, amazing things happen every second. Like if a virus or bacteria is able to enter the body a strong immune system will detect it and make it unwelcome so that it isn’t able to make itself comfy and reproduce. And in the event that it has started to reproduce a strong immune system will kick the troublemaker and all it’s evil spawns to the curb.
When the immune system weakens though, the story is much different. It’s much like being the only samurai in a battle without a sword. His chances of defending himself are slim to none.
Many things can contribute to immune system breakdown but for the sake of this article, vitamin and nutritional deficiencies are definitely a huge consideration. Most people simply don’t get optimal nutrition and even when we eat healthy it certainly doesn’t hurt to up that insurance policy by filling in some nutritional gaps.
How to Boost Your Immune System and Stay Well
Filling in nutritional gaps with vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements to boost immune system is an effective way to help your immune system stay healthy, strong, and balanced. The following are some of the best supplements to boost immune system – what I like to call the essential four – fundamentals that when taken daily will help keep your immune system nice and strong allowing it to be a master defender.
A good quality greens powder is an absolute nutritional powerhouse. It’s so packed full of vitamins, minerals and superfoods that I use it as my daily multivitamin. Greens are alkalizing and help keep your body in a balanced pH state – since illness and disease thrives in acidic environments the alkalizing power of greens makes your body an unwelcome environment for these unwanted visitors.
Greens are one of the best supplements to help immune system and a great way to start your day with energy – on a cellular level, the sustainable kind not the jittery kind. They are cleansing, support a strong immune system and healthy digestion.
They come in powders and capsules or tablets but powders are easier to absorb and you only have to take a scoop a day whereas pills require you to take 6 or more.
One of my favorite powders is Amazing Grass – it comes in a basic green superfood formula which mixes well in apple juice or smoothies or in a variety of fun flavors like chocolate, orange dreamsicle, berry, watermelon, and lemon lime. They’ve even added a pineapple greens with multivitamins for an extra boost and a specific tangerine immunity defense formula.
Favorites in my house are chocolate and orange – both taste great alone in almond/coconut milk or mixed in smoothies (chocolate with banana and almond butter and orange with banana and strawberries tastes like a creamsicle or orange julius).
Amazing Grass also comes in packets for on the go and convenient travel and kids formulas in chocolate and berry flavors.
Trusty vitamin C. Been around forever and still one of the best vitamins to strengthen immune system. Sit tight – there’s a bit to be said about this super nutrient. The important thing to note is that not one teeny weeny bit of this vitamin can be manufactured by the human body, many animals produce it but not humans, therefore it must be obtained from diet and other sources.
It’s powerful antioxidant content plays such a crucial role for so many functions within the body from immune system to healthy blood vessels, healthy tissue, gums, joints and eyes to mood regulation.
For many centuries severe vitamin C deficiency was known as scurvy, a potentially fatal disease that by the late 1700’s the British Navy became aware could be cured by eating lemons or oranges for their ascorbic acid content.
Ascorbic acid was isolated by the early 1930’s. Vitamin C has been shown to stimulate the production and function of white blood cells and promote antiviral activity.
My favorite supplemental source of vitamin C is from the amazonian rainforest fruit camu camu. It is the highest known source of vitamin C packing a whopping 1180% of the daily recommended amount per teaspoon – 60 times more per serving than an orange, in fact you’d have to eat at least 10 oranges to get that! 1/4 lb of fresh camu camu berries equals the vitamin C content of 10 1/2 lbs of strawberries!
The ascorbic acid found in most vitamin C supplements can be irritating on the stomach, the buffered form or Ester-C uses calcium ascorbate to buffer the acidity making it gentler on the stomach – both are derived mostly from corn starch, corn sugar, or rice starch. Which is why I prefer a potent real food source that instead of isolating a nutrient in a lab, leaves all components of the food source intact to work together synergystically as nature intended.
For maintenance I take 1/2 teaspoon of Whole World Botanicals Camu Camu powder mixed in water on an empty stomach twice daily for best absorption. It has a mildly tart taste – no biggie. It can also be mixed into smoothies (see my smoothie powder recipe). It also comes in capsules or tablet, however I try to take as many supplements in powdered or liquid form as possible for the absorption factor and cost effectiveness. You usually get more bang for your buck with powders and liquids.
