Vitamin C is getting a lot of publicity recently in relation to treating viruses, and rightly so. It is a cheap and effective way to boost immunity. We’ve all heard about vitamin C being found in citrus fruit, but this is only one source. Lots of fruit and vegetables are great sources of vitamin C – capsicum, green leafy veggies, kiwi and strawberries to name but a few. Vitamin C levels are greatly reduced in cooking, so it pays to eat lots of raw or lightly cooked foods. Processed foods will have no natural vitamin C in them. There are some ‘superfoods’ that have extremely high levels of vitamin C, like our native Kakadu plum. If you want to take vitamin C as a supplement, this is readily available. Make sure that the levels of vitamin C are high, not just 20mg or similar. If you take too much vitamin C, the worst thing that will happen is some diarrhoea. It doesn’t accumulate in your body and do damage. Stay away from chewable vitamin C. These are acidic and will damage your teeth if used continuously.
This is an amino acid which has good anti-viral properties. Some foods that will provide lysine in your diet are meat, seafood, dairy products and eggs. It can also be found in non-animal foods like quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, seeds and legumes. You can also take this as a supplement, especially if you are prone to viruses like cold sores.
This is a powerful immune booster. It is a key nutrient in many processes in the body, including those involving the immune system. Oysters are a poster child for high zinc. Don’t assume your child won’t like oysters, give it a shot. They don’t have to eat heaps of them, eating a few a couple of times a week would be great. A lot of my work is with children who have ADHD or are on the autism spectrum, so this is a supplement I prescribe a lot, as it is very helpful for these conditions. Zinc supplements should be taken with food, not on an empty stomach, as they can nausea. If you or your child hasn’t had zinc supplements before, you might want to start with a low dose and increase gradually over a few weeks. That is because zinc will displace copper and other elements from the body, and this can make you feel poorly. You can assess your child’s zinc levels by doing a hair tissue analysis.
This is an important anti-oxidant in the body, which helps the immune system to function optimally and blocks the replication of viruses. Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium, so keep these as a pantry staple and get everyone to eat a few every day. You can also buy a selenium supplement which can safeguard your family’s health at crucial times
N acetyl cysteine
Also known as NAC, this is another of my favourite supplements. The food form of this is cysteine, an amino acid found in high protein foods like turkey or eggs. In a supplement form it is called NAC. This boosts the levels of glutathione in your body, which will boost your immune system. It has been studied in viruses such as HIV and has given huge improvements in immune functioning. It also has really positive effects in respiratory conditions such as asthma. So if you child’s lungs are their weak spot, NAC is a great supplement to take through winter.
The best food sources of vitamin A are everyone’s favourite – liver. Any liver is fine – lamb, beef or chicken. You can add some liver to bolognaise, ask your butcher to add some to your sausages or make a pâte. Some plant foods contain beta carotene, which your body can convert to vitamin A, but this isn’t going to give you as much vitamin A as eating animal foods. Sweet potato, carrots and kale all contain beta carotene. To take vitamin A in a supplement, my favourite source is Cod Liver oil. Cod liver oil contains vitamin A and vitamin D, but also has the fish oil which is anti-inflammatory. It’s a real all round winner!
The best place to get vitamin D is from the sun. As we come into winter, it is more difficult to achieve this. We need to build up our stores in summer to get us through winter, but because of the success of the slip, slop, slap message, lots of us don’t manage to do this. Ideally, it is good to have a blood test to see what our vitamin D levels are like. Vitamin D is high in fatty fish and eggs. Similar to vitamin A, I like to give a Cod Liver oil supplement to keep immune systems healthy
The inflammation associated with viral infection can be very damaging, commonly known as the cytokine storm. Curcumin helps reduce the inflammation that occurs during infection. It also acts directly on viruses and inhibits them. This is a supplement you should use when you are actually sick with an infection, rather than a preventative. Of course, if you take it anyway for chronic inflammation, keep taking it. If you prefer to get this from food, get into the habit of added turmeric to your food, this is where curcumin comes from.
I have left the most difficult to pronounce to last….PEA stands for Palmitoylethanolamide. This is a supplement which I use for chronic pain, but it is also good for reducing inflammation during a viral infection. This is a supplement you can start to take now as a preventative, as the benefits build up in your system over time.
This is a long list of supplements, and I am not suggesting you rush out and buy all of them. When you work with a natural health professional, like me, you get a tailored treatment plan specifically for your health and your budget. Get in touch with me today for an acute consultation and I can recommend which are best for you. I keep a lot of these in stock in my clinic, however if you are not in the Illawarra I can organise for them to get shipped directly to you.