By: Dr. Stan Headley, natural health consultant for Cypress Pharmacy
It’s that time of year again – when spreading holiday cheer could also mean spreading viral illnesses. In fact, it’s no coincidence that infections such as colds, flus and pneumonia drastically increase during the fall and winter months when family and friends come together.
Catching a cold, or any other respiratory-related illness, increases our chance of contracting a much more serious virus, influenza. Factors like getting older, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions also cause our immune system to become weaker.
So, what are natural, proactive ways to protect yourself during peak flu season?
Recent clinical studies suggest that having a nutritional supplement regimen may be as effective in preventing viruses as prescription medication. Vitamins and supplements such as elderberry, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and quercetin can support and boost your immune system.
In addition, most people think of probiotics strictly for improving digestion. However, evidence-based science indicates 70% of the immune system resides in the digestive tract. Probiotics provide a healthy immune response and help prevent viral syndromes of all types.
While elderberry flew off shelves in the height of COVID, its popularity didn’t occur overnight. Packed with antioxidants, the dark purple berry has been used for centuries to fight infections and boost immunity. Found in everything from cough syrups to vitamin gummies, elderberry can be an effective ingredient for managing cold and flu symptoms. Recent studies show other benefits include promoting heart health and reducing inflammation. Food is medicine, and elderberry is a classic example.
Vitamin D is vital for the proper functioning of your immune system, which is your body’s first line of defense against infection and disease. Both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory, this essential vitamin is great for enhancing the function of immune cells that protect our body against pathogens that cause disease. It’s estimated that at least 40% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D.
Found in foods like oranges, broccoli and spinach, people often think they get enough vitamin C from their diet. However, the truth is about 90% of adults are nutritionally deficient. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and crucial for supporting immune function. A popular remedy for fighting infection, several studies suggest vitamin C may cause shorter and milder colds due to reducing inflammation in the lungs.
Present in every cell of the body, Zinc plays an important role in maintaining immune function. Immune cells must rapidly divide to respond to daily challenges and require adequate amounts of zinc to do so. Studies show that this vital mineral can block the replication and growth of viruses in the body, which make it a powerful ingredient in many over-the-counter cold supplements.
Packed with antioxidant and antiviral properties, quercetin is found in many of our fruits, vegetables and grains. Recent studies suggest that it can help your body combat free radical damage and reduce inflammatory lung response when used with zinc. It’s also believed to help zinc penetrate cells to fight respiratory infection at a cellular level.
Immune-boosting vitamins and supplements are also often available in special blends, offering all-in-one options with essential vitamins and minerals shown to promote overall immune health.
Some supplements can interact with medications or have unwanted side effects if not taken in the proper dosage, so it’s important to consult a health care professional or your pharmacist to develop tailored supplement regimens.
Bottom line: Even those who’ve received the trifecta of flu, COVID and booster shots can feel a bit uneasy when it comes to the sound of suspicious coughing or a runny nose amid peak flu season. While proper handwashing and social distancing helps to prevent the spread of infection, taking targeted immune-boosting vitamins and supplements can also add a proactive layer of protection against the seasonal flu.