Supplements for Immune Defense

Vitamin Sea

Do I really need to take supplements?

Yes!  Why? Well….

Many culprits weaken our immune system.  The most used and abused are:  high simple and processed sugar consumption, alcohol, nutrient poor and processed packaged foods, take-out and ready-made meals, lack of sleep and stress.

Food is a good place to start.  However, we also need to integrate nutritional supplements as modern farming methods have decreased minerals in our soil and added many chemicals that denature our food.

Invest in Therapeutic Quality Supplements!

There are many supplements on the market now but not all are worth investing in.  The supplements I recommend and give to my clients are from reputable and ethical sources that are mostly available only to health practitioners and can’t be found in retail stores.

I suggest starting with the following vitamins and minerals to support your immune system.  If your immune system is very low then I would recommend taking a good multivitamin first and adding the following supplements:

The 5 most important vitamins for our immunity are: 

A, C, E, B6 and B12 and these three minerals:  iron, selenium and zinc will enhance and strengthen an already weakened immune system.

Vitamin A

This is an antiviral supplement and people who are deficient in it are more susceptible to infections.

There are two forms of vitamin A:  retinol and beta-carotene.  Retinol is found in animals with highest concentrations in the liver and fish liver oil.  Egg yolks, butter, cream and whole milk are also good sources.  Beta-carotene found in a wide variety of yellow and orange colored fruits and vegetables as well as leafy green vegetables.

Vitamin A is fat soluble which means you should take it with food.  It needs adequate protein, zinc and vitamin E to be properly absorbed.  It is also stored in the liver but reserves are depleted by alcohol consumption, stress and processed food and sugar consumption.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Another vitamin that plays an important role in immune enhancement because it is antiviral, antibacterial and increases white blood cell response and function.

It is water soluble so ideally, you should be taking it every few hours throughout the day.  Any excess you carry in your body, you will lose through urination.

Buy vitamin C with bioflavinoids or flavinoids which are compounds that increase the concentration of vitamin C in tissues and increases it effects.

Vitamin E

This light, yellow oil and fat-soluble vitamin has two families of compounds:   tocopherols and tocotrienols, both found in nature.  Alpha-tocopherol is the most common form and most active.

The best sources of this vitamin are found in grains, seeds, nuts and cold-pressed sunflower seed oil and olive oil.  Intestinal absorption is reduced with chlorine (drinking or showering/bathing city tap water), inorganic iron (most often that recommended by your MD), and mineral oil.

Keep in mind that Vitamin E needs beta-carotene, vitamin C and flavonoids to be properly absorbed.

What about B complex vitamins?

A deficiency in almost all B vitamins (and there are lots!) reduces immune function.  B vitamins are water soluble and are not stored well in our body.

Make sure you are taking the active form of B vitamins because the body can’t convert effectively and you will lose their full potential benefits.

B6, B12 and Folic Acid

The most important B vitamins for our immune system are B6, B12 and folic acid.  They enhance antibody and cell-mediated immunity and increase white blood cells.  Deficiency is common due to high protein intake, antibiotics, alcohol consumption, oral contraceptives and yellow food dyes (hydralazine).

B vitamins are difficult to obtain from food as they are lost when food is cooked.  The best sources are organ meats, wheat and wheat germ, brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast.  Good sources are also found in fish, poultry, egg yolks, soybeans, beans, peanuts and walnuts and many fruits and vegetables.

The germ and bran of grains is also rich in B vitamins, but mass production and processing in factories has removed most of the outer layer of grains.

3 Most Important Minerals for Immune Defense:  IRON, ZINC and SELENIUM

These minerals are most commonly deficient in our diet given the poor farming practices which have left our soil virtually depleted.  Most prescription medication can also lead to a deficiency along with malabsorption of the minerals.

IRON DEFICIENCY

Low iron can cause the thymus and lymph nodes to weaken and lose their resiliency in fighting infections.  Adequate iron or ferritin levels (storage molecule of iron) is key to a strong immune system!

