Immune Boosting Superfoods & Supplements
I’m pretty sure I always talk about immune boosting foods and supplements, but here is an official blog post and list of my favorites!
Now is the time to truly focus on your immune system. There is a rampant virus on the loose, and it is extremely contagious. Research shows that someone with the seasonal flu will give it to an average of 1.5 people, whereas with Corona virus, it can be transferred to 2.5-3 people. This means you have a significantly higher risk of contracting Covid-19. Especially if you are immunocompromised and older. Although many young people under 40 are also being hospitalized with the virus, so this is no joke. Along with your best line of defense (handwashing, hand sanitizer, PPE, social distancing) you should also focus on boosting your immune system to fight off this virus.
This includes focusing on nourishing your body so it can function at its highest, most optimal level. This includes eating nutrient dense rich foods to help decrease inflammation and boost immunity so it can fight off pesky pathogens. This includes focusing on self-care activities such as exercise and meditation that reduce the stress response which will inherently improve your immune system.
Although we are in a quarantined situation, that doesn’t mean we need to be eating canned food void of nutrition, oodles of noodles, or dry packaged foods. We still have an abundance of food, and have had reassurance that we won’t be running out (and toilet paper too, I mean the stuff is made here in Canada, we’re fine). Organic vegetables, fresh fruits, and grass-fed meats are easily available. Superfoods like spirulina line the shelves of your health food stores and supplements are ready for you to pick up at your convenience. There is no shortage of healthy nutrition available. So let’s use this time to get back to our roots and nourish our bodies.
Because food is medicine.
Food is the most important thing you should be focusing on right now to nourish your body.
Every single bite you take is either fighting disease or feeding it. That is powerful. And every bite is what you choose to put on your fork. Are you fighting disease or feeding it?
Toxic foods trigger the immune response, and inflammation creates havoc in the body. A healthy and robust diet creates a healthy and robust body and mind. Inflammatory foods such as sugars, alcohol, dairy, and unhealthy or rancid fats set off the immune response repeatedly so your body is in a chronic state of inflammation. How can your body not only heal itself when it is in this state, but create the groundwork needed to prevent illness from entering the body?
By removing inflammatory foods you lower your risk for inflammation in the body. Then your cells are active to work on eliminating bacteria and pathogens and rid the body of these toxins. This is why nutrition is so essential during a period of time when you need to have a thriving immune system. Eating toxic foods only fan the flames of inflammation when instead we want to put out the fire. I talked about this at the Health From Home online Summit event last week, but consuming sugar actually decreases your white cells ability to engulf harmful bacteria and kill it by 40%! That is wild. The research also proved that this immune response started less than 30 minutes after ingesting sugar, and lasted up to 5 hours. FIVE HOURS. This is significant. That’s like, a lot of time for harmful bacteria to scoot around your body and wreak some havoc. No thank you.
Remember, this is where you are in control of how you can fuel your body. And I’m not just talking about choosing and eliminating foods to reduce your chances of contracting Covid-19. But other diseases such as cancer, autoimmune issues (Diabetes, IBS, Crohn's, psoriasis, MS, arthritis), mental health issues (depression, anxiety, addiction, psychosis), heart disease, obesity, and many, many more.
So I’ve created a list of superfoods and supplements that not only help nourish the body from a preventative perspective but help calm the storms of inflammation presently in the body. Whether this is from a unhealthy diet or a stressful lifestyle, inflammation is the most important predictor of a compromised immune system, so we should all be focusing on reducing this negative response in the body so we can ensure a strong immune response to not only fight off infections, but can possibly protect you from Covid-19.
Make lemons your new best friend. Plus, you probably can’t see your best friend right now anyways, so Lucy Lemon is a great substitute. Lemons are high in antioxidants and works as an antiviral and antibiotic. It supports your immune system by flushing out toxins. It can also prevent bacterial growth by improving our function of ‘natural killer cells’ to help eliminate infection and promote antimicrobial activity. Tip: add it to warm water in the morning or use in a salad dressing.
