As we are in the midst of one of the worst flu seasons yet, many parents come into my office asking for my advice on what supplements or vitamins their family should be taking to help keep their immune systems strong and their health in check.
If you’ve ever seen me as a patient, you would know that I am not an “over supplementer.” Some practitioners out there give their clients a different vitamin for each thing that ails them. I’m quite the opposite – I believe that mostly all our vitamins and minerals should come from a diet filled with nutrient-dense and organic food.
However, there are several environmental factors that are affecting our ability to get all of the nutrients a healthy body needs from our foods. To name some:
- The state of our soil
- The use of chemicals and pesticides in farming
- The genetic modification of crops
- The overuse of antibiotics and other medications
- Chronic stress
- Sleep deprivation
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Irregular eating habits
With taking these factors into consideration, there are some vitamins I do recommend that we all take to keep and stay healthy. However, my rule of thumb is: Supplement wisely, as less is more.
Outside of feeding yourself and your family a healthy, organic and nutrient-dense diet full of green veggies, fruit, healthy fats (like nuts, avocado, olive oil and coconut oil) and animal protein – and void of processed, packaged, chemical-laden foods – these are some supplements I recommend:
- Cod liver oil (as opposed to plain fish oil): In my practice (and for my family) I recommend taking a daily dose of cod liver oil. In comparison to fish oil, cod liver oil not only contains the important Omega 3 fatty acids, but it also comes with naturally occurring vitamin A and D. Both of these fat soluble vitamins play extremely important roles in keeping our immune systems strong, our hormones in balance, acting as anti-oxidants (protecting our body against diseases and aging) and fighting any inflammation in our body. I recommend the following daily doses: for children aged 3 months- 12 years, ½ teaspoon; for children over 12 and adults, 1 teaspoon. Pregnant and nursing women, 2 teaspoons. Personally, I take 1 teaspoon/day and if I’m feeling under the weather, I take 2 teaspoons. My favorite brand is Green Pasture or Carlson’s. However, I’d like to say that I find the Green Pasture brand to be far superior to the Carlson’s in potency and flavor.
- Probiotics: These natural, good-for-you bacterial strains are one of the best immune enhancers that exists. As well, they help improve digestion so that your body can more efficiently absorb its food – and the nutrients in that food. A great way to get probiotics in is through eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and Greek yogurt (however, it is good to know that you would have to eat several yogurts per day to get all the probiotics your body needs). In addition to eating some of the above foods, I recommend that you take one or two capsules per day of probiotics made by MegaFoods, Garden of Life, Culturelle or Flora-stor. It is good to switch probiotics monthly (or when the bottle runs out) so that your body gets exposed to different healthy bacterial strains. And when taking antibiotics, I recommend doubling your (or your child’s) normal daily dose. All the brands I recommend make a children’s probiotic blend that is in easy to digest powders that you can add to your kids’ drinks or foods. Follow the dosage on the bottle.
- Greens: We should all be eating plenty of green veggies, but it doesn’t always happen. So, I recommend supplementing with a green superfood such as chlorophyll, wheat grass or blue green algae. Why? These superfoods are loaded with disease fighting, immune enhancing antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. The vitamins and minerals present in such green superfood supplements are more bioavailable to the body – meaning your body will absorb and utilize the nutrients from these foods more efficiently. And, there’s a great green superfood brand out there that caters to kids – Amazing Grass. You can hide a scoop of this powder in a shake or some water and boost your kids immune system. For adults, my favorite brands are Garden of Life and Nutrex. Take as directed and feel really good about it!
- Vitamin D3: In addition to the Vitamin D that you will get from the cod liver oil I recommended above, I think we should all take an extra daily dose of D (especially in the winter months). Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for our body’s immune system. And, the truth is – it’s really hard to get this nutrient from our foods; hence, this is why about 50% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient (normal blood levels of Vitamin D should be between 35-50 ng/mL). Fish is the best source of Vitamin D, as is sunlight. However, you’d have to eat a lot of fish to get the recommended daily dose of 2,000 IUs of this vitamin. So, I recommend taking a daily dose of at least 2,000 IUs (depending on a patient’s serum Vitamin D levels – some patients take 10,000 IUs/day). For children, the dose depends again on their serum Vitamin D levels, but you can safely give your child 1,000 IUs/day to keep their immune system strong. I recommend taking Vitamin D3 in liquid form. My favorite brands are Pure Encapsulations or Douglas Labs.
Again, I only encourage the use of such supplements when we take into consideration how our environment and our lifestyle are affecting the quality and absorption of our foods. My strongest recommendation is first for a healthy, organic and nutrient-dense diet that is free of processed foods, and then that we supplement with a select set of nutrients from companies that are not using harsh additives or chemicals in the creation of their products (all the company’s listed above are clean and provide excellent products).
Buying generic vitamins is a waste of time and money as they are synthetically made and can often cause more harm than good (read one of my past blogs for more information on this topic.
With the above information in hand, I wish you the best of luck in making it through this flu season with you and your family in optimal health!
Aimee E. Raupp is a women’s health and fertility expert, author, and founder of the Aimee Raupp Wellness & Fertility Center. Her focus is improving health and beauty, preventing disease, and increasing fertility among women whose health and wellness are challenged by the demands of Western culture. Aimee launched her new fertility-friendly beauty product line in Winter 2013. Find Aimee on Facebook and Twitter @aimeeraupp.
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