In my medical, psychotherapy, and yoga therapy practice, I combine yoga and meditation with what is called Functional or Integrative medicine.
Functional (integrative) medicine
Functional medicine is a systems-based approach that examines every part of the body, not only the part that is suffering. It attempts to work out how each organ and system in your body and mind is working through history, examination, and various tests. I want to know if there are things you can do to optimize each component and system so that every part supports the whole.
Functional medicine is a philosophy of healthcare that combines the best of conventional western medicine with evidence-based complementary medicine and therapies. It combines the best of both worlds.
One of the therapies advocated by integrative medicine is the judicious use of supplements. Functional medicine attempts to discern which supplements to take, and the quantity according to the condition being treated. This is individualized for each person’s needs.
The reason we are making this the third article in a series is that supplements alone, without following the advice in the first two articles, especially The Four Pillars of Health, is rarely enough to restore health. Relying on supplements alone, especially if you are not looking after the four pillars, cannot do the work required to boost your immunity. This is probably why research into supplements alone does not show benefits for health and immunity. And therefore, there are many articles that say you are wasting your money on supplements.
However, there are good reasons to add supplements. They include the degradation of food through modern farming methods, chronic stress of modern life, environmental toxins, and pollution disrupted circadian rhythms because people are using too many screens late into the evening, and the overuse of processed foods.
Food has reduced micronutrients
Some people say that you can get everything you need from a proper diet. However, it is a fact that most fruits and vegetables are being degraded by mass production so that they are now 30% less micronutrient dense than they were 30 years ago due to soil depletion. Some countries are particularly soil-deficient; for example, Australia has ancient soil that is deficient of zinc, iodine, and selenium. And of course, our present diet, called SAD (Standard American Diet) is carbohydrate-heavy and deficient in adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables.
The journal of the American College of Nutrition published an article using nutritional data from 1950 and 1999 for 43 different fruits and vegetables. They found reliable declines in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (Vit B2), and Vit C. The article states that it is likely that magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B6 and E are also deficient. The authors say that this is mainly due to more “advanced” farming methods that focus on bigger size, faster growth, and pest resistance but not on nutrition. (Published in Scientific American April 27, 2011 – things have not improved since then).
WHO states that zinc deficiency affects about one-third of the world’s population, and that mild to moderate zinc deficiency is quite common across the globe. The authors also state that iodine, iron, zinc, and Vitamin A are deficient in many countries. Iodine deficiency is likely to be the most common preventable cause of mental retardation and brain damage.
In terms of pollution, we are all consuming degraded plastics in our drinking water, as well as in all fish and seafood. Extremely toxic chemicals surround us in cleaning and self-care products. Our digestion has been corrupted by poisonous chemicals such as the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup).
Toxins take a heavy toll on your body’s ability to cope with stress. They not only reduce your immunity but make it more likely to increase the chances of inflammation in your gut and elsewhere. Inflammation decreases your ability to absorb the micronutrients in your food. The theory is that the proper use of supplements feeds and improves the biochemical pathways that support detoxification and improve health.
So, here are a few herbs and supplements Jayne, and I are taking to increase our resilience and immunity. We believe that this will give us the best chance of getting through the pandemic. None of this advice will stop a virus from getting into your system if you are exposed, but there is good evidence to support the view that they will enhance your ability to fight any illness.
The following list is general advice only. If you want to take herbs and supplements, it is best to have a consultation, especially if you are taking other medicines, so that they can be tailored to your individual needs.
For recommendations specific to your individual needs please visit my consultations page. Medicare rebates may apply to Australian residents.
Supplements we are taking.
- A good multivitamin – gives you small amounts of lots of vitamins and minerals.
- Zinc – the most important micronutrient for immunity, is an essential micronutrient and is one of the most important vitamins for handling stress. It is vital for over 300 enzyme reactions in the body, for 1,000 reactions in DNA (transcription and gene expression) and is used in the building of proteins. Zinc plays a central role in both innate and acquired immunity, including the development of white blood cells and natural killer cells, all of which are essential for fighting off infection. It is also a key ingredient in healthy skin and mucous membrane barrier integrity, preventing viruses from getting into your body.
- Selenium is an essential trace element having biological functions of utmost importance for human health. It works with zinc to help detoxify the body and is said to have antiviral properties. Zinc and selenium promote the manufacture of glutathione, which has been shown to block replication of HIV, influenza virus, and potentially other viruses.
- Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant, reacting directly with oxygen, hydroxyl, and superoxide free radicals that can damage your cells, lipids, proteins, and DNA when in excess, especially during stressful times. Vitamin C is also involved in the regeneration of other antioxidants, such as vitamin E and glutathione, back to their active state. It has antiviral activity.
- Vitamin D is best taken as tablets or drops rather than capsules. Combine this with exposure to sunshine, the duration of which depends on the season, e.g., longer in winter and shorter in summer. You need more vitamin D if you are isolated indoors and not able to go out into the sunshine. Vitamin D activates the innate immune system. Deficiency has been linked to increased risk or severity of viral infections, including HIV. Low levels of vitamin D appear to be a risk factor for tuberculosis, and historically it was used as a treatment. Supplementation slightly decreases the risk of acute respiratory tract infections and the exacerbation of asthma.
Herbs and spices that support immunity
- Ashwagandha (Withania)
- Turmeric – in food and as a paste (see attached recipe)
- Triphala powder
- Proper hydration = water (reduce alcohol).
- Plenty of vegetables and seasonal fruits for lots of fiber to feed the good bacteria in your gut.
- Apple cider vinegar from a shot glass before eating, or you can also use a straw to avoid too much acid on your teeth. This improves your ability to digest.
- Oils – Extra virgin olive oil and organic coconut oil. (Note: Avoid seed oils such as canola and sunflower oil which are highly processed and indigestible.)
- Garlic, onions, shallots, and chives.
- Green tea.
- Vitamin A-rich foods are critical to a competent immune system. These include cod liver oil, eggs, and orange and yellow vegetable and fruits, which have been utilized to maximize immunity during cold and flu season throughout the world for centuries. Vitamin A is essential for many defense mechanisms, activating white blood cells (B and T lymphocytes) and enhancing antibody production and phagocytosis, as well as supporting healthy membrane function and integrity.