I love ginger and have been adding it to my dandelion tea in the morning. Ginger is also antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory. Ginger can help decrease pain, and swelling, and fight off cold viruses. On a digestion level, ginger helps cleanse the colon, relieve indigestion, and stimulates production of digestive juices, which is why it’s so important to have in the morning. Tip: Add into your morning lemon water or make a ginger tea. I also plan on making an epic ahi tuna bowl with fresh pickled ginger!
Turmeric is probably the mother of all superfoods. Antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. It is also an anti-oxidant as well that helps lower the free radicals in your body that may contribute to inflammation thus decreasing your immune response. It is essential to add black pepper to turmeric as it contains a special compound to make it more bioavailable. How can you consume more turmeric? Turmeric tea such as turmeric golden mylk by botanica, or add turmeric to your favourite curry dish! We all know you are cooking more anyways. Or you can do what I do, where I peel turmeric and chop it up into thumbnail size pieces, add black pepper, and eat it raw.
Research shows that it increases the number of white blood cells which work to fight infections. Eccinacea can help prevent colds and flus and help soothe sore throats. You can take as a supplement, throat spray, or in a tea form.
I have been drinking this a lot, mainly because I am trying not to drink 8 cups of coffee per day. Oops. Apparently I haven’t got the ‘decrease caffeine intake’ memo… shhh. Dandelion root specifically is very rich in inulin, which is a type of fiber that our good bacteria likes to eat, also known as a prebiotic. So sugar typically feeds your bad bacteria (resulting once again in bloating, indigestion, contributes to candida overgrowth, lowers immunity) whereas prebiotics such as inulin feeds the good bacteria which helps promote a healthy gut. Dandelion also contains potent antioxidants which we also know helps neutralize and prevents negative effects of free radicals in the body.
Greens and Vegetables
Get a wide variety in your diet. Organic is always best. Our soil is the microbiome of the earth, so you want to make sure you are getting foods grown in nutrient rich soil. Get creative! During your 1 time a week trip to the grocery store, because yes we should only be going once per week, buy ingredients you wouldn’t typically buy. Beets, arugula, squashes, dandelion greens, shallots, collard greens… the list is endless. Different fruits and vegetables offer a wide variety of micronutrients that will help once again support your immune system on a cellular level. Vegetables also contain that good fiber that we want to help feed our good gut bacteria.
So if you know me in the social media space, I absolutely love promoting bone broth. I know I said this about turmeric but THIS is actually like the mother of all superfoods. It is literally as healing as it gets. I often refer to it as “liquid gold” to which my cousin always makes fun of me because she is breastfeeding and says breast milk is the “real liquid gold”... but for us non-infants there’s bone broth.
Okay so why am I so obsessed with this stuff? Well bone broth is packed with amino acids such as glycine, arginine, glutamine, and proline. These nutrients are so important and help with muscle and joint pain, help to repair the gut lining (glutamine specifically), and glycine is actually needed to produce glutathione. Glutathione is another one of the essential nutrients for immunity. Glutathione is an antioxidant that triggers the detox pathways in the liver and is extremely beneficial for immunity and offsetting celular disease. At the clinic where I work, with Dr Chelsea Gronick and Dr Emily Pratt, we do glutathione IV pushes which is the most optimal way of delivering nutrients. So if you are looking for support on a cellular level, vitamin infusions are definitely the way to go!
I digress, back to the liquid gold. Bone broth is rich in collagen which is essential for hair, nails, and skin support. On an immunity boosting level, collagen helps repair the gut lining, and a strong intestinal lining helps decrease the inflammation in your body, thus increasing your immune system’s ability to fight off illness. There are tons of recipes online, as well as I have a blog post on bone broth that you can read here. Bone broth is also readily available at most grocery stores, so if you aren’t keen on stirring up a big pot of witches brew, then you can purchase it at your convenience. My favourite company and local here in Kelowna is Boned Broth, and even comes with a vegan broth. Another amazing company is Bo & Marrow, located in Edmonton (my hometown!) and is available at health food stores across the country.
