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L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Gerontologist

Powering Up Our Immune System to stave Off Illness

March 9, 2020

Building up our immune system to fighting fitness always ranks as our first choice of defense against disease, and that holds true for avoiding all pesky colds, flu and viruses. Tapping in a bevy of trusted sources, including Dr. Mark Hyman and the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM), Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, and Dr. Andrew Weil, I have done the homework and come up with a list of foods and supplements we might begin taking to help bolster our immune system against illness.

As always, check with your health care provider to be clear of contraindications. I have great respect for MDs, however, many doctors don’t know much about supplementation, as they are offered no classes on them in most medical schools.  This is where a DIFM: Dietitian in Integrative and Functional Medicine, or a RDN: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist come in handy, as they can help steer you into what you need and work with your existing medications. The website to find one of these professionals in your area is: https://integrativerd.org/

On the food front, upping our consumption of a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to ten servings—five of each, every day, and drinking eight to ten 8 oz. glasses of good quality filtered water will definitely help keep us well and smiling through this difficult time.

Here is the list of supplements you will want to consider to boost your immune system:

Vitamin C

At the top of the charts is an old favorite, vitamin C. Some of the latest stats show more than forty-three million adults from the ages of twenty to sixty are deficient in vitamin C. That number jumps up drastically for seniors. We get some vitamin C in our food, but now supplementation is a necessity. Taking 1000 milligrams, in 2 or 3 doses throughout the day, perhaps at mealtimes, will boost your immunity system. Don’t take it all at once, as it absorbs and is eliminated each time we visit the loo, and so spread out the doses. Try different types to see which you tolerate best. My personal favorite is a time-released vitamin C.

Zinc

Adding this mineral to your daily regime gives you an edge against illness, and it becomes an even bigger gun if you actually get sick. If a bug finds you, zinc lozenges should be a go-to. Each lozenge should be no more than 10 milligrams, and ideally use five per day, but cap your use of them at seven per day. These can be powerful at stopping the development of a virus if taken at the very first signs of illness.

Vitamin D

New research points to vitamin D as a frontline fighter against illness. The Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) suggests 4,000 IU a day for people nine to ninety-nine. I take that much every day.

Selenium

Selenium is a key nutrient for immune function. This powerful antioxidant boosts the body’s defenses against bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells. The IFM says, “It may particularly help to protect against certain strains of flu virus.” Here is the great news! Eating 2-3 large Brazil nuts a day gives us the selenium we need. Now that’s an easy and delicious prescription.

Honey

Preferably raw hone, added to hot tea, or even taken straight by the teaspoon is a potent anti-viral food. It is safe for all ages from one to a hundred, but not safe for babies under one year. I take a teaspoon, now, every day. Yum.

Garlic

This is another delicious anti-viral food. It has been called a poor man’s penicillin for its amazing antimicrobial properties. Garlic is the perfect example of an herb that bridges food and medicine. Find ways to add this yummy vegetable to dishes to benefit from its powerful healing properties.

The secret to activating the medicinal qualities of garlic is fresh garlic and to crush it first and the let it sit for a few minutes before cooking with it. The great news here is you can’t really overdo the garlic from a health stand-point, however, make sure everyone you love has some when you do, as that will solve the problem of the infamous garlic breath we all dread!

In addition to adding crushed garlic to many of the dishes I make, I also take garlic in pill form. Your DIFM or, a knowledgeable person at your local health food store, can guide you to a reputable brand. These will not give you garlic breath, if they do, try another brand.

Probiotics

The easiest, and again, delicious way to add this gut-healing and immune-building super food into your eating plan is to have one cup of unsweetened plain yogurt—I add two big handfuls of berries to mine many a morning– three or four days a week and you will be doing your entire body a world of good, not just your army of disease fighters. If you are lactose sensitive or intolerant, there are good quality capsules that deliver the same benefits. They are often found in the refrigerated section of the health food store. Ask. The most expensive isn’t always the best.    

To this list I add a great Multi-Vitamin with Minerals. Make sure it contains 15,000 IU of mixed carotenoids, including beta-carotene. These are key for boosting our respiratory system.

To insure you are getting a good quality supplements, the smart money is on buying ones from a health food store, versus say, the drug store or a big box store. Talk to the store manager or people who work there and ask questions. The popular one isn’t always the best one.

For some additional remedies to boost your immune system to help stave off illness or shorten its duration, have a look at Great Remedies for Winter Illnesses.

If you are already working with a nutritional expert, you are in great shape. For the rest of us, these recommendations will be a good start for super-charging all your disease-fighting systems and keeping you healthy and in the pink. 😉

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

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