Additional Supplements to fight colds and flu

Today we are going to look at a couple of other supplements that may help maintain a healthy immune system.

First, to repeat.  The basics of a healthy immune system include:  Eating whole foods that are nutrient dense, drinking plenty of fluids, getting regular exercise, sleeping, and washing your hands.

Tuesday, I covered the things that have some good studies behind them in terms of vitamins and minerals (C,D, and Zinc).  Today I want to cover a few things that don’t have as many studies, but still seem solid.

Whey, Umcka, and Elderberries

Whey– Ok this seems odd.  Why do I suggest whey protein?

If you are reading this you are probably already taking the good advice to work out regularly.  Regular exercise is kind of a two-edged sword. Exercise helps strengthen the body and sends all kinds of chemical and hormonal signals to the organs of the body which are immensely helpful in keeping the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and just about everything else in good running order.  However, working out does stress the system and we want to create the best environment for growth and health, to do that we need to make sure we are getting adequate protein.

Whey protein contains all of the amino acids that your immune system requires.  The biggest of which is L-glutamine. Glutamine is the most widely recognized immuno-nutrient and your immune system uses it as both fuel and as building blocks.  Additionally, glutamine helps regulate the metabolism and processing of other key amino acids in your immune cells. Bottom line, if you are working out, you need to keep a good source of glutamine so that your muscles don’t steal it from your immune system. Whey is this source.

Whey also contains a host of powerful proteins and peptides that provide direct anti-microbial activity.  Whey has proven immune-modulating effects that seem to be larger than the sum of their parts. What this means is that you should continue to have your post-workout protein drink and try to get in about 20-30g of whey protein per day (more if you are trying to gain muscle).

Umcka, Umckalobo, African Geranium, EPs 7630,Pelargonium sidoides

All of these terms are about the same thing. The extract from the African Geranium plant.  These extracts are very effective for treating acute bronchitis and increasing the body’s natural healing rates.  While this is not particularly helpful when dealing with something like a viral infection, many times the viral infection leads to a bacterial infection with that hanging on bronchitis.  It also treats symptoms associated with bronchitis, including headache, fever, fatigue, cough, chest pain, nasal drip. EPS7630 is a patented extract and most of the studies used/recommend using the hydroalcoholic extract (water and ethanol).  While this does not prevent a cold/flu/bronchitis, the suggestion is to start taking it immediately when you start seeing symptoms. Here is a link to the pubmed paper- Efficacy and safety of an extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630) in adults with acute bronchitis. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.


There are some studies (small ones) that suggest that elderberry syrup can shorten the life of colds and flu. There are also studies that show that elderberry extract possesses antimicrobial properties against various strains of strep. Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. However, the elder plant itself can be poisonous, the leaves, flowers, bark, young buds, and roots contain a bitter alkaloid that under certain conditions can produce hydrocyanic acid. Poisoning from Elderberry Juice — California  So, it is important to choose a quality product that is made from the berries, and not the rest of the plant.  It is most likely that elderberry extract is helpful after the beginning of symptoms and not as a preventative.


Ric Thompson

CrossFit PTC Head Coach


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