Fall is here which means cold and flu season is just around the corner. While knowledge of specific public health activities such as washing your hands frequently, wearing masks and staying at least 6 feet apart help to decrease the transmission and eﬀect of illnesses, there are also ways you can naturally boost your immune system to help combat sickness and stay ahead of the game. Nutritional interventions to support optimal immune system function are frequently overlooked in public health talks about immunity and illness. This is surprising, given that the role of diet in immune function has long been recognized.
Supplements, such as vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folate; trace minerals, such as zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and copper; and omega-3 fatty acids all play crucial and complementary roles in boosting both the innate and adaptive immune systems, according to a wealth of mechanistic and clinical data. Micronutrients’ molecular functions in immune function optimization have lately been well-described. The majority of micronutrients have two or more eﬀects on immunological function. In terms of innate immunity, the vitamins and minerals listed above work together to support physical barrier development and maintenance, antimicrobial protein production and activity, innate cell growth, diﬀerentiation and motility, phagocytic and killing activities such as oxidative burst, and inflammation promotion and recovery.
Micronutrient deficiencies have a detrimental impact on immune function and can reduce infection resistance. With the exception of vitamin E and magnesium, each of these micronutrients has been given health claims in the European Union for their role in immune system function. Other nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, contribute to a healthy immune system by assisting in the resolution of the inflammatory response.
As previously said, inflammation is an important part of the immune response. The influx of fluid, immune cells, and other mediators that serve to remove the infection is generated by a range of pro-inflammatory mediators released by several distinct types of cells. Due to the activation of certain negative-feedback mechanisms, inflammation usually disappears swiftly towards the end of the immune response.
As a result, a set of specific nutritional guidelines is required. First, supplementing with micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids is a safe, eﬀective, and low-cost strategy to help fill nutritional deficiencies and maintain optimum immune function, lowering the risk of infection and its eﬀects. Expert authorities, such as the IOM in the United States, have suggested top safety limits for intakes. In addition to eating a well-balanced diet, taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement that meets the basic micronutrient needs (RDA) for vitamins and minerals is recommended.
Second, we propose supplementing with vitamins C and D in excess of the RDA. As previously stated, recent studies have found that vitamin C supplementation reduces the likelihood and severity of upper and lower respiratory tract infections such as the common cold and pneumonia, as well as illness severity and risk of death in older patients. A daily intake of at least 200 mg/day for healthy persons is recommended based on this evidence. This number is higher than the US RDAs for female and male adults, which are 75 and 90 mg per day, respectively. It should be noted that vitamin C requirements vary depending on one’s health status, with 1–2 g/day being indicated to restore normal blood levels in sick people starting at the first sign of illness. The tolerated upper limit (TUL) for adults in the United States is 2 g/day and for children aged 1–3 years is 400 mg/day. Vitamin D supplementation lowers the incidence of respiratory tract infections in both children and adults, according to other studies. Daily or weekly vitamin D dosages were found to have protective eﬀects, whereas less frequent bolus doses did not. It is suggested that you consume 2000 IU (50 g) per day. This is higher than the US RDA of 400–800 IU depending on age, but lower than the TUL of 2500–4000 IU for individuals over 1 year old.
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are a third suggestion. The formation of anti- inflammatory metabolites of these fatty acids, notably in the respiratory system, is aided by proper consumption in the resolution of inflammation. According to global, regional, and national expert guidelines, a daily dose of 250 mg EPA + DHA is suggested.
With the present situation around the world, it is important that we have knowledge and information available so we can make our own informed decisions that is best for our overall health. Utilizing these supplements for additional safe and cost-eﬀective ways to support our bodies promotes optimal immune function to not only control the impact of a possible infection, but to help limit the spread of more virulent strains of viruses.
*WARNING: Remember to always consult with your doctor before starting any nutrition or exercise program to ensure the program is right for you.
Dr. Angela M. Sterling, D.C. is a chiropractor in Overland Park, Kansas. She has a passion for helping others that has led her down the path of Alternative Medicine into a career that allows her to provide patients with high quality health care. As a licensed Chiropractic Physician, she brings a holistic approach to medicine in order to find comfortable and effective solutions for everyone. Dr. Sterling is a Nationally Board Certified Doctor of Chiropractic and Nationally Board Certified in Physiotherapy.