The Functional Medicine Approach to High Cholesterol

The Functional Medicine approach to high cholesterol differs significantly from the ‘conventional’ approach. The conventional approach involves the prescription of a statin, which treats only the symptom of high cholesterol. The Functional Medicine approach looks towards the underlying causes of high cholesterol and how they can be treated.

We know that, for around 75% of the population, the amount of cholesterol we eat has little impact on the cholesterol in circulation in the body. The liver is responsible for making most of the cholesterol in circulation. The majority of this cholesterol doesn’t originate from the food we eat.

The other 25% of the population may be hyper-responders to dietary cholesterol. In there case, we still start by looking at the possible causes of high cholesterol we discuss in this article. If we still aren’t seeing improvement after addressing possible causes, we may then move to more of a lower fat Mediterranean diet which emphasises mono-unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, rather than saturated fats.

Underlying Causes of High Cholesterol

The most common causes of high cholesterol include

  1. Metabolic dysfunction which includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels
  2. A hidden source of inflammation in the body, such as obesity, the gut or a latent viral infection
  3. Low thyroid function

There are calculators that assess a number of cardiovascular risk factors. The Reynolds Risk Score, for example, uses a marker of inflammation called C-reactive protein and systolic blood pressure in addition to age, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and family history to determine the 10-year risk of heart disease expressed as a percentage.

In Australia, Nutripath offer a number of tests to measure markers for cardiovascular risk, including the size of the LDL subfractions (which is important as the small dense particles are most problematic as they cause more damage when they slam into the side or arteries causing inflammation). It also measures inflammation in the body through a high sensitivity CRP marker.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include raised blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

The three pillars that support improvements in metabolic health are diet, movement and sleep. Addressing these pillars will also reduce inflammation in the body and help achieve a healthy body weight and body composition.

A 2010 study suggests that sticking to the recommendations for daily intake of vegetables, fish, fruit, and fatty acid composition may reduce the cardio-vascular disease risk by 20-30% and result in approximately one extra year of life for a 40-year-old individual. The Mediterranean diet or the Institute of Functional Medicine’s Cardio-Metabolic food plan provide effective templates to improve metabolic health.

The Mediterranean diet is also an anti-inflammatory way of eating. A template for an anti-inflammatory diet would include:

  • Fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week (trout, salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel)
  • Olive oil for sautéing and in salad dressings
  • Liberal use of anti-inflammatory spices – like turmeric, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, clove, sage, and rosemary
  • Plenty of green, yellow, and orange vegetables
  • Dark red, blue, and purple berries

In addition, fibre such as psylium husk can lower cholesterol as it escorts bile out of the gut, rather than the bile being re-absorbed. The liver is then forced to produce more bile, which uses cholesterol in its synthesis. Technically, as the liver has an increased requirement for cholesterol, it increases its number of LDL receptors. These receptors then bind to cholesterol in the blood stream, and circulating LDL cholesterol is therefore reduced.


Research has shown that only about 50% of the people who have heart attacks have high LDL cholesterol. Inflammation seems to be the reason why the other 50% with low LDL still have heart attacks. Inflammation can be measured through C-reactive protein (CRP), a by-product of inflammation. Indeed, the New England Journal of Medicine journal (2002) concluded that CRP outperforms LDL cholesterol as a predictor of cardiovascular risk.

Inflammation can be the result of a gut infection, such as H Pylori, heavy metals or mold in the body, or even a latent viral infection. In fact, every chronic disease has some degree of inflammation associated with it. Therefore, it’s critical to find and address these sources of inflammation in order to reduce cardio-vascular risk.

Diet, which we have already discussed, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, good sleep and targeted supplements such as curcummin and Vitamin C can all keep the fire of inflammation under control.

Low Thyroid Function

Low thyroid function is often associated with elevated cholesterol, and it doesn’t need to be overt hypo-thyroidism – it can just be a slightly under active thyroid. In fact in the 1980s and earlier, before Statins were in widespread use, doctors often used thyroid hormones to treat high cholesterol, even with normal thyroid numbers. It’s always worth having your thyroid checked in the case of elevated cholesterol.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Women have likely had mild cases of PCOS since the dawn of humanity.

But given it’s unwanted symptoms, a useful question to ask is what evolutionary advantage would PCOS have given?

Estrogen, which tends to be elevated with PCOS, has protective roles in the body including increasing lean body mass, reducing abdominal fat, improving insulin resistance, lowering LDL to HDL cholesterol ratio and blood pressure, and maintaining the immune system. Lower estrogen is one of the reasons that these can worsen during menopause.

Women with PCOS tend to have elevated Testosterone, which is then converted into Estrogen. This may have provided our ancient female ancestors a survival advantage by limiting birth control and increasing physical strength.

From the list of estrogen’s roles, we can see the ‘reproductive system’ in the body is intimately linked with everything metabolic (blood pressure, weight, cholesterol etc.). Our hormones act as information systems in the body, with estrogen being a primary link to metabolic health.

And so the term polycystic ovary syndrome is somewhat misleading as it suggests the problem is only with the ovaries, and that you must have ‘cysts’ on your ovaries. When in fact, PCOS is a hormonal and metabolic condition, and exists as a sliding scale from mild to severe.

So why does PCOS tend to be associated with metabolic issues and obesity today?

Do you feel ‘hangry’ if you haven’t eaten? Blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance tend to be associated with PCOS. In prehistoric times, this would have given women with PCOS an advantage as they were more able to store fat in times of plenty. The problem is that nowadays, we live permanently in times of plenty. Our high sugar, low quality diets are stored as body fat, often resulting in an increase in weight. This is exacerbated by the dramatic increase in the toxins in our environment, a sedentary lifestyle, and less diverse gut bacteria (our microbiome).

PCOS Effects

PCOS nowadays is common, probably affecting up to 25% of women. Thinning hair and acne, as well mood changes and depression, may be a sign of hormonal imbalances. Irregular or absent periods and metabolic dysfunction are symptoms of more overt PCOS.

The hormonal and reproductive effects of PCOS
The metabolic effects of PCOS

Optimising our Hormones

To optimise our hormones, it is useful to take a holistic Functional Medicine approach which considers everything that affects our hormonal health. This includes:

  • Diet and nutrients to support the body (supplements may include Inositol, B Vitamins, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, omega-3 fish oils)
  • Balance your blood sugar
  • Improve your gut health and support the gut microbiome
  • Reducing exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, particularly BPA
  • Healthy detox the body of toxins
  • Optimise the circadian rhythm, get natural light early in the morning. Intermittent fasting if tolerated
  • Manage stress
  • Quality Sleep and Quantity
  • Exercise mind and body
  • Passion and love for life

As a Functional Medicine practitioner, I’m qualified to support you in addressing all of these factors which may be contributing to your PCOS.

Diagnosis and Measuring our Hormones

PCOS is typically diagnosed when at least two of these present (note, that this means cysts on the ovaries may not be necessary for diagnosis) :

  • High androgens such as Testosterone
  • Absent ovulation or dysregulated cycles
  • Cysts on the ovaries from imaging

The DUTCH test provides a comprehensive overview of your sex and adrenal hormones, including Testosterone and it’s metabolites (these are important as the 5-alpha reductase metabolite is more androgenic), Estrogen and DHEA. If you would like to test your hormones, you can organise that through Fairfield Nutrition.

Gut Health and PCOS

A whistle-stop explanations of the impact of our gut health on PCOS is something like this:

  1. A typical high sugar diet, high in poor quality fats, and low in fibre creates an imbalance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria.
  2. This imbalance affects the production of the protective mucus in our guts and the integrity of our gut lining is compromised. This is commonly known as ‘leaky gut’.
  3. Bacterial by-products (LPS) pass through the gut wall, initiating an inflammatory response. This inflammation contributes to insulin resistance which in turn drives Testosterone production in the ovaries.

Prebiotics and probiotics, as well as good sleep and managing stress etc., lead to more of the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. These good bacteria produce short chain fatty acids that support the protective mucus layer and gut lining integrity. This results in a reduction in inflammation as fewer bacterial by-products cross the gut lining, which improves insulin sensitivity. This improvement in metabolic health tends supports a return to normal ovarian function and a lessening of PCOS symptoms.

The Real Meaning of Detox

When you think of a detox, what do you think of? Maybe it’s health gurus promoting juice cleanses, yoga, clean living and abstenance from alcohol. This might make you feel better, but the real meaning of detoxification goes a lot deeper..

The organs of our body are always working as a system to reduce the body burden or toxic load of chemicals. So if detoxification is a natural process, why do we need to do anything to support the process? A common belief, promoted by the media is

“There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”

To be honest, I do cringe when I use the word detox because of all the connotations in the media, but medically speaking it is an essential process in the body that does need our attention if we want optimal health or an absence of chronic disease. An accurate definition, but less catchy definition, of detoxification is:

Detoxification or (detox for short) is the physiological bio-transformation and removal of toxic substances from a living organism, including the human body, which is mainly carried out by the liver.

Detox definition

We need to pay attention to our body’s ability to detox for 2 reasons:

  1. Our modern world has becoming increasingly toxic and this is overburdening our detoxification systems.
  2. Our ability to detox these toxins through our liver and other organs is impaired by our genetics and ill-health associated with a typical diet and lifestyle

Increasingly toxic World

Every day, our liver, kidneys, lungs, large intestine, lymphatic system, and skin (sweat glands) are working to eliminate toxins that come from our environmental, from the food we eat, and toxins produced by the body itself.

Toxins in our environment include pollutants, plastics, heavy metals, toxins in food itself. These exposures commonly occur through ingestion or inhalation of water, foods, and air in the home, work environment, and even in our cars!

There are too many sources of these toxins to list here. But to give you an idea of their pervasiveness, they can come from materials used in new construction, chemicals in carpets that can off-gas into the air, paint, household cleaners, air fresheners and fragrances, synthetic materials used in dental products, and even personal hygiene products applied to face, skin, and hair. Depending on where you live, these chemicals are typicaly poorly regulated, if at all.

Another example of detoxification in your body is triggered by the food you eat. Food is one of the biggest external sources of toxins that your body has to contend with. Some of the most common toxic chemicals are from agricultural production (pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers) that find their way into our food system. Our body then has to transform these toxins into in-active forms and get them out of the body.

But we’ve been eating toxins in food and the bacteria in our guts have been producing toxic by-products for millennia so what’s changed?

In the last few decades, the rate of exposure to environmental toxins has dramatically increased – we’re now subjected to more than ever before.

Your toxic burden

The number of toxins you come into contact with everyday is called your total body toxic burden. The toxins that make up this burden are cumulative, and so it’s not just a case of monitoring individual toxin exposures. In the world of toxins, 1+1 does not equal 2. Often 1+1 can equal 10, or even 100!

A combination of different toxins can increase damage that they do, overpowering our detoxification systems. Scary, right? Unfortunately, chemicals are rarely safety tested together, and even if they were, a person’s ability to detoxify varies greatly.

A person’s toxic body burden is a result of three main factors.

  1. First, there is the toxic exposure over a lifetime. This includes ongoing and current exposures, including those previously discussed.
  2. Second, each person’s physiology and state of health has a big impact. This includes their genetic predisposition which significantly effects our ability to produce detoxification enzymes to process these compounds. This can vary greatly from person to person, but can always be affected by nutritional support. Chronic illness, poor nutrient intake over a lifetime, stress and trauma, and auto-immunity also have an impact. A history of reactions to medications, supplements, and skin care can also indicate poor detox capacity.
  3. Lastly, the proper nutrition and helpful nutrients support’s the body’s natural capacity to detoxify and to reduce the presence of toxins in the body.

Medical researchers are now finding associations between the toxic build up of chemicals in the body and health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, auto-immune diseases, cancer, fatigue, infertility, allergies, behaviour and mood disorders, neurological conditions, as well as diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

A personal detox

The goal of a detoxification protocol, as performed in my clinic, is to reduce both our ongoing exposure to toxins and support our detoxification processes in order to eliminate some of the toxins stored in the body. In most cases, this detoxification process needs a helping hand (through nutrients and lifestyle) as the detoxification system simply can not process all the toxins within our increasingly toxic environment. Nutrients act as co-factors in the enzymatic reactions in the body that transform and eliminate toxins.

As most of the detoxification process happens whilst we sleep, ensuring a sound night’s sleep is a priority. We consider other factors such as ongoing psychological stress, dental health, physical activity and at least a 12 hour overnight fast.

In summary, reasons for impaired detoxification include:

  • A system that is overloaded with toxins
  • Being constipated and thus unable to excrete toxins in the stool
  • Being deficient in specific nutrients, eating a nutrient-poor diet or not eating enough protein
  • Psychological stress or trauma
  • Chronic disease and excessive inflammation
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Not enough restorative sleep

Before anyone performs a detox, particularly when using specific compounds to release toxins from toxin stores, a number of factors need to be considered:

  • Optimum vitamin and mineral levels (minerals compete with toxins for absorption from the gut and so having adequate minerals can limit this)
  • Diet and supplemental anti-oxidants to deal with the oxidative stress associated with the detoxification process
  • A fully functioning gut (don’t attempt a detox when constipated as the body can’t get rid of the toxins)
  • A healthy liver that is functioning well

Only then, can we focus on providing nutritional support to push the detoxification process and encourage the release of toxins. At the same time, we can also use natural compounds called to bind toxins and pull them out of the gut and the body.

As you can see, detoxing is about using nutrients as medicine (these nutrients act as co-factors that enable detoxification reactions), and not just about abstaining from alcohol and meat as is commonly believed. If you are interested in working with us on a detox, please get in touch.

The effect of a detox that reduces the toxic burden in the body can be measured through a before and after hair mineral analysis test for heavy metals or GPL-Tox for toxic non-metal chemicals if resources allow. But it can also be measure by how you feel and improvements in chronic disease symptoms. Many people find their energy and wellbeing is increased and the clarity of their thinking is improved with a detox.

Tips to help you sleep well

We can’t emphasize it enough. Sleep is crucial for you health! To perform optimally, you need to focus on sleep as the number 1 priority for the day.

A fantastic night’s sleep is restorative for the mind, body and soul. But to sleep well, you need to consider what you are doing during the day, and in particular in the hours before you go to bed.

Sleep hygiene allows your system to wind down as nature intended, preparing you for sleep. In a natural environment, Melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’ is released as the sun sets and it gets dark, make us feel sleepy and able to fall asleep. Blue light, from screens for example, fools our bodies into thinking it’s still day time and reducing the amount of melatonin that is release.

Melatonin is also a powerful anti-oxidant and so it has been suggested that it may reduce the odds of contracting COVID-19, in a similar manner to Vitamin C.

For my full guide on how to support your immune system as protection from COVID-19, you may want to read my article on the topic.

The release of melatonin is blocked by blue light, from screens for example. Our bodies are ‘fooled’ into thinking it is still day time. Therefore, avoiding blue light as well as stimulation before bed is key.

My tips for improving sleep are:

#1 Avoid screen time before bed

This is critical to make sure that melatonin is released as nature intended. Avoid computers, phones or TV for at least 1 hour before bed. At the time of writing, many of us are facing increased stress due to the COVID-19 situation, and you may need to start this winding down up to 3 hours before bed!

If you end up using your phone / computer in the evening, use an app such as f.lux to reduce the amount of blue light from the screen.

Do something that doesn’t involves screens in this time before bed. Have a bath, make something, read a book, meditate, draw, write in your journal, whatever works for you..

#2 Wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses

Wearing blue light blocking glasses before bed also helps your body’s circadian rhythm. You can also replace the light bulbs in your house with ones which don’t emit blue light, but have a warm red glow instead.

#3 Cool and darken your bedroom

Around 60-67 Fahrenheit or 15.5 – 19.5 Celsius is perfect.

You can use blackout shades/blinds on the windows or a sleep mask if necessary. This includes blocking all blue light including the lights from alarm clocks.

#4 Exercise, Meditation and Body Scans

If you wake in the night, try not to use a device – you can try a body scan instead:

This collection of free resources from Headspace also include meditation, sleep and movement exercises.

Getting a good sleep doesn’t just involve the hour before sleep but what you do during the day matters too. Michael Krugan in his book ‘The Insomnia Solution’ provides a number of exercises (mini-moves) which you can do during the day and at night that calm your nervous system to help you with sleep when you get to be

#5 Get some sun in the morning

Get outside, and get some sun or natural light, early in the morning to reset your circadian rhythm. The light that we exposed to during the day can affect how we sleep at night!

#6 Work on other health issues

If you have any sources of increased inflammation within the body, such as gut issues, these may be disturbing your sleep.

#7 Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey

This suggestion was has been popularised by Tim Ferris.

Try this before bed:

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (unfiltered is best e.g. Bragg’s), 1 tablespoon of raw honey stirred into 1 cup of hot water.

It’s key to use raw honey – it will help to maintain your blood sugar throughout the night and has been considered a sleep remedy for thousands of years. The apple cider vinegar provides key amino acids.

Maintaining blood sugar is important as if it drops too low, your body releases cortisol. Although cortisol is considered a stress hormone, it’s also causes the release of glucose stored in the liver into the blood to maintain that blood sugar balance. This can cause you to wake in the middle of the night as cortisol rises at an increased rate. Balancing blood sugar, prevents this.

You can also try almond butter on celery sticks, and optionaly 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil, before you go to bed. See what works for you!

#8 Intend to Sleep

When you go to bed, go with the intention to go to sleep.

Don’t use your bedroom for anything apart from sleep, sexual activity and mindfulness. Don’t watch TV, have conversations, worry or eat in bed!

If you wake up during the night, for longer than feels like more than 10 minutes, try getting up and leaving the bedroom. Do something really boring, like reading the dictionary! Avoid bright lights, TV, stimulating music during this time.

Virus and COVID-19 Functional Medicine Survival Guide

This guide contains advice to support your immune system from a Functional Medicine standpoint. Supporting your immune system may help to defend your body from viruses such as COVID-19.

What can I do?

I find the idea of the “circles of control” useful when thinking about COVID-19.

This centres around the old idea of focussing our efforts on what we can control and letting go of that which we can’t control. This is also a great concept for maintaining a healthy state of mind!

The bad news is that unfortunately, we can not control 100% whether we get a virus or not. There is always a chance we may contract what is going around, despite our best efforts.

However, we can still work in our circle of control and we can influence the probability we will get sick.

circles of control

We can largely control what we eat, and how we choose to live our lives. Therefore we can influence the chances that we will contract a virus, and we can influence how our body will respond if we do catch it.

So what do you have the most control over?

It’s not primarily supplements although they can help. Supplements will have little effect if you are still eating a terrible diet.

Diet, sleep, hydration, and stress management are non-negotiable fundamentals.

