With the flu and the coronavirus affecting so many, it's important to eat very healthy, exercise, sleep, stay hydrated, and take immune-boosting supplements. Supplements can give your brain and body what it needs to support physical and mental health. They can help the body build a barrier to illness by creating wellness from within. The healthier our bodies are, the better we can repel and tolerate illnesses including viruses and the flu.
Here are some of the best evidence-based vitamins and supplements for supporting the immune system.
Vitamin D is involved in so many functions in the brain and body. High dose vitamin D has been shown to reduce inflammation in those with chronic lung conditions. Vitamin D₃ is made in your skin through a chemical process called “photolysis” that occurs when you expose your skin to ultraviolet B rays. In the liver, vitamin D is turned into a chemical called calcidiol and this vitamin D prohormone travels through the bloodstream to the kidneys, where it’s turned into the active form. Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, muscles, endocrine system, and immune system, which means vitamin D is needed at every level for the body to function.
Upwards of 70% of Americans are vitamin D deficient leading to significant medical and psychological consequences. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with anxiety and depression. In terms of anxiety and mood, if the brain and endocrine system are not getting enough vitamin D, then they can’t work properly then these symptoms can result. Vitamin D plays a role in magnesium homeostasis, which is necessary for so many biochemicals in the body. If you have a mental health issue, it is important to have your vitamin D levels checked. For those with clinical conditions, your blood levels of vitamin D should be on the high end of average
Dosage: To maintain healthy levels, only 400 to 800 IU (15 to 20 mcg) is required daily. To boost low levels or immune systems, higher doses, such as 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily.
Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. It helps white blood cells that help to fight infections. Vitamin C is also important for iron absorption, and iron deficiency can make you more vulnerable to infections in general.
Research has found that supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. Vitamin C has long been used to treat the common cold and helps to reduce the duration. The research is mixed for taking high-dose vitamin C (e.g., 500 mg twice daily) before getting a cold but it may slightly reduce the severity and duration of a cold.
Intravenous high dose vitamin C is currently being tested in COVID-19 patients in China who have developed pneumonia, so we don’t have any evidence yet of its efficacy with coronavirus patients. However, intravenous vitamin C has been studied for use with cancer patients, sepsis, and other chronic disease states. It is important to note that the Chinese government has officially recommended Vitamin C for the treatment of the coronavirus.
Dosage: 1 to 2 grams in children and 6 to 8 grams in adults
The NIH has more dosage recommendations, here
Vitamin A is known for its anti-inflammation properties because of its critical role in enhancing immune function. It plays regulatory roles in cellular immune responses and humoral (body fluids) immune processes. Research has demonstrated a therapeutic effect of Vitamin A in the treatment of various infectious diseases. According to Huang et. al (2018), “Vitamin A has both promoting and regulatory roles in both the innate immune system and adaptive immunity; therefore, it can enhance the organism’s immune function and provide an enhanced defense against multiple infectious diseases.” A research study from 2015 found that Vitamin A supplementation trained the body to “forget” past infections.
*Too much Vitamin A can be toxic
Tolerable upper limits of a daily dose according to Web MD:
Vitamin A is 10,000 units (3,000 mcg)
For birth to 3 years, 600 mcg/day (2,000 units)
4 to 8 years, 900 mcg/day (3,000 units)
9 to 13 years, 1700 mcg/day (5,667 units)
14 to 18 years, 2800 mcg/day (9,333 units).
For measles: 100,000 to 200,000 IU of vitamin A for at least two doses has been used in children less than 2 years-old.
Zinc is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory actions, as well as anti-viral properties. In research, zinc supplementation decreased oxidative stress markers and generation of inflammatory cytokines. Zinc has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds, which are caused by viruses.
Zinc has also been shown in a laboratory study to inhibit the replication of coronaviruses in cells but we don’t have any evidence that using zinc lozenges can prevent or treat the coronavirus.
Dosage: 80 to 150 mg daily for adults; 3 to 11 ms daily for children
Elderberry has been used for centuries to boost the immune system and fight viruses, colds, and sinusitis. In research, elderberry extract has been shown to inhibit the replication and hemagglutination of human flu viruses, including certain strains of Influenza A and B. It has also been shown to shorten the duration of the flu. While there is no evidence that elderberry extract can prevent the coronavirus or reduce symptoms of those affected, it has been shown to help prevent and treat other viruses.
Dosage: 15 ml of elderberry syrup 4 times per day
Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides. Beta-glucans are glucose polymers are constituents of the cell wall of certain pathogenic bacteria and fungi that bind surface receptors to activate immune cells. Research supports that these substances increase host immune defense by activating the complement system, enhancing white cell and natural killer cell function and reducing oxidative stress.
Dosage: varies between 50 and 1,000 mg daily
Garlic produces a chemical called allicin that is active against microbes and gives garlic its distinctive smell. Allicin has antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiviral properties. Garlic has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit certain flu and cold viruses. It has even been studied and found to shorten the duration of the flu and treat pneumonia. However, there is no current evidence that eating garlic or taking a garlic supplement can help prevent or treat the coronavirus.
Dosage: Maximum dosages are:
- 17.0 grams for a 150lb person
- 22.7 grams for a 200lb person
- 28.4 grams for a 250lb person
There are a number of types of basil, which differ in taste and smell. Two of the most common are Sweet Basil (Lamiaceae) and Holy Basil (Tulsi). Basil contains a wide range of essential oils, rich in phenolic compounds, and a wide array of other natural compounds (more than 25), including polyphenols such as flavonoids and anthocyanins. Basil has been used for centuries as a traditional and ayurvedic medicinal plant for the treatment of headaches, coughs, diarrhea, constipation, warts, worms, and kidney malfunctions.
Today basil is often used as an immune booster and an anti-inflammatory herb, as well as for its antibacterial and anti-aging properties. Animal and human studies support basil having multiple therapeutic actions including adaptogenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and immunomodulatory effects. Research demonstrates that Basil counters metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure, and lipid levels.
Dosage: 300 to 1200 mg a day
This is all uncharted territories but trying to support your nervous system and body with good nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep, hygienic practices and adding in vitamins to boost your immune system is the best way to protect yourself.
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Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only. Always check with your physician with regards to dosage, contraindications with other medications, side effects and general usage of vitamins or supplements. Follow the WHO guidelines for coronavirus prevention.
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