I would always recommend a blood ferritin serum test before taking any iron supplement as high levels of iron can be toxic and damage the liver.   When choosing a supplement, aim for carbonyl iron like @purelabvitamins or ferrous iron because they are better absorbed and give less or no nausea or constipation.

Food sources of iron come in two forms: 

HEME IRON:  found in meats (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, clams, oysters, egg yolks and salmon)

NON-HEME IRON:  found in the vegetable kingdom (legumes, beans, pumpkin seeds, almonds and Brazil nuts are excellent sources).

Grains are also a good source, unfortunately milling removes about 75% of the iron in whole grains!  Foods that are enriched with iron are poorly absorbed because that iron is ferric.

THINK ZINC!

Zinc has so many functions, factors for absorption, and potential uses that I would need to dedicate a whole blog just on this “miracle” mineral!

It works best when taken with Vitamin A.  It is essential for proper white blood cell function and helps to activate thymic factor- a thymus hormone with profound immune enhancing properties.  Zinc also reduces the growth of the common cold and herpes simplex virus.

Best sources and best absorption come from the animal kingdom.  Although, there are some excellent sources from plant kingdom.  These include:  pumpkin seeds, pecans, Brazil nuts, whole wheat, rye, oats, ginger, mustard, chili powder, black pepper, peas carrots, beets and cabbage.

SELENIUM is a VITAL ANTIOXIDANT when combined with VITAMIN E!

Selenium also protects the immune system by preventing the formation of free radicals that can damage the body.  Selenium also appears to help stimulate antibody formation in response to vaccines and this immune-stimulating effect is enhanced by vitamin E.

It also contributes to the development of white blood cells and supports thymus function.  It is a component of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase which means it is key in the prevention of various types of cancers and cardiovascular diseases!

Food sources of Selenium

Selenium is found in the meat kingdom but is also high in our plant world.  Brazil nuts, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, brown rice, dairy, sea veggies, molasses, onions, wheat germ, whole grains and vegetables are all good sources.  Herbs that contain selenium include alfalfa, cayenne, chamomile, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, milk thistle, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, rose hips, uva ursi, yarrow and yellow dock.

Caution with this powerful mineral as max dosage per day should not exceed 400mcg!  Eight medium nuts contain 544mcg!

Special Supplements:  Probiotics and Colostrum

For more information on Probiotics, please visit my blog:  https://stephaniebonetta.com/blog/journal/probiotics-the-gateway-to-optimal-health/ .

Colostrum is high in protein and growth factors and is the thin, yellowish fluid produced  by the mammary glands in the first few days after giving birth.  It is also very high in lactoferrin (7 times more than in milk).  When colostrum is taken as a supplement, it increases the thymus gland’s capacity to produce T cells!  It can also help the body burn fat, build muscle, heal injuries, increase vitality and stamina and has an anti-aging effect! I will take that!

Lactoferin, a protein that, as mention previously, occurs naturally not only in colostrum but in bile, tears, mucus, saliva and milk.  It binds to free iron in the body so it helps regulate iron levels.  It also helps in preventing and fighting infection by depriving disease causing organisms of the iron they need to grow and multiply!  It can also be taken in supplement form.

PLEASE NOTE:  I have purposefully refrained from giving dosages because we are all biochemically unique.   Therefore, the type of supplements, their forms, quantity and protocol duration will vary with each individual.  There can also be potential prescription and food interactions which must be taken into consideration.  I would recommend finding a trusted nutritionist or natural practitioner to consult with.  I am offering my nutritional consulting services should you require guidance and support during your immune strengthening journey.

Information supported the following sources:

  1. Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing 5th Penguin Group, New York, 2010.
  2. Haas, Elson M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Crown Publishing Group, New York, 2006.
  3. Murray, Michael and Pizzorno, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 2nd Three Rivers Press, New York, 1998.