Olga Gorenyuk

Supporting The Immune System

With all these infections going around, it would be good to discuss the immune system and what we can do to support it. I personally used to get sick (colds) about 4-5 times per year until we changed how our diets and sleep habits and supplementing during times of high risk (flying, exposure to someone else that is sick, a couple of crappy calls in a row where i am not sleeping, etc). I attribute a predominantly plant-based diet and improving sleep for the majority of the benefit my family has experienced but there is no denying that some supplements work to prevent and some supplements work to cure infections.

So if you are already eating the rainbow and getting the VITAL 8 hours of sleep per night then here are some other things that you can do to keep your family healthy.

Let's start the with foods that are specifically known to stimulate your immune cells:

GINGER - potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic substance, works as a cough suppressant

TURMERIC -contains curcumin - an extremely potent anti-inflammatory (side note, has so many other benefits - pain control!), stimulates the immune cell function through activating our t-cells

MANUKA HONEY - great antimicrobial agent, also a cough suppressant, and packed with anti-oxidants

LEMON - rich in vitamin c, bioflavonoids and anti-inflammatory compounds; also supports phase i detoxification process in the liver (we will cover detoxification at some point)

BONE BROTH - rich in zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. also rich in glycine, glutamine, glucosamine, and chondroitin - all really good for the gut (majority of our immunity starts in the gut, so supporting our gut function is very important for immunity and all health)

GARLIC - a radical oxygen scavenger and upregulates our antioxidant defense system. Garlic has actually been studied and has been shown that consuming large amounts of garlic daily (10 cloves) reduces cold frequency by 63% and shortened duration of colds by 3.5 days. This is not a realistic scenario for most of us, but even some garlic will be beneficial in combo with other stuff.

APPLES - rich in quercetin which is a compound that is very anti-inflammatory and stabilizes mast cells (which are responsible for allergies, runny noses). An apple a day really does keep the doctor away!

BELL PEPPERS - another rich source of vitamin c, also has anti-oxidant powers and mast cell stabilizer

MUSHROOMS - particularly maitake, oysters and shiitake mushrooms; truly food is medicine here - they contain a specialized polysaccharide called beta-glucan which has very strong anti-tumor activity and modulates the immune system by enhancing our natural killer cells.

CINNAMON- anti-viral properties, effective against influenza A

FERMENTED FOODS - full of good gut bacteria. lactobacillus planetarium has been shown to be protective against the flu - kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir, high quality yogurt, kombucha, sourdough starter

MATCHA GREEN TEA - high antioxidant power (polyphenols and flavonoids). another powerhouse of food is medicine - it has so many benefits that we can do a separate post on it too.

Ok, onto supplements. I will break it up into two categories (prophylaxis vs treatment). There are certain things I use for prophylaxis if I anticipate a higher risk of infection. Examples would be if we are going to be flying so for a couple of days before a flight i give everyone supplements; if one of the kids comes home with sniffles or cough and is exposing the rest of us; on weeks where I am lacking sleep for whatever reason or my diet sucks. Those are just some of the examples, there are many other reasons your immune system maybe taking a hit.


VITAMIN C - potent antioxidant. we use liposomal vitamin C because it gets past the stomachs low pH and is better absorbed

ECHINACEA - helps boost the immune system. Has not been shown to reduce the duration of colds, but has been associated with helping prevent colds.

ZINC - vital element for the proper function of our immune system, works as a cofactor for many reactions. Has been shown to reduce duration of colds and also prevent them. Zinc picolinate is the form of zinc supplement we use due to better absorption.

VITAMIN D - we have talked about this plenty, but remember it is also vital for the proper function of the immune system.

MAGNESIUM - another vital micronutrient that likely most of us are deficient in (we can talk about it more later). We supplement with magnesium maleate or glycinate (citrate has laxative effects, while maleate and glycinate both have calming effects on the nervous system - good for people with sleep issues)

ELDERBERRY SYRUP - The darling of the supplements. It's a powerful immune booster and has anti-viral properties. There are now two large studies that have shown that high dose elderberry supplementation (15 ml 5 times per day) has been shown to cut flu duration by half (on average 4 days) if taken at the onset of symptoms!!! This is huge as Tamiflu only cuts symptoms by 1 day. A recent study demonstrated effectiveness against common colds as well. For prevention I just give it to my family once-twice a day

Treatment:all of the above (elderberry dosing goes way higher) plus:

OIL OF OREGANO - Has antibacterial qualities - effective against strep, staph, pseudomonas and candida. This is like taking a natural antibiotic so I definitely never take this as a preventative as it also can affect the gut microbiome. I also don't take it for just regular colds, only when someone is more sick and I suspect a bacterial origin or concomitant infection (strep, sinusitis, ear infection, etc). Make sure the oil of oregano you buy is standardized to 70%+ carvacrol (the active compound) or is wild Mediterranean oregano (high in caravacrol)

MANUKA HONEY - Another antibacterial substance. This works fantastically well for cough and sore throats. Also has soothing and calming properties so helps with sleep. Also works great for burns or wounds due to its antimicrobial properties - so skip neosporin and apply manuka ;) Manuka honey is graded with something called a K Factor. This is an independent system that rates manuka honey based on its pH, purity, live enzymes, anti-oxidants, pollen count and DHA. K Factor 16 + is what you are looking for. The UMF grading system tests the antibacterial strength of the honey. High grade UMF honey is 15+/20+. Remember, Manuka honey has to be consumed raw to be effective.

So those are some broad categories of stuff. I will cover some specific things that I have found also help:
MATCHA - Either encha or pique brands. These are the only brands that test for heavy metal toxicity and report it, this is a big issue in teas particularly in matcha due to our consumption of the whole leaf.

Elderberry, echinacea - i buy the gaia brand

So reading all of this seems likely overwhelming and you may feel like you have to get a brand new pharmacy. Please don't, i squired these things over time and dont have some of them now too. Gear things towards your family, don't feel like you have to go and buy a whole bunch of new stuff. Also don't feel pressured that you have to eat only from that list. Just focus on eating lots of fruit and veggies and likely those will fall into your normal eating routine. Some things are however easy to implement particularly when you are feeling under the weather or just want to boost your immune system.

1) We are all trying to drink lots of water already. So infuse your water with ginger and lemon, and drink that all day. I personally boil water in am and pour some hot water over ginger and lemon and let it steep for a few min, then add regular water to it and that is my water for the whole day. You can also add turmeric to this (I personally don't like the flavor)

2) switch from your coffee to matcha. I KNOW, I KNOW - HOW DARE I? ok but try this when you are sick and see how it goes. or add matcha as your second cup of hot beverage at lunch. I personally love it. I make a matcha late every morning!

3) We at home eat lots of kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, etc. Try incorporating fermented foods. My kids both love kimchi and sauerkraut. So I add some to their meal. Little goes a long way.

4)Garlic we likely all cook with it already, so it shouldn't be an issue there.

So just a couple of small changes and you will easily get most of the foods on that list in your diet.