Created by Thorne.com
A five-part series dedicated to workers on the front line.
Like many of you, I have never witnessed such a time of global duress, pain, and fear
as unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet at the same time, I also see the
undeniable powers of awe and inspiration.
In a word: Hope.
You are the hope. People provide hope in times of crisis.
Nurses and first responders put themselves at risk every day in hopes of saving their
patients from the virus. They’re joined by respiratory technicians, doctors, and staff who
interact with patients or sanitize rooms to reduce viral spread.
Frontline workers are like rays of hope – rising to meet the demands that each day
presents. You do so with tremendous courage. You work while a storm rages around
you, even if it means risking your own lives.
Hope is also being upheld by everyone who is helping maintain society by working at
grocery stores, delivery services, gas stations, and more. We are all being called on to
do our part, which includes staying at home to wait out the storm.
We will persevere because of the bravery and dedication of people like you, and we
In the moments between the strenuous demands at work, or while sheltering at home,
there are things you can do to support your immunity and resilience. In this series of five
articles, I will include the latest research on daily habits and tactics that support the
immune system and increase resilience, including:
Supplementation: Dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals and botanicals) that support
the immune system.
Stress management: Quick and easy stress management techniques that can improve
Sleep: Tips that can improve your quality of sleep.
Diet: Foods that provide vital nutrients during times of stress.
Physical activity: Exercises that boost your immune system and reduce inflammation.
During this time, it’s important to take care of yourself, as well as others. I hope you find
this information helpful and that you, and yours, remain safe.
In health, Dr. Bauer
Part One: Supplements for immune system support
Research on the health benefits of dietary supplements is constantly progressing.
Here’s a roundup of dietary supplements that, according to the latest research, can help
support your immune system.*
If there was a super mineral, then zinc would be a contender. It’s essential to your
body’s growth and development, wound healing, protein synthesis, and gene
expression.* If that’s not enough, zinc helps regulate immune function, exhibits
antioxidant activity, and helps support a balanced inflammatory response in your
Your immune system needs zinc to function properly.* In fact, it seems that every
immunological event is influenced by zinc,* making the immune system especially
susceptible to changes in zinc levels. 2
A deficiency of zinc can depress the body’s immune responses.* A zinc deficiency
reduces your ability to eliminate pathogens, mount a response against threats, and
produce antibodies.* 2,3 One study in the elderly found that even a marginal zinc
deficiency in this population adversely impacted immune function.* 4
Numerous studies illustrate how zinc benefits many health conditions.* 5,6 And there’s
evidence to support why individuals take a zinc lozenge or syrup when they feel a cold
coming on.* 5-7 However, be very cautious of using intranasal zinc – it’s linked to a loss
of the sense of smell, in some cases long-term or permanently. 7
Zinc is considered an essential nutrient, meaning your body can’t produce or store it.
Good sources of zinc include red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, certain types of seafood
(crab, oysters, and lobster), whole grains, and dairy products. Oysters are by far the
best source of zinc – with 32 milligrams in six medium-sized oysters. Don’t like oysters?
You can always try a zinc supplement .
Although best known for its role in maintaining healthy bones, recent research indicates
that vitamin D plays an important role in supporting cardiovascular health and the health
of the immune system.*
Vitamin D enhances the function of immune cells, including T-cells and macrophages,
which protect your body against invading pathogens.* 8 In a 2017 review of 25 clinical
studies on vitamin D, a consortium of reviewers analyzed data collected from 11,000
adults. Reviewers found that daily or weekly supplementation of vitamin D 2 or vitamin
D 3 reduced the risk of acquiring a respiratory tract health issue by about 12 percent.*
Supplementation was even more beneficial for individuals who were vitamin D deficient
– reducing their risk by about 42 percent.* 9
Multiple studies have shown that a vitamin D deficiency can harm immune function and
increase the risk of developing illnesses.* 10 It’s estimated that approximately 40 percent
of adults in the United States are deficient in vitamin D. 11
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is not found naturally in many foods, but is added
to some foods like milk and cereal. It is found naturally in fatty fish such as salmon,
mackerel, and sardines. Called the “sunshine vitamin,” your body also manufactures
vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight.
