The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Todd Pesek, MD.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine
Notice how Hippocrates specifically calls out food, not drugs, as the conduit to good health.
A whole food diet rich in vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices must be seen as the first line of defense against disease.
I always warn that although supplements are an important source of necessary nutrition to aid in optimal health, you can never “supplement” your way out of a poor diet.
But, if we are eating a perfectly healthy diet, why do we have to supplement at all? This is a fantastic question that I am often asked.
In today’s world, our immune system and overall health are compromised like never before due to stress, nutrient-depleted soils, poor farming practices and excessive environmental toxins. Simply put, the world we live in is very different from that of our ancestors.
There are many ways to support your immune system through supplementation. To make it easy for you, I have organized my key immune-bolstering supplement recommendations into “good” and “optimal” categories.
To kick things off, let’s focus on the “good:” vitamin D and bioavailable iodine.
When it comes to prioritizing supplementation for immune strength, vitamin D is the superstar! It brings balance to your immune system by protecting your cells from chronic inflammation and invaders like viruses (the cause of colds and the flu).
Vitamin D is a hormone that essentially helps make us who we are. In addition to immune support, it also plays a role in memory, cognition and sleep.
Along with bone strength, vitamin D has also been linked to the prevention of various cancers, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.
As you can see, an optimal level of vitamin D is key for a healthy body and immune system. There are various opinions about what is “optimal”; however, I routinely recommend 25-OH-D levels (the measure of vitamin D in our blood) to be no less than 60 ng/ml, and optimally in the range of 80-100 ng/ml.
Because this isn’t common knowledge, many practitioners don’t understand it, and therefore may argue against it. But, the science is clear that optimized D levels result in apparent risk reduction of roughly greater than:
- 70% for cancer (all types)
- 80% for breast cancer
- 60% for diabetes
- 50% for multiple sclerosis
- 30% for heart attacks
Although you can get vitamin D from sun exposure and food sources like mushrooms, whole food supplementation is essential to optimize levels of this all-important vitamin.
I recommend 5,000-10,000 IU of vitamin D3 orally per day. However, this is a maintenance routine and is only adequate once optimal levels have been achieved.
Iodine is also important for immune strength because it fuels your thyroid—a vital hormone gland that plays a major role in the metabolism and growth and development of the body. It’s fair to say that every cell in your body is driven by your thyroid gland. Iodine is a critical part of the equation because your thyroid uses it to make the thyroid hormones responsible for keeping things in balance.
One amazing whole food source of iodine is seaweed, like kelp, nori, kambu and wakame. These thin sheets are a wonderful replacement for sandwich wraps. Check out this recipe for Cashew and Sprout-Stuffed Nori Wraps.
Still, like vitamin D, iodine is difficult to get from whole foods alone, so supplementation is critical. I recommend 3 mg of bioavailable iodine per day.
Every incremental step you take can improve your immune strength. Consider starting with a foundation of supplemental vitamin D3 and iodine, combined with a whole food-based eating plan rich in Mother Nature’s bounty of fresh vegetables and fruits.
Please check with your healthcare provider before beginning any new supplements.