Ask Dr. Marty: Immune System Strength

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I am really trying to take better care of myself during this covid-19 pandemic. I have been eating well, getting plenty of rest, minimizing stress and drinking a lot of water. What supplements do you recommend to strengthen my immune system?

There are dozens of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs and miscellaneous nutraceuticals (a catch-all category for the other nutrients we need) that I use with my clients to boost their immune systems. The following is a list of my favorites to protect us from respiratory viruses in particular, in order of importance, including the typical daily amount used:

CITRUS BIOFLAVONOIDS /VITAMIN C/ROSE HIPS COMBINATION (1000 mg) Bioflavonoids are antioxidant compounds found in the leaves, flowers and stems of many plants.
Quercetin is a broad- spectrum antiviral bioflavonoid that has been shown to increase zinc uptake. Quercetin is especially important in the prevention of a COVID-19 infection because it inhibits cytokines and raises our resistance to upper respiratory infections. Excess cytokines are responsible in part for some of the severe and sometimes fatal damage caused by COVID-19. If you bruise easily, you might need more vitamin C. Gradually increase the amount you are taking until you have loose bowels, then return to the prior dose. This is called bowel tolerance.

ZINC (30-50 mg) An in vitro study showed that zinc coupled with quercetin blocks the replication of SARS coronavirus. Green tea has an antioxidant compound called EGCG that also increases zinc uptake.

SELENIUM (50-100 mcg) is a trace mineral that acts as an antioxidant in the body and is especially healing for the respiratory system.

VITAMIN D3 (100 mcg) is the sunshine vitamin. It is especially helpful for fighting infection and lowering the risk of catching the flu and getting an upper respiratory infection. Studies indicate that having a vitamin D deficiency, which is very common, can double your risk of having an upper respiratory infection. Having dark skin, winter months, and living in northern climates are all risk factors for vitamin D deficiency. Aren’t you glad you live in the South?

SPIRULINA (15 grams) is a blue-green algae and other greens, like chlorella (a fresh water green algae) are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to stimulate immune function. They are especially rich in minerals and vitamins that boost the immune system. In clinical trials, spirulina reduced the severity of the flu and lowered mortality.

PROBIOTICS (18 billion beneficial bacteria) A broad spectrum probiotic with at least 11 different strains of probiotics will really build the immune system by improving the absorption of nutrients and increasing resistance to infection.

ELDERBERRY (600-1500 mg) can be used for prevention but should not be used if you have COVID-19 because of the stimulation of cytokines.

Regardless of what bacteria, virus or fungus is among us, building your immune system will provide protection and more peace of mind. Heaven knows we all need an extra dose of that right now.

Hot Tip: The amounts listed are for pharmaceutical grade supplements. Otherwise higher amounts would be needed.

Stay well.

Marty Kernion, Ph.D. is not a medical doctor. She has a doctorate in naturopathy. Naturopathy uses natural, gentle ways to bring our bodies back into balance so that they have the God-given ability to heal themselves. She is a retired professor of herbal medicine and nutrition and has written 39 college level courses in natural approaches to health. She has published two books on natural health. She can be reached on for scheduling a class or consultation, or for sending in your questions for this column.

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