The answer is not as easy as some would think. There are many factors that affect our health. To support a healthy immune system one consideration is what you are fueling your body with day to day. This is more complicated than picking regular or premium unleaded gasoline for your car.
Swapping a diet high in processed foods full of preservatives/sugars and artificial sweeteners for a whole food based diet is one of the best ways to provide your body with the right kind of fuel. The old saying, “You are what you eat” is proving to be the root of good health. Many patients will inquire about taking supplements to boost their immune system. It is true that we can obtain the nutrients we need from the vast assortment of vegetables, fruits, fiber rich whole and cracked grains, beans and legumes, fish/seafood and other protein sources, healthy fats, fresh herbs, spices and teas. Indulging *sparingly*on 1-2 glasses of red wine per day or dark chocolate also show in studies added health benefits. How many of us are consuming enough of these powerhouse nutrient rich foods every day?
Based on the current research there are several vitamins and supplements that support a healthy immune system. For example, if you are deficient in Vitamin D (have a Vitamin D 25, hydroxyurea blood level drawn by our medical professionals) taking a supplement can bring the level back into normal range. Residing in the southwest doesn’t protect you from Vitamin D deficiency. It is true that our bodies convert Vitamin D2 to Vitamin D3 with sun exposure, but due to skin cancer risk we should limit our direct sun exposure to 20-30 minutes per day. Wearing a daily SPF 30 zinc oxide based sunscreen is recommended, but this also reduces our Vitamin D absorption. Vitamin D acts as an important part of the immune system and promotes the uptake of calcium in our intestine to support dense strong bones. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with more frequent infections and linked to increasing risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Type 1 diabetes mellitus.
We can’t talk about supporting a healthy immune system without mentioning the digestive tract where about 90% of your immune system stems from. Lately, this is one area in medicine that is getting a lot of press. Maintaining healthy gut bacteria with a healthy diet and a daily probiotic can certainly put you on the path to wellness. An important tip for purchasing supplements is finding a professional grade brand that is third party verified for purity and quality. A probiotic with multiple strains totaling 25 billion CFUs (colony forming units) is typically adequate for adults and children. Consider scheduling an appointment here at AAAI with Nicole Englert PA-C for our Alliance Care to further guide you on quality supplement and healthy living recommendations.
So we are back to where we started…we are what we eat! Who knew bacteria can be your friend…healthy probiotic bacteria that is. Don’t forget to get adequate sleep, typically 7-8 hours a night. Healthy stress management practices such as exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading and even tackling a new hobby or bringing back an old one that brings you joy are all great ways to start feeling well again.