Along with getting all the nutrients you can get in food, I also have some recommendations for supplements you should take as well. Also just an fyi just like anything in life you get what you pay for and a higher quality vitamin might be more expensive but will be more effective.
I think this is at the top of every list, podcast, blog post about boosting immunity but that’s because it is true. Vitamin C supports the function of various immune cells and also enhances their ability to fight against infection. I personally take between 1000 mg and 2000 per day.
Food Sources: broccoli, cauliflower, lemons, peppers, cherries, strawberries, oranges, brussel sprouts
Also very important and in my opinion gets less credibility than it should. Zinc is essential for immune cell development and communication and plays a very important role in the inflammatory response. It is the second most abundant trace mineral in the body (next to Iron) and plays an extensive role in stabilizing cell structure, immune function, wound healing, cell division, blood clotting, thyroid function, and more. Zinc is best absorbed from meat and animal proteins. I take Ionic Zinc supplementation from the company Avena Originals to ensure optimal absorption! Be aware when you shop for zinc as it comes in many forms (zinc citrate, zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate) but you want to aim for 50mg of elemental zinc.
Food sources: red meat, seafood, dairy products, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
Lysine is another commonly overlooked vitamin for immune support, but one I keep in my vitamin cabinet and bring it out when I am needing an immune boost! Lysine is an amino acid, and an essential amino acid at that, meaning our body cannot make it so we must obtain it from food or a vitamin. Not only does lysine boost immunity (it also helps reduces cold sores by blocking absorption of arginine which may cause cold sore outbreaks) but research shows it also helps reduce anxiety and reduce cortisol levels. I take 500mg-1000mg per day, and am currently taking 1000mg daily right now to support my immune system.
Food sources: red meat, chicken, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, wheat germ, and spirulina.
Yes, vitamin A is great for vision but is also a known immune enhancer. It's also important to note that Vitamin A must be absorbed by the intestinal lining, which is why intestinal health is so important! When you are deficient in Vitamin A, this actually signals to your body to produce pro-inflammatory cytokines that may contribute to autoimmune disease. Getting ample foods in your diet is the best way to ensure high levels of Vitamin A.
Food sources: beef liver, cod liver oil, sweet potato (not yams!), carrots, spinach, broccoli, red peppers
It's important to have all the B Vitamins but B6 specifically helps regulate immune function. B vitamins are also essential for the nervous system and brain development.
Food sources: pork, poultry, eggs, salmon, tuna, carrots, sweet potato, avocado, bananas
Probiotics and Fermented foods
I might go on a bit of a rant here… only because I think probiotics are the single most important thing all of us should be taking! I feel like I kind of am a probiotic enabler.. I legit tell everyone I can about taking a probiotic or eating fermented foods because it is essentially the only way we can support our gut health and balance out our microbiome. Our gut bacteria should be about 85% good bacteria! Bacteria control our immunity. An unhealthy gut microbiome (which is an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria) lower our immune system because more bacteria can leak through the damaged gut lining (also called leaky gut) which further sets off an immune response and can lead to systemic inflammation.
Our gut bacteria also target cells that have been hijacked by a virus or parasite or anything that threatens our cell integrity. People that have an imbalanced gut microbiome are typically sick more often, I can definitely attest to this. When bad bacteria outgrow good bacteria, not only are we unable to effectively digest foods and absorb nutrients but we are down the numbers of good bacteria that help fight off those infected cells.
Probiotics help colonize our intestines, but once you stop taking them, their counts decline. Just like when you stop eating sugar, you slow the overgrowth of bad bacteria, well the same goes for probiotics, if you stop taking them, the good bacteria stops growing. So this is why it is critical to consume probiotic foods on the daily. Probiotics help control the intestinal permeability by mediating the tight junction integrity. So essentially probiotics help keep you gut lining more stable so toxins cannot leak into the bloodstream and cause mayhem.
