Do you want to avoid viral illness naturally? We all know about frequent hand washing, social distancing, face masks, and vaccines. But are there things we can do with diet, lifestyle, and supplements to help make the fall season drug-free and infection-free?
Besides following a high protein, sugar-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free organic diet while exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and engaging in anti-stress programs like meditation, what else can you do to boost immunity against ‘flus and ‘flu-like illnesses? Taking plenty of vacations in warm climates helps, and so does laughter. Are food allergies and sensitivities important? Can we prevent more serious illnesses such as cancer and autoimmune disorders using a natural supplement regime? And, will these all work without side effects?
Here’s my top 10 list of nutrients that can boost immunity, in order of importance and supportive scientific evidence.
1. VITAMIN D – 5,000 to 10,000 IU daily for most adults is safe and effective for the prevention of influenza, colds, cancer and approximately 200 different diseases. No other supplemented nutrient has been as extensively studied as vitamin D. Thousands of studies support its use in higher than RDA doses. For the best source of information and documentation of all the benefits, visit https://www.vitamindcouncil.com
If you have adequate blood levels of Vitamin D it is possible to prevent any and all infections. The trouble is that one has to get enough sunshine in order for the body to manufacture sufficient vitamin D through the action of ultraviolet light on the skin. This may be very difficult to achieve during the winter months in Canada. Hence, regular oral supplementation of emulsified vitamin D drops is almost mandatory.
Have your doctor check your blood levels before supplementing with vitamin D. The optimal average adult dose is between 5,000 and 10,000 IU daily. For more information, see my book, Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin.
If you happen to have a cold or ‘flu at the moment, it is recommended that you take 50,000 IU of Vitamin D daily for 3 – 7 days and then drop the dose back to somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 IU daily, depending on your blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D. The reason why vitamin D helps with just about any kind of infection is because it stimulates the production of cathelicidin, a protein with natural antibiotic properties.
When taking high doses of vitamin D, it’s best to also take vitamin K2, usually 120 mcg per 1000 IU of vitamin D. This prevents calcium deposits in the arteries and organs like the kidneys if the D blood levels go too high.
2. OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS – 4,000 mg daily of combined DHA and EPA not only prevents heart disease but also powerfully boosts the immune system for most adults. Omega-3 is needed to help vitamin D work in an optimal manner and, in effect, helps prevent vitamin D deficiency. Omega-3 supplementation increases the activity of white cells that gobble up dangerous bacteria. Omega-3 fatty acids also protect the lungs from colds, ‘flus and other respiratory tract infections. No doubt you have heard of the benefits of taking cod liver oil during the winter months. Interestingly enough, the major active ingredients of cod liver oil that work their magic on the immune system are vitamin A, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
3. PROBIOTICS (variable dosing) are friendly bacteria that usually inhabit the gut and are well documented optimizers of the immune system. Seventy percent or more of our immune system is controlled by what happens in the gut, and friendly bacteria is the most important component of that immune system. These bacteria modulate the immune system by increasing the numbers of certain white blood cells (T lymphocytes). Probiotics also help improve digestion and protect the body from harmful pathogens such as candida albicans. For a more comprehensive description of the benefits of probiotics see my article “In Praise of Probiotics” in the Sept. 2013 issue of Vitality. https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/in-praise-of-probiotics/
4. ASTRAGALUS – 1,000 mg or more daily of this well-known Chinese herb stimulates white blood cells to both prevent and fight infections. Astragalus does not work as quickly as vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids, and may take between 6 – 8 weeks to reach its full effects. Numerous studies attest to the fact that it is well worth supplementing.
5. ZINC – 50 mg daily is an effective preventive for all kinds of infections. In my experience, the vast majority of people in Canada are zinc deficient. There is some evidence that using zinc lozenges can shorten the length of respiratory tract infections. As well, high dose zinc combined with vitamin C can offset excessive lead levels in the body.
6. SELENIUM – 200 mcg daily: Regular supplementation reduces the risk of viral infections and cancers of the bladder, breast, bowel, lung and prostate. I usually recommend that people take a vitamin E complex (tocopherols and tocotrienols – 400 IU) with selenium because the two nutrients work synergistically.
