First Covid. Now monkeypox. Who knows what other frightening viruses lurk around the corner. We do know that flu experts are predicting an especially rough season this year based on flu cases in the Southern hemisphere. For this and so many other reasons, it’s essential to give your immune system a little TLC with antiviral nutrients.
Antiviral Foods & Spices
The right diet is essential for defending against viruses. To start with, eliminate any inflammatory foods in your diet. These include refined sugars, trans-fats, and processed foods, all of which have been shown to significantly impair immune function — in some cases, immediately after they are consumed.
A note about sugar: watch out for gummy vitamins and herbs. Many brands of elderberry gummies, for example, have more than 5 g of sugar per serving, which is a lot when you consider the daily recommended serving. By itself, elderberry has potent antiviral constituents. Just be careful with chewable and gummy varieties.
In addition to cleaning up your diet, there are certain foods and spices that have been shown to contain antiviral properties. Top choices include:
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Black and green tea
- Lemon balm tea
- Coconut oil
Hydration Is Key
Don’t forget to hydrate your body with plenty of clean, filtered water. Did you know that immune cells travel and communicate through our circulatory and lymphatic systems? That means hyper-viscosity is the enemy. Water helps prevent hyper-viscosity. Other hydrating beverages include caffeine-free herbal teas (hibiscus is particularly hydrating), electrolyte-rich coconut water, and cactus water.
One of the worst things we can do to our immunity is to sit for hours on end. Fortunately, it does not take much to energize both the metabolism and the immune system. A short 30-minute walk each day can do the trick. Even better, practice a moving meditation such as yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong. Several studies have linked these practices to improved immune response, right down to the genetic level! One study showed that just one session of yoga activated numerous genes related to immunity. These mind-body practices also help promote relaxation, reducing levels of cortisol, adrenaline, and other inflammatory hormones that, when elevated over time, can weaken the immune system.5
It is capital C critical to get a good night’s sleep — 7 to 9 hours per night. Without good sleep, multiple systems begin to break down, immunity included. Research continues to show the profound impact of restful sleep on all areas of health, with effects on immune function. Lack of sleep has been clearly shown to increase the risks of developing infections and autoimmune reactions.6
Chronic stress is indeed the enemy of your immune system. Numerous studies have shown that positive feelings are related to strong immunity. Research shows that, conversely, stress hampers immune response. Happiness is great medicine, and it’s one of the best ways to achieve balance in your life. In that regard, simple meditation practice and/or other healthy stress relief techniques should be a key part of any immune-enhancing program.7
In addition to a nutrient-dense, unprocessed diet built around fresh, whole foods, there are several antiviral nutrients that help balance the immune system. The basics: vitamins A, B-complex, C, and D3, as well as zinc, have all been shown to support immune function. Vitamin D3, particularly, is important to help activate T-cells and other important components of the immune system. This vitamin plays numerous critical roles in the body; however, because it is produced in response to sunlight, many people are deficient, particularly people living in northern climes and those of us who work indoors.
Recent Research on Vitamins C and D3
A growing body of research supports supplementation with these two vitamins for immune health — including Covid prevention and treatment. In one study, patients taking vitamin D3 who were hospitalized with severe respiratory symptoms were less likely to be admitted to the ICU and less likely to die from Covid. The findings are similar for vitamin C — it has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from Covid.8,9
Are You Low in Zinc?
Another important immune supporting nutrient is zinc, which is a key component in T-cells, B-cells, macrophages, antibodies, and other immune cells. A zinc deficiency is known to reduce immunity, and many people do not get enough of this mineral. Some signs that you might need more include poor-healing wounds, diarrhea, decreased sense of taste and smell, and brain fog. Poultry, liver, whole grains, beans, raw nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), and wild seafood are all good sources of zinc.
Astragalus: The Antiviral Herb
Astragalus root has been used in traditional Asian medicine to support immunity, as well as protect against stress. Astragalus offers anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-cancer, and antibacterial activity, among other important benefits.
Modified Citrus Pectin, a Super Nutrient for Total-Body Health and Immunity
Pectin is a complex carbohydrate and soluble fiber that has been prescribed for its digestive health benefits. However, pectin molecules are too big to absorb into the circulation, limiting their effectiveness throughout the body.
