Hi everyone! It’s Dr. Trish – physician, author, and Health Catalyst Speaker. Welcome to today’s podcast on foods and supplement to boost your immune system. In this crazy time of COVID-19 or coronavirus-2019, many of us are scared and confused. No one really seems to have a lot of answers for us on how long will this last, when will it end, and how can we get back to normal. If you haven’t listened to my podcast that was an overview of coronavirus-2019, that podcast talked about the origins of this virus, the scientific concepts behind this virus, it also talked about social distancing, washing hands, how to keep yourself safe, and how to try and prevent as best we can, transmission of this virus. It talked about the idea that we must, as best as we can, lower the peak of the transmission curve because if we don’t the healthcare system is going to be overwhelmed. We already know that in certain cities across this country like New York City, Los Angeles, and others we have not been able to keep the curve down, and way too many people have died. Far too many medical providers and medical service people have become ill and some have died.
Today’s focus is on the host, meaning you and I. Each of us is a host to an infectious agent, a virus. Viruses do not get treated by antibiotics. Antibiotics were discovered and developed earlier in the 1900s and obviously they were a huge benefit to the human race in that bacteria, which is a certain type of a microbe, was killing people with pneumonias and other types of bacterial infections. That was the number one cause of death if you go back into the early 1900s. Science explored, identified, and developed antibiotics to kill bacterial infectious microbes, but with viruses we still do not have any medication to kill the microbe of a virus. We have some medicines to kill funguses and some to kill bacteria, but we don’t have medicines to destroy and kill viruses. That’s why viruses like influenza or coronaviruses are so dangerous because our own immune system, once it’s exposed to these viruses, is on its own. You can take medications to help with symptoms, but you’re not going to find medications to destroy the virus. Click To Tweet You must boost your own immune system.
Today my focus is on foods and supplements to boost your own immune system. Let’s get to it! First of all, I’d like to talk about foods and the top foods that are going to boost one’s immune system. The slides I’m going to share with you now related to different foods are taken from another source. The source is Healthline that has to do with health, food nutrition, and foods that boost the immune system. I want to give credit to them for these slides and to thank them.
Basically, you must eat the rainbow red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, and I don’t mean M&Ms or Skittles. I mean fruits and vegetables. All the different colors in the different foods that are truly from plants have vitamins, minerals, and what are called phytonutrients in them.Click To Tweet Phyto means “to plant” and nutrients are nutrients from plants, but each and every plant…there are over 2,000 different phytonutrients that we get from plants! The different phytonutrients are what were protecting the plant during their own lifetime. So, if these are the nutrients that protected the plant, if you take it then think about your food as medicine and it’s going to then protect you! Every color of the rainbow (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple) has different phytonutrients and different vitamins and minerals. You should be eating every color of the rainbow in plants, fruits, and vegetables every single day of your life. Five to seven servings every single day. If you’re not, then you are not protecting yourself against the virus, and you are not boosting your immune system. This is absolutely number one. Each and every one of us must look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Am I eating all the colors of the rainbow in fruits and vegetables every day? Am I getting five to seven servings at minimum of fruits and vegetables every single day?”
Now let’s talk about some specifics. Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells which are key to fighting infections.Click To Tweet That’s why vitamin C is so pronounced right now, and you can’t even find it on online supplement places because it’s sold out everywhere! Everybody knows vitamin C boosts your immune system. Our bodies do not produce or store vitamin C, so you must take it every day. It’s a water-soluble vitamin. You want to take it and you can take it to what’s called bowel tolerance, which I’ll talk about later when I get into taking it as a true supplement. But right now, when you want to talk about taking it with food, you’ll notice again every color of the rainbow: citrus, kiwi, papaya, broccoli, spinach, and red bell peppers.
Citrus like grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, lime, and clementines are all packed with vitamin C, but did you know that actually red bell peppers are high in vitamin C and they have twice as much vitamin C as any of the citrus items that I listed off a moment ago.
