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A-Z Guide To Supporting Your Immunity

A-Z Guide To Supporting Your Immunity
By Marta Anhelush 2 years ago 45889 Views

It’s that time of year again! Children are back to school and we all know that this means parents are on high alert for the infections which they might bring home, now so more than ever. On top of this, many of us are also preparing to return to the workplace which, for many, is adding to the existing anxiety about how best to support their immunity.

The immune system is instrumental to our health through its role in protecting us against common viral and bacterial pathogens. Rest assured, there is a lot that we can do through nutrition and lifestyle to improve the resilience of our immune system. Read on to learn about the top nutrients needed to strengthen the immune system to help you feel empowered with your self-care as we try to adapt to this new normal.

Here’s our A-Z guide of key nutrients to consider to support a healthy immune response:

  • Vitamin A supports the immune response and protects the integrity of the mucosal epithelium which lines our digestive and respiratory tracts. Deficiency increases the risk of measles and severity of infection.[i] Vitamin A also helps to regulate inflammation.[ii]
  • Beta glucans stimulate the innate immune system,[iii] not least by increasing the level of the immunoglobulin called secretory IgA which represents one of our first lines of defence.[iv] It has been shown to reduce the occurence, symptoms, and duration of upper respiratory tract infections.[v]
  • Everyone knows that vitamin C is important and for good reason! There is a wealth of research to show that vitamin C is effective against a wide range of different viruses.[vi] It has even been shown to reduce the incidence and severity of pneumonia.[vii]
  • Vitamin D enhances the immune response against various infections, including upper respiratory tract infections.[viii] It also helps to modulate inflammation,[ix] which is important since the complications of various type of infections often stem from the negative impact of chronic inflammation on the body.
  • Elderberry has a specific anti-viral mode of action whereby it can 'blunt' the 'spikes' on the outside of certain viruses which then reduces their ability to enter body cells which, in turn, curbs the ability of the virus to replicate.[x] As such, elderberry has been shown to increase immune system activity against flu, leading to a significant improvement in the rate of recovery.[xi]
  • Lysine increases the production of immune cells and deficiency may impair immunity and increase susceptibility to infections.[xii] It is an essential amino acid, which means that it is essential that we get a sufficient amount through food and supplements as we are unable to make it ourselves.
  • Probiotics - certain strains or combinations of probiotics, such as well-researched LAB4 combination of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium species, can reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infection.[xiii] In addition, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has proven effective in decreasing the number, severity and duration of respiratory tract infections in children.[xiv],[xv]
  • Selenium supports immunity and lung function by increasing the activity of our most potent antioxidant - glutathione. It also supports white blood cell and antibody production, and may even be able to reduce viral mutations in the body.[xvi]
  • Zinc enhances immune cell activity, including the all-important natural killer (NK) cells.[xvii] It also inhibits viral replication[xviii] and may shorten the duration of colds by up to 7 days.[xix]

What You Can Do

It goes without saying that a healthy diet is paramount to providing the broad spectrum of nutrients we need to have a healthy immune system. Make sure to eat a varied diet rich in a wide range of colourful, minimally process plants with good quality protein. It is also important that you reduce your sugar and alcohol intake and choose healthier alternatives, such as dark chocolate, nuts, and non-alcoholic drinks (e.g. kombucha), since both can otherwise 'drain' and 'strain' our immune system. Supplementation on top of this can help to optimise our immunity further:

  • A therapeutic, cutting edge multivitamin providing an optimal baseline dose of a wide range of immune-supportive nutrients in their most bioavailable forms, including vitamin A, C, D zinc and selenium.
  • Support the diversity and abundance of your gut microbiome with a therapeutic probiotic/prebiotic product providing at least 30 billion live bacteria per daily dosage.
  • Optimise your vitamin D status. A therapeutic multivitamin should provide a good baseline dosage of vitamin D. We ideally recommend that you get your vitamin D level tested either through the GP or privately to enable a health professional to then advise you about the daily supplemental vitamin D3 dosage required to optimise your level.
  • Take extra vitamin C in a gentle buffered form (e.g. magnesium ascorbate). We usually recommend at least 1000mg vitamin C per day for an adult alongside the above supplementation for therapeutic immune prevention support.

