Immunity Guide from Medical Experts: Cutting through the Clutter with Persona's Medical Advisory Board

Written By:

  • Barry Lance, M.D.
  • Brandi Cole, PharmD
  • Elizabeth Somer, R.D., M.A.
  • Harry Oken, M.D.
  • Lou Malinow, M.D.
  • Michael Roizen, M.D

Immunity Guide from Medical Experts:

Cutting through the Clutter with Persona's Medical Advisory Board

Written By:

This is a cold and flu season unlike we've experienced in decades. There is heightened concern, lots of confusion and increases in searches for immunity-related topics (Google Trends). Considering we have several more weeks marking cold and flu season, we (Persona's Medical Advisory Board (MAB) experts in medicine, nutrition and pharmacy) came together to create the ultimate guide to immunity. This guide helps you cut through the noise and confusion when it comes to learning about one of your body's most powerful tools - immunity.

Did you know that your body is designed to protect you from threats? Your immune system is a highly organized and mobile system that patrols your entire body. For instance, your skin serves as the first outer shield to protect your insides. Your ears, nose and lungs have cilia that act like brooms that try to make sure that threats from the outside stay outside.

Inside, your body is filled with immune cells that work like a security system. These immune cells identify any foreign cells that can appear in your body. For instance, when you have a cold or are sick from a virus, your immune cells recognize the nasty stuff causing problems and send in other immune cells to fight them. The result of that fight is what you see or feel—coughing, runny nose, inflammation, fever and things of that sort.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage the cells in your body. Free radicals are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. They set off a chain reaction of damage affecting your DNA and cells. To fight these free radicals, your body needs inside-the-cell antioxidants, which bind to free radicals and then rid them from your body to stop damage from developing. Antioxidants we consume can increase the amount of that binding power inside your cells, and can be found in a variety of foods and nutrients, especially colorful fruits and vegetables. Part of this power comes from inside the-cell antioxidants (superoxide dismutase [SOD], catalase, and glutathione are major ones). Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and pomegranates are the fruits that are best at directly increasing in-the-cell antioxidants.

One of the unique things about Persona's Medical Advisory Board is the way we stay in constant contact with Persona's team of on-staff nutritionists and registered dietitians to help support product development and inquiries about nutrition. We know you have a lot of questions about ways to empower your body's own immune system.

There are several ways to optimize your body's immune system now and throughout the year, and these are our favorites, which are all backed by science!

  1. Exercise moderately. Support your immunity by finding just the right balance of exercise - the key is not to overdo it as over-exercise can make you more vulnerable to most viral illnesses. (1)

  2. Supplement your diet with key nutrients. Nutrition research points to the use of some dietary supplements to help support overall health and wellness, especially for those who aren't getting at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily - more than 80 percent of us. For instance, if you have a slight deficiency in vitamin D, you may be more susceptible to contracting influenza according to a study published in the BMJ. (2) Curcumin is another nutrient that supports health, and may have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. (3,4) If you couple it with black pepper, it can help elevate curcumin levels.

    Probiotics (5) along with green tea and zinc (6) have been shown to support immune cell health, particularly natural killer cells.

  3. Get consistent, quality sleep and quiet your mind. Sleep is extremely important as it refreshes the immune system. The length of sleep is variable per person, but typically the sweet spot is between 6-8 hours. If you're sleep depleted, you're much more likely to get a sick. (7)

  4. Manage chronic stress, embrace short-term stress. A study published in Immunologic Research found that short-term stress can enhance the expression of immunoprotective responses - meaning that anti-infection agents can be increased with short-term stress. In contrast, chronic stress can suppress protective immune response. (8) Therefore, it is critical to manage chronic stress, but don't sweat short-term stress. Turn to intentionally breathing exercises and be mindful of the nutrients you're putting into your body. Ask your doctor or nutritionist about the benefits of ginseng, hemp extract, ashwagandha, DHA omega-3 and vitamin D.

  5. Wash and repeat. Wash your hands and face whenever you can, but especially before and after eating. Also, it's better to use antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds instead of gel hand sanitizers. However, if you don't have the option for soap and water, you should use what you have available.

    There's no one-size-fits-all approach to protecting yourself from viruses and bacteria. Your lifestyle, diet and nutritional program impact your immune system, among other factors. Don't shy away from asking questions to trained and experienced nutritionists and registered dietitians. Persona's on-staff nutritionists are accepting calls and web chats from everyone, not just customers. Reach out to them with any immune-related questions.


  1. Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA. Exercise and respiratory tract viral infections. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2009 Oct;37(4):157-64.
  2. Martineau, AR. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 15 February 2017).
  3. Richart SM, Li YL, Mizushina Y, Chang YY, Chung TY, Chen GH, Tzen JT, Shia KS, Hsu WL. Synergic effect of curcumin and its structural analogue (Monoacetylcurcumin) on anti-influenza virus infection. J Food Drug Anal. 2018 Jul;26(3):1015-1023.
  4. Amalraj A, Pius A, Gopi S, Gopi S. Biological activities of curcuminoids, other biomolecules from turmeric and their derivatives - A review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016 Jun 15;7(2):205-233.
  5. Aziz N, Bonavida B. Activation of Natural Killer Cells by Probiotics. For Immunopathol Dis Therap. 2016;7(1-2):41-55.
  6. Wu D, Lewis ED, Pae M, Meydani SN. Nutritional Modulation of Immune Function: Analysis of Evidence, Mechanisms, and Clinical Relevance. Front Immunol. 2019 Jan 15;9:3160.
  7. Irwin, M., Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune response in humans. FASEB. 1996;10(5):643-53.
  8. Dhabhar FS. Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunol Res. 2014 May;58(2-3):193-210.
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