Red bell peppers, and orange ones as well, are also rich sources of beta carotene, which are beneficial for keeping your eyes and your skin healthy.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables out there! It is packed with vitamins A, vitamin C, and vitamin E, plus it is packed with antioxidants.Click To Tweet Antioxidants are a nutrient that when you put it in your body it takes free radicals. Free radicals happen in our body because of toxic exposure or oxidation. When we’re detoxing anything, particularly fat-soluble things, we need to break it down from a toxic state and then change it to a water-soluble state to then be able to sweat it out or pee it out. Not poop it out because most toxins that go in through our mouth that don’t get absorbed into our body go through our GI tract and do leave as waste in our poop. Things that do get absorbed into our body and into our bloodstream as fat-soluble toxins we do need to break them down and change them from a fat-soluble chemical to a water-soluble agent so that we then can sweat it out or pee it out in our urine. That process creates what are called “free radicals.” Most of us have heard of free radicals and the fact that free radicals are dangerous. They’re positively charged in our body and they cause degeneration, breakdown, and problems for our immune system causing it not to be able to function optimally.Click To Tweet
Broccoli is one of the most potent antioxidants and detoxifying foods on the earth! Cruciferous vegetables, particularly broccoli, you want to be eating a lot of. It also is also high in fiber. Two caveats. Number one – the thing about broccoli and many vegetables is that you can steam them and cook them, but you don’t want to overcook them. If you overcook them, then it loses some of the nutrition and the enzymes that act as the antioxidants. Eating it raw or lightly steaming it and keeping it “al dente.” You want it to stay a little crisp, and don’t overcook it until it’s all mushy because then you’ve lost a lot of the nutrient affect. The other caveat I hate to say about broccoli (and I live this myself) is that if people have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and you are sensitive to what is called “high FODMAP foods,” broccoli is a high FODMAP food. This means that when we eat it, it converts to a particular type of sugar in our body called fermented oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are a type of sugar that many of us, if we have IBS, do not digest well. It causes gas, bloating, and either constipation or diarrhea. Just be careful that if you’ve noticed that broccoli is a problem for you, you might be able to get away with eating it once a week, but you wouldn’t want to be eating it every single day. You’ll have to find other options such as garlic.
Garlic is also high in vitamin C. It also is an extremely high boosting vegetable. It’s heavily concentrated in sulfur-containing compounds and a particular compound called “allicin.” My office actually purchases from a local farm black fermented garlic and we’ve done a study on cholesterol and the immune system and how it benefits it. Garlic can fight infections. Eating garlic and black garlic in particular can boost your immune system, absolutely!
Another food that would be awesome to help decrease inflammation and boost your immune system is ginger, especially if people have inflammatory illness. Many people will take ginger for nausea or sore throats. With lower inflammation, it’s going to boost your immune system’s ability to function optimally and decrease pain.
Spinach is a very high vitamin C vegetable and again, you don’t want to overcook this like we talked about with broccoli. Spinach is not a high FODMAP food, so you should be able to tolerate this. If someone is sensitive with high FODMAP to broccoli, then eat more spinach and other vegetables that can be substituted that are low FODMAP. Spinach is packed with antioxidants and beta carotene similar to the other fruits and vegetables we’ve been talking about. It increases the immune system’s ability to fight infection, which is exactly this talk is all about.
Moving away from fruits and vegetables to a different food source. Sources of high probiotics, meaning antibacterial probiotics, meaning cultures. Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, or sauerkraut. What they’re all doing, those high probiotic foods, is they’re boosting your immune system by keeping your microbiome as healthy as possible.Click To Tweet They’re full of live and active cultures of probiotic bacteria that we live and symbiotic relationship with in your gut, on your skin, and in your sinuses. Remember that the COVID-19 virus is contracted through our nasopharynx, through your sinuses, mouth, and the back of your throat. You either put your fingers or hands or someone sneezes on you or whatever and it gets into your nasopharynx, into your sinuses, and into your throat and that’s how you contract the virus. If we have the right bacteria living in our sinuses and in our gut to try and keep our immune systems optimal and able to fight the battle and defend us as our military against these viral or bacterial infections, then we’re going to boost our immune system.
Again, yogurt. Now if you are sensitive to dairy, meaning you do not tolerate dairy, you could substitute. For example, I have IBS and do not ingest dairy products, and I haven’t for as much as ten years. Almond yogurt, coconut yogurt, or yogurt made with some other element that can be cultured will give you live and active cultures to stimulate your immune system and give you a strong microbiome. Almond or coconut milk would be other options. Soy milk could be used to as long as you’re not sensitive to that.
