By Donna Mischke, Director of Family Services at Concierge Care Advisors
Recently I was sick with a cold and realized that my body didn’t bounce back the way it used to when I was younger. I was very sick for about 2 weeks and realized that I needed to do some work on my health and start building a better immune system. As we age, our immune system undergoes changes that can make us more susceptible to illnesses and infections. A good diet is crucial for overall health but there are also a few extra steps we can implement to provide an extra layer of support for the immune system. After some research, here are some of the key supplements and natural remedies that can play a vital role in enhancing immunity.
Vitamin C- Some people call Vitamin C the immunity superhero. It is a potent antioxidant and known for its immune boosting properties. As we age, our body’s ability to absorb and retain vitamin C may diminish. Including a diet with vitamin C rich foods like citrus fruits, strawberries and bell peppers can contribute to a better immune system. Vitamin C supports the production of white blood cells and helps protect cells from damage.
Vitamin D-The sunshine vitamin. Many people suffer from lower levels of Vitamin D especially in areas like the Pacific Northwest where the sun likes to hide in the winter months. Sun exposure is a natural source of vitamin D but supplements can also be beneficial when the sun is limited. Vitamin D supports the immune system by enhancing the pathogen fighting effects of monocytes and macrophages. The best food sources of Vitamin D are salmon, sardines, egg yolks, red meat, and liver. Most people find that they still may have to supplement Vitamin D in addition to eating Vitamin D rich foods especially if they do not have proper sun exposure.
Probiotics- Balancing the gut microbiome. A healthy gut plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system. Probiotics or good bacteria help maintain a balanced gut microbiome. As we age, the diversity of gut bacteria may decrease. Probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables, as well as supplements can help restore and maintain a healthy gut and positively impact the immune system response. I personally love sauerkraut and have recently started making my own which is a lot of fun.
Zinc-The immune system gatekeeper. Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a key role in immune function. It helps to activate enzymes that support the body’s’ natural defense mechanisms. Foods rich in zinc include nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. However, if dietary intake in insufficient, Zinc supplements can be considered especially for older individuals who may have difficulty absorbing this mineral.
Elderberry-Nature’s Immune Tonic. Elderberry is a well-known natural remedy with immune boosting properties. It contains antioxidants and vitamins that support the immune system. Elderberry supplements or elderberry syrup can be particularly beneficial during the colder months when the risk of infections is higher. You can buy syrup already made up, but I love making my own using local honey.
Turmeric-The powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Chronic inflammation can weaken the immune system, making it crucial to include anti-inflammatory foods and supplements like turmeric in the diet. Turmeric can be added to meals or taken in a supplement form. I like to sprinkle it on my scrambled eggs or add it to rice dishes.
Garlic-Nature’s antibiotic. Garlic has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It contains allicin, a compound with antibacterial and antiviral effects. Including fresh garlic in meals or taking garlic supplements may provide immune system support. I personally add garlic to almost anything I can. I know this may not work for everyone, but I love the taste of garlic.
Before adding any supplements to your routine, please consult with your healthcare professional. Certain medications can interact with supplements, so it is always good to talk to your doctor. Supplements and natural remedies can be a valuable tool in supporting immune health, but it is important to remember that they should complement and not replace a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle. By adopting a holistic approach that includes nutritious foods, regular exercise, and adequate sleep, individuals can empower their immune systems for better health and resilience, even in their golden years or during the journey of rebuilding immune strength.