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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Boosting Antiviral Immunity - Tips from Wellness Practitioners in Westchester and Dutchess NY

Mar 24, 2020 02:35PM ● By Marilee Burrell

Photo: Bitt24/

Our bodies are equipped with an amazing and complex immune system. It doesn’t just protect us from pathogens daily; it also remembers when we encounter them again, delivering an even faster, more precise attack. Our immune system is constantly fine-tuning its ability to recognize and defend us from viruses and other pathogens.

But since Covid-19 is a novel coronavirus—that is, brand-new to humans—our bodies haven’t had a chance to develop immunity to it yet. According to Kenneth Bock, M.D., of Bock Integrative Medicine, in Red Hook, a good coronavirus strategy is to boost our immune systems with the goal of mitigating the adverse effects of infection. “Nobody’s immune system has seen this, and therefore it certainly takes time for a primary immune response,” he says. “The whole idea is to have your immune system ready. Support the immune system. Make it as strong as possible.”

Fortunately there are things we can do to strengthen our general antiviral immunity and give our bodies the best chance of staying healthy during this pandemic. We asked several local wellness practitioners to share their best immune-boosting advice for Natural Awakenings readers.

In addition to Bock, we received tips from Aston Farquharson, president and CEO of Beacon-based NuSpecies, which makes whole-food nutritional supplements; Kurt Beil, a Westchester naturopath and acupuncturist; Laurie R. Mallis, M.D., owner of  SearchLight Medical, in Hopewell Junction; and Somesh Kaushik, owner of Dr. Kaushik’s Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Clinic, in Cross River.


What to Eat

If food is medicine, then eating (and drinking) wisely, not just well, is important to keeping our bodies in virus-fighting shape. Here are some nutritional dos and don’ts:

“You want to avoid sugar and sweets. Sugar can impair the action of some of the immune cells, including phagocytes, which are involved in dealing with infectious agents. And eat very healthy, lean protein, good fats, and fruits and vegetables. You want a whole-foods diet. Fruits and vegetables have various vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients that can be immune supportive.” —Bock

“Eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible, and avoid added sugar in your diet. Consuming added sugar shuts down your immune system. Drink the appropriate amount of water daily—the general calculation is half your weight in ounces. Depending on your lifestyle, you may need more or less.” —Farquharson

“Drink plenty of clear fluids, like water and tea; eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, especially fruits and vegetables; get sufficient amounts of sleep; avoid stress; and reduce or eliminate your consumption of sugar, processed foods and tobacco [smoking].” —Beil

“Drink hot soups cooked with ginger and turmeric every day.” —Kaushik

“Boost your immune system by using local honey if it’s available in your area. This has multiple benefits, including helping with seasonal allergies.” —Mallis


Practice Smart Supplementing

Some of our most effective medicines were derived from natural sources, and natural remedies can play a powerful role in preventive health. Before taking any new supplement, review it with your healthcare provider and ask about possible interactions. It’s also important to choose high-quality supplements from trusted brands. Note: The Ayurvedic remedies mentioned below are available at Kaushik’s clinic in Cross River. Shipping is available.

“Some (supplements) are effective at addressing other, similar infections, including other previous strains of coronavirus. These items may interact with pre-existing medications or health conditions, so check with a qualified provider about contraindications and dosing before taking any of the following: elderberry extract, astragalus root extract, lemon balm, osha root extract, garlic, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C and probiotics (particularly Lactobacillus and Bifido species).” —Beil

“Take 2000 mg of vitamin C three times a day, and Ayurvedic herbal remedies to boost the immune system, such as vasa plex, immunity plex, amla juice, giloy and chyawanprash, twice a day.” —Kaushik

Supplement with vitamins C, A and D; Omega-3 fatty acids; probiotics; transfer factor; arabino galactides or beta glucans; olive leaf extract; astragalus; curcumin; resveratrol; zinc and selenium can boost immunity—but dosage matters. “Don’t be deceived into taking a one-a-day, very-low-potency vitamin and mineral that includes everything but in amounts so low that they’re really not consequential. But you should also recognize that with fat-soluble vitamins, such as A and D, you have to take reasonable doses, because if you take them for months and months at high doses, they can become toxic.” —Bock