COVID-19 Prevention

To prevent infection from any source (viruses, bacteria, fungal etc.), we want the systems of the body to functioning optimally. This is a key tenant of Functional Medicine – we need to zoom out and take a holistic view of the body as a landscape that needs to be supported in a variety of ways:


Sleep is my number one anti-viral and immune supporting recommendation.

Let’s make sleep hygiene is the new ‘binge watching’! This could be the best time you ever have to catch up on sleep.

Sleep supports a healthy immune system that can launch an appropriate response to threats, such as viruses. Melatonin, the sleep hormone and a powerful anti-oxidant, is released before sleep also may help with COVID-19.

There is currently nothing definitive in the science showing that melatonin can protect against the most serious effects of COVID-19. But there are indications that melatonin may reduce the severity of the disease, and the overblown immune response and subsequent severe damage to the lungs that is present in the virus’ most critically ill patients.

You can find my tips to get a good night’s sleep here.


People with a high psychological stress index, and animals that are put under stress, have been found to be more susceptible to infection from common cold viruses. Increased amounts of stress may also reduce micro nutrient concentrations in the body, often leading to vitamin and mineral depletion and deficiencies.

Chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that may ultimately manifest in illness.

But with all the changes we are seeing in our lives at the moment, with changes in our roles in society and even identities, isn’t stress inevitable?

Yes, I would say it is to some degree.

At this time in our history, there is an argument that it may be more beneficial to focus on adding enriching and grounding practices to our lives rather than trying to reduce stress which we have no control over.

However, it has been argues that it may not be stress itself that is the problem, but it may be our relationship to it. If we can make stress our friend, the effects on the immune system may be reduced.

It’s vitally important to spend time on our social and relationship networks. Call a friend on the phone or skype, send that email, play board games online with family. What can you do to foster your relationships and rekindle old ones?

In times of stress, we often reach for a simple high sugar snack for a quick boost of serotonin and dopamine. This however, is followed by a crash and feelings of anxiety or depression. This may also have an effect on our immune system.

So, what other non-food treats, can we turn too?

Here are a few suggestions:

👉DIY Face Massage
👉Start a home workout routine and get physically strong!
👉Read a good book
👉Listen to a good audiobook / podcast
👉Buy a voucher or something to support a local business or charity
👉DIY Mani/Pedi
👉DIY Face massage
👉Buy online a small tech or kitchen gadget
👉Start a Yoga practice (plenty of teachers on youtube)
👉Movie on Amazon / Netflix
👉Grow flowers or vegetables from seed
👉Bubble bath with epsom salts
👉A fun class online (cooking/art/community)
👉Make a vision board
👉Find purpose – plan for a career change or a new job
👉Start a gratitude journal
👉A home spa day (go on, a full day!)
👉Dry body brushing
👉Zoom/skype/phone a friend
👉Print out some mindful colouring sheets from the internet
👉Restart a hobby (a musical instrument, sewing ?)
👉Plan and cook yourself and those around you a multi course meal
👉Have a ‘Dance off’ with the kids

Lymphatic System

Lymph (from Latin, lympha meaning “water”) is the fluid that flows through the lymphatic system that can transport immune cells around our body. Lymph is where our immune system meets pathogens, and does battle with viruses.

You can think of it like this:

If you are single, and would like to meet a partner, it’s probably unlikely that you will meet them at a random place such as the library or the laundrette (though obviously this does happen!). Instead if you were keen to meet someone, it would be better to go to a singles bar where you are more likely to meet like minded people.

That’s essentially what goes on in our lymph. It’s where our immune system and pathogens, such as viruses, come together. There, the immune system can fight the virus in a contained space.

