by Laurel Sterling, MA, RD, CDN
This is the time of year where our immune systems are more taxed than ever. This can be due to a variety of reasons which may include: colder weather and fluxing temps; food choices; and increased stress from all the holiday shopping, bills, entertaining, and travel. Not sleeping our regular hours due to all the above also adds stress to our body. Help keep your immune system in optimal shape with some of the tips below.
During these longer, colder winter months, we need some extra protection. One nutrient that has been making it into the headlines as of late is vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is an immune system modulator. D3 (cholecalciferol) is the natural human form of vitamin D3 made in the skin. Cholecalciferol coverts to calcidiol in the liver. Calcidiol converts to the hormone calcitriol in the kidneys. Calcitriol is also formed by immune cells and other cells and tissues throughout the body. The amount of D3 required depends on the person. The best way to know how much you need is to have your vitamin D3 levels tested by your physician.
Zinc is another important nutrient that affects multiple aspects of the immune system. It is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating immunity. If you are not eating enough zinc-rich foods regularly (fish, meat, poultry, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, kale, etc.) your stores may be depleted.
Fish oil provides EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), beneficial omega-3s that support a balanced immune response. Cod liver oil is a great choice, since it also contains vitamins A and D3, which aid the immune system.
Antioxidants are another good nutrient to add to your regime. They protect your cells from the effects of free radicals, and can help reduce an overabundance of harmful oxidative stress in your body. Vitamin C is one of the best known supplements for supporting healthy immune system function.
Aside from nutritional supplements, there are lifestyle changes that can be beneficial to our immune health. Try to avoid sugar when possible, as it can throw off the balance in our gastrointestinal tract. If you’ve been consuming sugary foods, try a probiotic, which provides healthy microflora that builds natural immunity. A well-rounded, multi-strain probiotic formula with lactobacillus and bifidobacterium is a good choice.
Constantly being on the go can also be taxing on our immune system, since our body doesn't know the difference between “good” stress and “bad” stress. Magnesium is a very important mineral that oversees over 350 enzymatic processes in our body. Adding in a powerful supplement like Chelated Magnesium can be helpful. Start with a small amount like 250 mg in the evening before bed.
Maintain your daily supplement regime of a multivitamin and mineral formula, omega-3, vitamin D3, antioxidants, and probiotics to keep your immune system functioning optimally, and add in magnesium for those more stressful times.
The Daily Dose blog features health and wellness articles from Senior Nutritionist & Educator Jolie Root, LPN,LNC; Nutritionist & Educator Laurel Sterling, MA, RDN, CDN; and Featured Guest Blogger Karen Roth, MSNC. Other guest bloggers will also join us.