The Top Four Nutrients to Support Immunity and Respiratory Health
Written by Matthew Gines, MS, CNS
|Nutritional Consultant – Palisades Center • West Nyack, New York
Matthew Gines holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition from The University of Bridgeport. He has over 15 years’ experience working with clients on developing and implementing lifestyle protocols, including healthy eating, stress management and detoxification. He has also obtained a PN Level 1 Exercise and Nutrition Certification and has extensive knowledge on supplements and healthy lifestyle coaching, as well as behavior modification. Recently, Matthew has qualified as a Certified Nutrition Specialist. Through motivational and accountability techniques, as well as focusing on prevention of chronic disease, Matthew is confident he can help you achieve your health and wellness goals. Email Matthew: MGines@invitehealth.com
During the winter months, it becomes harder to obtain the essential vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. That being said, it would be wise to protect yourself and your family with safe and effective nutrients that have been studied to support your immune and respiratory system.
To keep yourself healthy during the cold, dry winter, you’ll want to focus on nutrients that support your respiratory system, as it is one of the key entry points for bacteria and viruses. When a person infected with a virus coughs or sneezes, the particles travel through the air and can enter into another person via the eyes, nose and throat. Once inside, the virus takes control of the protein-making compartments of our cells, creating its own viral proteins, and then attempts to replicate them to infect the other parts of the body. Let’s take a look at some important nutrients that can help you support your respiratory tract and keep your body running effectively.
There are many immune-boosting nutrients which are traditional plants that help to support the respiratory tract, as well as with overall wellness.
Black Seed, Nigella Sativa
Medicinal plants have been used for centuries all over the world. Nigella Sativa, more commonly known as Black Cumin Seed, is one of them. This herb belongs to the Ranunculacea family of herbs and holds many medicinal properties. Thymoquinone (TQ) is the most abundant property and is the main source to which the properties of this herb are attributed. A 2017 study published in The Journal of Pharmacopuncture using data from three different databases set out to identify therapeutic effects of this herb. Results showed that Black seed and its constituent TQ possess multiple benefits for ‘inflammatory and auto-immune disorders’. Other advantages noted in the study include antimicrobial properties – the killing or hindering growth of microorganisms like bacteria – as well as metabolic syndrome. The ability of Black seed to support respiratory tract health and overall wellness is why it is known as such a renowned herb.†
Rosemary is another powerhouse traditional plant that contains very beneficial antioxidants, especially the phenolic compounds which are what its’ main medicinal properties are attributed to. Phenolic compounds are plant-derived compounds and have long been associated with their many biochemical and medicinal properties, such as being anti-viral, an antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. Rosemary is from the Lamiaceae family (along with Thyme and Sage) and has been noted in several studies for its antioxidant properties; Rosemary has been shown to be a superior scavenger of free radicals, according to a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.†
You may think that fungus is something you’d want to steer clear of during the winter months, but Cordyceps is a superior fungus that contains some very unique and highly beneficial health properties, particularly for the support of the upper respiratory tract and overall immune system, due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The study shows evidence that Cordyceps contains very potent properties that benefit the immune system, the liver, the kidneys and the heart, as well as the sexual organs.†
One of my personal favorite recommendations for immune and respiratory support is mushrooms. The health benefits of mushrooms, especially for the immune system, have been well known for quite some time. This can be attributed to the relationship between glucan found in mushrooms and the body’s immune reactions. A review published in The International Journal of Molecular Sciences has demonstrated considerable immune defense benefits with the combination of Maitake and Shiitake mushrooms. These powerhouse immune-boosters strongly stimulate both the cellular and humoral parts of the immune reactions. Humoral immunity is the part of the immune system that is mediated by very small molecules found in the fluid outside of cells like secreted antibodies, proteins, and specific antimicrobials. Humoral immunity gets its’ name because it involves substances found in the humors, or body fluids.†
Immune reactions have been shown to greatly increase with the use of these mushrooms, thereby increasing the number of “killer cells” and phagocytosis, the process in which certain cells called phagocytes ingest other cells. One such example of a phagocyte is an amoeba or a white blood cell. This process may come in handy when fighting off viruses and bacteria. There is also some very impressive research on Reishi, Chaga and Lion’s Mane mushrooms, due to their activation of immune effector cells like lymphocytes, macrophages, and natural killer cells.†
It’s important to speak with a certified healthcare professional about the specific nutrients that can be most effective for your needs, especially during the winter season. One last suggestion? I would advise to begin taking a safe, reliably-made, high-quality multivitamin mineral formula on a daily basis to fill in for the nutritional deficiencies in your diet. When you provide the body with the necessary nutrients it needs, your body can work at optimal levels to keep you healthy.