Increasing the amount of vitamin C during times when the immune system may need extra support (high stress, feel a cold/flu coming on, after a wound or injury to speed healing) is encouraged. It’s a water soluble vitamin so it doesn’t store in the body – your body just gets rid of what it doesn’t need. Phew! That covers vitamin C, thanks for hanging in.
Probiotics are one of the top immune boosting supplements for good reason. They contain various strains of healthy bacteria to help maintain balance and when necessary, repopulate gut flora (good bacteria). A healthy immune system and healthy gut are closely intertwined – balanced gut flora is necessary to fight off potential invaders trying to wreak havoc by causing an overgrowth of bad unwanted bacteria in our gut.
Supplementing with a daily probiotic is a really effective way to keep your immune system strong especially for babies and kids – time and again when I see parents giving their children probiotics it keeps them from getting sick when most kids at daycare or school are. Having a gut full of the right kind of super bugs – the good guys – creates not just one or two but a massive colony of samurai warriors, this time with all swords intact.
This brings me to the topic of antibiotics – sorry but I have to go here. While there is no doubt that antibiotics kill all sorts of bad bacteria they demolish all the good stuff too.
Have you ever noticed how initially when starting a course of antibiotics you feel better really quickly which makes sense – they are designed to kill all the problem bacteria over the course of a week to usually 10 days.
But there are two potential problems; one, they lose effectiveness over time and two…two is huge…
The specific bacteria being targeted has an offspring containing a mutation that is able to survive the specific antibiotic causing the bacteria to reproduce and the whole disease to mutate. Soon the new strain is infecting all the bacteria and suddenly the old antibiotic is rendered completely useless.
I saw this cause and effect all the time when I worked in Pediatrics, the kids that were on the most antibiotics were the ones coming back with a new illness requiring a different antibiotic time and again. It’s a vicious cycle.
And we wonder why we have super bugs…
This is exactly why I take a daily probiotic and I recommend you do too. I use Nutrition Now PB-8 which is only two capsules a day. It contains multiple strains to target all areas of the intestines and 14 billion live organisms (you want at least 5-10 billion since some will die off from the time of manufacture to consumption) and requires refrigeration only after opened. They come in powders too, I would recommend passing on tablets here, as I’m not convinced of absorption.
Many people shy away from probiotics while taking antibiotics based on the reasoning that it may cause the antibiotics to lose some potency but based on what I shared above this is the time that your immune system needs all the good bacteria it can get to help replace all that the antibiotics destroy.
It is recommended to take probiotics on an empty stomach at least 2 hours away from antibiotics which are usually taken with food anyway since they can cause upset stomach. Personally I would double the dose during this time.
Cod Liver Oil
Back in the day our parents and grandparents were taking swigs of another tried and true old time remedy, cod liver oil. It’s still widely used in Europe as a top immune remedy, with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D, some of the best vitamins for immune system building and a whole slew of other benefits.
I take a teaspoon a day with a meal. For those of you who think cod liver oil tastes disgusting (I know I did before I gave it a go) currently I’m taking lemon flavored Vitacost Norwegian Cod Liver Oil which does not have a fishy taste at all, I mean at all and no fishy repeat (burps) – you want to keep it in the fridge to help with that, preventing it from going rancid.
I also highly recommend Carlson’s and Nordic Naturals – both equally as great. Again you can get cod liver oil in capsules but I find the liquid to be much fresher and much more cost effective.
Important things to look for when choosing a cod liver oil are Norwegian cod caught in cold waters, manufactured using a chemical-free extraction process and regularly tested to be free of mercury, lead, PCBs and other contaminants.
Getting the right vitamins to strengthen immune system makes a huge difference. By adding just four essential supplements to your regime you really amp up your immune system’s ability to defend your body the way it’s designed to and increase your ability to stay well especially during cold and flu season. Adding even one of these things can make a huge difference. Here’s to staying well :)
Questions, comments, or recommendations of your favorite immune boosters? Leave them below!