Specific Nutrients & Herbs to Support Immune Health
In my last post I talked about basic dietary and lifestyle recommendations to support a strong immune system. Today I want to discuss some specific nutrients & herbs to support immune health.
Vitamin C is well known for its antiviral and immune supporting action, reducing susceptibility and severity of infection. It has been shown in studies to be effective in the prevention and treatment of viruses including influenza & clinical trials are currently being conducted on the effect of vitamin C on corona virus.
Most of the best food sources of vitamin C are our red, orange & dark green fruit & vegetables (paw paw, guava & red capsicum being some of the highest); & don't forget herbs like parsley. Bear in mind that vitamin C is destroyed by cooking, so eating these foods raw is best for vitamin C content.
Higher doses are generally required for treatment of viruses and high doses are being used for treatment of corona virus. The generally recommended supplemental dose for immune support is 2g per day (preferably spread throughout the day), but requirements vary from person to person. For more specific advice and dosing a consultation is required.
Zinc is essential for healthy immune function. Zinc deficiency is common and those who are deficient have been found to be more susceptible to infections. There is an abundance of evidence demonstrating the antiviral activity of zinc. Zinc is also essential for the integrity of the gut & digestion, which also play a significant role in immune health.
Meat (especially red meat), liver & oysters are some of the best food sources of zinc. Some other great sources include nuts & seeds (especially sesame & pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds & cashews), lentils, chickpeas & cocoa.
Dosing for zinc supplementation is generally recommend at 15-50mg per day (for adults), with the best absorbed forms being zinc picolinate, zinc bisglycinate and zinc citrate. Zinc carnosine is especially healing for the gut.
I’ve heard it said that we should rename cold & flu season, “vitamin D deficient season”. Why? Because vitamin D is like the fulcrum that the immune system rests on & our best source of vitamin D is the sun - which down here in our climate is hard to get enough of in winter.
I like to get my vitamin D tested each year heading into winter, and if it is lower than 100 umol/L, I will consider supplementation (how much I supplement depends very much on what the levels are).
I also like to take a cod liver oil supplement in winter. It is a great source of vitamins A & D (vitamin A is also important for strong immune health and gut integrity), but at low enough levels to avoid risk of toxicity. I buy my cod liver oil capsules here: https://www.gpawholefoods.com.au/.
In herbal medicine, we have a number of great antiviral herbs & herbs to support, strengthen & modulate the immune system. We also have herbs to support the integrity and function of the gut, which as I have discussed previously is also essential for immune health.
Additionally, we have beautiful herbs for managing symptoms of such as fever, cough, sore throat, congestion, excess mucous & symptoms of allergy.
What’s also great, is that I can make personalised herbal blends with herbs to support each of those functions.
Herbs are beautiful to use in your kitchen for a lovely gentle immune support – both in cooking and as herbal teas. Great herbs you can use this way include garlic, ginger, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, elderflower, peppermint, turmeric, & rose hips.
If you would like herbal medicine support, you will need to make an appointment as I cannot recommend self prescribing.
I need to highlight again that everything written her is just general information. If you have a specific question, condition or health concern, or require further health advice or therapeutic dosing & quality supplements, please book an appointment for a full naturopathic consultation.
Kim, Y., Kim, H., Bae, S., Choi, J., Lim, S. Y., Lee, N., Kong, J. M., Hwang, Y. I., Kang, J. S., & Lee, W. J. (2013). Vitamin C Is an Essential Factor on the Anti-viral Immune Responses through the Production of Interferon-α/β at the Initial Stage of Influenza A Virus (H3N2) Infection. Immune network, 13(2), 70–74. https://doi.org/10.4110/in.2013.13.2.70
Scott A Read, Stephanie Obeid, Chantelle Ahlenstiel, Golo Ahlenstiel, The Role of Zinc in Antiviral Immunity, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 10, Issue 4, July 2019, Pages 696–710, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz013
ZhiYong Peng. (2020). Vitamin C Infusion for the Treatment of Severe 2019-nCoV Infected Pneumonia. (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04264533). Retrieved from: https://blogs.uoregon.edu/annie/2017/10/25/clinical-trial-apa-format/