The pain of shingles, the harsh cough and sore throat of respiratory infections, and the body aches and runny noses of seasonal viruses all have one thing in common: a compromised immune system. They are also difficult to treat conventionally, and can take a long time to release their grip.
The good news is there are powerful, natural ingredients that can help you avoid these troublesome problems. Best yet, at higher dosages for a limited duration – about 1 or 2 days – they can actually reverse viral illnesses and put you on the path to natural healing.
In this Terry Talks Nutrition®, I’d like to review a combination of daily nutrients that can help you keep your immune system strong throughout the year, and – in higher dosages – give your immune system an additional boost when you need it.
Nature’s Immune Booster – Elderberry:
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is probably one of my favorite immune-boosting botanical ingredients. It is one of the best, most clinically studied herbs for fighting colds and the flu.
Elderberry (and other antiviral nutrients) disrupts viruses and restores the body’s ability to fight them off without the side effects or drug resistance that you see from prescription medications. For people who travel – or anyone who spends time in close proximity with a lot of other people for work – elderberry is a must. A recent clinical trial in Australia found that taking elderberry while traveling cuts the risk of colds or flu in half. This is why I recommend the Haschberg variety of elderberry extract – a freeze-dried ingredient, and the same one used in this study.
When it comes to elderberry, I prefer freeze-drying for the best extracts. Freeze-drying removes the water content without damaging the beneficial compounds in the berry. Freeze-dried extracts retain the highest levels of antioxidants, anthocyanins, and other components and have the longest shelf life of any drying process.
Vitamins Are Vital For Our Defenses
Vitamin A is critical to our ability to fight off infections. For example, patients who were treated with vitamin A following surgery saw an increase in lymphocytes—the white blood cells that police our system when we are most vulnerable to infection. Even if you are not deficient in vitamin A, supplementing with this vitamin provides an immune system boost. Retinyl acetate is the form of vitamin A you need to kill viruses. While other forms such as beta carotene are useful, to stop colds or flus, look for retinyl acetate.
Vitamin C is probably one of the best known immune boosters. Taken as a preventative nutrient, it may reduce the incidence of colds by as much as 50 percent! Beyond colds and flus, vitamin C appears to have a natural antihistamine effect and alleviates allergy and other respiratory symptoms.
Vitamin D is a must for the immune system. If you live in a northern climate, chances are good that you are vitamin D deficient. Even if you spend time outdoors in the summer, when your body’s chances of synthesizing vitamin D from sun exposure are the greatest, you could still have low D levels. Because vitamin D is responsible for so many health factors, those deficient in this nutrient are more likely to have colds, flus, and respiratory ailments. In fact, a long-term British study found that increased vitamin D3 corresponded with a reduced risk of infection.
Older adults, people with darker skin, and those who are overweight can’t synthesize vitamin D easily. The best guarantee of maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is through supplementation. There are two different forms of vitamin D available as supplements: cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2). The vitamin D3 form is considered the most absorbable because it matches the form that the body creates naturally.
Minerals Make a Difference
Magnesium helps keep the bronchial system running smoothly—an important consideration for anyone suffering from acute respiratory viruses.
Calcium lactate, along with magnesium, helps cells stay strong to resist viruses and suppresses viral growth. The two minerals also fight other virus-caused irritations, including fever blisters.
Zinc is an important mineral for keeping the immune system running smoothly. In one study, zinc reduced cold symptom duration by 42 percent when taken on the first day. Zinc is a required nutrient for T-lymphocyte (white blood cell) activity. It helps our body’s natural “guards” keep out potentially dangerous invaders, including bacterial and viral infections. It is known as an “immunomodulator,” which means it assists the immune system when the situation demands it, but otherwise simply helps us stay healthy.
There have been a number of studies about zinc and how well it prevents colds and flus. Much of the variation in effectiveness has been, in my expert opinion, due to the forms of zinc used in the studies. Like many nutrients, some mineral forms are simply better utilized than others. Zinc gluconate is the form of zinc that I recommend for anyone looking to address viral problems, whether it is the common cold, the flu, or something more problematic, like shingles. In fact, zinc gluconate was the form used in the studies that have shown a 7-day reduction in the duration of cold symptoms.
Treating Shingles Quickly
Shingles are notoriously difficult to treat. They are caused by a “flaring up” of the same virus that causes chicken pox, often times several decades after the original bout of chicken pox. The virus causes patches of painful blisters on the skin that can appear on the face, along the chest or stomach, or on the arms and hands. It is not a short-term problem, and can take weeks—even months—before the patches begin to clear. In the meantime, the affected skin itches and burns, and other flu-like symptoms are common, too.
I absolutely recommend this combination of elderberry, vitamins, and minerals for battling shingles. One person I knew had tried just about everything to rid herself of this viral illness and nothing was effective. When she came to me for advice, I recommended this combination every waking hour for 2 to 3 days. This initial high dosage knocked out her major skin symptoms. Then, she decreased her dosage to once per day to keep the virus in check.
Keep Your Immune System Finely Tuned
In any viral attack, I recommend a high initial dosage to quickly get your immune system back into balance. Consider doing that for the first couple of days, and then work back to a lower dosage as you feel healthier again. This combination is meant to be used every day, because your immune system needs support throughout the year for you to stay healthy.
As an additional way to keep your body’s natural resistance at its best, I would recommend using these ingredients with the concentrated plant oils of ravintsara, myrtle, thyme, and bay leaf.
We all have busy schedules, and it can be too easy to ignore your health until immune system problems come up. These amazing nutrients, used daily, can help prevent that.
To help fight viruses, shingles, and respiratory infections:
I recommend taking 200 mg of elderberry (Sambucus nigra), along with bioflavonoids, vitamins (A, C, and D3), and minerals (calcium, magnesium, and zinc) on a daily basis. If additional support is needed, you can take these nutrients 3-6 times a day, for up to 7 days.