Does this look familiar?  Do you get frequent or lingering infections?… If so, it might be good idea to consider nutrient and food protocols that boost immunity.


The BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND provides insight on Nutritional and Naturopathic approaches that matter most and have the potential to benefit both your physical and mental health.  In this series we look at the treatment approaches and body-mind-links for longevity, aging, tiredness, mental performance, work performance, digestive problems, food intolerance, stress, cardiovascular health, insomnia, weight problems, and chronic disease.  Winter 2014 blog themes rotate between the topics of longevity, immunity, and weight problems. Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.

Immunity (Part 1): Combating Colds & Flu’s with Immunity Nutrients

Immunity – A Three-Part Blog Series

We divided ‘Immunity’ blogs into three subtopics: i) combating colds and flu’s with immunity nutrients, ii) maintaining a strong immune system year round, and iii) an immune healthy lifestyle. 

Immunity Nutrients: A Wise Consideration

Healthy immune nutrients can help us prevent and reduce the severity of common upper respiratory infections, recurrent infections, auto-immune conditions, food intolerances, and environmental allergies and sensitivities.

Here we will focus on the top three considerations for preventing/fighting infections: copper, zinc, and protein. These nutrients can be introduced at the time of an infection but have preventative ability if you maintain adequate levels year long.

The Common Cold: How Common Is It?

Viral-based respiratory illnesses occur about 3-8x/year in children, 2-4x/year in adolescents and adults, and <1x/year in those over 60.  The common cold occurs the highest in children under 5 and school age children are a reservoir for upper respiratory infections and unfortunately transfer them to adult caregivers.

Respiratory Infections: Bacterial or Viral (Colds, Flu’s)

Bacteria can cause ear, tonsil, lung, airway, sinus, throat infections.  The vast majority of respiratory infections are however caused by viruses, not bacteria.  Viruses can cause the common cold, the flu (influenza), some types of pneumonia, and bronchiolitis.

Colds and flu’s, both different, both viral, cause stuffy/runny noses, head congestion, sore throats and coughs.  A cold (or cough) is typically viral.  If fever comes back after a few days, it is likely due to a bacterial secondary infection.  Earaches that persistent during a cold are often bacterial.  Sore throats can be bacterial (strep) or viral but the vast majority are viral, especially in kids.  The flu has more severe symptoms than a cold and can cause high fevers lasting 3-4 days with associated fatigue, headache, and generalized achiness and pain.

Copper To Fight Bacterial Infections

Low levels of copper are associated with low levels of neutrophils which are bacterial fighting white blood cells.  Normalizing copper levels via supplementation is associated with an improved ability to engulf pathogens and also to take part in innate bacterial infection response.

Sources of Copper

Copper is high in beef liver, oysters, crab meat, cashews, other nuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, lentils, avocados, mushrooms and chocolate.

Copper Deficiency: The BodyMindLink

Copper deficiency affects your physical and mental health.  The physical health conditions associated with copper deficiency include fatigue, weak/inflexible skin or connective tissue, anemia, inflammation, weak immunity (bacterial infection dominant), and osteoporosis.  The mental health issues associated with copper deficiency include any syndromes associated with dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine imbalance which would include any condition mild or severe that affects mood, thinking, perception (sensory receipt issues – hallucinations, etcetera), and behavior.

Vitamin C and Zinc to Fight Viral Infections

Both vitamin C and zinc have qualities to aid humans in fighting bacterial infections but their dominant use in such a case may deplete copper which has an essential dominant role in fighting bacteria.

Vitamin C stimulates the function and production of white blood cells, especially neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes. These cells accumulate high concentrations of vitamin C to protect themselves from the oxygen species created to kill the foreign bacterial/viral invaders.  Vitamin C has a role in increasing phagocyte levels of interferon which has a direct anti-viral role.  Vitamin C deficiency symptoms and food sources are described in my blog on Longevity (Part 1): Combating Aging Early with Longevity Nutrients.

Zinc is involved in maintaining immune system integrity and in the development and functioning of immune fighting cells (neutrophils, natural killer cells, macrophages, B-cells, T-cells).  Zinc aids the immune system globally by supporting immune system roles ranging from our bodies immune function at the skin barrier to its function in the regulation of white blood cells at the gene (RNA transcription, DNA replication) and cell (cell division, cell activation) level.  Zinc’s antioxidant ability allows it to stabilize membranes damaged by infective microbes.  Zinc-deficiency is known to increase your susceptibility to a global array of infectious agents, bacterial or viral (Shankar & Prasad.  Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection.  Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Aug; 68(2 Suppl): 447S-463S).

Sources of Zinc

Zinc is high in meat (beef, pork, turkey, chicken), seafood (oysters, crab), eggs, beans, yoghurt, cashews, chick peas, and nuts.

Zinc Deficiency: The BodyMindLink

Zinc deficiency affects your physical and mental health.  I co-authored a book on Minerals in Health & Disease that dedicated two separate sections to cover the diversity of health issues influenced by zinc metabolism.  The physical health conditions associated with zinc deficiency include immune dysfunction, infection susceptibility (e.g. the common cold), impaired growth, pregnancy complications, diabetes, macular degeneration (age-related), and AIDS.  The mental health issues associated with zinc deficiency include every symptom and condition associated with mood, thinking, and perception.  Copper and zinc balance are pivotal to everyone’s mental health.

Protein to Manufacture Antibodies That Fight Infection

To launch an immune response the body makes protein complexes called antibodies to do a variety of tasks.  Antibodies are specialized proteins made by white blood cells that identify, bind, and neutralize or mark foreign proteins and microbes for destruction.  Protein is also needed to repair body cells (e.g. compromised respiratory tract lining) damaged during infection.

Sources of High Quality Protein

The highest quality protein sources include animal meat (especially red meat) which includes fish and eggs.  Other protein sources include legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts) and dairy (cheese, milk).  Protein is best absorbed with a warm meal and in Oriental medicine the nutrient source considered the best is soup.  High quality protein snacks can also be a good way to maintain adequate protein throughout the day.  A solid lifestyle approach for maintaining a high protein diet is found in my two part blog series on basic high protein principles and tasty high protein gluten free meals for optimal mood and behavior; these blogs are an excellent resource for families.

Protein Deficiency: The BodyMindLink

Protein deficiency affects your physical and mental health.  The physical health conditions associated with protein deficiency include failure to thrive, low body weight, sugar cravings, muscle pain/soreness/cramps, joint pain, swelling, hair loss, thin/brittle hair, skin rashes, finger/toe nail ridges, weakness, tiredness, dry skin, skin ulcers, poor wound healing, headaches, fainting, and nausea.  The mental health issues associated with protein deficiency include depression, anxiety, other mood/irritability issues/conditions, sleep problems, concentration/thinking problems, poor memory, confusion, and perception dysfunctions.