7. VITAMIN A – 10,000 IU: This is another component of cod liver oil that plays a major role in preventing infections by influencing the activity of T and B lymphocytes (white cells). I am often surprised to see low blood levels in supposedly healthy people who complain of recurrent infections (middle ear, bladder, chest, bowel and numerous other sites). Vitamin A is a common component of many multivitamin supplements but some people just do not absorb enough of it from their diet because of unsuspected food allergies and insufficient secretion of pancreatic digestive enzymes. For most of these individuals, supplementing pancreatin (pancreatic enzymes) should help resolve the absorption issue.
8. COLOSTRUM is the first mammary secretion nourishment that any mammal, including man, provides for its newborn in the first 24 to 48 hours of life. It does not contain milk as we know it. In choosing a bovine colostrum supplement, make sure it comes only from the first milking, ideally within the first 6 hours after birth of the calf. Choose your colostrum carefully as most brands combine the first milking (which is pure colostrum) with several subsequent milkings (which are mostly milk), resulting in products that more closely resemble milk or whey powder than true colostrum.
First milking colostrum contains numerous immune system and growth factors which trigger at least 50 processes in a newborn, ranging from the development of the immune system to the growth of all body cells. Laboratory analysis of immune and growth factors from bovine colostrum show them to be virtually identical to those found in human colostrum. And bovine colostrum is totally safe, with no known drug contraindications or negative side effects at any dosage level.
Conventional medical doctors were, at one time, enthusiastic about using colostrum for antibiotic purposes. This occurred prior to the introduction of sulfa drugs and penicillin. In the 1950s, prior to the widescale use of corticosteroids as anti-inflammatory agents, colostrum was used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert Sabin, discovered that colostrum contained antibodies against polio and recommended it for children susceptible to catching the disease. Bovine colostrum has been used therapeutically in India for thousands of years by Ayurvedic physicians, and still is to this day.
Well known colostrum components like interferon, gamma globulin, growth hormone (GH), IgF-1 and protease inhibitors are all used by conventional medical specialists in the treatment of cancer, chronic viral infections including HIV, and autoimmune diseases. There are now over 4,000 clinical studies from around the world detailing research that has been done using colostrum in the treatment of dozens of different diseases.
First-milking bovine colostrum is an ideal vaccination alternative; the reason is obvious when you look at its components. The two major components of colostrum are immune factors and growth factors. It’s the immune factors that offer the most benefits. These include:
9. VITAMIN C – 1,000 mg or more daily has anti-viral and immune enhancing effects. Megadoses above bowel tolerance (dose that produces diarrhea) are given intravenously to fight serious infections like Lyme disease as well as cancer. The only significant issue with the use of high dose vitamin C beyond the RDA levels is the diarrhea side effect. Reducing the dose should resolve this problem.
10. ECHINACEA – 1,000 mg or more daily is well documented as an immune system booster used to both prevent and treat a long list of infections. It is often said that Echinacea shouldn’t be taken for long periods of time beyond a few weeks, but this has never been proven to be detrimental in any way. This advice on limiting the length of time that one should be using Echinacea originates from a German study that actually said the opposite. Things are often lost in translation. The bottom line is that one can supplement Echinacea for years without concerns.
The other Echinacea myth is that people who have autoimmune disease should not be taking it due to over-stimulation of their autoimmune disease. This too is nonsense since supplementing with Echinacea increases the body’s production of hyaluronic acid, a well-known anti-inflammatory pain reliever. Once again, to be healthier with autoimmune disease, take echinacea in large doses. (Caveat: If you have a ragweed allergy you might react adversely to Echinacea because it belongs to the same plant family.)
The mainstream media and various medical “experts” have criticized the use of drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, two anti-parasitic drugs with strong anti-viral properties. Despite numerous studies proving both safety and efficacy, these drugs have been vilified and nearly banned from use for viral infections like coronavirus.
During the Covid-19 pandemic many people have asked me for prescriptions for both of these drugs. Unfortunately, the powers that be have made it difficult or next to impossible for doctors to prescribe these drugs for either the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. So, aside from getting these drugs from online distributors or veterinary clinics, both of which can be risky, what are the natural drug alternatives? Well, there are two inexpensive drug alternatives that can be used in small doses for prevention and larger doses for treatments.
11. ARTEMISIA ANNUA (Sweet Annie) – is one form of wormwood that has been used for centuries as an effective anti-malaria treatment. It kills parasites and has also been shown to kill the coronavirus. You do not need a prescription for it and it is widely available at local health food stores. One well known company that makes a pleasant tasting wormwood tincture is St. Francis Herb Farms. Dose should be individualized for the intended purpose of prevention or treatment. Another well documented use of artemisia annua is for the prevention and treatment of certain cancers, notably breast cancer.