The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with a protein called 7-DHC in the skin,
converting it to vitamin D3. Vitamin D then goes through steps in the liver and kidneys
for its final activation. Individuals who do not have access to sunshine, such as those
living in northern latitudes, people who work at night and sleep during the day,
darker-skinned individuals, or elderly shut-ins are particularly susceptible to low vitamin
D levels. As you might imagine, vitamin D levels tend to be lowest at the end of winter.
How optimal are your vitamin D levels?
You can test your vitamin D levels in the comfort of your own home with this easy
Vitamin D Test .
Although perhaps best known for its antioxidant properties, vitamin C ( ascorbic acid )
also supports your immune function.*
Vitamin C accumulates in several types of cells in your immune system. These cells
need vitamin C to perform their tasks.* 12 What’s more, vitamin C levels in plasma and
white blood cells rapidly decline during infections and when your body is stressed.* 13
Additional research shows that being deficient in vitamin C results in a reduced
resistance against certain pathogens, while a higher supply enhances several immune
system functions.* 12
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin mainly found in fruits and vegetables. Unlike many
animals, the human body can’t manufacture ascorbic acid, so your body’s vitamin C
must be acquired from the food you eat or through supplements.
Curcumin, the primary active ingredient in turmeric , is a potent antioxidant.* There have
been multiple studies on the relationship between curcumin, normal inflammatory
responses, and the body’s immune functions.* 14,15
A recent review of research studying curcumin’s effects on human health suggests that
curcumin helps support a balanced inflammatory response throughout the body.*
Studies show that curcumin blocks a biological process, called transcription factor
NF-κB, that regulates a large array of genes involved in immune and inflammatory
responses.* Any agent that beneficially impacts this regulatory process has the potential
to provide support for individuals with several health conditions.* 15
The study also concluded that curcumin improves markers of oxidative stress.* 15
Oxidative stress is an imbalance of too many free radicals in relation to antioxidants in
the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage, including the lungs.* In addition to
loading up your curry or tikka masala with turmeric, you can also consider a curcumin
Astragalus refers to a genus of plants that has a long history in Traditional Chinese
Medicine. And for good reason.
Astragalus has plenty going for it in the realm of nutrition. It is a rich source of
polysaccharides and flavonoids. Polysaccharides are vital to the body in that some help
store the energy we get from food, while others help with cell structure.* Flavonoids are
powerful antioxidants with immune system benefits.* In addition, Astragalus contains
multiple trace minerals and amino acids. 16
One research study suggests that taking an oral Astragalus extract supports the
immune system by increasing the activity level and number of immune cells.* 16 In most
preparations, the root of the Astragalus plant is used to create a tea, liquid extract, or
powder in a capsule. 17
Quercetin is an antioxidant flavonoid found in foods such as onions, berries, teas, and
red wine. It is also found in several herbs, including American elderberry.
The benefits of quercetin likely stem from its strong antioxidant activity.* 18 Research
suggests that quercetin helps support a balanced inflammatory response in the
respiratory tract, prevents damage caused by oxidative stress from illness, and helps
prevent the release of histamine from a certain type of white blood cell called a mast
Be smart about supplementation: Talk to your health-care professional first
Remember, all supplements – including all products labeled as “natural” – can have
medication-like effects. Anything potent enough to produce a positive effect is also
potent enough to carry risk. So before you take a new dietary supplement, talk to your
health-care professional first. This is especially important if you take medications, have
a chronic health problem, or are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Read the full five part series
Part 2: Science-backed Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety During a Crisis
Part 3: Diet – Foods that Provide Vital Nutrition During Times of Stress
Part 4: Sleep – Tips that Can Improve Your Quality of Sleep
Part 5: Physical Activity – Exercises that Boost Your Immune System and Reduce
An important note: No dietary supplement can diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any
disease, including COVID-19. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially
important to understand that no dietary supplement, no diet, and no lifestyle
modifications – other than the recommended social distancing and hygiene practices –
can prevent you from being infected with the COVID-19 virus. No current research
supports the use of any dietary supplement to protect you from being infected with the