Are you eating a bowl of supplements to protect you against viral infections hoping something will work?
Do you want to know which supplements are most important?
Many people are stressed by the fact that some of the recommended supplements are not available and are on back order with no timeframe of when they will be available.
While there is a long list of supplements that have been studied for antiviral activity and immune boosting activity, the journal Nutrients published a study on what is essential for optimal immune function. Lifestyle also plays a major role. No amount of supplements will counteract a poor diet, lack of sleep and exercise as well a negative mindset and unbridled stress.
The Most Essential Supplements
Optimal nutritional status is essential to protect against viral infections and build and maintain an optimal immune system. This is supported by many studies and a multinational study of scientists from the US, UK, New Zealand and The Netherlands published in the Journal Nutrients
A wealth of clinical data and studies show that vitamins, including vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folate; trace elements, including zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and copper; and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA play important and complementary roles in supporting the immune system. Supplementing with these is a safe, effective and low-cost strategy can support optimizing your immune function.
The top nutrients cited in the journal listed Vitamin D as one of the most indisputable and avoiding a Vitamin D deficiency has clear benefits for immune health. The other top nutrients were Vitamin C, zinc and DHA omega 3; all could help protect against viral infections. An important point is that these need to be taken as a preventive measure to be most effective.
Note all of these are found in food, however most Americans don’t eat enough vegetables. They don’t eat the required 10 servings or even the minimum of 5. Food is not what it used to be. It is grown in nutrient deficient soil, it is not picked ripe so it never reaches its full potential, it loses nutrients in shipping, storage and cooking and stressed out people who multitask when they eat, and eat too fast, don’t make enough digestive enzymes and don’t absorb the nutrients.
Supplements are just that. They are not to replace food or a reason for not eating your vegetables, they are just that – supplements to add to a nutritionally dense whole food diet.
It’s never one thing or one supplement. Lifestyle and supplement are the secrets!
Here is what is most important:
- Nutritionally dense diet with at least 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables with no more than 2 servings of fruit. Eat fermented foods and 28-35 grams of fiber. Avoid added sugar and salt, avoid processed food, excess simple carbohydrates and saturated fats.
- Multivitamin and Mineral formula including vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folate; trace elements, including zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and copper. Choose a reputable company since many brands don’t disintegrate, don’t have what is listed on the label and may have contaminants. Some have such low doses and you may need to add additional vitamins C, D and EPA/DHA.
- Sleep is essential, get 6-8 hours to repair and rejuvenate.
- Stress Management can improve overall health. Try to avoid information overload and limit your exposure to news, practice gratitude, try some mind body practices such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, tai chi, qigong, relaxation response, and breath regulation and create a routine.
- Moderate Exercise helps immune system function by raising levels of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies, increasing circulation, and decreasing stress hormones. Do something you love, try it in bite size increments and get out in nature.
- Social Connections stay connected with those you love even if it’s only through FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or phone. Connect with people who lift you up and bring you joy.
You may need to add these additional essentials recommended in the journal Nutrients
- Vitamin D so levels in blood are 50-90, taking 2,000 IU per day is safe, however most of my patients take about 5,000 IU. It is safest to have your doctor measure your levels of 25 OH Vitamin D.
- Vitamin C is usually well tolerated, and an optimal dose will depend on your amount of sufficiency versus deficiency. The minimum is Institute of Functional Medicine recommends 1 to 3 grams. Use a buffered form to avoid stomach upset. A low oxalate diet is essential if you are prone to kidney stones. You know you have too much if you get loose stools or diarrhea.
- Zinc 8-11 mg per day prevents deficiency. The Institute of Functional Medicine recommends 30-60 mg orally daily, in divided doses has antiviral benefits If you take too much for too long, you may get a zinc copper imbalance. If you
- EPA/DHA Omega 3 fatty acids are very anti-inflammatory and the bare minimum is
These are simple, cost effective strategies that will not only optimize your immune system, they will optimize your overall health. If you need help implementing any of these strategies, consult with a functional medicine doctor who has a team that can support you.