Drew's Tips to Stay Healthy this Winter
Drew's best supplements to help you boost your immune system and avoid getting sick during the fall weather change (or any time of the year)!...
1. High-dose probiotics: 70% of the immune system is in the gut lining, and flora imbalance is a major contributor to suboptimal immune system functioning. When picking a probiotic, look for a mix of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains and at least 50 billion CFUs (colony forming units) per capsule. If this sounds like a lot, remember, you have approximately 100 TRILLION bacteria and yeast in your gut as it is. Product-wise I like Now Foods, Renew Life and Garden of Life Doctor Formulated Probiotics. Dosage suggestions: 50-100 billion CFU, 2-3x a day (up to 3 TRILLION CFU/day have been used in clinical studies).
2. High-dose silymarin: Silymarin, an extract from the milk thistle plant, is one of the most studied liver-supporting compounds out there. The liver is the body's main filter, and dealing with moderate to high amounts of alcohol, Tylenol, carbs and/or toxins in the blood can overwork it, making you more prone to infections. Look for a milk thistle capsule product around 500mg, standardized to 80% silymarin. Product-wise I like Now Foods Extra Strength Silymarin and Toniiq Milk Thistle. Dosage suggestions: 800-1200mg of silymarin, 2-3x a day (up to 13 grams of silymarin/day has been used in clinical studies without adverse effect; a very small percentage of people may be allergic to milk thistle and other members of the Asteraceae family which includes dandelion, chamomile, echinacea and wormwood; whether this is a legitimate allergy or a herxheimer reaction remains a point of contention)
3. Grass-fed whey protein: And you thought whey protein was only for building muscles! Perhaps the two most important roles amino acids play are 1) muscle building/repair and 2) immune system support. Grass-fed whey protein is a complete protein (unlike some plant proteins) and tends to be much less allergenic than conventional whey protein. My favorite powder is made by Raw Organic Whey (an "A2" milk protein powder, which is hard to find), and my favorite ready-to-drink product is made by Orgain. Dosage suggestions: 20 grams 1-3x a day.
4. High-dose vitamin C: Perhaps the most well-known immune-boosting supplement, vitamin C also helps support adrenal health. Holiday stress can tax our adrenals, leading to excess cortisol and inflammation, which can then lead to a more compromised immune system. I'm a fan of what's called "high-dose vitamin C," a practice made popular in the 1970s and 80s by 2 time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. Vitamin C is perhaps the least dangerous essential nutrient, and the most serious thing that happens with excess vitamin C is a laxative effect (called "vitamin C flush" or "bowel tolerance"). When shopping for products look for a clean ascorbic acid powder or you can also try acerola cherry powder if you want a "more natural" source (although ascorbic acid powder itself is also sourced from plants). I like BulkSupplements Ascorbic Acid and MicroIngredient's Acerola Powder. Dosage suggestions for ascorbic acid: 4 grams (or ~1 tsp) 2-3x a day (mix powder in cold water with a splash of your favorite organic fruit juice). Those battling serious infection may benefit from even higher doses.
5. Moderate-high dose Vitamin D: Vitamin D, which acts a little more like a hormone than a vitamin, plays a major role in immune system functioning as well as hormone balance and skeletal health. At least 40% of Americans are vitamin D deficient, and that number likely rises during the fall and winter months, since many aren't able to make vitamin D from sunshine since the UVB rays needed don't get through the atmosphere when the sun is lower on the horizon. You'll want to avoid toxic vitamin D2 products, and while most vitamin D3 supplements are made from lanolin (sheep's skin oil!), I prefer a fish oil-derived vitamin D source (less allergenic), like those made by BlueBonnet. Dosage suggestions: 5,000-10,000 IU a day (can take in 1 dose or divided doses). One study found that almost 10,000 IU/day was needed to get population D hydroxy levels to 40-80ng/mL levels, the "sweet spot" for immunity, bone building, hormones, mood and sleep benefits.
6. Higher dose zinc: Many are probably very familiar with zinc lozenges for immune system health. But did you know zinc also plays a major role in skin and hormonal health? While you might hear warnings to not take more than 50mg of supplemental zinc a day (and to take copper if you do), these warnings are a bit overblown. The clinical data says the "sweet spot" for taking zinc for immune-boosting effects is around 75-100mg a day. I like most forms of zinc with the exception of zinc oxide. Product-wise I like zinc lozenges made by Source Naturals, Nature's Way and Whole Foods 365 brand. One of the additional benefits of zinc is its CHEAP! Dosage suggestions: 15-50mg 2-3x a day (no more than 100mg every 24 hours).
7. Colostrum: Colostrum (aka first milk, pre-milk, liquid gold or immune milk) is the breast milk first produced during lactation, which is distinct in composition to regular breast milk. For the newborn (human or animal), the ingestion of colostrum plays a major role in supporting the development of the innate immune system. Colostrum contains immune cells (lymphocytes), antibodies (ex. IgA, IgG, IgM, etc.), immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, proline-rich polypeptides (PRP) and several growth factors (ex. IGF-1). The use of bovine colostrum to boost the immunity of adult humans has become increasingly popular in the last decade, and several clinical studies have highlighted the positive effects colostrum-derived immunoglobulins and lactoferrin have on adult consumers. When sourcing colostrum look for a bovine colostrum from pasture-raised cows containing few (if any) additives. My favorite product is Sovereign Laboratories Colostrum Powder. Dosage suggestions: 5-10g 2-3x a day (taste is mild and mixes well in yogurt, applesauce, smoothie, coffee, water, etc.).
Honorable mentions: Several natural antimicrobials (including oregano oil, garlic oil, goldenseal, echinacea, colloidal silver, elderberry) as well as beta glucan and natural vitamin A.
Three additional immune-boosting nutrition tips...
* Stay hydrated. Aim for a goal of drinking at least 1/2 your weight in ounces of water every day (high carb, caffeine and alcohol beverages don't count!)
* Avoid the sugars and excess carbs, which can suppress the immune system by A) feeding bad bacteria in the gut (pathogenic bacteria and yeast LOVE sugar) and by B) driving excess blood sugar levels which leads to glycation (tissue damage caused by chronically high blood sugar). Both of the phenomena also contribute to inflammation.
* Have some veggie and chicken soup! Several studies from the late 1970s to early 2000s found that consumption of chicken and veggie soup had a positive impact on the immune system, reduced inflammation and helped decongest the lungs and sinuses.