Fall and winter. The time of the year when it can feel like somebody’s put a pox on your house.
First the little people drag home all those germs from their classrooms, then cortisol-ridden (the stress hormone) adults catch them and cart them off to work, where they spread the plague with co-workers. It’s a vicious cycle until the world thaws out, the sun shines and we’re all spending more of our time outdoors and on vacation.
“With the holidays and kids back in school and the weather changing, people have more stress and might not be sleeping as well as usual,” says Dawn Franz, a nutritional health coach at Natural Grocers. “It’s important to ramp up your stress-coping toolbox. Supplements can support your immune system, as well as being able to balance your stress response.”
And here’s a more esoteric tip, if you tend to lean in that direction, as I do. Author and alternative medicine proponent Deepak Chopra has a way to reframe the narrative that I particularly like. When you feel that early symptom — you know the one, maybe your nose is a little tingly and runny or your throat hurts first thing in the morning when it was fine the night before — it means something is running amok in your body. This is the time to take those potions that help you fight off a virus, such as umcka or oil of oregano, two of my favorites. But Chopra says it’s not the time to lament to yourself and anyone within hearing distance that you’re getting a cold and you’ll probably be out of commission for the next week. Instead, tell yourself your immune system is simply working overtime right now to fend off intruder germs, not that you’re about to get sick. It’s more proactive, less victim.
Here are six supplements to try over the next few months, as recommended by Franz. Take one or all of them as a daily tonic. If you’re prone to getting sick, you might want to take “the more, the merrier” approach, but it’s not necessary, says Franz.
“If you’re under a lot of stress, do reishi and vitamin D-3,” she says. “Colostrum is good for athletes who put their body through a lot of stress. It keeps them healthy and from getting sick as frequently.”
Be sure to give each supplement a fair shot. Franz suggests sticking to each for a month, and if you don’t notice anything, try a different one. Though she likes to give her body a break from the supplements every now and again, she says it’s also OK to take them year-round. Come spring and summer, however, you might naturally feel a desire to go pill-free, if you’re feeling good and not as stressed.
The mushroom is considered the “queen of immunity” by folks at Natural Grocers. It’s been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years, and is known for its ability to strengthen life force, calm the mind, help with sleep and treat and support respiratory conditions.
“Reishi is the original chill pill,” said Franz. It helps with the stress response and enhances the immune function and active immune function. There are a variety of ways to take reishi (pronounced ray-shee), including in tea, liquid extract, powder and capsules.
Mushrooms, in general, are a boon for your body, even those simple white button mushrooms you see at the grocery. Also good are shiitake and lion’s mane mushrooms.
Franz likes the Host Defense brand for mushrooms. The products are organic and grown in the U.S.
Yes, this is made from a milky fluid that’s released from a cow’s udder after she’s given birth. Try to not think about that too much, as according to some noteworthy studies, colostrum is a great friend to the immune system. It helps boost secretory IgA, which in turn increases the lining of our intestinal cells, one of our first lines of defense against pathogens. It’s available in capsules, chewable pills and powder.
NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)
This amino acid complex is important for creating glutathione, an antioxidant that protects the cells and supports normal detoxification. It helps break up mucus in the lungs and works to protect tissue in the lungs and respiratory tract. It’s mostly available in capsules. This supplement might be contraindicated with certain medications you’re taking. Check with your doctor if you have concerns.
Reliable providers include Now and Carlson.
Every cell in your body has a receptor site for vitamin D. It’s important for modulating how the immune system works, so it’s not over-reactive or under-reactive. When it’s over-reactive, you feel really sick. If it’s under-reactive ,you’ll get everything that comes around. Vitamin D regulates the immune system and acts as an antioxidant. You can get it in gels, liquids or chewables.
“Especially in Colorado, even if you get out, you need UVB rays to create vitamin D in body,” said Franz. “But from November to February, we don’t get UVB rays at our altitude. It’s essential to supplement.”
Reliable providers include Now and Carlson.
There’s a reason cranberries appear so regularly at this time of year: They’re rich in the same compounds blueberries are known for, and have a regulatory affect on immune cells that primes them to fight off an infection. The compounds are beneficial to immune barriers, such as the gastrointestinal tract and mouth. You can drink tea or use it in its fresh or dried form. Allow it to inspire you to concoct organic cranberry sauce, but find a recipe that doesn’t require sugar, which is definitely not a friend of the immune system.
This is the essential mineral that can be obtained by munching two to three Brazil nuts every day. It’s important for immune function and helps the body fight off pathogens. Studies show a deficiency in selenium results in a decrease of the immune system to kill the yucky things. If you don’t like the nuts, take it in pill form. Many multivitamins have it. Get about 200 micrograms per day.
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