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Show 1255: Natural Ways to Keep Your Immune Response Optimal

Show 1255: Natural Ways to Keep Your Immune Response Optimal

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Dr. Tieraona Low Dog describes how to use vitamin D, zinc and botanical medicines to keep your immune response optimal. Also, an herbal first aid kit.

In the middle of a pandemic, it’s important to know how to stay healthy. Sleep, stress management, handwashing, exercise and a healthful diet (cutting back on refined flour and sugar) are all crucial. In addition, supplements and herbs might help maintain a robust immune response.

The Value of Vitamin D:

There is significant evidence that people with low levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to infection. During the winter, people often have lower levels of vitamin D because there’s not enough sun to help the skin make it. Most research on adequate vitamin D has focused on bone health. However, studies show that you need higher levels of vitamin D to keep your immune response optimal. Learn how you can test for your own vitamin D level to see whether you need 4,000 IU daily, as many of Dr. Low Dog’s patients do.

The traditional Scandinavian winter tonic of cod liver oil is rich in vitamin D and vitamin A as well as omega 3 fatty acids. This is a good way to get healthy amounts of these essential nutrients. Remember, you need magnesium to utilize vitamin D effectively as well.

Integrative Medicine for Long COVID:

One consequence of COVID-19 that most experts didn’t anticipate at the beginning of the pandemic is post-COVID syndrome, aka long COVID. A surprisingly high number of formerly healthy people report debilitating symptoms months after recovering from an acute infection. Some experts suggest this may affect one-fourth or possibly even more of people who had COVID-19. While people who were hospitalized with severe cases may be most likely to suffer long COVID, some people reporting fatigue, loss of taste or smell, muscle pain, dizziness upon standing, headache or brain fog had relatively mild cases. Can supplements help them?

Dr. Low Dog has seen this problem up close and personal with her own daughter. The doctors didn’t know how to address the post-viral syndrome and instead suggested psychiatry. What actually helped were some supplements to help the immune system and the digestive tract get back into balance, along with time-restricted eating of an anti-inflammatory diet. Resveratrol, coenzyme Q10 and the botanicals bacopa, ashwagandha and Andrographis can benefit people with chronic fatigue syndrome, intense stress and long COVID. Andrographis has antiviral activity and can help reduce inflammation in the nervous system. The COVID-19 vaccine also seems to help improve the post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASSC).

How Do You Get Adequate Zinc?

Zinc is an element that is critical for a good immune response. It helps maintain the barrier function of the lungs. Unfortunately, zinc deficiency is difficult to detect. People who are deficient in zinc have worse outcomes with COVID-19. Dr. Low Dog recommends taking 30 to 40 mg per day (not more) during the fall and winter to help maintain immunity.

An Herbal First Aid Kit:

We asked Dr. Low Dog to tell us about an herbal first aid kit we can all use this summer. She suggests Arnica montana and calendula for bruises, sprains and strains. Plantain, which is a very common plant that grows like a weed, can be used to ease bug bites. A peppermint tea bag wet with cold water placed on the bug bite also will stop the itch and redness. For the itches of poison ivy or poison oak, ground oatmeal mixed with baking soda can be used in bath water or as a compress.

For anxiety, meditation and breath work are especially helpful. Finding allies is invaluable. The herbs that work include chamomile, lemon balm, L-theanine and hawthorn. Sipping herbal tea quietly can really soothe the sympathetic nervous system.

For sleep, she suggests California poppy, which also alleviates muscle tension and pain. Lemon balm and passion flower also help. Hops (1,000 mg) may be one of the most effective herbs for sleep. If you take melatonin to fall asleep, make sure you take it at least an hour before your desired bedtime.

This Week's Guest:

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is a founding member of the American Board of Physician Specialties, American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academy of Women’s Health. She was elected Chair of the US Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements/Botanicals Expert Committee and was appointed to the Scientific Advisory Council for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Her books include: Women’s Health in Complementary and Integrative Medicine; Life Is Your Best Medicine; and Healthy at Home. Her latest is Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More. Dr. Low Dog’s website is drlowdog.com 

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