Your Go-To Immune System Protocol – for RIGHT NOW and year-round!
It is important to know you can do something RIGHT NOW to help your immune system immediately AND long-term to become more resilient and reduce the severity of symptoms you may experience if you do get sick!
A tid bit about the immune system… it’s not just 1 thing – it’s a system! It includes the lymphatic system, spleen, liver, bone marrow, gut, and more! Every part works together to keep you alive and well, which also means a lot can positively or negatively influence your immunity to varying degrees like medications, chronic conditions, age, smoking, food choices, sleep, exercise, stress levels – see the trend? Your entire body is involved in your immune system and several things can affect how it all works. The best way to strengthen your immunity for a lifetime is to focus on aspects you can control – every day!
Start to revitalize and support your immunity by following these 5 steps:
- Practice good hygiene
- Manage stress
- “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” (Hippocrates)
Build A Strong Foundation – For Now & Later!
The number one way to reduce the chances of getting sick is to wash your hands. This doesn’t mean to obsess over hand washing. You will do more harm than good by killing off both the good and bad bacteria but there is a healthy balance. Hand washing every couple of hours while at home, when you return to home and after cleaning, handling food, doing yard work, handling tools, toys, etc. will help reduce the likelihood of illness-causing germs making it into your body. It’s also important to consider limiting your exposure to others as often as possible when you don’t feel well since your immune system could be more vulnerable. When away from home, take a moment to wash your hands after handling things in public places. Sanitizer helps when you are on-the-go, as a last resort, but it is best to remember to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water every time you get home and before any time you eat.
Also remember to keep your hands away from your face!
Here are some chemical free products to help keep the good bacteria in and the bad out:
There’s a difference between short-term bouts of stress and chronic stress. Short-term stress can actually be beneficial via your fight-or-flight response like for survival and preparing for certain challenges like a job interview, important exam, or any type of competition. Chronic stress, on the other hand, significantly stresses out your immune system! Our body was not meant to live in a stressed out state for long. It is our job to practice stress-free living even in a stressed out world.
Start practicing stress relief techniques daily to lower your stress levels. Chronic stress not only decreases your white blood cells that help fight off infections and disease, but additionally increases inflammation throughout the body. That combination alone makes it difficult for your immune system to tackle any illness and increases your risk of developing immune-related diseases like autoimmune, arthritis, psoriasis, or inflammatory bowel disease. Try deep breathing, meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, keeping a journal, reading, or listening to music to reduce your stress!
Here are some of my favorite stress relieving products and apps:
It’s common knowledge sleep is important – but how important? It is the MOST important area that you should concentrate on. Your body takes advantage of your “offline” time to improve its ability to quickly recognize foreign threats and initiate effective immune responses to keep you healthy.
There are five stages of sleep and not getting sufficient sleep causes your body to makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation. In addition, during these stages, your body repairs cells, increases the number and productivity of killer T cells, one of the many types of white blood cells essential to fighting off illness, detoxes the liver, produces happy hormones as well as increases the hormones such as, leptin, that manages fullness and decreases the hormone, ghrelin, that manages appetite, essentially helping to prevent excessive weight gain and overeating. The last stage, stage five, is the mind regenerative stage. This stage focuses on memory, cognition and learning.
So, even if you are of the mindset that you are a night person or tell yourself that you “get a second wind,” know that acting on this is not doing your body and mind any good. For many, cortisol and melatonin levels are off and this is the cause of spikes in energy even if you feel tired, but are wired. Management of cortisol and melatonin are key to getting sufficient sleep.
Things to consider before bed:
- Turn off blue lights on phones and tv’s at least 2 hours before sleep.
- Find a wind-down nightly routine of a bath, mediation, journalling or reading.
- Exercise at least 30 min a day.
- If you are having trouble with sleep, a sleep study, cortisol testing or understanding your micronutrients may be necessary.
- If needed, supplement with melatonin and magnesium.
For most of you reading this, the minimum amount of sleep you’ll want aim for is 7-10 hours, with the best sleep time being from 10:30 pm to 2:30 am as the best repair time. For more information on sleep, check out specific sleep recommendations here!
Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days a week! Whether you are a brisk walker, like to break a sweat while cleaning, enjoy doing yard work, or love hopping into your running shoes or lifting weights, any type of acute exercise (less than 60 minutes!) does wonders for your immune system to enhance defense mechanisms, boost metabolism, and prevent various diseases. Browse the Physical Activity Guidelines to learn more about the benefits of exercise and fun ways to stay active.
FOOD AS MEDICINE
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant made by the liver that not only assists the liver in detoxifying chemicals and drugs but also boosts lymphocyte production to strengthen immunity and reduces oxidative stress to prevent cell and tissue damage. In addition to a weakened immune system, several medical issues like infertility, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease have been associated with low glutathione levels. Although some foods naturally contain glutathione, the levels can vary depending on cooking techniques and storage. Fortunately, several foods also contain glutathione precursors (glutamic acid, glycine, and cysteine) and can naturally boost levels in the body as well.
Quercetin is a flavonoid that has been found to decrease viral replication, decrease inflammation throughout the body, and protect cells against injury – especially within the gastrointestinal tract. Quercetin may also serve as a successful therapeutic treatment option for sepsis!
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential fatty acids made up of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Omega-3 fatty acids are most known for their anti-inflammatory properties, but also improve the capability of macrophages to engulf and destroy harmful bacteria and infected cells as well as mediate allergic responses. Additionally, per the NIH, a diet sufficient in omega-3 fatty acids correlates with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and may be protective against cognitive issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. You can convert some ALA into DHA and EPA, but not enough to provide sufficient amounts, so it’s still necessary to get each type of fatty acid through foods and/or supplements!
