Food should be your starting point for ensuring a strong and effective immune system. But for extra protection against the viral and bacterial assaults waiting outside your door, you should consider shoring it up with powerful immune-supporting supplements as well.
In addition to a nutrient-dense, unprocessed diet, there are many supplements that can help bolster immunity. On the most basic level, vitamins A, C, D3 and E have all been shown to support immunity. Vitamin D3 in particular is important to help activate T-cells and other immune components. This vitamin plays numerous critical roles in the body, but because it’s produced in response to sunlight, many people are deficient, particularly people living in northern climes and those of us who work indoors.
Another important immune supporting nutrient is zinc, which is a key component in T-cells, B-cells, macrophages, antibodies and other immune cells. A zinc deficiency is known to reduce immunity. Poultry, liver, whole grains, beans, raw nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds) and wild seafood are all sources of zinc.
Astragalus root has been used in traditional Asian medicine to support immunity, as well as protect against stress. Astragalus offers anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antibacterial activity, among other important benefits. I also recommend the nutrients selenium and L-carnitine.
Modified citrus pectin: One ingredient, many benefits
Pectin is a common ingredient in jams; it acts as a thickening agent. This complex carbohydrate has also been prescribed for its digestive health benefits as a soluble fiber. However, pectin molecules are too big to absorb into the circulation, limiting their effectiveness throughout the body.
Luckily, we’ve solved that problem by enzymatically breaking down these large pectin molecules into a much smaller, more bioavailable size. The result is an ingredient called modified citrus pectin (MCP). Once in the blood stream, MCP provides a number of benefits, including immune support.
MCP is also valuable because it controls the inflammatory protein galectin-3, which fuels metastatic cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation and fibrosis of organs and tissues. When overexpressed in the body, galectin-3 generates inflammation and increases blood viscosity, both of which can impair immune response. MCP is the best studied galectin-3 inhibitor, according to the published scientific literature in this fast-growing field of research. In addition to binding and blocking the harmful effects of excess galectin-3, MCP also supports natural killer cells and T cells, and safely removes heavy metals from the circulation without affecting essential minerals.
One of the worst things we can do to our immunity is to sit for hours on end. This can be particularly challenging during the winter months, when inclement weather can make it unpleasant to go outside.
However, it doesn’t take much to energize both the metabolism and the immune system. A short 30 minute walk each day can do the trick. Even better, practice moving meditations such as yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong. A number of studies have linked these practices to improved immune response, right down to the genetic level. One study showed that even one session of yoga activated numerous genes related to immunity. These practices also calm us, reducing levels of cortisol, adrenaline and other inflammatory hormones that, when elevated over time, can weaken the immune system.
Don’t forget to drink lots of water. Immune cells travel and communicate through our circulatory and lymphatic systems, so viscosity is the enemy. Stay well hydrated with plenty of filtered water.
It’s also critical to get a good night’s sleep. Without good sleep, multiple systems begin to breakdown, immunity included.
Finally, do something that makes you happy. Numerous studies have shown that positive feelings are directly related to strong immunity. Happiness is great medicine and one of the best ways to achieve balance in your life. In that regard, simple meditation practice and/or other healthy stress relief techniques should be a key part of any immune-boosting program.
Our immune system works hard to take care of us. We can return the favor by adopting practices that help our immune cells function more effectively, fight infections and long-term illness like cancer, and support general wellness. As researchers continue to uncover new insights into this complex and fascinating system, we will likewise continue to learn more about how to maintain health and youthful energy well into old age. For now, these and other immune supporting measures can go a long way toward boosting immunity and overall vitality, naturally.