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. And there’s no doubt that elderberry is powerful. It has been found effective against 13 different pathogens, including Streptococcus pyogenes and Escherichia coli. Elderberry extract has been shown to be especially effective when combined with vitamin C and zinc.
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.
One thing I'd add regarding elderberry is that it is often adulterated, so you may not be getting the full potential of this botanical. In fact, in some cases, you may not be getting elderberry at all. So when you look for a supplement, make sure it is verified to be unadulterated and authentic.
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. I recommend the retinol form of vitamin A - not beta carotene. Beta carotene is poorly converted to vitamin A, and isn't a reliable source of the nutrient.
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. 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.
While vitamin E is a common ingredient in most multivitamin formulations, you need the full value of vitamin E as d-alpha mixed tocopherols – alpha, beta, delta, and gamma the way they are found in food. It is commonly thought of as a “strong antioxidant” for fighting colds, but vitamin E also has cell-protecting abilities that may extend to keeping nerve cells healthy – an especially important factor for anyone suffering from shingles.
Minerals Make a Difference
Minerals are often in short supply in our diets. Because much of our soil has been drained of mineral value, it is critical to the immune system – and every system – that we get minerals that absorb well and work well together. In fact, without minerals, vitamins can’t work properly so they are a crucial component to fighting viruses and bacteria.
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 and cold sores.
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 of symptoms. 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.
Selenium, another mineral that our immune system needs in greater amounts when it is in distress, has been shown to be an excellent “partner nutrient” with zinc.
Reversing 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.
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 taking a higher initial dose of this combination for the first 2 to 3 days. This initial high dosage knocked out her major skin symptoms. Then, she decreased her dosage to keep the virus in check.
Keep Your Immune System Finely Tuned
In any viral attack, I recommend a heavy 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.
Protects Kids from Viral Infections, Too.
The Nutrients I've outlined here aren't just for grown ups who want to stop viral infections and other immune threats. Kids can benefit from elderberry plus key vitamins and minerals, too. Elderberry is a safe and effective choice helping prevent or treat influenza and upper respiratory symptoms in children. It doesn't cause side effects or have safety issues as long as it truly is elderberry, and not adulterated in some way.
Other nutrients, including vitamins A, C, D3, E plus selenium and zinc, can help strengthen immune responses in younger people just as well as they can in adults. My suggestion is to look for a formula that includes "right-sized" levels of these ingredients and allows for flexible dosing to accommodate children ages 4 to 17. And of course, a form that tastes good and is easy to take is a plus as well.
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.
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