Along with taking a probiotic supplement, it is important to eat fermented foods as well, as these are rich and plentiful in probiotics. Wild Brine has some serious amazing flavours, from a smokey kale kraut flavour, to a curried cauliflower, and even have probiotic salsas. Probiotic foods, especially sauerkraut has up to 700 mg of vitamin C per cup, which we all know is essential for immunity, plus this option is relatively cheaper than actual supplements and are packed with probiotics and prebiotics.
For probiotics I am currently taking HMF powder which is packed with essential probiotics like lactibacillus acidophilus and bifido bacterium and it’s a powdered form that is easily absorbable. I also take bifido bacterium, which is the healthy bacteria we want specifically to nourish our colon. ....
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin essential for your immune system. Vitamin D enhances the pathogen fighting effects of white blood cells that are important parts of your immune defense, helping to fight off inflammation thus improving immune response. I take 2000 iu per day. Recommendations are usually 1000-4000 iu per day. Also getting out into the sunshine is the real vitamin D MVP, so as our climate is getting warmer, try to spend some time outside getting sunshine, of course maintaining social distancing rules.
No no, not psychedelic mushrooms, which there is some rapidly growing research on those for mental health, but I don’t have time to get into that today! But medicinal mushrooms such as lions mane, reishi, cordyceps, and turkey tail are super beneficial in boosting immunity. I often buy four sigmatic mushroom teas and coffees, and am currently using the Immune 7 mushroom by purica which has 7 medicinal mushrooms specific for immune support. I actually had a client at the clinic once tell me that she had a stubborn cough for years and other respiratory symptoms and since starting this it has never returned and she swears by it. So, naturally I had to try it.
Resveratrol is a newly recognized nutraceutical in the world of immune boosting. Research on humans have shown that taking resveratrol has an overall suppressive effect on oxidative and inflammatory stress-which is the main cause of a suppressed immune system. You can find this compound in grapes (and yes Red wine but alcohol may pose some immune suppressing activity as well), cocoa, peanuts, and in some berries (blueberries and cranberries). In the biohacking world, resveratrol has anti-aging properties specifically in relation to insulin resistance. This is definitely up my alley and I currently take 250 mg daily.
Juice Plus Capsules
My saving grace. I think literally the only time I get sick is when I stop taking them. Side note to always bring them when I’m travelling! These little goodies are PACKED with over 30 nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. The fiber and sugars are extracted and you are left with vine-ripened beautiful nutrition. You heard my speel above about getting a wide variety of fruits and veggies in your diet to offer a wide variety of micronutrients and antioxidants, well this helps bridge that gap. Once again, nutrition is our first line of defense when it comes to building our immune system, and juice plus is literally only food. It also has digestive enzymes and probiotics which I mentioned is essential for optimal digestive which of course is important for a healthy immune system.
I should also mention that these are 100% absorbable as it is once again just essentially food that our body recognizes. It is vine-ripened and picked at the peak nutritious state to ensure we get the best micronutrient quality to support our bodies. I also take the plant-based omegas, which are essential fatty acids to promote cell growth. Another thing I love about JP, is that since I am lower carbohydrate and don’t necessarily eat a wide variety of fruits and veggies, these ensure I get optimal micronutrients and antioxidants in my diet. Oh and the best part? If you have children (man child’s don’t count…) they get their own juice plus gummies (or they can choose the capsules!) for absolutely free!! Once again, I don’t have kids, but women I have the pleasure of working with tell me that JP gummies have been a game changer in their children’s health, from ridding kids of their eczema to also getting them off their puffers to boosting their immune system. Not only is nutrition essential in healing the body for us adults, but imagine what it can do for your children when they start taking it as an infant/young child!
I have been aligned with this company for almost 2 years now and not only has it supported my immune system throughout then, but during this period of time when I am out of work, it has provided me with some financial support until we return to our normal. There are many published research articles on the immune boosting effects of Juice Plus, and if you’d like any more information on the products or the business please don’t hesitate to reach out, or view the products here. Remember your health is your best investment.