Hi friends! What a strange time we are living in…I pray this finds you well. While COVID-19 is being talked about and researched everywhere, there is still so much unknown; so while I’m not here to discuss the virus itself, what I am here to do is help you know how to strengthen your body and your immune system so that it can do its job because I’m a firm believer that God created and equipped us for health and for healing. We see people being hit much harder than others; one reason for this is that their immune system is likely unable to fully do its job.
First, know that I’m not a doctor…I am a mom as well as a Nutritional Therapist who just wants to do what I can for my family, my clients and myself to be able to fight against ALL the germs floating around out there. I won’t harp on hand washing and staying home, I think we all know how critical both are…and both ARE critical.
While I know that medicine can play an important role in combating illness, I also believe in the power of prevention. When it comes to COVID-19, or any illness for that matter, we know that it is a lot easier to prevent it than to try to cure it. I must say that Benjamin Franklin was on to something: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! That said, everything here is simply advice on how to support immune health and is only intended to help reduce susceptibility to infection.
Supporting our immune system so that it can do its job is essential to overall health. There are some key components we must have in order to have properly functioning immune systems: hydration, a nutrient-dense diet that is void of inflammatory foods, sleep, stress management, movement, and exercise. In this first post, we will cover the ways we can support our immune system nutritionally; in the next post, we will cover how lifestyle impacts our ability to fight off disease.
First of all, staying hydrated is crucial for ALL of our systems; but regarding immune function, plenty of water is important for many aspects. First, mucus membranes in the mouth, nose and stomach are our first lines of defense against pathogens; as you might guess, water is needed for that barrier function. The lymphatic system also relies heavily on water to transport immune components. Finally, we need water in order to flush toxins through the kidneys and out of the body; again, no system functions properly in a toxic state, including the immune system.
Secondly, diet plays a huge role in having an optimally functioning immune system. The first piece to this is a nutrient-dense diet, this refers to a diet that is full of the following: a variety of fruits and vegetables; high-quality meats such as grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and pork, and wild-caught fish; fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, or kimchi; and organ meats such as liver. A variety of foods ensures that we are getting all the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy immune system and gut mircrobiome, another key component of immune function. The other half of this is a diet void of inflammatory foods, namely processed & fast foods, refined & hydrogenated oils (vegetable, corn, canola or soybean to name a few) and refined sugar. These foods, if consumed in excess, block the body’s ability to counteract inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of almost ALL disease, including but not limited to infectious diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disease, allergies and so many more! There are even studies linking depression to inflammation! So, avoiding inflammation means avoiding disease!
Next, we’ll touch on a few select nutrients that are essential for immune health:
Vitamin D is crucial for disease prevention, from the common cold to cancer, as one of its many functions is to decrease inflammation. Our body makes Vitamin D in response to sun exposure; if your time outdoors is limited, dietary Vitamin D is more important than ever. Take advantage of this time at home to get outside and enjoy some sunshine…not only is it essential for Vitamin D production, it is also a great way to boost your mood and enhance brain function. Vitamin D can also obtained from organ meats, fatty fish, mushrooms and egg yolks from pastured hens. If you are deficient, food sources often aren’t enough to reach optimal levels; therefore, supplementation may be necessary. You do want to know before supplementing if you’re deficient, this can be easily done from your home through https://www.everlywell.com/
Vitamin A plays a big role in immune function in that it is partially responsible for building up our mucosal lining, one of our first lines of defense against pathogens. The lining of our nose, respiratory and gastrointestinal system are all part of this, and, when invaders try to make their way into our body, these systems go to work to fight them off. If our mucosal lining is able to do its job, we often never know there was even a potential invader. Vitamin A is also important for several different immune cells to do their job, and it even aids in detoxification, which is extra critical when we are sick. Not to be confused with its precursor, Beta Carotene (the vitamin found in orange-colored fruits and vegetables), Vitamin A is only obtained from animal sources like fatty fish, liver, eggs and raw or grass-fed, full-fat dairy products. If you don’t get fatty fish and/or liver twice a week, consider supplementing with cod liver oil.
Note: under normal circumstances I would suggest mega doses of Vitamins A & D if you feel you are coming down with something; however, there is lots of talk about Vitamins A & D increasing the expression of ACE2 receptors, which the Corona virus takes over in order to get into our cells. For this reason, focusing on food sources of these vitamins is more important than ever.
Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants we can get. It is a key player in fighting off free radicals, which, simply put, damage our cells. It is a necessary nutrient to support functions of both our innate and our adaptive immune systems, our second and third lines of defense. Our best sources include dark leafy greens, citrus and bell peppers. Vitamin C supplementation is hard to overdo, as too much will result in digestive distress and we will know to back off the dosage.
B Vitamins are responsible for making antibodies, what our bodies make to neutralize pathogens. Deficiency in certain B vitamins (specifically B6, B9 and B12) has been linked to higher risk of infection. Red meat, liver and shellfish are the best sources of B vitamins.
Zinc is also a critical component of a well-functioning immune system, as it is responsible for both the development of and the function of immune cells. Zinc lozenges help support immune function and could even be effective in preventing coronavirus and other viruses from multiplying in the throat and nasopharynx. Upon symptoms occurring, you could use a zinc lozenge several times a day, laying down to allow it to dissolve down your throat and nasopharynx. As with Vitamin C, our bodies cannot make zinc, so we must get it from food or from supplementation. If liver and oysters, the best sources of zinc, are not a regular part of your diet, consider supplementation.
Keep in mind, we are trying to strengthen our immune system, giving it the tools it needs to do its job, but this isn’t a foolproof system. If you do get sick don’t forget the basics: sleep, nutrition and hydration. As will discuss more in the next post, you cannot restore and rebuild your cells without adequate sleep…it is essential, so give in to your body and sleep when it is asking you to. And don’t forego eating well when you are sick; nourishment is even more important during this time. When your grandma wanted to make chicken soup when you were sick, she wasn’t just trying to warm you up. A homemade broth from a high quality chicken is incredibly hydrating, healing and high in vitamins, minerals and collagen (great for those mucosal linings we talked about earlier. Bonus: it’s great for your skin!). And don’t forget: drink your water, and adding a pinch of high quality sea salt can restore minerals lost during sickness.
Finally, let us remember that God has given us so many tools to assist us in our journey towards health and healing. We serve a God who is in all and over all and promises us wisdom when we seek it wholeheartedly. Let us move forward, not in fear but in wisdom, as he has instructed us to do. And, as 1 Peter 5:7 says, “give all your cares and worries to God, for he cares about you.” Be well, friends!
*Please note: I am a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner not a doctor. Information in this, or any post by me, is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent illness. Please talk to your doctor before making any changes to your nutritional program.