Click HERE for Immune Basics: Choices to Live Healthy (word document).
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Hormone balance can greatly affect immune function. 3 hormones are very important in this process.
When the thyroid system is not functioning properly, the innate immune system may not function optimally[i]. Innate immunity is the part of the immune system that is always functioning to reduce infection. Innate immune cells include natural killer cells (NK cells), white blood cells, macrophages, and other immune cells such as dendritic cells.
Cortisol is an important stress hormone produced in the Adrenal glands. Cortisol reacts to stress by raising blood sugars, activating the immune system, and triggering the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (inflammatory signaling molecules). Chronic stress can dampen the feedback system that helps to reduce cortisol production.[ii] Chronic cortisol release may lead to chronic inflammation, resulting in a reduced immune response when needed.
Vitamin D has a significant role in supporting immunity. Vitamin D helps to regulate innate immunity. Vitamin D influences the immune system in the digestive tract, the location of majority of immune cells. Vitamin D may also be a key nutrient to reduce inflammatory cytokines.[iii]
[i] Montesinos MDM, Pellizas CG. Thyroid Hormone Action on Innate Immunity [published correction appears in Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019 Jul 19;10:486]. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019;10:350. Published 2019 Jun 4. doi:10.3389/fendo.2019.00350
[ii] Morey JN, Boggero IA, Scott AB, Segerstrom SC. Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015;5:13-17. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.03.007
[iii] Sassi F, Tamone C, D’Amelio P. Vitamin D: Nutrient, Hormone, and Immunomodulator. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1656. Published 2018 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu10111656
These foods help improve your immune function and can easily become dietary stables.
Improve your gastrointestinal biome. Our total health depends on gastrointestinal health. The following foods help support healthy bacterial populations.
Pre-biotic foods supply food for beneficial bacteria:
Probiotic foods contain beneficial bacteria:
Herbs to support your stress response and reduce inflammation. These herbs help lower the inflammatory protein Interleukin-6 that may be related to the COVID-19 inflammatory response. They are also very helpful to support the stress response.
If I were to suggest 7 supplements to support your immune system, I’d list them as:
The reason I suggest Vitamin C as the top 3 immune support nutrient is that humans do not make Vitamin C. That means we need to obtain this very important nutrient from our food or from a nutritional supplement. Vitamin C helps reduce the inflammatory response and protects cells against oxidative damage to cells, thus protecting cells against an inflammatory response to infections. Vitamin C is also important for neurotransmitter dopamine production, collagen and other connective tissue formation, and cortisol production.
The following recommendations are suggested due to their known immune system support. Additional nutrients may be needed if you feel ill. Please be aware, these recommendations are to improve your immune system; they are not intended as a cure for Covid-19. I’ve listed references at the bottom of the article if you want to read more about these key nutrients.
Visit Fullscript for supplements if you think you are not getting the levels suggested from your diet.
Vitamin C Goal: 3000 mg/day.
Vitamin C taken in divided doses throughout the day helps to maintain a good circulating dose and improves ability to absorb in the digestive system. Vitamin C can be obtained as ascorbic acid. To reduce any acid affect on the stomach, ester-C / buffered formulations can be obtained. Additionally, taking small doses (i.e., 500-1000 mg) throughout the day may reduce stomach or other gastrointestinal disturbances. Diabetics need to be cautious with fruit and Vitamin C intake as both may affect blood sugar values.
