Constantly Sick in CO, Part VI: When Your Diet Just Isn't Cutting It, These Supplements Can Be the Missing Link
We’ve finally made it to the article in my series on the immune system in which I am sharing with you the supplements that I most recommend for a strong and healthy immune system. While these are not based on acupuncture theory, in combination with balancing your body via acupuncture and Chinese medicine, they can take you far along your journey to better immune function.
Some of these are common and therefore you probably already know about them, while others are going to be special patented products that have been developed as our modern knowledge of our immune systems is expanding.
If you are just tuning into this series, please go back to the beginning so you can understand the basis of why I am writing about this subject. Never before have I taken an article series like this and extended it over a handful of weeks.
But I’ve been so determined to conquer this frustrating phenomenon of constant colds, that in order to tackle this issue I’ve taken the best of what both Chinese medicine and modern western nutrient therapy have to offer us, and presented the huge topic it bit by bit.
The great news is, when you begin to understand how simple it is to boost your immune system, you can start implementing these strategies and find yourself getting better and better as time goes on.
The hard news is, you’ve got to actually do it.
For many people, the issue comes down to the simple problem that every day, their poor immune system is struggling to function without the necessary nourishment that it needs to do its job.
I have stated before and I will repeat it again, the absolute best way to get those nutrients is from food.
But we have to get real. How many of us, no matter how hard we try, eat as good as we know we need to, on a very regular basis. If you do, then kudos to you! You are probably not getting sick often, and that’s great.
But if you are someone who gets sick regularly, then my guess is that despite your best intentions, several days, if not weeks, often go by in which you discover you can’t even remember the last time you cooked at home and ate a good serving of veggies.
If that’s you, then this article was written for you.
Our Immune System is the Lock, Nutrients are the Keys to Unlock It
Here’s an analogy that may help you understand the relationship between your immune system and nutrients, better.
Think of it like having many doors in your house, each room having a door that is perpetually locked and needing a specific key to open it every time you need to get into that room. If you don’t have that specific key, you just won’t be able to use that room in your house.
Think of what would happen if suddenly you couldn’t access your kitchen or bathroom because they were locked — the processes that occur there (nourishment, elimination, cleaning) would not be able to take place.
That’s how our body is on a physiological level – many processes are triggered by receptors (keys) fitting into receptor sites (locks), causing the door to an entire immune function to open. The keys may be vitamins, minerals, or enzymes, and fitting them into the right molecular “locks” opens the door to various immune system functions.
This house analogy is what it’s like in our bodies when our immune system is TRYING to do its job, but it simply can’t, because of a lack of the right nutrients. The door to our immune system remains locked, and we don’t have the key to open it.
Then a bug comes along, and bam, you’re sick again. You must get those keys (nutrients) into your body so that you can unlock the power of your immune system.
Below I’ve listed some of the most important supplements to take to boost your immunity
Who needs to take these, and for how long?
- If you’re someone who just doesn’t get good nutrients in, you can take some of these all year long to replace what you’re not getting through food. But remember, I’m not advising these as an excuse to just eat like crap! They’re called supplements for a reason—they’re meant to supplement a diet of a variety of healthy foods.
- If you do better with nutrition in the summer when more fresh fruits and veggies are available, then you can add these in during the cold winter months when you’re susceptible to illness and not eating as well.
- If you’re one of those people who gets sick a lot, then you may want to start these now, and take them for a few months to kick-start your immunity while you are trying to focus on the foods I’ve been writing about in the series and eating better in general.
- If you have specific health issues, especially digestive issues, then some of these in particular may be vital for you to take for a few months to enhance the aspect of your immunity that comes from your gut. Many believe that the gut is the largest organ of immunity in the system, and no attempt at increasing immunity would be sufficient if the digestion is not addressed. (more on this in future articles)
What are the supplements?
