Susan Merenstein, Pharmacist/Owner

(412) 586-4678

Maintaining A Healthy Immune System

Scientists and medical experts agree that the key to optimal health and vitality is a healthy immune system.

Mother Nature’s singular goal is survival of the species. To the extent that we contribute to that end, (by staying fit, handling stress, eating right) we are rewarded with a competent immune system. For every transgression (obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, unmanaged stress, cigarette smoking) our immune system is penalized.

Age, stress, and poor nutrition can sap our immune system of its effectiveness. A healthy immune system grows ever more important as we age, and the immune system declines as we age, making us more susceptible to various diseases and pathogens.

Influenza provides one example. During young adulthood, when the body can mount a robust immune response to this common virus, influenza is rarely fatal. Among the elderly, however, the virus is associated with significant rates of death and hospitalization from flu-related illness (Nichol KL 2005).

The immune system's health is closely related to stress, frequency of exercise, and nutritional status. Poor intake of vital nutrients is closely associated with a depressed immune response and an increased rate of disease.

Feed Yourself

Reducing or better, cutting your intake of sugar is the single most important dietary change you can make to support immune status!

Stay away from sugar, white flour products, prepared foods, dressings, candies, caffeine beverages and fast food. Focus on organic ingredients from the rainbow; eat a diet of citrus fruits, peppers, dark leafy greens, onions, garlic, ginger - the list of delicious immune- boosting botanical ingredients goes on and on. Drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water and consume 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies daily.


Another important aspect of healthy lifestyle is getting adequate rest, ideally 7-8 hours a night. In addition, regular physical exercise benefits the immune system and reduces risk of respiratory infections.

Warming Up Your Immunity with Exercise

Scientists have long observed that people who exercise regularly live longer. This is because cardiovascular fitness leads to better circulation. Exercise also makes the bones stronger and maintains greater oxygen delivery. But why do exercisers experience less illness? Because every time we are strenuously active, we give ourselves a "fever." It is this temporary but significant elevation in core body temperature that creates a more active immune system.

Stretching and range of motion (ROM) exercise is great for improving your immune system. Through movement, especially movement that involves muscles and joints going through their full range of motion, lymphatic fluid bathes every cell, playing an important role in immunity and detoxification (removing toxins and metabolic debris). Yoga, dancing, rock-climbing, bouncing on a trampoline, basketball, swimming, tai chi, martial arts and regular simple stretching movements are wonderfully effective ways to improve lymphatic circulation and are also great ways to help stress relief.

Stress and the Immune Response

Stress is a highly modifiable risk factor that impairs immune function so stress management and modulating the stress response with breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, tai chi, hobbies, and cultivating a rich social and spiritual life will all help the immune system.

Training and Maintaining Your Immune System

Just Say "NO" to OTC Drugs and Remedies. First, you must begin to avoid the hundreds of over-the-counter drugs that do nothing but suppress the symptoms of illness. Believe it or not, nature has equipped us with a number of extraordinary immune weapons, most notably the ability to generate a tremendous amount of heat, known as fever. The inherent intelligence involved in this phenomenon is extraordinary, because you don't get a fever every time you get a cold. Fever is a weapon that is pulled out only when necessary. It was developed millions of years ago to kill bacteria and viruses. Instead of suppressing this extraordinary immune defense with a pill, try allowing it to run its course. You will be stronger for it, because every time you have a fever, your immune system learns an important lesson, - a lesson recorded by anti-bodies and memory cells that cannot be learned otherwise.

Immunity: Use It or Lose It

Illness is not always a bad thing. Exposure to new microbes is part of an active life and the ensuing fight between our bodies and the infection can actually make us stronger. Getting sick a few times a year with quick recovery is normal for a healthy person, but getting sick often with lingering symptoms can be a sign of a weakened immune system.

When All Else Fails, Be Patient

Be patient when you do get sick. When illness comes, think of it as a message from Mother Nature to slow down and take better care of yourself. Typically, you can find yourself dealing with stress related illness. Were you working too hard, sleeping too little, and eating poorly? Become more aware of your daily routine. Illness is a signal to slow down, get more rest and eat your vegetables. Reinforced by proper supplementation, eating properly could actually help you avoid colds or the flu for an entire season.

