Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Immune-Boosting Supplements for Cold & Flu Season

The best ways for staying healthy during the cold & flu season are eating regular, nutritious meals; getting enough high-quality sleep; avoiding stress; spending time outdoors; and exercising moderately. It may also be helpful to take a few dietary supplements on a daily basis to boost immunity.

Here is a list of immune-boosting supplements for kids and adults to consider taking on a daily basis. They are easily available in health food stores and come from a western, naturopathic medical perspective as opposed to a Chinese medicine perspective.

1. Vitamin D tops the list. Vitamin D3 is essential to immune-function and has been shown to help prevent flu as well as to significantly reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. A healthy supplement dose is 5,000IU for adults, 2,000-2,500IU for children and 1,000IU for babies. Doseage can be increased therapeutically to treat cold and flu infections.

Fermented cod liver oil is an excellent source of bioavailable vitamin D.

Here's a summary of one recent Vitamin D study that show Vitamin D3 supplementation can cut your chances of catching the flu nearly in half:

The study, entitled "Randomized Trial of Vitamin D Supplementation to Prevent Seasonal Influenza A in Schoolchildren," published in a 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, compared two groups of schoolchildren during the 2008-2009 cold & flu season. The children in the test group, who were given daily vitamin D3 supplementation (1200 IU/day) contracted contracted the Influenza A virus at a rate of 58% of the rate at which the non-supplemented control group contracted the virus. Children with a previous history of asthma who received vitamin D3 supplementation in the study developed asthma as a secondary symptom to influenza A infection at a far lesser rate than the children in the non-supplemented group who contracted influenza A.

A lot has been written lately about the importance of vitamin D3. Here is a nice summary article by a colleague, Los Angeles pediatric acupuncturust Emily Bartlett, L.Ac.

2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids establish healthy cell membranes that prevent inflammation and resist toxins and attack by viral and bacterial pathogens.

Best sources are high quality fish oil or cod liver oil.

Here are some useful articles on fish oil:
Cod Liver Oil Basics and Recommendations by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Ph.D. of the Weston A. Price Foundation (includes recommended brands & suppliers)
Benefits of Fermented Cod Liver Oil by Emily Bartlett, L.Ac.

3. Vitamin C fights and prevents infection. Vitamin C produced from acerola is better absorbed by humans than synthetic ascorbic acid.

For adults or children who get frequent colds or are around sick kids a lot, consider:

1. Colostrum helps the body to resist infection.

2. Zinc is anti-viral. It stimulates immune function, prevents infections, and acts as a cofactor in many enzyme reactions, including the creation of antioxidants. There is some convincing evidence that zinc can shorten the duration of colds and reduce the severity of symptoms. Prolonged use of zinc can cause a copper deficiency, so use a supplement that combines both in a ratio 10 zinc: 1 copper.

3. Medicinal mushrooms
I took this from Dr. Mercola's website:

There is another exciting emerging supplement that can be a very helpful adjunct to supporting your immune system, and that's mushrooms.

Over 300 different species of mushrooms are now believed to have human health-promoting potential. Evidence continues to emerge, confirming how mushrooms' proteins, trace minerals, polysaccharides, amino acids and fiber support overall health by:

  • Promoting normal cellular growth
  • Protecting against environmental stressors
  • Supporting your body's normal detoxification process
  • Supporting healthy gut flora
  • Promoting optimal digestion

While most people think only of eating the fleshy fruiting body of the mushroom, meaning the part you see growing above ground, most of the magic in the mushroom is actually located in their complex root structure that grows underground, called the mycelium, which can be up to 95 percent of a mushroom's total biomass.

Beta glucans and proteoglycans are the primary biologically active compounds in the mushroom fruit body and mycelia that support your immune system.

Beta glucans are chains of polysaccharides, and proteoglycans are special proteins, often found in connective tissue. The beta glucans found in mushrooms are large and complex long-chain molecules. What sets certain beta glucans apart are their unique side-branching patterns. Just like a key and lock, the beta glucan compounds in mushrooms "fit" perfectly with cellular receptor sites that support your immune system.

A supplement containing a blend of medicinal mushrooms is best.

If your child is not eating a varied and nutrient-rich diet, consider supplementing:

1. Vitamin A isessential for growth and repair of tissue, strong bones and teeth, good eyesight and a thriving immune system.

2. Vitamin E reduces inflammation throughout the body and strengthens the immune system. Vitamin E with mixed tocopherols is best for kids.

If you're coming down with a cold, consider taking any of these herbs/supplements:
  • echinacea, goldenseal, elderberry extract
  • vitamin C acerola
  • zinc
  • propolis
  • oregano oil
  • olive leaf extract