Your Immune System


Flu season is rampant this year, with a strain that isn’t well matched to the vaccine (current estimates place it at about a 10-30% match). While getting the flu vaccine is at the top of my family’s to-do list every fall (here is a good overview on why we believe in the flu vaccine), there are other things we do to support our immune system, like eating healthy foods, getting exercise, and supplementing with Vitamin D. I also take a daily zinc supplement (read here about why zinc is important).

There can be many reasons for why our immune system isn’t functioning at optimal levels, including drinking too much alcohol, having high stress levels, and eating too many refined carbs/sugars. While getting sick from common viruses like colds and enterovirus (aka: stomach flu) is quite normal, if you find yourself getting sick often, it’s worth it to get checked out for underlying causes.

Even though I know all the things to do in order to keep my immune system in good shape, I still get sick a couple of times a year. We can’t always nip our stress in the bud as quickly as we would like, or it’s the holidays and we are partaking in more rich food and alcohol than we normally do (not to mention our exercise routines tend to go out the window in November and December). Keep this handy info page taped to your fridge or mirror to remind yourself of all the ways that you can naturally help your immune system be stronger.  And remember, this information should never take the place of a discussion with your doctor or trusted health professional, and never start a supplement without first talking to your medical professional.

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The Importance of Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral which acts as an antioxidant in our bodies. It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates. Since our bodies don’t make zinc, we need to get it through our diet or supplementation.

Why is zinc important? Because it’s an antioxidant there are many benefits to getting enough zinc. I’ve outlined some of them in the handy infographic below.

My doctor recommended taking no more than 50 mg of elemental zinc to boost my immune system. You would be hard pressed to get that much zinc from diet alone. 

What happens when you don’t get enough zinc? Lots of stuff can occur, such as low fertility, low immune system, depression/anxiety, and decreased wound healing, for starters. 

Read and print out this handy guide on zinc for more information.

***I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on t.v. Please ask your doctor or qualified medical professional before starting any supplements!

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Vitamin D, The “Sunshine” Vitamin

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This time of year, when the weather starts to hint at warming up in colder climates, you might think that you don’t need to supplement with vitamin D anymore. Or maybe you’ve never supplemented and think that because you live in a more temperate place like San Francisco or Kansas City that you get enough from the sun. But the truth is, if you draw a line from Atlanta across the U.S. and your city falls above it, you won’t get any meaningful vitamin D from the sun most of the year. Additionally, many people aren’t good “converters” of vitamin D, meaning they might get a lot of unprotected sun and still not have adequate levels of vitamin D.

It’s for all those reasons that supplementing with vitamin D is a good idea. And because so many of us wear sunscreen religiously throughout the summer, I don’t even stop taking my supplements in the warmer months (although I do cut back from about 3,000 IUs a day to 1,000 IUs). Read and print this informative page for more important vitamin D information.

***I am not a doctor and I am not qualified to prescribe any therapy or medication. Please always check with your practitioner before you start taking any new supplements. Vitamin D

Magnesium: “The Relaxer”

Do you suffer from stiff or sore muscles?  Have trouble relaxing enough to fall asleep at night? Suffer from chronic headaches?  (in this day and age, who doesn’t have one or all of these complaints?).  Having a magnesium deficiency can cause all sorts of problems.  About 50% of the population is deficient in magnesium, and teenagers are even more likely thanks to their higher consumption of junk food.

Reasons for a magnesium deficiency include stress, excess alcohol, sugar and caffeine consumption, and the Standard American Diet (SAD). Sound familiar?

But let’s back up so I can explain what magnesium is and what it does.  Magnesium is a crucial mineral that our bodies use to produce energy, metabolize carbohydrates and protein, and acts as a natural calcium channel blocker. Having ideal levels of magnesium helps balance our blood sugar levels, balances calcium, facilitates bringing nutrients into the cells and wastes out, and functions as a natural relaxant for our minds and muscles. 

If we don’t consume enough magnesium or we don’t supplement and our levels are low, a host of problems can occur, such as blood sugar imbalances, constipation, fatigue, muscle cramps, PMS, heart arrhythmias, high blood pressure, irritability and migraine, to name a few.

I personally love the Calm brand of effervescent magnesium that I buy on Amazon. It tastes great and works rapidly to help me relax at night.

Real food sources of magnesium include leafy greens, sea vegetables, algae, whole grains, nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin sees), avocados and blackstrap molasses. 

One more note: if you take magnesium it is recommended that you also supplement with calcium in a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio for best results.


***As always, make sure you speak with a doctor or practitioner before taking supplements.  I am not authorized to give medical advice and this blog post is not intended to treat or diagnose any diseases.