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The ultimate immune-support toolkit

Posted on Posted in cold and flu, immune system, preventionTagged , , , , ,

With cold and flu season upon us, I wanted to share my own personal regimen* for immune support – both from a maintenance perspective, and an “oh shit I’ve been exposed” one. Our immune systems had a long break from meeting new pathogens, so it makes sense that we’re seeing more frequent and virulent bugs. Our immune systems aren’t “broken,” they’re just unfamiliar with all these new players and it’s going to take some time for those B-lymphocytes to get their A-game back (see what I did there science nerds)?

*I have no affiliation with these products – they’re just the one’s I’ve found to be high quality and reasonably priced.

Maintenance Tools (things I use daily or weekly to support immunity)

  • First and foremost – the neti-pot is one of the most powerful tools we have for keeping the nasal passages clean and open! Viruses and bacteria like to cozy up in our nasal passages and throat, so flushing these areas is a commonsense (and ancient) method for preventing illness. I try to use my neti-pot every day, or at least a few times per week. This also does wonders for my dust-mite allergies. If you’re someone with indoor/outdoor allergies, or frequent sinus issues, the neti-pot is your best friend. You can also gargle with 1/2 hydrogen peroxide + 1/2 water, after concern for exposure.

 

  • A good quality multivitamin. While there isn’t a ton of specific evidence to strongly support taking a multivitamin, I’m fairly certain my diet doesn’t always include the nutrients I need daily, so I take a multivitamin to fill in the gaps. This one (for women)┬áhas a nice amount of folate, vitamin D, K2, Omega-3, CoQ10, biotin, iodine, and choline. Plus, who doesn’t want to chew 6 gummies per day?

 

  • Vitamin D3. A hormone made in the body, D3 is important for a healthy immune system, and low vitamin D levels have been associated with a host of chronic diseases. Most folks at this latitude simply don’t get enough sunlight year-round to produce adequate vitamin D; other factors including genetics, skin tone, age, obesity, and chronic conditions, can impact our ability to make vitamin D. The most important caveat – you MUST have your vitamin D levels checked at least once, ideally twice per year if you’re on supplementation. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so it can accumulate to toxic doses if levels are not monitored and doses adjusted accordingly.
    • The ideal reference range is 40-60 ng/ml – but many labs will report normal ranges at a minimum of 20-30, so be sure you know the number, not just whether the lab says its “normal.” Lastly, if your vitamin D levels are very low (less than 20 ng/ml), you may need a prescription-strength replacement. Vitamin D status is something I check on ALL patients, because I feel it’s just that important. :jumps off vitamin d soapbox::

 

  • Adaptogenic, immune-supporting mushrooms! Turkey tail and Reishi are my favorites.
    • Turkey tail has been used in many cultures to support the immune system, mainly through two protein-bound polysaccharides, PSP and PSK. Both have been used commercially in other countries to strengthen the immune systems of those undergoing cancer treatments, by increasing the proliferation of T and B cells. Turkey tail also contains antioxidants, which protect our DNA from free-radical damage, and support the gut, liver, and inflammatory response.
    • When combined with Reishi, the effects are heightened even further. Studies in rats have shown the beta-glucans in Reishi increase production of T-cells and natural killer cells, both important for helping the immune system fight off invaders. The adaptogenic compounds in Reishi provide support to our systems on a cellular level, helping the body and mind adapt fluidly to health stressors and maintain “allostasis” – aka maintaining homeostasis through adaptation of the body’s internal environment to meet changing demands.
    • Reishi are also lovely for lowering stress and anxiety, supporting restful sleep, and may help regulate blood sugars and support respiratory health. My favorite brand of adaptogenic mushrooms is by Doublewood Supplements. Make sure the company’s mushroom extracts are double extracted. There’s tons of controversy over whether mycelium or fruiting-body are best, and after doing extensive reading on this, I try to incorporate both. If you’re ready to nerd out on all things shrooms, I highly recommend The Rebel’s Apothecary by Jenny Sansouci.

 

As Needed Tools (aka – past, present, or anticipated exposure to illness)

  • Oregano oil – THE ultimate virus-bacteria-fungi killing oil. This stuff is POTENT, so don’t just put it anywhere. Anytime I feel that tickle or scratch in my throat, I take 6 drops in a full glass of water, and down the hatch it goes. In combination with the neti-pot, zinc-elderberry lozenges, and rest, this combination has helped me stave off so many bugs that I was destined for, but somehow escaped.

 

  • AlliBiotic (NOW Foods) – This is an herbal antiviral/antimicrobial I came across because I’m a big fan of NOW supplements. Not only are they local to the western burbs, but they have rigorous standards and 3rd party testing on their supps. I also appreciate their commitment to bioavailable formulations, and reasonable pricing. This herbal blend contains elderberry, olive leaf extract, garlic extract, oregano oil, rosemary oil, and arabinogalactans (prebiotics) for gut support.

 

  • Herbal tea blends – I make my own herbal tea from Elderflower, Chamomile, Peppermint, and Lemon balm – the result is a sweet and minty blend with potent medicinal properties. The elderflower is key, and there’s some evidence┬áthat it can shorten the duration and severity of colds when taken early enough.

 

  • Elderberry-Zinc lozenges – we’re all familiar with these by now, and perhaps you’ve already started using them. Zinc and elderberry may both reduce and shorten the duration of colds when taken early enough. I take them twice per day whenever I know I’ll be around someone who is sick, or even when I travel.

 

  • Neti-pot extravaganza – When exposed to a bug, or starting to feel those first prodromal symptoms of a virus, I always double down on my neti-pot by doing two cleanses per day. You can even add a very tiny amount of hydrogen peroxide (talking 1/2-1 tsp) to help rid any harmful microbes hanging out in your nasal passages.

 

  • Rest. This cannot be overstated. If you do find yourself down for the count, the most important thing we can do is REST! Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep anytime you’re feeling under the weather, and make sure you get to bed by 10pm to take advantage of the most restorative hours of sleep, between 10pm-2am. Hold off on the exercise, eat plenty of nourishing plant foods, feed your gut with fiber, drink all the stock and bone broth your heart desires, and don’t be afraid to take a sick day to focus on recovery. You’re worth it.
I hope this toolkit is helpful to you this season – wishing everyone a happy and healthy winter!
With Gratitude,
Christina

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