Written by Emmeline Molnar, lab assistant at Crawford Street and clinical herbalist
Generally speaking, a holistic approach to immunity stems from the ‘terrain theory’ perspective, which goes beyond just ‘killing the bugs’ and instead, attempts to shift the body's ecology so that it becomes inhospitable to pathogens. Since the immune system doesn’t have a specific organ associated with it, the best thing we can offer is to support its function. And like so many things in this world, the key to doing so is through maintaining balance.
Vital immunity is all about harmony. Harmony between the good and not so good microbes as well as the relationship between the intricately connected immune and lymphatic systems. It’s as important as ever to provide nourishment and balance for our immune systems as we make our way through the winter months ahead– the work we do now paves the way for a smooth and strong transition into spring.
Supplements and herbs can make wonderful adjuncts to our quality of life when combined with nutritious food, drinking lots of water, sleeping restfully, exercising daily, and managing stress.
Here are our top three supplements for building up core immunity.*
Vitamin D supports immunity by modulating innate and adaptive immune responses. It decreases inflammation, boosts energy, supports and maintains bone tissue and protects against stressors within the body. Supplementing with sublingual drops is an excellent way to bypass the digestive system for rapid and effective absorption.
Zinc protects the immune system by helping fight off invading viruses and bacteria. It excels at regulating each phase of the wound healing process from acute tissue repair and coagulation to long term moderation of oxidative stress. It especially excels at moderating and regulating inflammatory responses- ensuring that an excessive systemic response is prevented.
Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids help regulate the immune response by controlling inflammation. They also modulate our stress response and promote circulation of the lymphatic system, which helps our body eliminate toxins. Ensure that Omega-3’s are sourced either from algae/kelp (vegan option) or small, wild, cold water fish such as sardines and anchovies that don’t bioaccumulate mercury.
Now here’s one you probably haven’t heard of before but deserves honourable mention. N-Acetyl-L-Cysteineor more commonly NAC, is an essential amino acid responsible for stimulating the production of glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant. This is extremely important because it supports the immune system in detecting and killing foreign pathogens. Not only that, but NAC fights cellular damage, moderates inflammation, as well as reduces oxidative stress especially during acute episodes of influenza and pneumonia.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Eleuthero, Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
These are all excellent herbs intended for preventing and rebuilding the immune system long-term so that it functions at peak performance. They are also adaptogenic and therefore, increase the body’s own resistance to immune-compromising stressors. They are great alternatives for people who would like to introduce herbal medicine as part of their regular supplementation.
When we support our immune system, we improve our overall function. So whether taken individually or combined for maximum effect, these supplements and herbs offer the health boost you’ve been looking for. Improved mood and energy levels as well as a more regulated stress response are just a plus.
*These are suggestions, not to be taken as advice. Prior to taking any supplements and herbs, you should consult your doctor.