Zinc is a chemical element our immune system requires for optimal function and is known for its ability to decrease or inhibit viral growth/replication. According to WHO, zinc deficiency actually affects ~1/3 of the entire population. Any level of deficiency in zinc can increase your susceptibility to contracting illnesses and infections, making it very difficult for your immune system to protect you – so make sure to get some zinc in every day!
Selenium is a micronutrient that offers significant assistance to our immune system, especially when it comes to managing oxidative stress and fighting off viruses. Selenium regulates inflammatory responses in almost every tissue in the body and there are various benefits to supplementing even if you are not deficient.
Vitamin A is also known as Retinol and is converted in the liver from retinoids (animal sources) and carotenoids (plant-sources). Although Retinol is widely known as the vitamin for your eyes, it plays a very important role in immunity! Vitamin A has been found to regulate autoimmune responses, increase immunoglobulins (antibodies that mark pathogens for destruction), and even enhance humoral immunity against harmful bacteria. Like zinc, Vitamin A deficiency can also increase the risk of developing illnesses and infections, especially in children.
Vitamin C is probably the most well-known go-to antioxidant when it comes to the prevention and treatment of illness. Vitamin C starts fighting off germs right on your skin! It’s anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and tissue protective properties help you fend off those nasty bugs and reduce the severity of symptoms if you do by chance get caught in the cross-hair.
Vitamin D is our wonderful sunshine vitamin not only necessary for our bones, but is actually considered a “pro-survival” vitamin because of its anti-inflammatory effects and ability to enhance the functions of each type of white blood cell to neutralize viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens in the body. A large review also found Vitamin D supplementation, especially in those deficient, to be protective against acute respiratory infections! Vitamin D insufficiency affects about ½ of the world’s population – definitely a large number of people. Inadequate sun exposure, insufficient production through the skin, and several health conditions significantly affect Vitamin D levels. Although it is very difficult to replenish Vitamin D through foods alone, adequate sunlight and supplementation can help you achieve an optimal level!
Prebiotics and probiotics fuel good bacteria in the gut to guard against infection, regulate metabolism, and protect not only the gastrointestinal tract, but the urogenital tract and respiratory mucosal surfaces as well. Your gut flora makes up more than 75% of your immune system and can be compromised by chronic stress, little exercise, and a diet high in fat and low in fiber. The prevalence of bad bacteria over good bacteria also weakens your immune system and increases your risk of developing inflammation, infections, and diseases.
Iron, B Vitamins, Vitamin E, and herbs and spices like elderberry, epigallocatechin gallate, garlic, and curcumin can also help reduce inflammation, support various immune system functions, and reduce viral activity in the body.
If you are looking for specific foods that provide various combinations of all of these crime-fighting nutrients, here’s a short list:
- Sweet Potatoes – Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C
- Carrots – Vitamin A, plant-flavonoids, beta-carotene
- Broccoli & spinach – Vitamin A, glutathione, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, iron
- Brussels sprouts – glutathione precursors, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C
- Eggs – Vitamin A, glutathione precursors, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, selenium, iron
- Fish, seafood, & chicken – Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, glutathione precursors, zinc, Vitamin B6, selenium, iron
- Beans & lentils – Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, zinc, selenium, iron
- Beef – Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, zinc, selenium, iron
- Dairy Products – Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, zinc, selenium
- Yogurt – Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, zinc, selenium
- Almonds & peanut butter – Vitamin B6, Vitamin E
- Walnuts – glutathione precursors, Vitamin B6, iron
- Whole grain products – zinc, glutamic acid, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, iron
- Garlic – glutathione precursors
- Avocado – glutathione precursors, Vitamin C, Vitamin E
Consuming whole foods is typically the best “go-to” to get the nutrition and immune support you need, but supplementation is particularly helpful when foods are not an option or when you are treating illnesses and/or deficiencies! Since there’s an enormous selection of supplements on the market, here are a few that are specific to promoting cellular health and immunity for most of the vitamins and minerals above:
- Designs for Health Liposomal Glutathione liquid
- Seeking Health Liposomal Glutathione Plus
- Quicksilver Liposomal Glutathione liquid
- Readisorb Liposomal Glutathione liquid
- Pure Encapsulations Liposomal Glutathione capsules
- Natures Craft’s Best Glutathione Supplement
- Orthomolecular Products D-Hist capsules or chewables
- Quicksliver Scientific Hista-Aid
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Nordic Naturals ProOmega CRP
- Metagenics EPA-DHA 2400
- Designs for Health OmegAvail Smoothies
- Pure Encapsulations Zinc liquid or Zinc 30
- DaVinci Labs Immuni-Z chewables
- Klaire Labs Micellized Vitamin A drops
- Metagenics Ultra Potent-C powder, tablets, or chewables
- Designs for Health Liposomal Vitamin C
- Quicksilver Scientific Liposomal Vitamin C
- Designs for Health C+ Biofizz powder
- Airborne Vitamin C tablets
- Emergen-C Immune Plus powder
- Orthomolecular Products Vitamin D3
- DrFormulas Nexabiotic Advanced Multi-Probiotic Gastrointestinal Support
- Metagenics UltraFlora Synergy powder
- Metagenics UltraFlora Balance caps
- Klaire Therbiotic Complete powder or capsules
- Orthomolecular Products Orthobiotic powder or capsules
- Designs for Health Probiomed 50
- Best Naturals Broccoli Sprout Extract
- Natures Plus Ultra GarLite
We will get through the seasons of illnesses and viruses together – now and throughout the years to come! This protocol only provides a snapshot into the large realm of immunity, nutrition, and supplements, but is a great tool to building a strong foundation to support your health. Reach out and ask additional questions – I want to help you achieve optimal wellness!