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5 Supplements to Support Your Immunity

Over lunch last week, I asked a couple of Wildwood practitioners about their favorite approach to supporting immunity. My specific request was for their favorite immunity-boosting supplements that would be available at the typical health food store (since our practitioners often use these for their families, friends, and patients many of these supplements are available at places like express health shop).

After getting their recommendations, I also did some research into the foods that contain these vitamins and minerals, because eating your medicine is fun, too!

Check out the suggestions below.

5 Supplements to Support Immunity


Helps maintain optimum immune function. Also involved in collagen production, wound healing, and vision. Could reduce the length of time of sickness, as well as the intensity; recommended that supplementation is started at the first signs of getting sick.

Dosage: 30 mg a day of zinc picolinate (or zinc gluconate) for those first couple of days when you feel like you’re getting sick. Because I eat free-range eggs and beef from pastured cows (small amounts, but every week), I do not supplement daily with zinc unless I feel like I might be getting sick. If my body starts waiving the pink flags (back of throat inflammation, aching shoulders and neck), I take 30mg of zinc once a day for 3 days. I like Pure Encapsulation Zinc 30.

*Please take note that too much zinc, if taken as a daily supplement, can disrupt copper balance. If you take daily zinc, see dosage recommendations here).

Food Sources: (Cooked) oysters! An 1 oz. oyster (your average-sized oyster) contains about 8-9 milligrams of zinc. Also, beef, eggs, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and lentils are good sources of zinc.

Vitamin A & D

These two fat-soluble vitamins are important for immune health and can help prevent and/or reduce the instances and longevity of colds and flu. I’ve listed them together because they work best when taken together.

Vitamin A 25% off our favorite immunity products for the month of March!

Vitamin A serves an important role in immunity and helps the skin and mucous membranes repel bacteria and viruses. Also important to bone growth, reproduction, and vision. Vitamin A is the all-encompassing term for retinoids, which occur naturally in both plant and animal tissue.

If from animal tissue, Vitamin A comes as fat-soluble retinoic acid, retinal, and retinol, which are all bioavailable forms, and often referred to as preformed Vitamin A. (Because of this fact, a person can have an excess of animal-derived Vitamin A in the body, which can occur in populations eating the liver of certain animals, including polar bear, seal, walrus, and moose, or in cases of over-supplementation).

The Vitamin A in fruits and vegetables come in the form of carotenoids (you’ll often see “mixed carotenoids” on the listed ingredients of a supplement). Carotenoids are water-soluble and do not accumulate in the body, therefore no toxicity is associated with taking too much (though super high doses can turn the skin orange, this is a reversible condition).

Dosage: Dependent on the form of Vitamin A you are taking; follow instructions on back of bottle and see here for more info.

Food Sources: 3 ounces of beef liver provide over 23,000 IU of retinol (preformed Vitamin A); in other words, one does not have to eat much liver to get plenty of Vitamin A, so consume in moderation. Plant foods high in carotenoids include sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, butternut squash, cantaloupe, mangoes, and pumpkins.

Vitamin D

The immunoregulatory actions of vitamin D have been recognized for over a quarter of a century, but it’s only been in the past decade that it’s received such significant attention in the media. Unfortunately, there have been some upsides and downsides to this. First, and most importantly, know that too little Vitamin D is not good, but too much of it is also not good. For a while, most advice (and research) was directed at deficiency, but over-supplementation is possible and can have serious negative effects. Ideally, have your Vitamin D levels testing before taking megadoses of Vitamin D.

*Deficiencies of vitamin D are common, especially in industrialized countries in northern latitudes, where sun exposure is typically infrequent…that’s us, Maine!. See here for more detailed info on Vitamin D.

Typical dosage: 1,000 – 5,000 IU a day, depending on blood level. I use Liquid Vitamin D-3 because I’d rather drip of drop of (tasteless) oil on my tongue than take a pill. I also use a liquid vitamin for women, they taste much better than a pill vitamin would.

Sources: Real sunshine is the best, but not always practical. If your arms and face (or the equivalent amount) is exposed to the following amounts of midday sun (11 am to 3 pm), without sunscreen, on a day when sunburn is possible (i.e., not winter or cloudy), then you should not need any dietary vitamin D that day. It’s also interesting to note that aging, being overweight, and inflammation reduce our conversion of sunlight to vitamin D.

