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Increasing your Immunity

Immune Foods

With the coronavirus being our biggest enemy now, everyone wants to know how they can strengthen their immunity. We all know that we can prevent getting the infection by washing our hands and by not touching our face. What if someone sneezes or coughs near you? How can you prevent getting those germs? Many studies have been done on this topic and no magic pill exists. I will try to help you navigate the supplements that claim they boost the immune system. 


Two of the hottest supplements on the market right now are Echinacea and Elderberry. Both come as pill and liquid form, but are plant-based supplements. Neither of these prevent infections, but both of them can shorten the duration of your symptoms. So if a cold would normally last 1 week, you can make it go away in 2-3 days. These sound like promising results, but some supplements do not contain pure ingredients. So you have to make sure you are using a trusted source. 


Since supplements are nether a food nor a drug, they are not regulated by the FDA and can have impurities. I do not recommend taking any high dose vitamins, unless prescribed by a doctor. Supplements can cause side effects and can even interact with prescription medicines. 


Instead, I recommend eating a complete and varied diet. You know that the immune system needs certain nutrients in order to function well. If we can supply these nutrients through our diet, we can boost our immunity. 


Some essential minerals our immune system needs are zinc and selenium. Zinc can be found in: shellfish,oysters, beef, beans, cereal /oatmeal, cashews, chickpeas, almonds and peas. Selenium can be found in : brazil nuts, fish, beef, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, rice, milk/yogurt, lentils and spinach. 


Micronutrients that work well with the immune system are polyphenols and carotenoids. Polyphenols come from plants that are green. Some other examples are onions, berries, and tea leaves. Carotenoids come from orange/yellow/red vegetables and fruits, for example, carrots, grapefruits, oranges and squash. 


Vitamins like vitamin E, and Vitamin D are antioxidants that stop  inflammation of our immune system so it can work more efficiently. Vitamin E comes from: sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, broccoli, soy, and kiwi. Vitamin D is highest in cod liver oil, mushrooms, and all dairy products that are fortified with it. 


For young and elderly patients, I recommend increasing the good fat intake so that they have the energy to fight off infection. Good fats are in fish, nuts, oils like coconut and olive oil and avocados.

Probiotics change the bacteria in our gut, therefore helping the gastrointestinal tract also become involved in preventing infection. A lot of immune cells live in our intestines, so the probiotics can give them time to start working. 

Lastly, we want to make sure that we get moderate intensity exercise 3-5 times a week for 30--45 minutes. Short episodes of high intensity workout does not boost your immune system. 


In summary:


Ritu Sharma MD Internal Medicine- Pediatrics Physician

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