When it comes to strengthening immunity, it’s easy to love simple and effective ways to give your system a boost. And, if the last two plus years have taught us anything, it’s that a strong immune system makes all the difference in the world, sometimes, literally, the difference between life and death.
Among the many immunity-supporting habits I’ve discussed over the years, getting more quercetin into your system has to be one of the easiest, yet it’s often overlooked. Since it’s reasonable to assume that COVID infection spikes (and hopefully dips) will continue for the foreseeable future, with brand-new variants popping up all the time, your best defense against whatever comes next is a strong offense. So, now is certainly not the time to let immunity slip even as we return to (somewhat) normal life. How can quercetin help keep your immunity tank topped up? Let us count the ways in my in-a-nutshell guide to this health-supportive must-have:
Why quercetin matters.
Quercetin is an excellent multi-purpose health-boosting nutrient whose positive effects are felt across numerous body systems. It belongs to a group of plant pigments or ‘flavonoids’ that give many veggies and fruits their vibrant colors. So as long as your diet is rich in veggies and preferably low-sugar fruits, you should be ingesting your share of it. Among quercetin’s claims to fame: as a flavonoid, it helps neutralize excess free radicals, which are big drivers of disease. It’s also helpful in shutting off the inflammatory response, which promotes oxidative damage, the same process that helps drive a number of chronic diseases.
Put quercetin to work to help protect and prevent disease.
Looking to protect your body from heart disease, Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative diseases, and certain types of cancers? With its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anticancer effects, quercetin is great nutrient to have on your health protective team. It’s also been shown to have a positive effect on the brain health, on the immune system and lowering blood pressure – all of which are important to longevity and keeping you healthy over the long haul.
Quercetin is also thought to have positive effects when it comes to slowing the aging process, again, by reducing the damage – and rapid aging – excess free radicals can cause. It also supports healthy NAD+ levels, which is essential to energy production, metabolic regulation and even the proper functioning of your circadian rhythms (aka, your sleep and wake cycles). Another feather in quercetin’s cap: a study of overweight individuals found that those who supplemented with 150 milligrams of quercetin were able to reduce both their blood pressure and ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.
If allergies or allergic rhinitis tend to get the better of you, quercetin comes in handy here too, helping to relieve a number of the classic allergy symptoms – like swelling, runny noses and watery eyes – by inhibiting the release of histamines, as well as tamping down other inflammatory substances that can get in the way of feeling good.
In short, quercetin is involved in supporting the healthy function of so many aspects of your day-to-day health, making sure you get yours is a wellness no-brainer – with a huge protective payoff.
Quercetin upgrades immunity – via your gut.
Immunity and gut health are inextricably linked. A healthy gut keeps immunity strong, so the healthier your gut is, the better able your immune system will be at fighting off the viral invaders and pathogens. Not surprisingly, quercetin is seriously important to gut health as well. In fact, recent studies indicate that quercetin promotes healthier gut function and helps support intestinal integrity, helping to minimize and even heal the ‘leaks’ that trigger inflammation. What’s more, in animal studies, quercetin has also been shown to improve gut dysbiosis, acting almost like a probiotic, helping to rebalance the gut’s delicate balance of beneficial and non-beneficial bacteria. Study results showed that quercetin supplementation significantly improved the diversity of the gut bacterial community in antibiotic-treated mice, as well as significantly improving intestinal barrier function. In humans, quercetin is thought to behave in much the same way.
Get your fill, and then some.
Quercetin is one of the most common antioxidants so getting your fill isn’t hard to do, assuming you’re eating right, and by that we mean a diet that’s filled with veggies, raw or cooked, and loaded with color. In other words, eat the rainbow, abundantly! To maximize your quercetin haul, go for these often colorful, not to mention tasty, high-in-quercetin options, preferably organic or fresh from the farmers’ market rather than commercially grown: almonds; asparagus; blueberries; broccoli; brussels sprouts; cabbage; cherries; cherry tomatoes; green bell peppers; kale; olive oil; pistachios; purple onions; red Gala apples; scallions; tomatoes and yellow bell peppers, to name a few. For an additional boost, you can also drink a daily dose of quercetin, by brewing up cups of black, green or elderberry teas.
What’s an optimal amount of quercetin?
A diet that includes plenty of the aforementioned high-in-quercetin foods will likely net you roughly 300 – 500 milligrams a day. That’s a strong showing. Though there’s not a specific recommended amount, if you’re falling a bit short from edible sources, you can boost your intake with supplementation to fill in the gaps. You might consider a 500 or 1,000 milligram supplement dose a day. Ideally though, you should aim to get most of your quercetin from edible sources to ensure you get the range of benefits whole foods provide, from the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols and phytochemicals that good foods abound in.
Is quercetin for everyone?
Assuming you don’t have allergies to any of the ones mentioned above, food sources are fine, the more the merrier. Quercetin supplements are considered to be safe as well, in the moderate doses I’ve just discussed. However, high doses can cause headaches, tingling, stomach issues and/or kidney damage, so monitor your intake closely, don’t over-do it. If you are supplementing, take periodic breaks. Quercetin can interact or interfere with the efficacy of certain drugs, such as aspirin, antibiotics, blood thinners and corticosteroids, so if you’re on those drugs, you should probably steer clear of the supplements. Certainly, consult with a health care provider who’s knowledgeable about nutritional supplements and how they may interact with any prescriptions you may be taking. Others who should avoid concentrated doses of quercetin include people who are pregnant or breastfeeding and well as those with kidney disease.