So itís that time of year when summer is coming to an end and the cooler weather is just around the corner. With cooler weather come colds and flus and a range of other infections. If you want to avoid getting the winter ills start boosting your immune system now to make it nice and strong for the cooler months.
Personally, I have a little cocktail of supplements I take as soon as the cooler weather starts to creep in.
For me Vitamin C, Zinc and a good quality Echinacea helps to keep my immune system strong. This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many different supplements you can take for strengthening you immune system it can be hard to know what to take, so let me talk you through the most commonly prescribed supplements for a good immune system.
I am certain you have all heard that eating foods rich in vitamin C like oranges is good when you have a cold, well guess what it is even more beneficial if you take it on a daily basis to help prevent getting the cold in the first place.
Vitamin C plays an important role in the immune system; it is both anti-bacterial and antiviral so protecting your body against bacterial and viral infections. Did you know that vitamin C also enhances the function of many of our immune cells, making our immune system more effective?
Taking 2000-3000mg per day is a great way to prevent getting sick. If you do happen to get sick taking 500mg every 1 5 to 2 hours will certainly shorten the duration of your illness. (3)
I call zinc the super mineral; it is involved in over 200 enzyme reactions in the body. Everything from blood production to bone building to hormone production to breaking down the alcohol people consume is all dependant on zinc. Our body does not actively store zinc so ensuring plenty of zinc from either food or supplementation is important.
Zinc plays a big role in immunity; it does this by increasing the thymus gland activity, which in turn increases the production of our immune cells. Zinc also inhibits growth and replication of bacteria and viruses. (3)
I recommend a daily dose of 25-30mg for maintenance of the immune system. If you do happen to fall ill you can increase your zinc intake to 50mg per day
Not everyone may have heard of this mineral. Selenium is a very important antioxidant, protecting our body from free radical damage. As well as being a great antioxidant, selenium also greatly enhances the immune system. Adequate levels of selenium in the body have been shown to enhance the production and effectiveness of white blood cells (the most abundant immune cells in our body).
Selenium also protects these white cells from damage whilst they fight infections in our body. (3) There is also some suggestion that having adequate selenium in our body may increase the ability of the immune system to find and destroy abnormal cell growth and cancers.
Most multivitamins have selenium in them but you can also buy selenium by its self in doses of 25mcg all the way up to 150mcg.
You may be aware that Probiotics are good for your digestion, but did you also know Probiotics play an important role in the immune system?
80% of your immune system is located is located in your digestive system, so keeping your digestive system in good health will almost certainly improve your immune system. Probiotics play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in the digestive tract. Probiotics also help the production of antibodies against bugs that enter our system.
I recommend taking a broad spectrum Probiotic with at least 25 billion bacteria per dose daily.
I am fairly confident in saying that everyone has heard of Echinacea. Echinacea is well known to help fight both bacterial and viral infections. Did you also know that taking Echinacea as a preventative medicine will help you not to get sick in the first place?
Thatís right Echinacea can be taken on a daily basis without any side effects. One of the most common myths about Echinacea is that it can only be taken when you are sick and that it is harmful to take it in the longer term, this myth was proven wrong some years ago by the leading Australian authority in herbal medicine Professor Kerry Bone.
Echinacea stimulates the immune system, enhances resistance to infection particularly of the upper respiratory tract and it can also assist in the recovery from chemotherapy. (1)
The dosage of Echinacea for prevention of infection is 1-4 grams daily. For acute infections dosage can be increased to 10-15g per day.
Astragalus is a little known herb that has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine. It is known for restoring and strengthening the bodyís immune response and increasing the bodyís vitality.
Astragalus is a fabulous herb for those people who have an impaired immune system, especially indicated for those people who keep getting recurrent infections or for those people suffering with chronic or stubborn infections that they simply canít shift. I like to prescribe Astragalus for those people who are recovering from nasty infections such as glandular fever to help re build the immune system.
I recommend taking this herb for a good 8 weeks. A general recommended dose is 500 to 1,000mg of Astragalus root capsules or tablets taken three times daily.
This humble berry has become very popular over the past few years, with more and more Elderberry products appearing on health food shelves over the last 18 months. So what is elderberry you ask?
Elderberries have been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. Elderberry is used to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. The most exciting aspect to Elderberry is that bioflavonoids and other proteins in the berry destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. (2)
Thatís right this little berry can actually stop a virus from infecting cells. That is pretty cool stuff. I commonly prescribe Elderberry for viral infections, studies have proven elderberry a potent antiviral even inhibiting the H1N1 (swine flu) virus.
General dosage for liquid is 15-40ml per week of herbal extract or 2-3 tablets per day (each tablet should have a min of 2g of elderberry). Dosage can be increased in an acute infection.
Andrographis has been used in India for centuries; in India andrographis is known as kalmegh which means Ďking of bittersí. Andrographis has a wide array of uses; itís a bitter tonic, liver stimulant, anti inflammatory and antioxidant but by far its most common use is as an immune stimulant.
Andrographis is a valuable herb for both viral and bacterial infections, everything from the common cold and tonsillitis to gastrointestinal infections and urinary infections. I often prescribe this herb in the acute stage of an infection or as a daily preventative through the cooler months.
Recommended dosage is 2000-3000mg per day and can be increased to 6000mg per day in an acute infection. (1)
One of the easiest ways to help your immunity is to eat the right foods. Having a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables will give your body lots of valuable nutrients to help your immune system. Raw honey is a lovely addition to ones diet and is highly anti bacterial too. Eating raw garlic is very beneficial; however cooking garlic can destroy some of its health-promoting compounds. More great immune-boosting foods that should be included in the diet include miso, ginger, onion, yoghurt, green tea and seaweed.
As you can see there are plenty of nutritional supplements and herbal medicines to help get your Immune system in great shape before the cooler months arrive, start taking some today to ensure you stay fit and healthy this winter.
Written by Lea McIntyre - Naturopath - ND BHSc
Lea has had many years of professional experience as a naturopath working with her patients and clients both in her clinic and as a senior retail naturopathic adviser. When Lea is not helping people stay well and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, she is busy caring for and nurturing her two young children.
1. Bone K, Mills S. Principles and practice of phytotherapy2000. Churchill livingstone.
2. J Alt Compl Mod 1995: 1:361-69 2. Youdim KA, Martin A, Joseph JA. Incorporation of the elderberry anthocyanins by endothelial cells increases protection against oxidative stress. Free Radical Biol Med 2000: 29:51 60
3. Jefferay, K.Vitamins and vitamin like substances. 2nd edition. 2001
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