This week, I gave you a lot of tips and ideas for understanding COVID-19, protecting yourself and your family, and connecting with others while practicing social distancing. Today, I want to offer you a little more insight on supplements that are very helpful in optimizing immune function, as well as some hopeful news about what’s happening in South Korea. Let’s start there.
This pandemic is, understandably, causing a lot of fear, anxiety and even some panic. The statistics we’re hearing are startling, and the news about how the virus is spreading here in the US can be alarming. But there’s good news to be found as well, and I wanted to be sure you knew about it. We can all learn something from the way that South Korea has handled COVID-19 – and we can urge our government to pay attention to what is working for others.
An article on Fortune’s website this morning has some great information about the way South Korea has tested for COVID-19, the data they’ve compiled, and what that data might tell us. The country has tested almost 300,000 people – more than 5,000 people per million citizens. In contrast, the reported data in the US indicates that this country has tested only about 100 people per million.
One important thing that the South Korean data indicates is that there are probably a lot of young, asymptomatic carriers than we know. That’s why social distancing is so important. Spring break should not be “business as usual,” especially if young people could be infected without even knowing it.
It’s important to note that we can’t assume that the data from South Korea correlates to what will happen in other places. There are so many factors to consider, including age of the population, government policies, and the existing health care systems in other countries.
But one thing the data does demonstrate is that broad testing can make a big difference. Late last month and early in March, South Korea reported the highest number of confirmed cases outside of China, but new cases have consistently declined in recent weeks. That’s likely in part due to the fact that people with the disease have been identified and can be kept away from those who are not infected.
Okay, so now that you know that there is hope for slowing the spread of this disease (assuming our government and the people of the US take it as seriously as is warranted), let’s talk about how you can boost your own immune system to keep yourself – and your family – healthy.
I’ll start with a couple of essential reminders:
- The food you eat is vitally important, and self-care is non-negotiable in these stressful times. Choose fresh, organic whole foods as often as you can.
- Take time to get outside, even if it’s raining. The fresh air will do your mind and body good.
- Keep your body moving any way you can – yoga, a living room dance party, walking, biking, or even marching in place while you binge watch your favorite show on Netflix.
- Take time for both meditation and gratitude.
- Don’t disconnect from your social network entirely – just approach connection a different way. Connect via phone, text or video chats.
- Most of all, give yourself a break! If the weight of worry is overwhelming you, give yourself permission to step away from the computer or phone and take a nap, read a book, or play a game with your family. If you aren’t as productive as you thought you’d be – that’s okay. Your mental health is as important as your physical health right now, and it might be time for a mental health day.
Supplements That Boost Immune Functioning
As the whole world struggles to understand the best ways to keep themselves protected, there’s been a huge increase in marketing and promotion of supplements. It’s important to really understand which vitamins, minerals and herbs are essential to optimal immune function, and where you should begin.
I have offered high-quality supplements through my practice and website for decades, and I will continue to ensure that these supplements are tested and offer nutrients in their most bio-available form so they can have real positive impact on your health. I caution you not to rush out and buy every supplement someone suggests, especially if they aren’t from a trusted source. Many of the supplements available in supermarkets and pharmacies simply won’t offer the benefits you are looking for.
Here’s a look at some supplements/nutrients that are particularly important right now. Remember, you don’t have to start all of these at once – pick one or two that seem most important for your individual circumstances and go from there.
The best thing you can do for yourself, even when there isn’t a pandemic, is to support your body with a high-quality multivitamin/mineral complex. This will give you sufficient quantities of the most essential nutrients your body needs to function well.
So many Americans are vitamin D deficient, especially during the winter months. And research demonstrates that those with vitamin D deficiency are 11 times more likely to develop colds or flu, but supplementing with Vitamin D can reduce incidence of cold and flu by 42%. Ask your provider to test your levels so you know what dosage you will need. While I begin with 2,000 IU daily for adults, many need more than twice that amount per day in the winter.
It probably comes as no surprise that Vitamin C can boost your immune functioning. Supplementing with 500 to 1,000 mg per day alongside meals and snacks goes a long way to keeping your immune system healthy.
Good gut health is essential for a healthy immune system. You need to be sure you find a trusted brand that contains 5-10 billion organisms and several species of “good” bacteria. Spore forms of Bacillus, as well as Lactobacillus plantarum, are best for supporting immunity.
Eating foods like seafood, red meat and pumpkin seeds can give you a great does of this immune supporting nutrient. You can also take it in supplement form. The recommended dose for most is 30 mg per day.
I’ve been recommending fish oil for years due to the healthy fats and immune boosting properties it contains.
1-3 and 1-6 Beta Glucans
These compounds help regulate the function of your innate immune system, which is the front-line defense against bacteria and viruses. The compounds help white blood cells bind to and kill these attacking organisms. However, if you have an autoimmune disease, you should not take these supplements.
Herbs, mushroom extracts, and more
There are many herbs that can enhance immunity, such as formulas that contain astragalus, green tea extract, Andrographis and monolaurin. Mushroom extracts also support the immune system, and cooking with shiitake and other medicinal mushrooms is a good way to add support to your system. There are a number of other ingredients in supplements that may provide prevention and treatment benefits, such as quercetin, resveratrol, curcumin, alpha-lipoic acid, Asian ginseng, and rosemary.
Again, I’m not suggesting you rush out and get all of these. You should always check with a trusted provider before adding supplements to your daily regimen. But you really can’t go wrong with a multivitamin, fish oil, Vitamins D3 and C, and a good probiotic.
It’s easy to panic and let fear guide you in times like this, but I want to reassure my community that there is hope and a light at the end of this long, scary tunnel. We need to stay calm, treat our bodies well, take steps to boost immunity whenever possible, and do our part to slow the spread of the virus, especially among our most vulnerable citizens. We will get through this – and we just might come out stronger on the other side!
Read my article on Navigating COVID-19 safely and in good health.
Read my article on Calming the Panic with essential info on COVID-19 for easing fears.
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD