Maximum Immunity

March 27, 2020
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

We are living in strange times indeed, but not entirely unprecedented.

Americans successfully sheltered in place to control the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic, and if we could do it back then – without all of the knowledge and entertainment we have at our fingertips now – we are certainly much better equipped to handle it today.

As I write to you from my home during these challenging times, my focus is on immune-boosting foods and drinks for all of my meals and snacks. As the shelves are cleared of immune enhancing nutritional supplements, it’s more important than ever to think outside the box to get these important nutrients in. Fortunately, we need look no further than our kitchens, gardens, and wild herbs to find them!

Shore Up Your Immunity

In recent weeks, I’ve stressed how important vitamins A, C, and D are, along with minerals like Selenium, Iodine, Magnesium, and Zinc for supporting your immune system during a virus outbreak. They each play an important and unique role and are invaluable in this fight. In the past week, I’ve discovered new research that shows zinc may be even more important than we previously thought.

You may have heard that antimalarial drugs like hydroxychloroquine are being used with some success to treat COVID-19. One of the reasons for their effectiveness may be their ability to act as what is known as a zinc ionophore. This means they pull zinc into the lysosomes of your cells, which is ground zero for putting a halt to virus replication. Zinc outside your cells isn’t helpful, since viruses infect by getting inside your cells – you need something that pulls it in.

Because nature is so good to us, there are two compounds found in our food and drink that we know also act as zinc ionophores – EGCG from green tea and quercetin, which is also a natural antihistamine. Here is a list of foods quercetin is found in, ranked from highest concentration to lowest:

  • Elderberries
  • Onions (red more than white)
  • Cranberries
  • Hot Peppers that are green in color
  • Kale
  • Blueberries
  • Apples with a red skin
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Pears
  • Pomegranate
  • Spinach

Spices include:

  • Rosemary
  • Paprika
  • Peppermint
  • Cloves
  • Cayenne
  • Ginger

I now recommend taking 500 milligrams of quercetin and 100 milligrams of EGCG with 45 milligrams of zinc daily. I personally divide this up into 3 doses to take daily, which can be done through both supplements and food/green tea. I know zinc is difficult to come by these days, so the food sources I recommend include:

  • Red Meat (includes grassfed beef and lamb) – also an excellent source of vitamin A
  • Shellfish, especially oysters (32 milligrams of zinc in just 6 medium-sized!), with crab, shrimp, and mussels following close behind
  • Hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and black sesame seeds
  • Cashews, pine nuts, and almonds
  • Grassfed dairy
  • Eggs
  • Sprouted legumes
  • Dark Chocolate

Vitamin C has received more attention than any other nutrient during this pandemic for the vital roles it plays in supporting the immune system and repairing damaged cells. My go-to vitamin C supplements are UNI KEY Health’s Time-C and Vitality C, but they are less available right now because of the increased demand. Because it is so critical to keep your vitamin C levels up, I recommend Dr. Rath’s VitaCForte in their place, which contains balanced forms of vitamin C that act both inside and outside of the cell, along with bioflavonoids that have a protective effect on vitamin C. In addition, there are countless vegetable, fruit, and herb-based drinks and foods that contain vitamin C. My famous cranwater contains both quercetin and vitamin C, and don’t overlook herbal teas that contain rose hips and citrus peel for their vitamin C content as well.

Build Up Your Digestion and Microbiome

Believe it or not, your digestive system is one of the first lines of defense against a respiratory virus. The mucus secretions from your sinuses and lungs that you don’t expectorate are swallowed or drain into your stomach. Having an optimal amount of stomach acid is essential for stopping the growth and spread of any virus contained in those secretions. Those secretions can also increase the need for stomach acid, making UNI KEY Health’s HCL+2 an important ally for digestive and immune health.

Your digestive system is also considered the cornerstone of your immune system because it houses 70 percent of your body’s immune cells and the bulk of your microbiome, which is the collection of microorganisms – including probiotics – that help support your immunity and absorption of nutrients. Overuse of antibiotics, sugar, stress, and invading microbes can all upset the delicate balance of beneficial bacteria in your microbiome, allowing pathogens like viruses and yeast to multiply.

A good probiotic like Flora-Key goes a long way toward restoring balance in the gut microbiome. In addition, there is no better food support for your immune and digestive health than probiotic-rich, fermented foods. These foods are part of many cultures around the world and each comes with its own story. My two favorites are miso and sauerkraut.

Miso is more than a powerful ferment teeming with probiotics – it’s also a superfood. It’s rich in bioavailable zinc, manganese, copper, phosphorus, vitamin K, B vitamins, phytonutrients, antioxidants, Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fats, choline, protein, and fiber. I recommend adding a teaspoon of South River Miso to a bowl of your favorite soup to add flavor and boost your immunity.

Sauerkraut is packed with immune-boosting nutrients including the ever-important vitamin C, along with digestive enzymes, and potent probiotics. Even the juice it’s packed in is a strong enough probiotic to stimulate digestion and has protective benefits against stomach bugs. Sauerkraut is also excellent at balancing the pH in both your stomach and inside your cells. It must be unpasteurized and unheated to be effective. My personal favorite brand is Bubbies.

Heavy Hitters for Continued Health

If you are feeling unwell, the best time to support your immune system is at the first sign of symptoms. Try not to become too fearful – there are many illnesses circulating right now that come with a fever and cough, but do be wise and follow medical advice, self-quarantine, get plenty of rest, nourish yourself, and consider these next level immune supports.

I’ve just discovered a patented chelated silver oxide formula that I believe is superior to colloidal silver in effectiveness without affecting the diversity of the microbiome. It is 15 times more concentrated than most colloidal silver products on the market and is now available through UNI KEY Health.

Herbs I would use if I had fever and cough include lomatium, andrographis, giant knotweed, and oil of oregano (which is not the same as the essential oil). These herbs are in short supply through large retailers, but you can support small farms and growers who sell their products through Etsy.

Last but certainly not least is the antiviral bath I learned from my mentor, Dr. Hazel Parcells. The instructions for the bath are below, but you can read more about all of the wonderful detox baths she taught me here.

To Build Immunity and Fend Off Viruses

This all-purpose detoxifying bath is especially good for when you feel like you may be coming down with something like a cold or the flu. It helps build immunity by raising your body’s acidity at the cellular level, which makes you less hospitable terrain for most bacteria and viruses to grow.

  • Run a tub to the hottest temperature you can manage. Pour in 2 cups of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.
  • Sip a glass of warm water mixed with 1 tablespoon of the apple cider vinegar.
  • Get out of the bath when the water is cool. Don’t shower for at least four hours.


Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Steve Cook

    Great article, I have heard you talk about ASEA. What is your opinion about the use of ASEA as far as this Virus is concerned? Thank You, Steve Cook

  2. Team ALG

    Steve, ASEA can help strength the immune system to help defend against the virus.

  3. Sarla P.

    Great to have your recommendations for the important supplements right now. I’m also going to take this food list to the grocery store and focus on these immune builders. Thank you!



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