We have officially moved into colder weather, and the warm days of fall are behind us. With the cold weather comes illness- it seems everyone is sick lately. One of the best things is to wash hands frequently, and try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
The only other way to increase the odds that you will stay healthy is to boost the immune system. Luckily, there are a number of very effective immune boosters which can go a long way to help your body to win the fight against bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin D is great for the immune system and a host of other body processes, most notably bone health (here’s a link to a list of some of the latest research). Studies have shown that higher levels of vitamin D can actually have a positive effect on genes which modulate immune response, and help the body to fight off illness more effectively. In the past, most people would only take 400IUs per day of vitamin D, but new research is recommending 2000IUs (or even more who have low blood levels) per day for maximum health. Vitamin D should be taken with food for best absorption. The body can manufacture vitamin D from the sun, but since most people are indoors in the cold weather, they aren’t able to make the amounts needed for optimal health.
I love probiotics. They’re best known for their benefits to digestion, but they can also be very helpful for the immune system. Something many people don’t realize is that it’s estimated that 60-70% of our body’s immune system is in the gut, as a vast network of lymph tissue that works to prime the body against harmful bacteria. Probiotics are particularly nice since they can be taken by people who may be unable to take herbal immune boosters, like pregnant women and children.
Mushroom extracts are very popular for immune support in Asia and have been used for many years; they are only just beginning to become well known in the US. The two I would most recommend are AHCC and beta glucan. AHCC helps to enhance the activity of our body’s NK cells, the “natural killer” cells, which are the first to launch an attack on foreign bacteria and viruses. NK cells also can help to destroy tumors and virus infected cells, because of which it is a popular anti-cancer therapy. Beta glucan, another mushroom extract (though it can also be made from yeast extracts), works similarly to AHCC, activating NK cells and stimulating the immune system. It is also taken by many cancer patients since it may inhibit and reduce proliferation.
When I start to feel sick, mushroom extracts like AHCC and beta glucan are the first things I take, and I really do think they make a difference.
Black elderberry syrup, also known as Sambucus, is a fantastic supplement to have in your arsenal in the colder months. Compounds in elderberry have been shown to help fight colds and flu- I actually wouldn’t say that there is a better supplement to fight the flu virus. Research has suggested that it works to “short circuit” the flu virus, and clinical studies have been very impressive with its results. In two different recent studies, participants who took elderberry syrup recovered from the flu virus significantly faster than placebo groups, one study showing that participants were symptom free after only two days. Also, elderberry syrup is delicious so it’s an easy supplement to take (it’s also great for kids).
There are many of other very effective immune boosting supplements, oregano oil, olive leaf, astragalus, and more. We also especially love the immune formula by Irwin Naturals called Immuno Shield. It is one of the most complete immune complexes available, combining a list of very well researched ingredients to help you to stay healthy. Almost all of us at the store take it preventatively during cold and flu season.