Winter Immunity with the 3 Ninjas

By on January 3, 2014
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Reprinted with permission from Dr. John Douillard, DC © September 5th, 2013

Are you confused about boosting winter immunity? No doubt there are a staggering number of supplements to choose from, so how do you make sense amongst all the hoopla?

I have to say that running a natural health practice since 1984 and traveling frequently for teaching and speaking engagements, all while raising 6 kids, has been a tutorial for boosting winter immunity!

Over the years, I have boiled down winter immunity support to 3 supplements that really work! When a patient asks me what I suggest for immune support, I tell them what has worked for me and my family as well as for so many of my patients over the years. I call these the “Three Ninjas for Immunity.”

In this article, I want to share with you the top three recommendations that my wife and I do to boost winter immunity and keep ourselves and our six children healthy and happy each winter.

Winter Immunity1st Winter Immunity Boosting Technique: More Sun = Less Colds

People who get less sun exposure have lower winter immunity. They are twice as likely to get a cough, and three times as likely to get a runny nose, compared to those with the most sun exposure (3). In one study, Russian athletes who were exposed to adequate sun exposure had 50% fewer respiratory issues (4). In another amazing study, kids who frequently got sick were given 8500 IU of vitamin D3 a day for 6 weeks and were followed for six months. During the six months after the vitamin D3 supplementation, there was a complete disappearance of any immune issues (5).

The take away: If you are still avoiding the sun and not supplementing with 2000-5000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, your winter immunity and overall health may be under par.

Magic of Vitamin D3

New research has found the exact mechanism to explain how vitamin D3 boosts winter immunity and winter protection:

Vitamin D3 activates winter immunity boosting proteins that have been in charge of our winter immunity for almost 60 million years (6). Bottom line: the sun has been the trigger for optimal health and immunity for 60 million years, but recently we have been told to avoid it! Without proper sunlight, the immune system lies dormant. Degenerate cytokines are known to be responsible for much today’s chronic health concerns. Vitamin D3 regulates, or balances, cytokine production (7). The killer T cells in the immune system cannot go into battle and fight against an infection unless they find and attach to optimal levels of vitamin D3. Without vitamin D3, the immune system’s T cells do not engage (8). Simply put, if the immune system had a gas tank, the gas would be vitamin D3.

 Winter Immunity2nd Winter Immunity Boosting Technique: Support Digestive Strength

There are many kinds of digestive imbalances that contribute to a compromised winter immunity. Any irritation or discomfort in the gut may affect the function of the villi. The villi are responsible for assimilation of nutrients, immunity, and the removal of toxins.

Eighty percent of the immune system lies in the half inch between the intestinal villi and the lymphatic drainage that surrounds the gut. Please refer to the series of newsletter articles about digestive strength and lymphatic drainage.

There is one herb that I use to enhance digestive function, support healthy villi and increase bile and lymphatic flow. This herb is called turmeric, or Curcuma longa. While much of the research on this herb has been done on the extract of turmeric, I prefer to use whole herb combinations to enhance their effectiveness rather than use extracts. In 1998, researchers at St. John’s Medical College in Bangalore, India found that turmeric taken with black pepper – a common pairing in curries – increased its absorption by an astonishing 2000%, with no adverse effects!

Here are some of the reports on turmeric for digestion and immunity:

  1. Turmeric supports healthy gallbladder function and bile flow. Bile flow in the gut is the intestines’ first immune responder against infection. Bile also emulsifies fat soluble toxins (13).
  2. Turmeric supports the health of the inner skin of the stomach and intestinal villi (14) where the immune system is most powerful.
  3. Turmeric increases production of glutathione and super oxide dismutase (SOD) (15), which support healthy detox and immunity.
  4. Turmeric, much like vitamin D3, regulates cytokines that cause lymphatic congestion and a sluggish immune response (16).

 

Winter Immunity3rd Winter Immunity Boosting Technique: Manage Stress

Stress is believed to be public enemy #1 for our health mostly because of its immune compromising impact. When we are under stress, the adrenals are forced to produce an excess of stress-fighting hormones. These hormones are degenerative and immune compromising. This is just what the doctor orders if you want to get sick at the national average of 6-8 times a year, which I report on in my book, Perfect Health For Kids.