And always...

  • Prioritise sleep and relaxation - sleep is the opportunity for the body to ‘rest and repair’ and is just as important as nutrition when looking to strengthen our immune system. Strikingly, research has shown that those with less than 7 hours sleep per night were up to 3x more likely to develop the common cold than those with 8 hours or more.[xx] Therefore, aim for 8 hours or more of uninterrupted sleep per night with the help of an eye mask, ear plugs, increased intake of calming nutrients such as magnesium,[xxi] and meditation before bed, to facilitate the protective effect of sleep on our immune defences.[xxii]

If you need tailored nutrition and supplement advice, please contact our Nutrition Team or seek the advice of a Registered Nutritional Therapist or other healthcare practitioner for more tailored advice.

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[i] Katona and Katona-Apte. The interaction between nutrition and infection. Clin Infect Dis. 2008; 46 (10): 1582-8

[ii] Iyer N, Vaishnava S. Vitamin A at the interface of host-commensal-pathogen interactions. PLoS Pathog. 2019; 15 (6): e1007750.

[iii] Goodridge et al. β-glucan recognition by the innate immune system. Immunological Reviews. 2009; 230: 38-50.

[iv] McFarlin BK et al. “Baker's Yeast Beta Glucan Supplementation Increases Salivary IgA and Decreases Cold/Flu Symptomatic Days After Intense Exercise” 1Applied Physiology Laboratory, College of Education, University of North Texas , Denton, Texas , USA. Journal of Dietary Supplements 08/2013; 10(3). DOI: 10.3109/19390211.2013.820248

[v] Jesenak M, et al. Immunomodulatory effect of pleuran (β-glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus) in children with recurrent respiratory tract infections. Int Immunopharmacol. 2013 ;15(2):395-9.

[vi] Hemilä H. Vitamin C and SARS coronavirus. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. 2003; 52 (6): 1049-1050.

[vii] Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C Can Shorten the Length of Stay in the ICU: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 27;11(4).

[viii] Yamshchikov et al. Vitamin D for treatment and prevention of infectious diseases: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Endocrine Practice. 2009; 15 (5): 438-49.

[ix] Griffin et al. Vitamin D and its analogs as regulators of immune activation and antigen presentation. Annual Review of Nutrition. 2003; 23: 117-45.

[x] Mumcuoglu. 1995. Sambucus nigra (L), Black Elderberry Extract: A breakthrough in the treatment of influenza. RSS Publishing.

[xi] Kong. Pilot Clinical Study on a Proprietary Elderberry Extract: Efficacy in Addressing Influenza Symptoms. J Pharmacol Pharmacokin. 2009; 5: 32-43.

[xii] Iseri and Klasing. Changes in the amount of lysine in protective proteins and immune cells after a systemic response to dead Escherichia coli: implications for the nutritional costs of immunity. Integr Comp Biol. 2014; 54 (5): 922-30.

[xiii] Garaiova I et al. Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015; 69: 373-379.

[xiv] Hojsak I et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centres: A randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. Clinical Nutrition 2010; 29:310.

[xv] Kumpu M, et al. The use of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and viral findings in the nasopharynx of children attending day care. J. Med. Virol. 85:1632-1638, 2013.

[xvi] Harthill M. Review: Micronutrient Selenium Deficiency Influences Evolution of Some Viral Infectious Diseases. Biological Trace Element Research . 2011;143:1325–1336.

[xvii] Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition. Caballero B, Allen L, Prentice A (eds.). Academic Press, San Diego, 447-454

[xviii] Turner. The treatment of rhinovirus infections: progress and potential. Antiviral Res. 2001; 49:1-14.

[xix] Eby et al. Reduction in duration of common colds by zinc gluconate lozenges in a double-blind study, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (1984) 25:20-24

[xx] Cohen S et al. Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Arch Intern Med. 2009; 169 (1): 62-7.

[xxi] Nielsen et al. Magnesiumsupplementation improves indicators of lowmagnesiumstatus and inflammatorystressin adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep. Magnes Res. 2010 Dec; 23 (4): 158-68

[xxii] Besedovsky L et al. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2012; 463 (1): 121-137.