|Vitamin C Containing Foods||Vitamin C level (milligrams)|
|Guava (1 cup)||377 mg|
|Orange (medium size)||70 mg|
|Sweet red pepper (1/2 cup)||95 mg|
|Kiwi (1 fruit)||64 mg|
|Lemon (1 fruit)||44.5 mg|
Vitamin D Goal: 2000-5000 IU (50-150 mcg)
Do not rely on the amount of sun exposure you get to determine your Vitamin D levels. The best way to determine if you have adequate blood levels of Vitamin D is to get a blood test. One study suggests that the a serum Vitamin D level above 38 ng/ml or higher “should significantly reduce the incidence of acute viral respiratory tract infections…”
|Vitamin D Containing Foods||Vitamin D Content (International Units)|
|Cod Liver Oil (1 tablespoon)||1360 IU|
|Rainbow Trout (3 ounces)||645 IU|
|Salmon (3 ounces)||570 IU|
|White button mushrooms, exposed to UV light under controlled conditions (1/2 cup)||366 IU|
|Egg (1 large) (Vitamin D in yolk)||44 IU|
Selenium Goal: 200 mcg/day
Selenium helps with anti-oxidation in the regeneration of vitamin C and glutathione. It is also involved with thyroid function.
|Selenium Containing Foods||Selenium content (micrograms)|
|Brazil Nuts (1/2 ounce = 2-4 nuts)||272 mcg|
|Halibut, dry heat cooked, (3 ounces)||47 mcg|
|Sardines (3 ounces)||45 mcg|
|Ham, roasted (3 ounces)||42 mcg|
Zinc Goal: 10-20 mg/day
Zinc is very important the immune system. Zinc may reduce viral replication in cells. Quercitin (500-1000 mg) and molybdemnum (1 mg) can help zinc get into cells. Please note, that chronic overdosing of zinc may deplete copper levels. Take 1-2 mg copper for every 15 mg of zinc. Pregnant women should not take more than 25 mg zinc daily.
|Zinc Containing Foods||Selenium content (milligrams)|
|Oysters (3 ounces)||74 mg|
|Beef, braised (3 ounces)||7 mg|
|Pork chop, cooked (3 ounces)||2.9 mg|
|Pumpkin Seeds, dried (1 ounce)||2.2 mg|
|Cashews, dried (1 ounce)||1.6 mg|
Magnesium Goal: 400 mg daily.
Magnesium is used in hundreds of biochemical reactions that have implications for muscle pain, bone density, mood, energy, detoxification, and immunity. Significantly, magnesium deficiency may lead to an inflammatory response. One of the issues with Covid-19 is its ability to turn on a strong intra-cellular inflammatory reaction. Adequate supplementation of magnesium is very important to reduce the risk of a strong inflammatory reaction.
|Magnesium Containing Foods||Magnesium content (milligrams)|
|Almonds, dry roasted (1 ounce)||80 mg|
|Cashews, dry roasted (1 ounce)||74 mg|
|Soymilk (1 cup)||61 mg|
|Peanut butter, smooth (2 tablespoon)||49 mg|
I hope you are getting these nutrients from your food. However, it may be difficult to get everything you need. Visit Fullscript for supplements if you think you are not getting the levels suggested from your diet.
Maggini, S et al. A Combination of High-dose Vitamin C Plus Zinc for the Common Cold. The Journal of International Medical Research. 2012; 40: 28 – 42
Sabetta, JR et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and the Incidence of Acute Viral Respiratory Tract Infections in Healthy Adults. PLoS One, 5 (6), e11088. 2010 Jun 14 PMID: 20559424. PMCID: PMC2885414. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011088
Wintergerst ES1, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(4):301-23. Epub 2007 Aug 28
Tam, M et al. Possible roles of magnesium on the immune system. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003) 57, 1193–1197. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601689
Laires MJ1, Monteiro C. Exercise, magnesium and immune function. Magnes Res. 2008 Jun;21(2):92-6.
Shanka, AH and Prasad, AS. Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68(suppl):447S–63S.
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/
Do you have an autoimmune disease or know someone who does? Want to learn more about treatment without immunosuppressant drugs?
Autoimmunity occurs when the body’s immune system fails to recognize the body as part of itself, resulting in organ damage. Different types of autoimmunity will affect different organ systems. Rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Scleroderma, Type I Diabetes, Lupus, Crohn’s disease, Sjögren’s, and Ankylosing Spondylitis are all types of autoimmune disease.
