It’s Movember – the month which each year shines the spotlight on men’s health.
Medical nutritionist Gabriella Clarke looks at some supplements and herbs that can boost men’s immune systems, helping to keep them in the best possible health throughout the winter months to come.
Each year in November, the Movember Foundation aims to raise awareness of the types of diseases men fall prey to, how they can be prevented and treated and what men can do to help boost their health. Discover some of the essential supplements that can help to keep them healthy and fighting fit this winter.
This immune-enhancing and healing vitamin can be found in abundance in most fruits and vegetables, but unfortunately it appears that most men simply don’t seem to eat enough of them. Furthermore, our bodies don’t store vitamin C so it has to come from the diet[i]. Citrus fruits are the best source, while peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are also good options. Meanwhile, a good quality supplement of 500mg a day is recommended to help protect against viruses. This can be doubled to 1000mg at the first sign of any symptoms.
Essential for bone health, vitamin D also has an important role to play in a healthy immune system[ii]. Vitamin D is synthesised in our skin when exposed to the sun’s UVB rays so short bursts of sunshine plus a healthy balanced diet mean most of us get enough in spring and summer but at this time of year, when the sun is too low in the sky to have much effect, we have to turn to our diet to top up our levels. Egg yolks, oily fish, pork and UVB-treated vitamin D2-enhanced mushrooms – or fortified products like fat spreads and breakfast cereals – are the best sources. Alternatively, consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms.
Vitamin D can also help treat autoimmune diseases such as asthma, which tends to get worse in the winter and can be exacerbated by winter chest infections.
This essential mineral is essential for boosting the immune system[iii]. Zinc supplements have been shown to decrease oxidative stress markers in the body and prevent inflammatory cytokines as well as helping to treat upper respiratory infections and ear infections. It is an especially important supplement for men, as apart from boosting immunity, it may help improve fertility, prevent prostate enlargement and treat erectile dysfunction. Zinc is found in abundance in seafood and pumpkin seeds.
One of the best-known herbs for boosting immunity, echinacea has been shown to help reduce both the frequency and severity of colds and viruses[iv]. It is best taken in relatively high amounts in the short term, especially at the start of symptoms, or if a colleague or family member comes down with a virus as a protective measure.
Although not so well known as echinacea, pelargonium is a lovely herb from South Africa and can help ward off viruses and infections, as well as giving the immune system a boost[v]. With significant antibacterial, antiviral and immunomodulatory effects, it is particularly effective for respiratory infections. Look out for it in good health shops and on-line.
It can be easy to forget what a negative effect stress and depression can have on the immune system, but thankfully the herb rhodiola has been shown to be effective in treating mild-to-moderate depression[vi]. It also appears to increase physical and mental energy.
To find out more about Movember visit their website.