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Functional Nutrition for Immune Resilience

The human immune system is designed to fight off illness and viruses. Is yours up to the task? From superfoods and herbs to specialty nutrients and natural antibiotics, here’s a brief functional approach to fortify your personal immune defense.

Rainbow Immunity. It’s no longer just about eating a lot of fruit and vegetables; it’s about eating a greater variety of a lot a fruits and vegetables. If you haven’t already taken seriously the advice to eat the rainbow, including at least nine servings of produce daily, now’s the time! Beyond functional phytonutrient density, there are several solid science reasons to do so. Eating at least 30 different plant foods each week has been shown to be one of the best ways to feed a healthy diversified microbiome. Since we tend to develop food sensitivities to the foods we eat the most, a diversified diet helps minimize the development of food allergies. This allows the immune system to focus on other defenses.  Last but not least, a truly diversified diet is the best way to cover yourself nutritionally.

Color of Immune Superfoods. The red-orange-yellow end of the color spectrum includes a concentration of immune specific functional nutrients. Their anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, anti-microbial, anti-tumor and related immune support properties are nothing short of impressive! Try adding more apples, orange peppers, and red potatoes to your diet this fall.

Herbs & Medicinal Mushrooms. Garlic is a popular pick for a good reason. It is one of the best all-purpose immune support herbs! It is anti-everything: anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. Echinacea and elderberry provide outstanding immune support, but it’s worth noting that Echinacea can sometimes overstimulate the immune system, especially for those with autoimmune conditions. Astragalus is one of my all-time favorite herbs, far beyond immunity, it also aids digestion. It synergizes especially well with medicinal mushrooms, which are some of the heaviest artillery for functional immune resilience.

Gut-Brain-Immune Axis. This axis is a bi-directional system of the central and enteric (gut) nervous system, which is mediated by a complex network of hormonal and metabolic pathways. Bottom line: the root of immunity, and mental health, is in our gut microbiome.

Targeted Microbiome Profiling. Because the colon is home to 500 different strains of healthy bacteria, a one size probiotic supplement does not fit all. Most products contain mega CFU potencies but of less than 10 strains, and when it comes to probiotics, diversity trumps potency. Our probiotic needs are as individual as our fingerprint. A mismatched probiotic can do more harm than good. PREbiotics are always a safe choice, either in conjunction with a targeted probiotic or as an alternative standalone.

The Antibiotic Gut Bomb. Recent research teaches us that a single round of antibiotics can disrupt the microbiome for 3 or more years! They should be avoided if possible. There are usually equally effective natural antibiotics that will not only take care of the infection, but also bolster your immunity while doing so. As with conventional antibiotics, natural antibiotics can disrupt healthy bacteria, although usually to a lesser degree.

Zinc. Especially in the lozenge form, zinc is an effective virus shield. However, minerals are part of a delicate balancing act, and too much can backfire and weaken immunity. If you are not testing you are guessing. I don’t recommend blindly supplementing for more than two or three months.

Quercetin. Another outstanding multi-purpose immune flavonoid, quercetin shuttles zinc into cells where it can exert its antiviral properties. Quercetin rich foods include onions, capers, fresh dill weed, ancho peppers, and buckwheat.


by Karl Mincin.

Karl Mincin is a Functional Medicine Nutritionist in practice for 35 years. 360.336.2616 | | Instagram @MincinNutritionist | Facebook @NutritionTesting1

By: Co-op Staff

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