How to Build a Dynamic Immune System with Supplementation:

No matter how well you take care of yourself, you’re bound to get sick sometimes. There are things we can all do to make sure those times are fewer and less extreme. Taking Immunity supplements is one way to keep our immune system functioning properly. Here are a few supplements that I recommend:

Vitamin C -Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a key component of the immune system and antioxidant defense (Kagan VE et al 1991; Kagan VE et al 1992; Peters E et al 1993). It prevents the production of free radicals and reduces DNA damage in immune cells. Moreover, vitamin C downregulates the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and participates in recycling vitamin E (Schwager J et al 1998). Vitamin C Aids in wound healing.

MegaDefense - MegaDefense is a premium, all-natural, immune-support solution. Pairing the power of the world's safest immune-modulating mushroom formula with the first proven heavy metal and toxins remover, MegaDefense is the most robust daily immune-support product on the market today. In China, when you get chemotherapy from one hospital pharmacist there is another “pharmacist” making mushroom soups and concoctions to boost your immunity and protect your bone marrow from the ravages of modern chemotherapy. Reishi, Maitake (especially the d-fraction), Lions Mane, Cordyceps (good for adrenals also) and many others. MegaDefense supports Natural Killer (NK) Cell activity, protects against free radical damage, helps balance the body's pH, helps protect cells, and promotes overall health and well-being.

Glutathione - Glutathione (pronounced “gloota-thigh-own”) is the body’s essential health AID -Antioxidant, Immune Booster and Detoxifier. In fact, your life depends on glutathione. Without it, your cells would disintegrate from unrestrained oxidation, your body would have little resistance to bacteria, viruses and cancer, and your liver would shrivel up from the eventual accumulation of toxins. It is produced naturally in our cells. It functions both as an antioxidant and an antitoxin and is a major defense system against illness and aging. Our glutathione level actually indicates our state of health and can predict longevity. Murray Avenue Apothecary is the only compounding pharmacy to compound products with Acetylated Glutathione and topical Palmitated Glutathione. Note: L-Reduced Glutathione does not get absorbed from the gut.

Some Benefits of Glutathione:

· Increase your energy

· Slow down the aging process

· Reduce muscle and joint discomfort

· Strengthen the immune system

· Detoxify the liver and cells

· Improve quality of sleep

· Improve mental focus and clarity

· Reduce the effects of stress

· Improve the skin

Vitamin D+K - Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin prohormone that the body produces when the skin is exposed to UV light (specifically UVB) from the sun. In Pittsburgh we do not have many sun-filled days, and Vitamin D deficiency is very common. Vitamin D performs many diverse roles in the body. Vitamin D is an immune system modulator that promotes healthy T-Cell and macrophage responses. We recommend 45 iu’s per pound of body weight of Vitamin D and blood testing of 25 (OH) D to levels between 60-80 ng/dl.

Probiotics – Probiotic bacteria play an essential role in the regulation of host immune response. Genomic and proteomic studies have identified several genes and compounds derived from probiotics which regulate functions of host immune cells and intestinal epithelial cells. Probiotics are essential. Those bacteria (100 trillion cells) are the biggest producers of secretory IgA and IgG-two crucial immunoglobulins produced by the gut-80% of the immune system is in the gut.

Murray Avenue Apothecary carries Probiotic 30BU+Mega SporeBiotic which is a powerful blend of 8 friendly bacteria strains and 30 billion colony forming units (CFU's) which can help support a positive balance of micro flora in the intestines. Supplementing with probiotics may help to restore and maintain friendly bacteria colonies that were depleted by stress, antibiotics and gastrointestinal disturbances. Probiotic 30 Billion CFU'S is stomach acid resistant to ensure that the maximum number of friendly bacteria reach the intestinal tract to exert their greatest benefits.

Elderberry – Another favorite immune support agent for all ages is elderberry extract. It’s delicious taste and strong safety profile make it a natural fit for pregnancy and childhood. Elderberry is a nutritious food, but it also contains immune-supportive compounds. One study showed that a standardized extract of elderberry (also containing other herbs in low quantities and vitamin C) could shorten the duration of the flu by about 3 days. Another preliminary study found that a lozenge of elderberry extracts reduced flu symptoms when taken within 24 hours of symptom onset. Murray Avenue Apothecary sells Elderberry Lozenges with Zinc.

Stop in to the Apothecary to strengthen your immune system today or call (412) 421-4996!