“Use powerful whole-food supplements for the whole family.” NuSpecies makes and sells their own liquid whole-food, raw, organic immune-supportive supplements locally, and its naturopathic doctors will provide free consultations to devise a supplement plan. —Farquharson

“One of the ways that the coronavirus is dangerous is it provokes intense inflammation. Nutrients that appear to have anti-inflammatory activities on board, like vitamin D, Omega-3 and probiotics, may help. It’s most important to get high-quality Omega-3s and probiotics that don’t have mercury, PCPs or chemicals.” —Bock

Photo: 377658361/


Adopt Healthy Habits

While it’s important to rest at the first sign of illness, moderate exercise is a great habit for keeping the body healthy. Fresh air, movement and sunshine—the ultimate source of vitamin D—can do wonderful things for our mood and immune system. Luckily, most of the trails in our area are open, and they lend themselves to social distancing, so it’s easy to add walking to a preventive health plan. That’s just one of many potent lifestyle changes that are easy to adopt.

“Exercise for 40 to 60 minutes, three to four days a week.” —Farquharson

“Pranayama is very beneficial, along with other yoga asanas, for boosting immunity.” —Kaushik

“Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk. Any exercise will increase your endorphins, elevating your mood and improving your immune system.” —Mallis

Get good sleep every night. —Kaushik

Find a guided-imagery meditation you connect to—there are plenty online—and practice slow, deep breathing as you listen to it. Do this as often as you need, but at least once in the morning, before starting your day, and once again before bedtime. —Mallis

“Take care of your other health conditions, since the physical and mental stress of being sick suppresses the body’s ability to fight disease.” —Kaushik

 Energy treatments and modalities like Reiki and qigong can balance qi and open blocked energy. —Mallis


Keep It in Perspective

Stress depresses our immune system, so there’s a physiological reason to be mindful of the facts about coronavirus and keep our thoughts proactive and positive. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:

“For most people even a severe case of infection will not be life-threatening. The most common symptoms include mild fever, sore throat and cough.” —Beil

“Keep yourself calm. Remember that 80 percent of people with no underlying health issues will have a mild infection or no symptoms at all. Anxiety, stress and depression are the biggest causes of lowering your immune system.” —Mallis

Hit Reset

By forcing us out of our complacency and disrupting our lives, coronavirus has given us an unprecedented opportunity to hit the reset button. A lot of the immune-boosting tips these providers have shared are things we could have been doing all along. We can’t control a virus, but there’s a lot we can control.

That means dropping bad habits—if you smoke or vape, now’s the time to quit—and picking up good ones.

Start your morning with meditation, journaling, yoga or spiritual reading to set the tone of the day. Plan out healthy meals, teas and supplements for the day ahead. Keep the positive momentum going with exercise, and perhaps schedule a walk or hike for the afternoon and a phone visit with a friend or two at night.

Whatever healthy habit you start today is a good start.


NuSpecies organic herbal formulas


Local Sources for Supplements

Lake Mahopac Pharmacy

Holistic compounding pharmacy with a large selection of homeopathic remedies, flower essences, vitamins and herbal supplements for adults and children.

Nagi Wissa, Pharmacist

559 Rt. 6, Mahopac



NuSpecies Supplements

Liquid, raw, organic immune-supportive supplements. Naturopathic doctors available for free consultations.

Email or call first for pick up at the following locations, or shop online for shipping.


427 Main Street Beacon

7A E. Prospect Avenue Mt. Vernon

241-01 Linden Blvd Elmont

9522 Seaview Avenue Brooklyn


Dr. Kaushik’s Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Clinic

Call to order Ayurvedic herbal supplements. Pick up or mailing available.

914.875.9088; DrKaushik.COM

792 Route 35, Yellow Monkey

Village, Cross River


Local Elderberry Syrup

is now available at Pound Ridge

Organics Farmhouse.

22 Westchester Ave, Pound Ridge

Info: 914.764.3006