Dr. Laura Belus ND
When it comes to cold & flu season, our immune system is our greatest protection. It is made up of white blood cells that search for ‘invaders’ within the body, and helps to quickly get them out before we get sick. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. With our modern-day lifestyles many of us are stressed, tired and relying on sugar & caffeine to get through our day. These all lower our immune system function so it’s no wonder we get sick when everyone around is too! But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can naturally boost our body’s immune fighting cells to keep us healthy, and if we do get sick, reduce the severity of our symptoms (a win-win!).
The problem is, with so many immune-boosting products on the market these days, the focus should be on building a strong foundation first to fight off infections. Let’s take a look at 3 of the most important vitamins for immune health.
Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is needed for healthy bones, a balanced mood and a strong immune system (especially if you also have an auto-immune disease). Getting enough from sunlight exposure is challenging for most Canadians, so taking a supplement is now recommended by most health organizations. The question is, how much do we need? 1000IU is a typical daily dose, but this is likely not enough if you are already low in vitamin D (if you’re not sure what your blood levels are, get it tested with your naturopathic doctor!). Plus, when it comes to the immune system, some research studies have used up to 5x this amount to fight infections. Therefore, the dose needed to maintain healthy vitamin D levels should be discussed with your healthcare practitioner. It is an affordable way to keep your entire body healthy.
Oranges are not the only source of vitamin C out there. In fact, many vegetables like bell peppers, kale and black currants have about as much, if not more vitamin C than an orange (and less sugar!). But when it comes to boosting your immune system, taking a supplement of vitamin C can prevent the common cold and lessen how long you experience symptoms. The doses needed for this are often as high as 1000-2000mg per day (the equivalent of 10+ oranges), so it makes sense to add in a high quality vitamin C supplement to your regime during the cold & flu season. Another way to get high doses into your body? Consider an IV vitamin infusion with your naturopathic doctor to make sure you absorb 100% of the important immune-boosting vitamins like vitamin C.
This fat-soluble nutrient doesn’t always steal the spotlight when it comes to immune function, but it plays an important role. Vitamin A’s natural form is known as beta-carotene and is found naturally in orange coloured produce. It is vital for supporting healthy mucosal tissue where viruses like the common cold like to attach and replicate (think of sore throats, runny noses, ear and sinus congestion). Making sure you eat a brightly coloured diet is one of the easiest, and most affordable ways to boost your vitamin A content. If you’re looking to add it in as a supplement, always chat with your naturopath first. Vitamin A in supplement form is not recommended if you are pregnant or nursing, and taking too much can be toxic. So be sure to get personalized advice on this one!
There you have it- some of the most important vitamins to keep your immune system healthy all season long. What are your favourite immune boosters?