Ashwagandha to the Rescue

Hopefully, most of us recognize when we are under extreme stress, run down and at risk of getting sick, so we can catch these signs early and slow down. Some of us, however, might be all too familiar with the tendency to push the envelope until it’s too late.

There are a group of herbs, called adaptogens, which help support against the ravages of stress. My favorite winter harvested immune adaptogen is called ashwagandha. It acts neither as a stimulant nor as a sedative; because it can both boost energy and support better sleep. Ashwagandha also acts more like a deep rejuvenative that helps immunity naturally by helping the body handle stress better.

Here is how it works:

  1. Ashwagandha supports production of white blood cells, which are depleted in times of stress and are the soldiers of the immune system (9).
  2. Ashwagandha helps the body fight stress and not get run down by regulating the production of stress fighting hormones (10).
  3. Ashwagandha boosts immunity as an adaptogen, helping the body to endure stress and rejuvenate so an exhausting sleepover doesn’t compromise immunity.
  4. Ashwagandha supports healthy moods (12).

The Ninja Kit

Vitamin D3 – Take 2000-5000 IU of vitamin D3 daily during the winter months (October – March)

  • 2000 IU per day for kids ages 2-10
  • 3000 IU per day for kids ages 11-16
  • 4000-5000 IU per day for adults

Note: These dosages will typically maintain optimal vitamin D3 levels if you have already established vitamin D3 levels between 50-80ng/ml. If you are low – like the majority of Americans – you will need testing to be sure you achieve the optimal range. It is suggested you test twice a year: in the fall when the vitamin D3 levels will be the highest from summer exposure, and again in the spring when the numbers would be the lowest.

Ashwagandha

  • Adults (ages 11+): Take 2 capsules (500mg each) every morning during the winter months with food.
  • Children ages 2-10: Take 1 capsule (500mg each) every morning during the winter months with food.

Turmeric Plus

  • Adults (ages 11+): Take 2 capsules (500mg each) every morning during the winter months with food.
  • Children ages 2-10: Take 1 capsule (500mg each) every morning during the winter months with food.

This season, let these Three Ninjas for Immunity work for you!

 

 

References:

1. Holick, Michael. The Viatmin D Solution. Hudson St. press 2010

2. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006 Mar;81(3):353-73

3. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2004 Oct;20(5):270-1

4. Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 1990 May0June;(3):30-3

5. J Trop Ped. 1994 Feb;40(1):58.

6. J. Clin Invest. 2007 Mar;117(3):803-11

7. Biotherapy 1996;8(3-4):243-9

8. Nature Immunology, Vitamin D controls T cell antigen receptor signaling and activation of human T cells. March, 2010

9. Gupta YK, Sharma SS, Rai K, et al. Reversal of paclitaxel induced neutropenia by Withania somnifera in mice. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2001;45:253-257.

10. Archana R, Namasivayam A. Antistressor effect of Withania somnifera.J Ethnopharmacol. 1999;64:91-93.

11. Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, et al. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study.  Phytomedicine. 2000;7:463-469

12. Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, et al. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine. 2000;7:463-469

13. Rasyid A, Lelo A. The effect of curcumin and placebo on human gall-bladder function: an ultrasound study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1999;13:245-249.

14. Van Dau N, Ngoc Ham N, Huy Khac D, et al. The effects of a traditional drug, turmeric (Curcuma longa), and placebo on the healing of duodenal ulcer. Phytomedicine. 1998;5:29-34.

15. J Ethnopharm. 2007 Sep 25;113(3):479-86

16. Life Sci. 2007 Feb. 13;80(10):926-31

About Dr John Douillard

John Douillard DC has published over 200 health videos and articles that are available on his website. He has written six books, numerous health DVDs and CDs and has formulated his own line of organic health care products. He is the former Director of Player Development for the New Jersey Nets NBA team. He directs the LifeSpa Ayurvedic Retreat Center in Boulder, CO where he lives with his wife and six children. www.LifeSpa.com

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