Written by Pailin Thivakon – Integrative Pharmacist and Naturopath – M.Pharm. B. PharmSc. B Hsc (Naturopathy)
Having a healthy immune system can help to protect us from infections and enhance our recovery time. Optimal functioning of our immune system can be influenced by a number of factors including exposure to pathogens, nutrient status, stress levels and gut health. During winter, the cooler temperatures make it easier for viruses to survive as our immune system uses heat as one of its defence mechanisms (Yale University, 2015). This combined with more time spent indoors in enclosed spaces can make it easier to catch a virus. Here are 3 nutrients that will help the immune system and some other tips for helping stay healthy this winter.
3 nutrients to support immunity
Zinc has a broad role in the immune system, it can decrease inflammation and has been shown to have anti-viral properties and can be taken as during a viral infection to enhance shorten duration of colds. Zinc deficiency is relatively common and having inadequate dietary intake or depletion via excess caffeine and alcohol can impact on your ability to fight colds and other viral infections. (Read, Obeid, Ahlenstiel, & Ahlenstiel, 2019)
AC Pharm has a range of Zinc supplements which can be taken as a preventative to help with immune function. Doses for prevention can start at 30mg of elemental Zinc daily with meals (Braun & Cohen, 2015). Long term supplementation of zinc at high doses should only be taken under the direction of a health practitioner.
Vitamin D is a hormone with many functions, it is known for bone health and calcium absorption but is however necessary for a balanced immune system and is needed to promote our response when fighting a bacterial or viral infection. Our bodies are able to make vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, however in winter the days are shorter and we tend to spend more time inside due to the cold. If you work indoors, do not get adequate exposure to sunlight, are darker-skinned or have absorption issues you may be at risk of low vitamin D. Levels can be checked with a blood test and it may be appropriate to supplement under the direction of your health practitioner. (Braun & Cohen 2015)
If your vitamin D levels are severely low, and require supplementation; AC Pharm are able to compound higher strength vitamin D supplements on doctors prescription.
Also known as Ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant and has a key role for immune system function. Vitamin C assists our immune cells to fight an infection by attack and removing unwanted pathogens, it also helps to reduce damage to our cells caused by inflammation when there is an infection. The body does not store vitamin C so it is essential to have regular intake through fresh fruits and vegetables, it can be taken regularly as a preventative measure to enhance our immune defence and antioxidant status at doses above 200mg daily and during respiratory infections at least 2 grams per day (adult dose). (Hemila & Chalker, 2013). Our AC Pharm 500mg vitamin C supplement available would be suitable to have as a preventative and additional doses can be taken during an infection.
Other things you can do to help support your immune system:
- Ensuring a nutrient dense diet with variety of whole foods, minimising processed foods and avoiding excess alcohol and caffeine.
- Managing stress levels: Stress leaves us run down and depletes vitamin C and other nutrients needed to support our immune system. Finding a healthy way to manage your stress will help to keep your immune system well.
- Getting a good night’s sleep: Getting proper restorative sleep ensures our body can renew, clear out toxins and recover.
- Regular physical activity: Exercise in moderate amounts is beneficial for strengthening our immune system. On the other hand if exercise is at too high intensity or for too long it becomes a stress on our body and can weaken the immune system. (da Silveira et.al, 2021)
- Daily exposure to sunlight and fresh air: Appropriate exposure to sunlight in the morning (without getting burnt) is a great way to maintain our Vitamin D levels. The full spectrum of sunlight also has other benefits beyond vitamin D production including regulating our circadian rhythm and serotonin production which will benefit sleep and mood. (Mead, 2008)
If you would like more help to get your immune system working optimally, or have any other health concerns our Naturopath and Pharmacist; Pailin is available for consults on Fridays and would love to help you out. See www.akesonaturopathics.com for more information.
Yale University. (2015, January 5). Cold virus replicates better at cooler temperatures. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 7, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150105170014.htm
Braun, Lesley; Cohen, Marc. (2015). Herbs & Natural Supplements: An evidence-based guide. Volume 2.
Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000980. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4. Accessed 08 June 2023.
da Silveira, M. P., da Silva Fagundes, K. K., Bizuti, M. R., Starck, É., Rossi, R. C., & de Resende E Silva, D. T. (2021). Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature. Clinical and experimental medicine, 21(1), 15–28. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10238-020-00650-3
Mead M. N. (2008). Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health. Environmental health perspectives, 116(4), A160–A167. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.116-a160