12. BLACK SEED OIL is yet another natural health product known to boost immunity against coronavirus. Many people today use it to improve symptoms of asthma and numerous inflammatory conditions. As we all know, severe inflammation during coronavirus infections is what ends up killing people with respiratory failure. Black seed oil can help prevent and treat that. Black seed oil has many other therapeutic qualities and has often been touted as a “cure for anything but death.”
Food allergies, intolerances or hypersensitivities are unsuspected factors in the development of many worldwide killer diseases such as recurrent infections, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and just about every autoimmune disease (e.g. rheum atoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, etc.). Over 90% of the documented adverse reactions to foods are not true allergies, occur on a delayed basis (up to 4 days after exposure), and will avoid detection by conventional skin scratch tests. They are often referred to as “Type 2 Allergies” and they may have either immune or non-immune system mechanisms.
The most accepted method of identifying these non-classical food reactions is by an elimination diet. This is accomplished by following a hypoallergenic diet for three weeks, which eliminates the most commonly eaten foods (sugar, wheat, milk, eggs, yeast, corn, soy, citrus and other foods eaten on a daily basis). After three weeks, the body is then challenged with the eliminated foods one by one, noting the reactions.
This approach is not recommended for severely ill people and is best performed under the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner.
A safer and more accurate alternative to the elimination diet is the IgG (subclass 4) RAST blood test. This food allergy test is now available in Ontario and offered by many pharmacies (no doctor visit required) as well as Gamma Dynacare Laboratories (any MD can order this test). Similar tests are available in England and the U.S. but cost is significantly higher. For information on these tests, contact Gamma Dynacare at 905-790-3000 or ask your family doctor.
Recently published studies conclude that eliminating the foods detected by this test are at least 80% effective in reversing or reducing the symptoms of dozens of chronic illnesses associated with impaired immunity. If you are one of those people who gets one infection after another, do yourself a favour and look into this type of testing. Prices for the tests have dropped in the past few years so it is now a very good investment in your health.
I may have offended some people by not listing their favourite immune boosters. There are many other immunity boosting supplements I could have discussed. Below is a short list of other supplements readily available from most health food stores and some pharmacies which have a substantial amount of evidence to support their use.
Other Immune Boosters include: Sterols and sterolins; Quercetin; Beta glucan; B complex vitamins; Garlic; Ginseng; Licorice root; Goldenseal; Pau d’arco; Medicinal mushrooms (reishi, maitake, shitake, agaricus blazei); St. John’s wort (hypericum); Berberine; Small particle size (0.8 nm) colloidal silver (hydrosol); Oregano oil; Coconut oil; Olive leaf extract.
These are all excellent remedies if matched to the right person. Of course, numerous homeopathic remedies based on individual needs will also help boost immunity. A natural health care provider can recommend what might work best for you.
Warning: This article is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor. Please consult with your personal physician before making adjustments to your health care routine.
• Braly, J. Food Allergy Relief. Contemporary Books, Illinois. 2000.
• The Vitamin D Council: https://www.vitamindcouncil.com
•Artemisia Annua: https://worldfreedomalliance.org/au/news/an-overview-of-the-anti-sars-cov-2-properties-of-artemisia-annua-its-antiviral-action-protein-associated-mechanisms-and-repurposing-for-covid-19-treatment/
•Artemisia Annua for breast cancer: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32326231/
• Gill HS, Rutherfurd KJ, Cross ML, Gopal PK.
• Clark, Daniel G. and Wyatt, Kaye. Colostrum, Life’s First Food. Salt Lake City: CNR Publications. 1996.
• Heinerman, John. Dr. Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Anti-Aging Remedies. Paramus: Prentice Hall, 1997; pp.85-86.
• Jensen, Bernard. Colostrum: Man’s First Food, The White Gold Discovery. Escondido: Bernard Jensen, 1993.
• Rona, Zoltan, P.. Bovine colostrum emerges as immune system modulator. American Journal of Natural Medicine; March, 1998, pp. 19-23.
• Rona, Zoltan P. Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin. Tennessee, USA: Alive Books, 2010 http://www.amazon.com/Vitamin-D-Sunshine-Zoltan-Rona/dp/0920470823
• Rona, Zoltan. Childhood Illness and the Allergy Connection. Prima Publishing 1997.
• Rona, Zoltan, P. Natural Alternatives to Vaccination. Vancouver: Alive Books. 2000.
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