It’s super interesting and no surprise that in the US, supplement sales increased by 44% ($435 million) from the end of February 2020 to early April 2020. People reported various reasons for their use of supplements, including to improve immunity (60%), to improve overall health (57%) and to fill nutrient gaps in their diet (53%). Many of my patients ask me about supplements and around this time of year, many are looking for ways to boost their immunity. So below I’ve shared some research on the supplements that I consider during cold & flu season to help guide you and help you stay healthy this season.
Especially important for all of us living in the northern hemisphere during the darker winter months, Vitamin D appears to lower viral replication rates, suppress inflammation and increase levels of T-regulatory cells and their activity. Sounds great to me! And definitely one of the supplements I add to my routine in the winter months. Be careful of Vitamin D toxicity as higher intakes (usually from supplements) can lead to unwanted symptoms. It’s always best to consult with a trusted naturopath who can help you determine the best dosage for you.
You don’t want to take too much of this one as chronic consumption of 150mg/day can cause low copper status, reduced immune function and reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins (aka the good cholesterol). So I recommend taking this only when your body is already fighting something. When taken appropriately and in the right amount, Zinc can increase levels of natural killer cells. Clinical trial data supports the use of zinc to diminish the duration and severity of symptoms associated with common colds when it is started within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms.
There is a connection between the gut and respiratory system and the bacteria that live in both, meaning a healthy gut will help to ensure healthy, strong lungs and vice versa. Probiotics can compete directly with pathogens (viruses), synthesize antimicrobial substances, improve intestinal barrier function and alter the gut microbiota. Who doesn’t want that?
This one is a new one for me this year. Laboratory and animal studies suggest that melatonin enhances immune response by increasing the proliferation and maturation of natural killer cells, T and B lymphocytes, granulocytes and monocytes. Did someone say strong immune response?
Elderberry is thought to be beneficial for the prevention and treatment of influenza and upper respiratory infections. Preliminary laboratory and animal research suggests that constituents of elderberry might help prevent upper respiratory tract infections by inhibiting viruses from binding to host cells and by stimulating the immune system. While elderberry was shown to have an inhibitory effect at all stages of influenza infection, it had a significantly stronger effect on the late-stage of infection than at the early stage. Furthermore, the antiviral activity of elderberry on influenza was strongest when used in pre-treatment, during infection and post-infection, rather than when used solely during infection. A note on safety – please note that ingestion of uncooked products from elderberry species can be poisonous. You will want to get a syrup form if you are considering adding elderberry to your diet.
My Thoughts on Vitamin C…
Many people talk about Vitamin C and relate it to helping the immune system during cold and flu season. But, for me, Vitamin C is not one of the vitamins I think about – and the research says it all. A Cochrane review of 29 studies, involving more than 11,000 children & adults, tested whether the regular use of Vitamin C prevents colds. The studies showed that it wasn’t possible to prevent colds by taking Vitamin C every day over a longer period of time. Taking Vitamin C did shorten the amount of time people were ill by only 10 % (i.e less than 1/2 a day). The cold symptoms were also a bit milder in people who always took Vitamin C. But it did not shorten the length of colds in men and women who started taking it after they became ill. So choose your supplements wisely.
Everyone is different and has unique needs. Dosage can vary between adults and children. I always recommend visiting a trusted Naturopath who can help determine the best supplements & dosage for your specific needs. I’m happy to help as well. I offer in-person and virtual visits and can help you with a wide range of health and wellness issues.