Light-skinned: 10 to 15 minutes
Dark-skinned: 20 minutes
Elderly: 30 minutes

Food Sources: The egg yolks of free-range chickens, cold-water, fatty fish (like sardines and salmon), and dairy products from cows that ate green grass (not corn). Shiitake mushrooms have vitamin D in small amounts. For a more detailed list of Vitamin D food sources, see here and here.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant that is abundant in vegetables and fruits. Vitamin C is involved in maintaining connective tissue tissues, protecting against heart disease, and decreasing total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. According to research, it’s also likely that vitamin C helps protect against a variety of cancers by combating free radicals, and may also lessen the duration and symptoms of a common cold.

Typical dosage: The most common supplement for of Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, and an average dose for an adult is around 75mg-90mg a day (though many people take up to 1000 mg per day; it’s common to increase the dosage to combat or prevent a viral infection.) If I feel like I’m getting sick, I take as much as 1 gram (1000 mg) of Vitamin C for a few days.

Sources: Vitamin C is abundant in fruits and vegetables. Good sources include: apples, asparagus, berries, broccoli, cabbage, melon, cauliflower, citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges), kiwi, dark leafy greens (kale, spinach), peppers (especially red bell peppers, which have among the highest per-serving vitamin C content), potatoes, and tomatoes. For more on this, see here.

Elderberrysambuco bacche sciroppate tavolo grigio sfondo verde

Elderberry extract offers an effective, safe, and affordable treatment for influenza and upper respiratory infections, but should be taken at the first signs of cold or flu. One study shows improvement in cough, sleep quality, mucus discharge, and nasal congestion for those in the treatment group (taking elderberry).

Dosage: Take elderberry according to dosage recommendations upon feeling the initial signs of sickness—and continue taking it if you do get sick. I love Gaia Herbs Black Elderberry Syrup (and so does my 3 year old daughter!).

Simple Recipes for Fall Immunity

Easy Tom Kha Broth

This is a perfect, warming broth for fall weather. I enjoy it most as an accompaniment to fresh salad rolls, or when I’m simply not in the mood for a full meal.

Medicinally, use this broth if you feel the onset of a cold coming on. If you’re experiencing chills, an increased sensitivity to cold weather, an aching neck/occiput – this is a perfect sipping broth! The chicken broth and coconut cream strengthen the qi of the spleen and heart. The ginger and chili flakes are warming herbs which help drive out cold and “release the exterior.” The recipe below calls for chicken stock. Here’s a vegan version of Tom Kha if that works better for you.


  • 1 quart chicken stock (homemade is best but you can use premade if you don’t have any on hand or simply don’t have the time. Rosemont Market sells chicken broth that they’ve made in-house; you can find it in the freezer section)
  • 7 ounces creamed coconut or coconut cream (I get coconut cream from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • juice of 2 limes (sometimes I use 3, depending on how sour I want it to taste)
  • fish sauce to taste
  • cilantro to garnish


Put all the ingredients in a pot and simmer for 10-15 minutes until piping hot. Add fish sauce (go slowly – it’s salty!) to taste. Add some cilantro. Enjoy!

Note: If you’re interested in making a more traditional Tom Kha, see this recipe, which includes the immune-boosting Japanese mushrooms. And read this, if you want to know more about the healing benefits of chicken soup.

Sweetened, Baked Pears Ripe pear on a wooden background

According to Traditional Chinese medicine, Fall is the season of ‘dryness’. It’s also the season of runny noses and coughs! We all know from experience that we’re more susceptible to colds during this season. The “dampness” of late summer is replaced by cooler weather, and our nose, throat and lungs tend to dry out, making us more susceptible to viruses. (It’s important to recognize that the airway epithelium is the first line of defense against airborne pathogens, so when our nose and throat dry out, we’re not as protected from viruses and bacteria.)

So keep ’em moist, folks!  (You can quote me on that.)

Pears are supportive of the Lungs; their cooling and moistening nature can help the lungs, nose, and throat. They can also eliminate heat and excess mucus. Walnuts also support the Lung and have a strong action against phlegm.

If you decide to use this dish medicinally, consume baked pears once a day, for at least 4 days in a row.


4 unpeeled pears
2 tbsp raw honey
1/3 cup walnuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1/4 cup apple juice

covered casserole dish

preheat oven to 350 degrees


1. Grind walnuts in a food processor or spice mill until they are powdered.
2. Wash pears. Halve the pears and scoop out seeds and pith, leaving an indentation for the dry ingredients.
3. Mix walnut powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon peel. Add this to the scooped out pears. Add a bit of honey to each pear (drip honey over the dried ingredients).
4. Pour apple juice in the bottom of the casserole dish. Cover.
5. Bake, covered, for about 35-40 minutes or until soft. Enjoy!