The other thing is a lot of yogurts are fortified in vitamin D. Vitamin D is huge in regulating your immune system, and I’m going to talk about that more when I talk about supplements after I finish the food discussion.
Next food substance high on the list to boost your immune system is almonds. They’re packed with vitamin E and other healthy fats. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and key to the health immune system. A half cup of almonds a day will provide you with 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E. Make sure you’re eating as much as a half cup of almonds a day (about a handful or so).
Turmeric is the next spice. It’s not just fruits and vegetables, you also want to use spices. Turmeric has a high concentration of curcumin, and curcumin is what gives turmeric its distinctive orange color. Turmeric is a very strong anti-inflammatory agent. It’s used in different types of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. You can use it as a spice and cook with it – absolutely, use it a lot! To get enough to really make as much anti-inflammatory effect as you may want, I’d use it your cooking, but I would also possibly purchase it in a capsule to get as much as 500 – 1000 mg of turmeric a day.
Flavonoids are antioxidants. One of the foods or substances that are very high in flavonoids is green tea. Green tea is also high in EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). EGCG is a very powerful antioxidant that enhances the immune system.Click To Tweet That’s why green tea is high on the list. It’s also a source of amino acid L-theanine which may aid in the production of germ fighting compounds in T cells. T cells search out and destroy viral invaders. You definitely want to be drinking and ingesting green tea. Green tea can be a drink, of course that we’re all familiar with, it also can be taken as a capsule.
Next is papaya. Papaya is a wonderful fruit from Hawaii and other tropical environments. Very high in vitamin C. There is 224% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C in a single papaya. Most people don’t sit down and eat a whole papaya because they are pretty big. The papaya also has a digestive enzyme in it called “papain,” and it has anti-inflammatory effects. It also can help with digestion. Papaya is also high in potassium and different B vitamins including folate, which are absolutely beneficial for your nervous system managing stress and therefore boosting your immune system.
Kiwi is very high is vitamin C and can boost white blood cells to fight infection. It also has folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Fruits and vegetables, as I’ve emphasized, and I’ll always emphasize, should the foundation of everyone’s diet. If you are not eating fruits and vegetables every day you cannot possibly be boosting and optimizing your immune system.
But also, let’s talk about poultry – chicken and turkey. Chicken soup, turkey soup, and making broths after you’ve purchased and cooked a whole chicken. Your family has a dinner of chicken one evening and the next day you have left over chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, or whatever you might make. What you want to do then is take the carcass of the chicken (preferably an organically raised chicken so it wasn’t full of toxins and hormones that were abnormal for it), put it in your crockpot, fill the crockpot with water, and turn the crockpot to high and simmer that chicken carcass in the crockpot with a little salt and vinegar (a tablespoon or two) for twelve hours. What’s going to happen is it’s going to cause you to be making a chicken poultry broth. You can also do this with turkey. The poultry broth is extremely high in vitamins and minerals for your joints, but also to heal the lining of your gut, therefore optimizing your immune function. Chicken soup has always been known to improve the symptoms of colds and protect us from getting sick in the first place. It’s high in vitamin B-6 and it will also in optimizing healthy red blood cells. You want to be drinking about an 8 oz glass, a coffee cup, or tea cup every day if you can. Eat chicken or turkey soup. Make and eat that on a regular basis to protect oneself.
How about some seeds? We talked about almonds, what about sunflower seeds? Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E, phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin B-6.
Another type of food that we don’t normally think about or eat on a regular every day basis is shellfish. Some types of shellfish are high in a mineral called zinc, which our bodies need so that our immune cells can function properly.Click To Tweet The right amount of zinc is what’s important, and the daily recommendation for men is about 11 mg and for women it’s about 8 mg. Shellfish high in zinc include crab, clams, lobster, and mussels. These may not be something you eat every day, but to get some will improve your zinc levels. Everyone out there is sucking on zinc lozenges because zinc in the nasopharyngeal area doesn’t allow the virus the ability to get connected or attached. A lot of people use it to fight against a viral infection.