Many times, prescription medication is provided to suppress the immune system. Unfortunately, the suppression of the immune system may increase the risk of infection and cancer. Alternative approaches exist that may be beneficial to reduce the imbalance of the immune system. Remission may be possible.
Dr. Rodgers offers the following strategies to identify and treat the underlying causes of immune dysregulation.
Dr. Rodgers offers the following strategies to identify and treat the underlying causes of immune dysregulation.
To schedule your evaluation with Dr. Rodgers, click here.
The immune system protects us from infection. When activated by infection, the immune system produces proteins called immunoglobulins and other inflammatory compounds.
Foods can also trigger similar immune reactions when food particles pass through an inflamed intestinal barrier.
Sometimes, these reactions cause a histamine release that can lead to severe tissue inflammation as seen in anaphylaxis. Histamine reactions fall in the category of Allergy.
What is Food Sensitivity?
Foods can also trigger non-histamine immune reactions that result in numerous non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, skin rash, mood disturbance, digestive complaints (i.e., constipation, diarrhea, nausea, acid reflux, etc.) and more. These non-histaminic reactions are classified as sensitivity reactions.
As a Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Rodgers offers two methods for identifying food sensitivities. By using these tools, patients are provided a powerful method to help identify and control the underlying cause of inflammation.
Call 208-275-0007 if you would like more information about these diagnostic tools.
I have a small backyard garden that provides lettuce, tomatoes, basil and other vegetables. To make sure these vegetables get all the soil nutrients they deserve, I ruthlessly remove all weeds.
I define a weed as any plant growing where I don’t want it to be. I use 2 toxin-free weed removal methods.
Five beneficial weeds also reside in my yard. I don’t try to grow weeds, but I do leave one small area in my yard where I don’t eradicate them completely. In that space, they magically transform from weed to beneficial medical herbs.
Mallow. Mallow leaves contain both vitamins and minerals: beta-carotene, vitamin C, selenium, iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium. If one is not willing to use in a salad, the plant can be dried into a powder and added to soups or smoothies. The leaves and roots are slippery (mucilaginous) and can be used to soothe the digestive tract.
Dandelions seem to be the bane of every home owner. However, this is one of the most powerful medicinal herbs we all have at our disposal. The leaves can be used as additions to spring salads. As medicine, the leaves help increase urination. The roots contain compounds to strengthen the cleansing action in the liver.
Lemon Balm. Like most mints, Lemon Balm has the propensity to take over any garden if left to its own devices (i.e., make sure to plant in a container). Lemon balm’s leaves are easy to pick for making tea. It is calming and helps reduce anxiety. Leaves can be used fresh or dried. Cats and bees also love it.
I love Burdock as an herb until a velcro inspiring seed pod becomes lodged in a pet’s fur. The root is used in many liver-cleansing formulas.
A new weed arrival to my yard this season: Mullein. This statuesque desert plant’s spring leaves are used in lung tonic formulations.
Zesty vinegar spritzer. Combine your favorite cooled sparkling water with an infused vinegar. This has become a summer favorite. Pour 1-2 Tablespoons of your favorite flavor infused light balsamic vinegar with 8-12 ounces of sparkling water. I really enjoy a lemon vinegar with sparkling water. Not only does this drink taste great, it helps to create an alkaline balance. Olivin in Boise offers a variety of high quality infused vinegars and olive oils. One tablespoon of balsamic vinegar may provide ~3 grams of carbohydrates.
Quick yoga workouts. There are some days that are too busy to go to yoga class. Find a quick work out on Youtube to help reset the mind, body, and spirit. I’ve been following Yoga with Adriene , but there are others you can follow to get in a quick rejuvenating yoga set.
Morning workouts. Research shows that exercise helps to increase mood and brain health. Even if you can’t do a full work out in the morning, a quick summer morning walk or bicycle ride can help set you for a productive and smart day.