A good multi-vitamin: Due to modern agriculture, even our vegetables lack the nutrients they once had. A good multi is therefore recommended for everyone regardless of whether we’re working on immunity, but even more important if you’ve been getting sick a lot. Forget about going out and taking super cheap multis. A study in San Francisco of their sewage sludge found tons of Centrum-type “one a day” vitamins in it. In order to get the amount of vitamins into a “one a day”, not only can your body simply not absorb all of that at one time, but they have to use substances packed so tightly to fit it all in, that your body simply can’t break it apart and it often just comes out in your poop. The moral of the story is, with supplements, you get what you pay for. It’s almost always more expensive to produce a form of a vitamin that can be absorbed, and along with the research it took to figure this out, that’s what’s reflected in the price. While the bottle may make it sound good, because cheap vitamins are often not utilized or are simply pooped out whole, they’re often called the most expensive vitamins out there…because you’re paying for nothing.
- Quality Probiotic: Many people have a compromised immune system due to yeasts that have taken over their gut, taxing their immunity and leading to digestive issues which impair your ability to digest the very nutrients you need for a strong immune system. There are daily options, as well as stronger ones that can be taken when also taking antibiotics. In Europe, probiotics are just prescribed right along with antibiotics. If you eat a lot of sugar or carbs, suffer with yeast infections or have a history of antibiotic use, you most likely need a probiotic. If you have no digestive or yeast symptoms, have not taken antibiotics for a long time and eat a healthy diet without a lot of sugars, you can probably skip this one.
- Vitamin D: This is being shown to be a potent component for fighting viruses, and believe it or not, even those of us in sunny Colorado are often lacking in Vit. D. People with very fair skin cover themselves with sunscreen and layers to avoid sun damage, but those blessed with darker skin can be deficient as well because the very melanin which protects them from sun damage is also what keeps their skin from producing this vitamin. Vit D deficiency is being linked to more and more health issues including bone and muscle pain, fatigue, and depression. People with digestive issues such as Chrone’s or IBS are even more likely to be deficient. While it may show up as low immunity or any of the above symptoms, if you are afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), that could be a clue that you don’t produce enough Vit. D. Next time you go for your annual physical, you can ask them to test your Vit. D levels along with your regular bloodwork, which is not very expensive.
- Resveratin: This is one of my dear favorites, due to its vast range of health benefits. While boosting your immune system and decreasing your susceptibility to virus infection, you’re also taking one of the most potent anti-aging supplements known. Although some of these benefits have been known for years, as this is the medicine found in the skin of grapes that gives wine its healthful qualities; science is just recently discovering its importance in immunity. The big thing for the immune system, is that along with being one of the most potent anti-oxidants, more and more studies are finding it to be a powerful anti-viral. A common virus that it most powerfully combats is the herpes simplex virus, both Type I and II; as well as showing affects against HPV and HIV. Some 25% of the population has herpes, and 50% do not know they have it because they are asymptomatic. Often, all it takes is a period of major stress and suddenly the symptoms show up. Chat forums as well as studies are showing that this is as effective as the anti-virals commonly prescribed for herpes. But it also reduces inflammatory markers after high fat meals (hear that, auto-immune and fibromyalgia patients?), has anti-cancer benefits, and as if all of this is not enough, it has also been shown to prolong life and slow the rate of aging in lab studies, which is why it is being labeled as one of the most important “anti-aging” antioxidants to take. While I like to keep my practice about health and not cosmetics, even if we were to take this simply for vanity, think about why it’s helping us retain our youthful look–because it is able to reduce the cellular damage that happens to our body, including our skin, as we age. This is an expensive supplement, but one I believe is well worth the money, especially if you’re someone who suffers from the above mentioned conditions. Breaking apart a capsule and mixing the powder into aloe gel for a salve, can turn it into a topical ointment to be applied directly to cold sores or herpes lesions at the first sign of an outbreak. Studies show that resveratrol cream applied during the first hours of an outbreak can stop the outbreak.
