We have no better defence against viruses than a healthy immune system. Vitamins and supplements have been proven to help support our immunity and are a cheap and accessible way for us to protect ourselves. Our lifestyles also have a powerful effect on our immunity.
Vitamin D has been getting some press recently with regard to boosting immunity which is great (read more here). The best way to get your dose is by exposing one’s trunk to the sun, without sunscreen. Don’t worry, we’re not all going to get skin cancer as a side effect, you don’t need to do long periods of Vit D “bathing”.
Here’s a handy sun exposure table which guides you as to how many minutes you need in the sun, based on your skin type and the UV index (shown on most weather apps). Today, with my skin type, I’ll only need to expose my skin for 5-10 mins to get my dose.
A megadose of Vitamin D at the first niggle of a virus can help knock it back. 10,000 to 50,000 IU can be taken daily for a short period of time. These levels are not recommended long term however.
Vitamin A improves immune function by several mechanisms (read more here). If you eat liver or other organ meats, that’s great for maintenance levels, or you could add in a teaspoon a day of good cod liver oil.
I know of a number of doctors who, on the onset of cold or flu warning symptoms, up their intake to 50,000 IU two times a day for a few days to knock the virus out. This amount should not be taken long term however.
Zinc is another superstar in the immune-boosting line up (read more here). Meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds and nuts are all great for maintenance levels. Interestingly, zinc lozenges have been shown to block viruses multiplying in the throat and nasal area, so another great intervention to have at hand when you feel those niggles coming on.
My number one go-to when I’ve succumbed to a virus is Sambucus Elderberry Extract. I haven’t come across anything else that makes as measurable a difference to symptoms. It tastes pretty good too – similar to blackcurrant and it’s very soothing to take as you make a hot drink with it. Look for one with as few added ingredients as possible such as Nature’s Answer. Here’s an interesting study on its cold fighting abilities.
We have some patches that include the above to help support you, our Anti Viral and Immune Defence patches have been selling like hot cakes. Both our Vitamin D patches are among our bestsellers, we have a 5000 IU version and a 2000 IU version.
For years I supplemented to boost my immune system in an attempt to rid myself of chronic viral and bacterial loads. It all definitely helped, but what got me over the line was working on my nervous system.
Part of the nervous system’s role is to control all our other systems; immune, circulatory, digestive, endocrine, respiratory etc. If the nervous system isn’t working properly, then there’s no homeostasis among the other systems and they can’t do their jobs effectively.
There are easy lifestyle approaches to keep our nervous systems happy (and therefore our immune systems). Essentially they’re all based around reducing stress levels, as our nervous systems are not designed to cope with extended periods of stress or stimulation.
Formal practises such as meditation and yoga are great, but if you have no experience of these, they can seem alien. Here are some easy informal “practices”, none of which need to be done for hours on end. A few minutes here and there throughout the day is perfect:
Staring at trees/greenery.
Yep – easy as that! Staring at green stuff and actually paying attention to it (not letting your mind whirr with to-do lists) is one of the best ways to calm and get your nervous system working in coherence. Sit in the garden, do some gardening, look out of the window at the greenery, walk in green spaces. Just make sure you unplug – no phone calls, no messaging, no podcasts, no music. No stimulation apart from the natural environment.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be Grayson Perry, or Jules Holland! I’ve taken up colouring (I did try knitting, but got so frustrated I was a danger to myself armed with a needle) I find it really handy to have my pad and pens near the dining table so I can easily do a few minutes after meals. Creative activities are not only therapeutic, but they also stimulate new, positive neural pathways.
That’s not very tangible for those not in the know, I basically explain it as paying attention to your environment instead of being stuck in your head with your thoughts. So when you’re washing up, pay attention to what’s happening outside the kitchen window. When you’re driving, pay attention to; the smell of that fresh cut lawn you just passed, the architecture of the buildings, the colour of the other cars, the sounds of the different engines, even the rubbish on the verge. It’s an invaluable skill to be mindful while doing everyday tasks.
Also, think about the environment you’re in. If you’re constantly being stimulated by negative news reports or social media posts, it’s impossible to give yourself any space. Perhaps only watch the news once a day, reduce your time on social media, or flood your feeds with positive posts by switching who you follow.
The unplugging and de-fragmenting caused by these positive activities means the mind can get off the hamster wheel of thoughts and enter a calm state. This allows the nervous system to reset itself and re-programme the systems it controls (including the immune system).
Remember, I’m no expert. I’m just sharing my experience and what I’ve learnt along the way. Always seek qualified advice if you have medical concerns.