Immune Boosting Vitamins

May 2, 2020


Heather Maddox, MD

As we move into phase one of lifting social isolation and reopening certain businesses, we all need to continue to protect ourselves from potentially contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus.

There are many lifestyle changes you can do every day to keep your immune system healthy. This includes getting quality sleep, reducing stress, eating clean real foods that work for you, staying socially connected to those who love and support you, and moving/exercising your body every day.

While we prefer our patients to receive nutrients and vitamins from food, we are not always able to achieve adequate daily levels. In addition, there are times when we need a boost of certain vitamins and minerals and the best way to achieve this is through supplements. If patients decide to supplement, we encourage the use of high-quality, non-GMO supplements that are clean, free of top allergens, and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

At Montana Functional Health (MFH) we collaborate with an independent online supplement dispensary called Fullscript. Sign-up here, through our MFH dispensary, and receive a discount on each order along with free shipping! Patients have the ability to receive recommendations from our providers, but can also independently search the Fullscript catalog for any supplement they are interested in taking.

Here are a few nutrients to help boost the immune system.

  1. Vitamin A:
    Vitamin A plays a key role in maintaining a healthy immune system and resisting infection. It helps protect the integrity of the mucosa which is the tissue that lines surfaces like your nasal passages and airways. It is always best to try to get vitamins through natural foods as they are more easily absorbed. Organic and grass-fed whole eggs, beef, and butter are excellent sources. It is also found in oily fish like salmon and red/yellow veggies and fruits. If you do not consume these foods on a regular basis, you can consider supplementing with 2,500-5,000 units a day (palmitate preferred). Be sure to take it on a full stomach after a fat-containing meal.
  2. Vitamin C:
    Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration of colds when taken daily. It also supports the body in times of stress. Your adrenal glands are at the center of the body’s response to stress and need more vitamin C than any other organ or tissue in the body! This is especially true if you are under more stress than usual. Foods high in vitamin C include papaya, broccoli, bell peppers, parsley, and kale. In fact, these foods have more vitamin C than citrus fruits. A good maintenance dose is 250 mg twice a day but doses up to 1,000-2,000 mg are recommended daily during stress and illness.
  3. Vitamin D:
    Vitamin D is our sun vitamin. The body makes it when sunlight hits our skin. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is common in the United States unless you live in the most southern states. All of your cells need vitamin D, and it is an integral part of your immune system. Low levels can lead to increased risk for infection including the common cold. Vitamin D helps activate proteins made in your immune cells that fight off bacteria and viruses. It is not found naturally in many foods, but it is in cod liver oil (so is vitamin A!). Supplementation with doses of 2,000-5,000 units per day may be necessary to maintain adequate levels, especially during winter months.
  4. Zinc:
    There have been many studies on zinc as a treatment for the common cold, and the general consensus is positive. Zinc increases your white blood cells which fight off infections and assists with the release of antibodies that help target the virus or bacteria for destruction. A healthy, well-balanced diet usually supplies the necessary zinc you need. Foods highest in zinc include meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds (especially hemp, pumpkin, and sesame), nuts like cashews, almonds, and pine nuts, dairy, and eggs. If you have cold symptoms, you can consider taking a zinc lozenge or tablet of zinc gluconate (9-24 mg) every 2-3 hours while awake for 2-3 days to help fight off the infection and heal more quickly. Caution should be used however in pregnant women and children.
  5. Andrographis:
    Andrographis is an herb indigenous to Asia and has long been used in Chinese and ayurvedic medicine. There are 40 species but A. paniculata is the most important for the treatment of respiratory infections. It helps stimulate the immune system and also improves symptoms including fever and cough. There are no known side effects but caution should be used in children and pregnant women. Common formulations would include 400 mg of Andrographis extract (4-5 mg of andrographolide per tablet). The recommended dose is 2-4 tablets three times a day for the first few days of a cold.