Coronavirus Round 2

Keeping Your Immune System Strong is Your #1 Defense

Your body has kept up with the virus so far.  You haven’t gotten sick or it was a mild case of Covid-19.  But now you have to kick it into high gear.

Is it Time to Consider Adding Supplements to Your Health Regime?

Which ones are crucial for a strong immune system? The three biggies for immune system health are vitamins C, D, and Zinc. How do they help and where can you get them?

Vitamin D

The best source of vitamin D is the sun! However, in the winter months in the North Country, it’s harder to get Vitamin D from the sun.  We have to bundle up and usually only our faces are exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. But Vitamin D is especially important to our overall health.  According to the National Institutes of Health, it’s difficult for our bodies to absorb calcium for strong bones without vitamin D. Muscles need it to move, nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part, and the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off viruses.

As we get older our ability to synthesize vitamin D declines and sets us up for opportunistic viruses, as well as broken bones because of the reduced calcium associated with reduced vitamin D.  We tend to spend more time inside than in our younger years and often our diet doesn’t include as many high vitamin D foods.

Vitamin D is found in many fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, and sardines.  All milk (whether cow, soy, almond, or rice) is fortified with Vitamin D.  Cod liver oil capsules have the highest value of micrograms at 170% of necessary daily value.   Please note that dairy causes allergies in many people with an increase in congestion. Dairy should be avoided, or not used, as your sole source of vitamin D if you experience any allergic reactions.

Mushrooms also contain Vitamin D and those that have been subjected to ultraviolet light have higher percentages.  The FDA has approved a “UV-treated mushroom powder as a food additive for use as a source of vitamin D…” according to the National Institutes of Health.

All these foods contain vitamin D, but very few Americans, through diet alone, get the necessary amount of vitamin D for optimum health.

Some parts of our population are more apt to have low vitamin D than others.

  • Infants over the age of 6 months who are still being breastfed. Human milk is a poor source of vitamin D. If your child fits this criterion then you should consider supplements because vitamin D also regulates growth.
  • Older adults, because their skin isn’t as efficient as younger people at making vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form. Older adults also spend more time inside, on average.
  • The darker your skin, the less ability you have to produce vitamin D from the sun.
  • If you can’t handle fatty foods because you have a disorder such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, then you will not absorb vitamin D as well.
  • If you are obese, vitamin D will bind to your body fat and will not filter into your blood.

So, even though you are eating a balanced diet and getting outside in our occasional sun, have you considered vitamin D supplements? 

Vitamin C

The benefits of vitamin C are numerous and important.  According to the WebMD online article The Benefits of Vitamin C they include “…protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.” What could be better, an immune system booster and an anti-ager all in one.

Fruits and vegetables are the best sources for Vitamin C.  We all know we can get Vitamin C from citrus fruits but did you know that, according to the National Institutes of Health “… red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe…” among other foods are high in Vitamin C.  Cooking destroys most of the Vitamin C so eating these foods raw or steaming will retain a higher percentage of the vitamin.

Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, a researcher at the University of Michigan notes that only “…10% to 20% of adults get the recommended nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily.”

If you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables, then you need to consider vitamin C supplements.

Zinc

Zinc is an essential trace mineral needed for us to maintain optimum health.  It is responsible for boosting your immune system, improving growth and health in infants and children, treating the common cold, recurrent ear infections, flu viruses, and respiratory tract infections, among other health issues.

The body’s immune system needs zinc to do its job. Older adults and children who have low levels of zinc are at a higher risk of getting pneumonia and other infections.

Our body doesn’t store excess zinc, so we need to make sure we consume it regularly as part of our diet or a daily supplement.  Zinc is found in a wide variety of foods including red meat, poultry, and fish and seafood.  The best source of zinc is oysters. Since we don’t have oysters in Michigan this would be a good excuse for a road trip to Maine or Alabama (I’d choose Alabama in the winter).

Breakfast cereals are often fortified with zinc, and beans, nuts, and dairy products all contain some zinc.

Multivitamins have zinc as one of their components and would be a good choice for supplementing your daily nutrient intake. However, in winter you might want to incorporate more zinc into your diet.

Many trace minerals and vitamins are needed for us to keep our bodies healthy.  Eating a “rainbow” diet, many different colored fruits and vegetables, is an easy way to get the nutrients we need to fight disease and to maintain our health.  Each color is associated with specific nutrients that are necessary for optimum health.  If you can’t get 9 servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet on a daily basis then supplements will help add the missing nutrients to move you towards a happy healthy disease-free life.

Vitamin C, D, and zinc will not, by themselves, keep you healthy.  You also need to drink plenty of water, get outdoor exercise, eat a “rainbow” diet, get enough sleep, and get regular adjustments to keep your body and brain in communication.

Reduce stress by adding quiet time to your life.  Meditation, taking a walk in nature, a bubble bath, or making time for that activity that brings you some calm.

Coronavirus Round 2 might not be the end and you need to stay healthy.

Stay tuned, next month I’ll be discussing ….How To Tame Fear

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