That’s pretty much the different foods I wanted to emphasize today. Let’s talk about some supplements. For example, you can’t drink enough green tea to get as much green tea as you may want to get in a supplement. You can’t put enough turmeric on every single thing you eat to have it be as strongly anti-inflammatory as taking a capsule of turmeric. Let’s look at some of the top supplements that are recommended that are anti-viral and that will boost your immune system.
This information is on my website on a special page that I created at the beginning of the coronavirus. Basically, let’s talk right off the bat about vitamin C. If you’re taking vitamin C not just through food but you’re taking it as a supplement, you want to take vitamin C to what’s called “bowel tolerance.” What the heck does that mean? Most people can take 500 mg or 1000 mg a day in a capsule and that’s fine, that’s great! But with the coronavirus we probably should be taking more than that. You can take 3000, 4000, 5000, or 6000 mg a day to what’s called bowel tolerance. When you get up to too much vitamin C for you as an individual, you will start to have a clean out of your bowels. You will get loose stools or a flush out, if you will, of diarrhea. That is when you know that’s your sign that vitamin C has gotten up too high for you and you need to back off to a lower dosage per day that does not affect your bowel function. That’s vitamin C. Vitamin C can be taken as a liquid. Vitamin C can be taken as crystals which will allow you to get higher dosages more quickly or in a smaller amount. For example, vitamin C crystals of ascorbic acid 1/8 of a teaspoon is about 2000 mg. You notice you can get a higher dose at a smaller amount of the supplement itself. You obviously can get capsules and tablets of vitamin C.
The next supplement I’d like to talk about it called propolis. Propolis comes from bee hives and it comes from the resin that is in the material that the bees create their hive from. Propolis within this resin produced by bees to make their hive is found to be antiviral and antimicrobial. It’s both going protect you against the coronavirus and also against bacterial infections.
The next supplement we all need to be considering in vitamin D. Vitamin D is one of the most important supplements that we all need to be taking or making sure that our vitamin D levels in our body are optimal. Vitamin D boosts our immune system and it actually works as if it’s a hormone. It helps balance our blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and boost our immune systems. Vitamin D3 is usually what people take over the counter that you can buy in a pharmacy or vitamin store to get vitamin D3. It usually is dosed not in milligrams like a lot of other supplements. Instead, it’s doses in thousands of international units (IUs). Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. You have to be careful that you don’t take too much fat-soluble vitamins because they get stored in your body and if you take too much it can get up to a toxic level. The best way to get vitamin D is out in the sun but many of us in our bodies do not do the conversion of the correct type of vitamin D optimally. Even if you live in the tropics and you’re out in the sun a lot, many people when you test their vitamin D levels it’s not optimal.
The range for vitamin D on a lab can start at 30 and can go as high up as 100. Many people are like 32. If you think about the range from 30 – 100, that’s pretty darn low. If someone’s absolutely deficient. An optimal level of vitamin D is around 60, 70, or 80 if the range is from 30 – 100. You notice, we need to supplement it. There are studies that have been done that show between 2000 – 4000 IUs is typically not going to make anyone too toxic on vitamin D. In this time of the virus, even if you have a normal vitamin D level, I would recommend taking between 2000 – 4000 IUs of vitamin D3 every single day. It comes usually in 2000 IUs capsules or 1000 or sometimes 4000 or 5000 IU. Find the dose you’re looking for and take that amount or take multiple capsules to get to the dose you’re trying to get to. Again, what you want is between 2000 – 4000 IUs a day.
