Over the years, I have researched and tested several items and I have fine tuned what works best for us.
By popular demand, I am sharing these with you here. Information relating to inflammation and Covid19 is at the bottom - this information is accurate as of 7/2/2020.
What works for us may not work for you - Please always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement. If you are sick and need medical attention, please do not delay seeking medical advice from your doctor. With children, make sure you check with your pediatrician before implementing any of the below.
The first place I always start with my clients is their plate. Ensure you have a wide variety of plants on your plate, because these are full of phytonutrients like vitamin C that help support our immune system. Also, fiber and the polyphenols are essential for our gut microbiome to thrive, and we all know that gut health is crucial for immune health. Each type of plant feeds a specific subset of gut bacteria, so the more plants you eat the more gut microbiome diversity and research shows that the more diverse your gut microbiome the better your gut health. The better your gut health, the better your immune health. If you need help getting more plants into your diet, check out my ebook How to Eat More Plants, filled with tips and tangible steps to incorporate more plants into your diet with 25+ yummy recipes. I also have a e-cookbook with 40+ delicious recipes (Plate For Health) and meal prep ideas to help you get delicious yet nutritious plant based meals on your plates.
Once diet has been optimized. We fall back on the below. Always check with a doctor before initiating any supplements as I am simply sharing what works for us and cannot comment if these are suitable for you:
Elderberry has been shown in studies to shorten the duration of the common colds. However, there is now controversy on whether it may 'worsen' the inflammatory response in Covid-19. Normally, we use elderberry syrup 2-3 times a week during the fall and winter months, and double down when we feel any kind of symptoms. However, given the controversy I am recommending you check with your own doctor - certain groups of patients also don't feel well on elderberry e.g. those with autoimmune diseases, it really depends on the individual and their inflammatory cytokine profile.
Homemade remedy for gargling: ½ red onion, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, pinch of cinnamon, 1 cup water. Blend it all up. Strain through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag, and gargle with the liquid - I do not suggest swallowing it as it does not taste good and also may worsen any reflux/gastric issues if you have it. Rinse your mouth out and try not to let the mixture come into contact with your teeth too much due to the acidic vinegar. (ps. if you have any open wounds/mouth ulcers this may burn so be careful) - I gargle with this 3-4 times a day, at the first sign of illness e.g. sore throat.
Crush a small piece of garlic, leave it for 5 minutes and then swallow with water - if you have ulcers/reflux/esophagitis this one is not ideal for you as it may cause discomfort.
Foods rich in vitamin C: Try to add more berries, citrus, bell peppers into each meal to up your vitamin C intake. Lemons and citrus are coming into season so make sure to consume plenty of it throughout the day.
Zinc - I take a one off dose 15mg at the first sign of illness. There has been some evidence showing the role zinc may play in coronavirus (mainly for SARS-covd1) - I do not supplement with this regularly but get it from food e.g. pumpkin seeds, legumes, oatmeal. However, if I fall ill or if I may be exposed, I do add in a supplement.
Flavanoids - these help feed our gut bacteria which in turn supports our immune system, and also there is some evidence that certain flavanoids can act as a zinc iontophore - helping the zinc enter cells where it needs to be to exert its benefit. Lots of flavanoids have been studied in computer-based and in-vitro studies, I love my tea, onions, cacao, herbs like rosemary, and just generally lots of plants in my diet.
Vitamin D - I take a one-off dose of 5000IU vitamin D at the onset of illness. In the winter months, I also take 2000 IU per day as a regular supplement - (for correct dosing for you, please check with your doctor as it depends on your individual vitamin D level on labs). During the summer months, I try to get some safe sun exposure for 30 minutes without burning. I love and use the the Vivolife brand, an algae-derived D3 paired with K2, and you can use platefulhealth for 10% off.
Medicinal mushrooms - I take 1 tsp of 5 defenders by Real Mushroom daily for immune support, and I will take an extra teaspoon in my food if I feel like I’m coming down with a cold (*discount code 'platefulhealth' for 10% off). I also love Life Cykel mushroom extracts.
Ginger and Turmeric - I will either boil crushed ginger in water and make ginger tea, or juice both of these and take as shot or add a lot of it to my food. You can also look at Leefy organics which is an organic turmeric and ginger tincture, and a product I frequently use for inflammation and headaches. (*discount code 'Plateful' for 15% off your first order)
Vitamin A helps to support a healthy immune system. I love getting more vitamin A rich foods into my diet this time of year, kabocha squash, sweet potatoes, carrots are all great sources of beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A in our bodies. I don’t supplement with this, though (and definitely do not supplement if you are pregnant) - as studies have shown conflicting results with vitamin A supplementation and there have been reports of toxicity, but if you have been directed by a physician then please follow their medical advice.
Stay hydrated - drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day
Prioritize sleep - sleep is an active and restorative process for our body, hormones like testosterone are released, our brain detoxifies, and powerful antioxidants like melatonin is released.
Final tip - If you don’t feel like eating, skip food but ensure you are drinking plenty of water and getting a lot of rest. Sleep is a great immune booster too!
I talked about inflammation a lot in the context of Covid19, and the fact that dexamethasone, a potent anti-inflammatory, in the RECOVERY trial is showing promise of reducing mortality in critically ill patients lends further support in how important it is that we try to reduce the amount of background chronic inflammation in our body.
This is particularly relevant for the latter, cytokine storm part of the illness when inflammation goes haywire and causes damage. Obviously, nothing has yet been proven to prevent or treat Covid19, and we don't yet fully understand the cytokine storm or how to treat or prevent it. But we can take steps to reduce our baseline level of chronic inflammation:
a) stress reduction (breathwork, meditation, yoga, self care)
d) metabolic health and good glycemic control (i.e. making sure you have good blood sugar control) - again, easier said than done when we naturally crave processed food for comfort right now. Blog post coming soon on how to approach comfort eating.
e) Safe sun exposure/nature
f) plant-dominant diet and ensuring we get enough of immune supporting nutrients like Vitamin A, D, E zinc, selenium in our diet.
g) doubling down on those flavanoids - quercetin, hisperidin, etc which are powerful antioxidants that quench inflammation, and has also been proposed to act as zinc iotonphores, helping zinc to get inside the cell where it may potentially have inhibitory effects on the virus. Flavanoids are only found in the plant kingdom and that's why I promote a plant-diverse diet, including tea and herbs.
I am by no means saying that if you take these measures you will be invincible. Precautionary measures like hand hygiene, not touching your eyes/face, physical distancing, still takes precedence. However, instead of living in fear, I would rather do what I can to optimize my health and learn to let go of that which is not within my control.
Getting sick happens occasionally, I hope this list of ideas serve you as well as they have served my family. If you end up trying any of these, tag me on Instagram, I would love to see how you're implementing these into your routine.