Do supplements and immune supportive therapies prevent illness?
Not quite. Nor is that the true purpose of such nutraceuticals.
We are exposed to thousands of pathogens daily. At some point, one of these pathogens is likely to evade the primary defenses of the body (skin barrier, mucous membrane secretions, innate and acquired immunity.)
When this viral or bacterial intruder is detected, the body’s natural and normal reaction is to elicit an immune response, whether that be a fever, body aches, headache, etc. The body responds by alerting the “troops” and “going to war”.
This is a good sign, and it’s what happens when the body is functioning optimally. No alarm bells going off can be a sign that the body is busy dealing with other, possibly unknown, matters within the organism.
If you’re a healthy individual with no underlying disease, toxic burden, stress, living your most optimal life, should you take supplements?
Well, the easy answer is, “No!” There are other measures that can be taken. As naturopathic physicians, we know that food is medicine. You may have heard the phrase “let thy food be thy medicine”. Well, yes, let it be!
During times where infections are rampant, there are three choices one can make. The choice of one’s actions should be influenced by their known current health status, will power, and self-knowledge. One could do nothing, increase utilization of nutraceuticals, and/or allow food to be their medicine.
Regardless of choice, we will continue to encounter pathogens in our daily life. How one prepares the body to deal with such attacks is what counts.
I will admit that the method that requires the most energy but also provides the most benefit is allowing one’s food and/or lifestyle to be your medicine. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals such as those obtained from eating a whole food plant-based diet will optimize the body’s immune function.
What does that look like? Well, it’s very colorful and full of variety. Variety ensures that you get everything you need from your diet. Plant-based, to me, simply means that the plants or foods that grow from the earth make up most of the meal.
One remedy we recommend to patients at Vitalship is Fire Cider. This is another example of allowing food to be thy medicine. Fire Cider combines foods that you may be able to find in your pantry right now and when taken daily, they support immune function. As for myself, outside of Fire Cider, I utilize freshly-juiced fruits and veggies.
My favorite recipe I’ve included below for the winter is warming. It aids in circulation, is high in vitamin C, A, antioxidants, flavonoids, and has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Beware, it packs a punch!
I always use organic greens whether that be kale, chard, spinach, or wheatgrass. Greens are essential! I should mention I use a lot of handfuls of greens, and this will say 5 cups, but go at your own pace.
Please note that certain fruits and veggies must be grown or purchased organic especially when concentrating them into a juice. Ewg.org lists the most and least heavily pesticide-laden produce on their website.
Dr. White’s Immune-Boosting Juice
- Greens: 5 cups
- Celery: 4 stalks
- Carrots: 3 large multicolored
- Green apple: 1
- Fresh parsley, or cilantro 1 cup
- Ginger: ½ the root
- Turmeric: 2 roots finger sized
- Garlic: 3 cloves
- Lemon: 1 whole lemon
Feel free to play with the recipe, I have thrown in fresh thyme, fresh basil, fresh oregano, jalapeño, cabbage, fennel, beets, etc.If you find it difficult to get your medicine from food, supplements may be a better choice for you. Here are some basics I recommend for supporting yourself this season (and all seasons):
Vitamin D: First, I recommend testing to ensure that your vitamin D levels are within optimal range and/or to determine your best dosage. Be sure to consult with your Vitalship physician on the best form and dose for you and your family. Those with vitamin D deficiency are more vulnerable to infection. Vitamin D plays an important role in proper immune and inflammatory responses.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is important for proper white blood cell function, is an antioxidant, and can prevent illness. Vitamin C is safe to take on your own if you have no digestive concerns.
Vitamin A: Proper function of our first line of defense is ensured by optimal Vitamin A intake. Deficiency is associated with increased respiratory illness. This is another vitamin best discussed with your Vitalship physician before starting supplementation. Safe, food-based sources include carrots and other bright-colored veggies along with certain melons and squash.These are just a few supportive therapies. There are thousands of herbs and alternative therapies that one could utilize per your physician’s recommendation.Back to the original question: Do these efforts prevent disease and or illness? They may, but ultimately, they allow the body to elicit a more balanced, optimal, efficient response to illness. So, when you do get ill, the severity of illness, duration of illness, frequency of illness is improved!
That, my friends, is most necessary for healing!