The next supplement I want to talk about…and this one’s not as much a supplement as it’s back to talking a little bit about plants. They’re called “terpenes” or “terpenoids.” Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons and they’re in plants. Over 20,000 different kinds of plants have terpenes and terpenoids in them. They give the plants their flavor and their scent. Also, these terpenes or terpenoids protect the plant from infection. If you eat them, they’re going to boost your immune system and help protect you against infection!Click To Tweet Some of the fruits and vegetables that are high in terpenoids or terpenes are mangoes, apples, citrus, broccoli, and many spices like turmeric and others. However, there also is in a supplement that we’re all quite growing more and more familiar with which is CBD oil. CBD oil and CBD from the hemp plant is high in terpenes and terpenoids. If you’ve been taking CBD oil for anxiety, stress, sleep, or pain keep taking it! It’s high in terpenes and it’s also going to help protect you against viral infection and boost your immune system.Click To Tweet
The next supplement I want to talk about is one called Protandim. Protandim is produced and sold by a particular company called LifeVantage. They have many other supplements they sell but particularly Protandim which they developed is going to boost your immune system. There have been PubMed clinical trials done on this supplement that showed that it is an extremely strong antioxidant and it reduces a person’s free radical load by as much as 30%. As we are aging, the increase in free radicals in our body is what causes us to degenerate. It causes us to develop wrinkles because our skin starts to degenerate, osteoarthritis, and more possible risk of developing cancers because of these free radicals in our body. This supplement, Protandim, has five different supplements that are combined in it in such a way that it’s been shown to decrease your free radical load by as much as 30%.Click To TweetThe five supplements that are compounded within Protandim are: milk thistle, bacopa, ashwaganda, green tea extract, and turmeric. I get my turmeric, my green tea, my milk thistle for my liver, ashwaganda for my adrenals, and my bacopa for my cognitive abilities through taking Protandim one tablet a day. Again, you can find access to each and every one of the supplements I’m talking about here right on my website.
The final supplement to boost your immune system I’d like to talk about today is called thymuline. Thymuline is not a pill, it’s a spray. You’re going to spray it under your tongue, and it is a homeopathic remedy. Homeopathy has been around for hundreds of years. It is a form of medical care that some people use quite a bit. It is completely different than the traditional medical model. The traditional medical model is about taking symptoms and using something that will eliminate those symptoms that is opposite of them, that wants to destroy those symptoms or destroy that bacteria by giving you a chemical that will kill it or destroy it. Homeopathy on the other hand is taking a remedy called a “homeopathic remedy.” “Homo” meaning “like.” Like will affect like. You’re going to take something that will cause a similar symptom in your body to the actual illness that you have. Now, why would you want to do that? Why would you want to take something that’s going to act similar to an illness? First of all, homeopathic remedies are extremely low dilutions of anything that’s going to cause illness. They don’t cause a definitive illness, but that microscopic amount of a chemical or an herb or a toxin causes your immune system to be boosted to defend you stronger in the same manner as the illness would, so it can fight against the illness better.
Thymuline supports the function of your thymus gland and naturally boosts the immune system. Thymuline is especially beneficial when suffering from excess mucus or bronchial problems. Remember, the coronavirus affects our respiratory bronchial system. It is highly recommended when feeling under the weather or weakened by exhaustion and promotes general healing and recovering from illness. It will boost your immune system and it will fight viral and bacterial agents. It prohibits and alleviates respiratory diseases such as colds, flus, and sinus problems. It relieves allergy symptoms and promotes overall healing and recuperation after or during an illness.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are many others that are out there, but to give some sort of a package, if you will, of supplements that I would consider and I am taking on a regular basis especially during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect myself and to boost me as the host so that if and when I ever do get this virus I’m 1) going to survive it and 2) not going to be very ill because my immune system is going to be ready for it. That is the hope and the plan in my mind. Hopefully you’re thinking the same way. A vaccine is at least a year away. For us to get back to normal, economically and as a social environment and social earth we need to get back to interacting with each other, but the COVID-19 virus is not dead. It is not gone, it is still out there, and so some of us and many of us and most of us at one time or another are going to contract this virus. The number one thing you’ve got to do is look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I doing everything that I can to boost my own health so that I can protect myself if and when I ever contract COVID or any other illness that might affect me in a negative way.”
I hope this helps and I hope everyone is staying safe and doing everything you can to boost your own immunity and boost your own help. Stay safe and healthy today and every day. Take care everybody.
- Healthline’s Foods that Boost the Immune System
- Trish Murray’s recommendations for immune-boosting supplements
- Watch an excerpt from this podcast episode
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Other Related Discover Health Podcast Episodes:
- Understanding the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- What is Black Garlic? Interview with Hank Letarte from White Gates Farm
- Your Complete Guide to CBD Oil
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