- IgG 2000: This is a patented immunoglobulin, one of the main components of the immune system that targets pathogens like viruses, bacterias, parasites, etc. The immune enhancing benefits of this are largely due to its ability to work on the gut’s role in immunity, by addressing leaky gut, as well as neutralizing foreign microbes in the intestines. Leaky gut is when, due to many reasons but often allergies, food sensitivities, stress, deficiencies, or just a bad diet, we develop “holes” or gaps in the lining of our gut, allowing substances to leak through. These substances are then released into our system mounting a heightened immune response and taxing our immune system. This can lead to autoimmune disorders. It also affects our absorption of nutrients as they leak through the gut. This is becoming a HUGE issue in modern day, due to processed and GMO foods.The key to this product’s magic, is that when we have a poor diet or other digestive issues, many of us have high levels of a substance called Zonulin, which is what causes the breaks in the tight junctions in our gut. IgG 2000 decreases Zonulin levels, so it can’t cause those breaks in the cell junctions. This product was discovered by pig farmers who found that when the piglets were being weaned from their mothers, they would get sick at high rates during this stressful period and lose muscle mass. Giving them IgG not only increased their muscle mass, but decreased the rate of illness so that they did not need as many antibiotics. Studies show that it does the same thing in humans. For anyone with gut or auto-immune issues this is a highly recommended supplement. When our body has to continuously send its immune forces to the gut, it decreases its ability to fend off other pathogens that come in and cause illness, leaving us more susceptible to common colds. Therefore, if you get sick often and have digestive issues, this would be a top priority supplement for you. (update: Xymogen had to change their source for their IgG product, and it now comes from milk. While they say everything except the IgG is removed, they still include a warning for people avoiding dairy. So unfortunately I’m no longer recommending this product since so many people react from dairy)
ImmunotiX 250: This supplement basically takes the molecular “coat” or shield off viruses, which keeps the immune system from seeing and therefore mounting an immune response against them.A study done on marathoners, who often get colds right after a race due to the temporary stress on the immune system, showed that when they took this supplement, they got fewer colds.
- OrganiX PhytoFood: This is just a great supplement to take if you know you’re not getting your servings of veggies and fruits in daily. It’s the equivalent of eating 5-6 servings of some of the most important foods for the immune system due to their anti-oxidant activity. This is one that I recommend in the winter to people who, like myself, try to eat locally and so during the cold months don’t get nearly the amount of veggies and fruits in as they do during the growing season. During the summer months I don’t need to take this, but during winter I see this as a vital addition to my diet. Or, someone who hates vegetables would be another candidate for this, as would someone who may be traveling a lot and eating on the road. While I really hate to give “substitutes” for just a good, rounded, cooked-at-home meal, or encourage people to have an excuse for eating bad because they can just take something like this, I do still “get” the reality that for some people, they’re just not going to get a good diet in. For those people, this could be a crucial addition to their daily nutrient plan. Being a sweet-tasting powder, it’s easy to just mix a scoop in with some water or a smoothy, or blended into yogurt.
Zinc: If you eat foods high in Zinc you probably don’t need to take this (please google these foods, as listing them all is beyond the scope of this article). But if you think you could be lacking, studies show that not only having adequate levels of zinc in your body when a bug hits, but also taking Zinc once you’re sick, decreases the amount of days of an illness.If you have adequate levels, even taking when you’re sick probably won’t help, so save your money for other supplements that will actually make a difference for you.
Your Unique “Immune System Building Kit”
Obviously, not everyone needs to take all of these supplements. Not only is it unnecessary if you’re getting good nutrients from your food, but this can run into a lot of money.
For those of you with immune system issues, you each have individual deficiencies and therefore need a unique “Immune System Kit” that will look different from someone else’s. It would include only those supplements that based on your own individual lifestyle and health status, will benefit you and help keep you from getting sick as often, or temporarily get you through a compromised phase of your life.
Also, remember that if you’re coming in regularly and taking Chinese herbs, you probably need much less supplementation.
Soon, this series will end, and I will get back to focusing on health and balance from a Chinese perspective, as related to our current season.
We are well into the Wood season, my favorite season to write about due to all the challenges, and opportunities it brings us. So stay tuned for one more article in this series, and then get ready for more tips on keeping our liver happy during this season in which it is king!
And don’t forget how beneficial acupuncture can be for boosting immunity!