I am frequently asked about what supplements are useful for building a strong immune system and relieving general fatigue. I first want to emphasize that I am not a medical practitioner and am not licensed to give specific medical advice, but my background in biology and my personal interest leads me to keep up with the current research on nutritional supplements and their role in improving overall health.
There are many reasons for someone to experience an imbalanced immune system. It may be triggered by infectious agents, mental or physical stress, nutrient deficiencies, immune system abnormalities, allergies, hormonal abnormalities, heavy metal toxicity and oxidative stress. Recommendations to help relieve some symptoms include ruling out allergenic foods, avoiding food additives, removing sources of toxins (including heavy metals), candida (yeast) overgrowth, viral or bacterial infections, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, anemia, and impaired adrenal function. Of course, it is always best to work closely with your healthcare provider at all times.
Experts in nutritional medicine now frequently recommend adding supplements to a healthy diet to support overall health and alleviate common nutritional deficiencies. Your doctor may want to test you for certain deficiencies that may be contributing to your specific symptoms. This could help guide your supplement therapy and dosages. Laboratories such as SpectraCell provide comprehensive testing of micronutrient levels, providing you and your physician valuable information as to your specific needs.
That being said, I believe strongly that everyone should be taking a quality multivitamin/mineral supplement. However, not all supplements are both safe and effective. The FDA has been sending warning letters to supplement companies all across the nation concerning violations of current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs). How will you choose a multivitamin that works? Basically, you should look for third party verifications of safety, purity, efficacy and potency of both raw ingredients and the finished product. Ask your supplement provider if they use Pharmaceutical model Good Manufacturing Practices, and ask them about third party verification of these practices.
When considering individual supplements, you and your doctor should think about what symptoms impact you most and then look for supplements that help with that symptom. When starting supplements, it’s important to only start one new one at a time, then wait a week or two before introducing another one. That will give you a chance to see what effect each supplement has on your body. The following are some excellent choices that have the potential to improve both your immune system and energy levels.
The energy that every cell needs to function is produced through a complex process in the mitochondria, organelles within the cell. When combined with alpha lipoid acid, CoQ10 assists in ATP (energy)production and also helps to regenerate and recycle other antioxidants, including vitamins E and C. CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against the damaging effects of free radicals.
Low levels of vit D has become wide-spread here in America, and is indicative of many chronic conditions. The only way to determine you are getting enough vit D is with a blood test, now fairly commonly prescribed by physicians. The normal range of 25 hydroxy vit D in the blood should be 30 to 74 ng/mL. Vit D is important for our immune system and proper inflammatory response.
Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids)
Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of fish oil supplements, have great benefits for your overall health, including maintaining a normal, healthy inflammatory response. It is important to ask that your fish oil supplement be produced from cold-water, deep sea fish, and that it be guaranteed free of contaminants such as heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides, and organic residues.
Vit C/Grapeseed extract
Grape-seed bioflavonoids and vitamin C work together to provide advanced antioxidant protection that supports a healthy immune system. USANA Health Science’s unique formulation, Proflavanol® C-100, combines the highest quality grape seed extract with USANA’s proprietary Poly-C, a blend of mineral ascorbates.
Supplements for Healthy Digestion
Poor digestion leaves the body and the immune system in the same predicament that poor nutrition does – a lack of nutritional factors that support immune functioning and the function of the entire body. This is because a poor functioning digestive system has lost some of the ability to turn what’s consumed into a form the body can use. If we’re not healthy in our gut, the probability of health issues throughout our body increases.
- Digestive Enzymes- enzyme supplements are especially important as we age and our natural enzymes decrease.
- Probiotics- probiotic dietary supplements replenish beneficial microflora, which are vital to the proper development of the immune system.
Dietary supplements generally are better tolerated and have fewer risks than prescription medications, but it is always prudent to pay careful attention to the quality of individual supplements as you would any drug. Just because a product is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe and won’t interact with other supplements or medications. You should talk to your doctor and pharmacist about what you’re taking, the dosages, and potential interactions. If you have sensitivities to any foods, you need to be aware of what inert ingredients are in the supplements you take. Again, it is best to purchase supplements that have a written guarantee of potency and purity. You and your doctor will then be able to determine the supplements that will work best for you.
This article was originally published on The Health Matters Show on April 3, 2012
The information listed above is provided for educational purposes only. This should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, nor is this information meant to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting or discontinuing any treatment or supplement regimen.