Luckily, this problem has been solved by breaking down the large pectin molecules enzymatically into a much smaller, more bioavailable size. The result is a powerful super-nutrient called modified citrus pectin (MCP). Once in the bloodstream, MCP provides a wealth of total-body benefits, including immune-balancing and optimization.7
MCP is especially helpful for immunity because it controls an inflammatory “survival protein” known as galectin-3. It’s an alarm protein that gets triggered in response to acute injuries, traumas, and threats. This is a normal, healthy response. Unfortunately, in today’s stress-driven world, galectin-3, in many cases, never gets turned off, leading to chronic inflammation, overactive immune responses, and other complications. Have you heard about the “cytokine storm” involved in Covid infections? Galectin-3 plays a key role in this as well. I talk more about galectin-3 in my new book, The Survival Paradox.
Train Your Immune System with Medicinal Mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms are yet another wonderful way to enhance your immune function. These ancient healing fungi are powerful immune modulators. That means they help to balance immunity by energizing a weak immune response and reigning in an overactive one. They help “train” the immune system to restore balance and function optimally.11
Mushrooms contain beta-glucans, complex carbohydrates that energize macrophages and other immune cells. In addition, mushrooms support cell signaling, a critical immune function as first responders alert the rest of the body about a dangerous pathogen and coordinate an effective response.
Medicinal mushrooms provide countless health benefits — improving immune function, fighting cancer, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, balancing blood sugar, improving neurological health, protecting the liver, and reducing inflammation are at the top of the list.
There are several ways to incorporate mushrooms into your diet. Culinary varieties, including shiitake, oyster, and maitake, are particularly good in soups and sauces.
I recommend a botanically grown mushroom formula that includes turkey tail, reishi, cordyceps, and other mushrooms to maintain strong immune function against viruses, fungus, and bacteria. The beauty of this combination supplement is that the mushrooms are grown on a blend of immune-supporting herbs, which helps enhance their effectiveness.
Immune Health Is a Daily Commitment
Our immune system works hard to take care of us. We can return the favor by adopting practices that help our immune cells function more effectively, combat infections and long-term illness, and support overall wellness. These and other immune-supporting measures can go a long way toward balancing and supporting overall immune health, naturally.
Antiviral and Immune Support Supplements
PectaSol Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) is a powerhouse immune health supplement that works synergistically with both medicinal mushrooms and Padma Basic. This extract from the pith of citrus fruits optimizes your body’s responses to allergens and other stressors — your immune system will work smarter, not harder.*
MycoPhyto combines six powerful mushrooms with beta-glucans, compounds that help train, balance, and fine-tune your immune function and maximize your defenses — without triggering an overreaction of the immune system. This works great when you need extra support.*
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- Milani A, Basirnejad M, Shahbazi S, Bolhassani A. Carotenoids: biochemistry, pharmacology and treatment. Br J Pharmacol. 2017 Jun;174(11):1290-1324.
- Khan N, Mukhtar H. Tea Polyphenols in Promotion of Human Health. Nutrients. 2018 Dec 25;11(1):39.
- Zhang CX, Wang HY, Chen TX. Interactions between Intestinal Microflora/Probiotics and the Immune System. Biomed Res Int.2019;6764919.
- Qu S, Olafsrud SM, Meza-Zepeda LA, Saatcioglu F. Rapid gene expression changes in peripheral blood lymphocytes upon practice of a comprehensive yoga program. Plos one. 2013 ;8(4):e61910.
- Asif N, Iqbal R, Nazir CF. Human immune system during sleep. Am J Clin Exp Immunol. 2017 Dec 20;6(6):92-96.
- Black DS, Slavich GM. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016 Jun;1373(1):13-24.
- Eliaz I, Raz A. Pleiotropic Effects of Modified Citrus Pectin. Nutrients. 2019 Nov 1;11(11):2619.
- Wasser SP. Medicinal Mushrooms in Human Clinical Studies. Part I. Anticancer, Oncoimmunological, and Immunomodulatory Activities: A Review. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2017;19(4):279-317.