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XO Kids often have a very sensitive immune system, and as we are moving into the next season with a change of weather, it’s time to ​pay attention up to our immune system so that it continues to support us! As always when it comes to our health, prevention can go a long way in supporting the immune system, even if everyone around you is getting sick.There are lots of ways you can take advantage of foods to help the body stay strong and healthy.There are many, many nutrients that impact the immune system, but I’d like to share with you Dr Mark Hyman’s top 4, including my favorite, that are very important for staying well all year long:

Zinc: This mineral is essential for a healthy immune system, as it supports immune-boosting gene expression and cellular activity, while also acting as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Because of the role of zinc in immunity, it’s important to get it regularly through your diet and, if needed, supplements. Foods high in zinc include red meat like grass-fed beef or lamb, chickpeas, cashews, almonds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and eggs, among others. If you feel like you’re coming down with something, try to up your intake of these foods.

Selenium:Another necessary mineral to fight seasonal sickness, selenium has antiviral and anticancer properties, and also helps to counteract the aging of the immune system that occurs as the rest of the body ages. Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of selenium; just one or two a day can get you the amount you need. Salmon, beef, turkey, and eggs are other great options; and other plant-based sources include sunflower seeds, brown rice, mushrooms, and spinach.

Vitamin A:Along with its metabolites, vitamin A has a powerful impact on the immune system. It plays a special role in maintaining strong mucosal barriers, for example, those of the eyes, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts, so that they can keep out infection. Vitamin A is also important for the proper functioning of many kinds of immune cells and is necessary for the generation of antibody responses to specific antigens. When it comes to getting vitamin A through food, there are different kinds of compounds to consider:

You can get vitamin A from animal sources like meat, eggs, fish, and organs like liver that contain preformed vitamin A (retinol or retinyl ester).You can also get vitamin A from plant-based sources like vegetables, especially those that are deep green, yellow, or orange. Kale, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes are all tasty examples. These plant-based sources contain provitamin A carotenoids (including beta-carotene).

The difference between preformed vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids is that preformed vitamin A can be assimilated by your body and used as is. Provitamin A carotenoids, on the other hand, have to be converted to retinol in the body, a process that may not be very efficient in some people due to genetics, gut health, and other factors. Also, it’s worth noting that some carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin can’t be converted to retinol.

So, while carotenoids are an important part of a healthy diet thanks to their own benefits, like antioxidant activity, sources of preformed vitamin A are the most efficient type of this vitamin for your body to use.

Vitamin D:This vitamin is my favorite, and also known as the sunshine vitamin. Ironic, because vitamin D is not a vitamin nor a nutrient; it is a hormone produced by the body in the skin from a photolytic reaction with ultraviolet light. Adequate vitamin D status is critical for optimal immune function and this cannot be achieved without supplementation during the winter months.

Food sources are minimal, and this is the major reason why dairy and other food products are fortified with vitamin D.  Some plants contain small amounts of the non-biologically active form of vitamin D, such as fungi-yeast, molds, and mushrooms.  The best animal sources are liver, especially from cod, herring and sardines.

Preferably, it is recommended to check your levels of 25 OH vitamin with your physician for accurate dosing. Dr Hyman says: Blood levels should be above 30 ng/dl. However, optimal levels are probably closer to 50 ng/dl for most. Many need 5,000 IU or more of vitamin D3 a day in the winter. ​He recommends tp start with 2,000 IU for adults, 1,000 IU for children.

I like taking fermented cod liver oil in capsules (odor free!), works well for the kids too.All the light has not yet been shed on the benefits of the vitamin D, you can read more here.

Mark Adam Hyman is an American physician and New York Times best-selling author. He is the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center and the creator of the docu-series “The Broken Brain”.

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