Tieraona Low Dog, MD, recently educated congressional staffers on the responsible role of dietary
supplements in supporting immune health, as well as their many other health and wellness benefits, particularly in the era of COVID-19. Dr. Low Dog was featured at the final Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus (DSC) briefing of 2020, held last week. An expert in integrative medicine, dietary supplements and women’s health, Dr. Low Dog shared insights on the importance of proactive health maintenance, including addressing nutrient deficiencies that increase risk of infection and disease.
“There is so much we can do to maintain health,” said Dr. Low Dog. “With evidence pointing to a correlation between poor nutrition and poor immune response to pathogens that make us sick, it is very reasonable to screen for nutrient deficiencies and consider taking supplements such as a multivitamin and vitamin D.”
While dietary supplements do play an important role in supporting overall health and wellness, it is important to remember that no supplement may claim to treat, cure or prevent COVID-19 or any other disease. Dr. Low Dog emphasized that there are precautionary means individuals can take to reduce the duration and severity of disease for the next major pandemic. She presented research demonstrating the supportive role micronutrients like vitamins A, C and D, and zinc can play in reducing the risk of acute infection and/or enhancing the body’s response to vaccinations,and, when supplemented in an individual’s diet, potentially shortening the duration and severity of disease.
The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that help fight infection and disease. Dr. Low Dog explained that innate and adaptive immunity, the body’s first and second lines of defense against disease, have evolved over the millennia to protect against infection, remove cellular debris and waste, and identify and destroy abnormal cells. Micronutrients such as vitamins A, C, and D, and zinc play a crucial role in supporting these immune responses. However, Dr. Low Dog noted, significant portions of the American population are deficient in these essential nutrients, impairing the optimal function of our immune system. In many cases, supplementation is a reliable, cost-efficient strategy for addressing vitamin deficiencies that predispose individuals to serious disease.
“In the United States, we suffer from a disconnect between telling Americans that they are getting all of their essential nutrients from their diet alone, and the data that show that they are not,” said Dr. Low Dog. “Policies should focus on increasing access to minimally processed nutrient dense foods, and our reimbursement system should cover testing for micronutrient deficiencies that can be particularly important for our most vulnerable populations.”
The educational event was sponsored by the bipartisan, bicameral Dietary Supplement Caucus with assistance from trade associations representing the dietary supplement industry—the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA).