If you live in the United States, chances are you’re not meeting your daily nutritional requirements for all micronutrients. In fact, a study showed that 40% or more of the American population is below the recommended daily needs for eight out of 14 nutrients. It’s a challenge for most of us to eat all our fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, let alone all our micronutrients while balancing work and home life and trying to live an active lifestyle all at the same time, even if you’re eating well! If you’re not getting all your nutrients, you’re leaving your immune system vulnerable and susceptible to illness.
With COVID-19 part of our daily lives and cold and flu season in full swing, I’d love to share with you some helpful supplements that I’ve found beneficial to take to during seasons where our immune systems may need additional support. Keep in mind that marketing will suggest that some products will “boost” immune systems, but that is simply clever verbiage. Nothing will boost your immune system, rather these supplements will help support the immune system your body already has!
Liposomal Vitamin C
Vitamin C won’t necessarily stop a cold dead in its tracks, but it will help your body respond to illnesses more effectively by supporting your immune system. Vitamin C is also essential with a number of different functions within the body. It assists with the production of collagen (hello, beautiful skin!), helps with the absorption of iron, and supports overall cardiovascular and brain health.
Getting your vitamin C through eating several servings of berries, citrus, and broccoli every day is always the best choice, however sometimes our bodies aren’t performing optimally, and we need to supplement. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it cannot be stored in the body, so it is important you’re including food sources or taking a high-quality vitamin C supplement every day! Just a heads up, if you’ve been taking chewable vitamin C, you’ve probably only been absorbing about 14-30% of it. That’s where Liposomal Vitamin C comes in…
Liposomal vitamin C is vitamin C contained within a liposome – a spherical vesicle containing fats (or lipids). Liposomes are like tiny delivery bubbles that have an outer shell made of healthy fats, carrying nutrients in their core. When encased in a liposome, vitamin C has been scientifically proven to deliver more of the vitamin into the body compared to traditional vitamin C supplements, which means you can reap more of the health benefits I mentioned above. Unlike food and traditional supplements, liposomal vitamin C bypass a large portion of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, not only does this enhance absorption, but it also means there’s less risk for toxicity, and is generally better tolerated with fewer side effects like upset stomach.
We typically associate zinc with shortening the duration of the common cold, which zinc supplements can certainly help with, however research shows that zinc has numerous health benefits. When taken daily, zinc supplements stimulate particular immune cells and reduce oxidative stress. Zinc is actually necessary for immune cell function and cell signally, so a deficiency can lead to a weakened immune response. It is best to take zinc daily, before you feel sick, in order to reap the benefits of this essential mineral.
Did you know that Zinc may reduce the risk of certain age-related diseases such as pneumonia, and macular degeneration? Older adults who supplement with zinc experience improved flu vaccination response, reduced infection rates, and even increased mental performance! It can also decrease inflammation and help treat acne.
You may want to rethink zinc supplements as being something to start taking at the first time you feel a sniffle coming on and start taking them daily. There is a risk of toxicity with zinc, so talk to your doctor about taking a zinc supplement and avoid high-dose supplements. The recommendation for daily intake is 11 mg for adult men and 8 mg for adult women.
There are many animal and plant sources that are naturally rich in zinc, making it simple for most people to get enough zinc on a daily basis. Here is a brief list of foods high in zinc:
- Shellfish: Oysters, crab, mussels, lobster and clams
- Meat: Beef, pork, lamb and bison
- Poultry: Turkey and chicken
- Fish: Flounder, sardines, salmon and sole
- Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, etc.
- Dairy products: Milk, yogurt and cheese
- Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
- Certain vegetables: Mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus and beet greens
Vitamin D is vital to our immune system. A vitamin D deficiency has been shown to increase your susceptibility to infection and some studies has have shown that a vitamin D deficiency is even associated with greater risk of upper respiratory tract infections. Your body can actually produce vitamin D on its own, yet a study in 2018 showed that 42% of Americans were Vitamin D deficient. A more recent study in 2020 found that 80% of people with COVID-19 didn’t have adequate levels of vitamin D in their blood.
Vitamin D helps your immune system fight viruses and bacterial infections. It is important that we keep healthy levels of vitamin D in our body. It is difficult for most individuals to get enough vitamin D with food alone. The FDA recommends that adults up to age 70 take up to 600 IU of vitamin D a day, and adults over 70 take 800 IU a day. Most adults can take a maximum daily intake of 4,000 IU of vitamin D each day. You can increase your vitamin D by eating more foods with natural D3 and getting more sunlight (safely).
Some foods high in D3 are beef liver, butter, cereal, cheese, cod liver oil, egg yolks, fresh salmon, halibut, mackerel, milk (fortified), sardines, trout, and tuna.
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, it can be much harder to get enough D3 from your food intake. Supplements are much more important for you! You can also increase your vitamin D with foods that contain D2 like almond, oat, or soy milk (fortified) and portabella mushrooms.
Immunity is not the only important function that vitamin D plays a role in. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to depression, and other conditions caused by inflammation. Taking D3 supplements has also been suggested to reduce the risk of heart failure and help build stronger bones and muscles.
I have just recently discovered Oregano oil and I’m wondering where it’s been all my life! Oregano oil is made from the oregano plant. It provides benefits of oregano in a more concentrated way. You can find it at most health food and vitamin stores in pill capsules and liquid form and can be ingested orally or applied to the skin. Do not mistake with oregano essential oil that is used in aromatherapy – this is much more concentrated, and I am not focusing on this type of oil. What I have found interesting about this oil is the many uses it has.
It contains carvacrol and thymol – these two compounds have natural antibiotic and antifungal properties. They have also shown to have antiviral and anti-bacterial properties. With so many anti-biotic resistant bugs out there, and so many people turning to a more holistic approach to medicine, it is nice to have something on hand that you can put on a wound or take orally that you can feel better about taking that can help along with your other supplements. I Have added it to my first aid kit and medicine cabinet!
Along with its medicinal properties, if diluted or mixed with oil it can help fight acne, can be applied like Neosporin to cuts and bruises, and repel bugs. I am still in the early stages of learning about this oil but cannot wait to learn more about what it can do.
Since oregano oil is classified as a dietary supplement, it is not approved by the FDA and there is no regulation on purity or dosage, please check with your physician before using.
Coconut oil is part of my daily routine. I don’t just love the way it tastes in my coffee, there are many health benefits to coconut oil that helps support my immune system.
Coconut oil has antibacterial properties and can reduce candida, fight bacteria, and create a hostile environment for viruses. Lauric acid is a fatty acid that makes up about 50% of the fat in coconut oil. Research shows that lauric acid may have antimicrobial effects against disease-causing microorganisms. This has helped my immune system in the long run and has kept me healthy!
Not only is coconut oil a great defense for my immune system, but it is also good for heart health, it slows digestion and helps stabilize blood sugar and decrease food cravings, helps liver function, the antioxidants are a natural stress reducer, and the MCFAs in coconut oil provide essential dietary fats that increase the skin elasticity.
These are supplements that work well for my body and have found them beneficial for my body. Vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals like zinc, all play a role in immune system function. If you have been thinking of adding supplements to your diet, it is important to proceed with caution. Although you can find most supplements in any grocery store, health store, or even online retailers easily, it’s important to know that the FDA does not regulate supplements. Even with them being sold over the counter, they can be as dangerous as medicine and should be discussed with a health professional. Do your due diligence and research them – not just on google and Facebook or with your neighborhood friends; read scholarly, peer-reviewed articles and gain insight for yourself before putting anything into your body.
Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Well.