Some things you can do support your lymph system:

  • Gently daily movement, particularly yoga which involves lots of twisting and high intensity intervals if you are able. This helps the lymph move around the body as unlike our blood, it has no pump. You may also be interested in the lymphatic mojo program (no affiliation).
  • Hydration – lymph is 95% water and so it’s important to stay hydrated
  • Dry brushing supports healthy lymphatic flow in the skin-associated lymphatic tissue. The coarse bristles of a dry brush encourage movement of the lymph and blood in the underlying tissues, which helps move out built-up toxins.
  • Cleavers ( a herb)
  • Red clover tea


A diet nutrient rich in anti-inflammatory whole foods is essential to good health and an appropriate immune system response to viruses and other pathogens. The Mediterranean diet is a good example of a balanced diet, low in processed sugars, and packed with vegetables and good fats. There is no point taking the supplements if your diet is poor. Make sure you are including adequate amounts of protein in your diet as protein is needed to generate all the white blood cells in an optimal immune response.

Include lots of onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger in your diet.

Avoid excess alcohol, refined sugars, and processed foods.

Use fire cider to make salad dressings or as a shot every day

Fuel the body – Supplements

The key here is to give the body the resources it needs to generate an appropriate immune response. This means ensuring your have adequate levels of vitamins and minerals in the body such as iron, Vitamin D and A, particularly if you deficient in any of these. Remember, protein is also important.

Remember, our knowledge about infection from COVID-19 is still developing, and doses higher than those given below are not recommended!

Zinc and Vitamin C would be my key recommended supplemental nutrients, with zinc emerging as the superstar mineral for COVID-19 at this stage.


Dose: Up to 30 mg per day total (check ALL supplements for total)

Zinc supplement may have effect not only on COVID-19-related symptom like diarrhea and lower respiratory tract infection, but also on COVID-19 itself.

Vitamin C

Dose: 2g twice a day, up to 5g Twice per day if you have bowel tolerance (it doesn’t make you go to the toilet).

You can dissolve it in water and drink it throughout the day. Ascorbic acid is OK.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, supports immune function, and three human controlled trials have reported that there was significantly lower incidence of pneumonia in vitamin C‐supplemented groups.


Dose: Up to 200mcg per day

Dietary selenium deficiency that causes oxidative stress in the host can alter a viral genome so that a normally benign or mildly pathogenic virus can become highly virulent in the deficient host under oxidative stress

Vitamin A

Dose: Up to 3000 IUs max, food sources such as liver are also good

Supports all aspects of the immune system, ranging from the production of mucus (which is helpful to protect the gut lining) to the production of antibodies.

Vitamin D

Dose: 1-2,000iu per day max

Only supplement if you know you are deficient. Otherwise 30 minutes of direct sun on the body is recommended daily. Vitamin D in a multi vitamin is fine for everyone.

Vitamin D stimulates the maturation of many cells including immune cells and is widely accepted as having a significant impact on the immune system.


Only ever supplement iron if you have had your levels tested and you know your levels are below the recommended range.

Too much iron can be toxic to the body. Iron deficiency can impair host immunity, while iron overload can cause oxidative stress to propagate harmful viral mutations.

If you are supplement iron, but your levels are still low, you may want to read this article.


Dose: 100 – 150mg per day unless you already have high blood pressure

RECOMMENDED: Multi-Vitamin

Rather than popping many separate vitamins and minerals, a good multi vitamin such as Seeking Health Optimal Multi will cover a lot of your bases with reasonable dosages that are unlikely to cause any harm.

The quality of your multivitamin is key here, as cheaper/inferior brands contain less than optimal amounts and also forms of vitamins which can’t readily be used by the body.

Some other ideas that are yet to be proben effective/ineffective:

  • Stimulate the immune system: herbs such as Astralagus, Ginseng or medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi or Shitake
  • Borrow immunity – from probiotics, Colostrum, propolois or lactoferrin
  • Kill the virus: garlic, turmeric, or monolaurin from coconut oil

If you have any questions, I’m always happy to help so please get in touch. To know more about how you can work with me, you can find out more here.

Stephen Ward Headshot Image


Stephen Ward (MSc) is trained in assessing the root cause of chronic health issues through Functional Medicine.

He uses nutrition, lifestyle changes, and nutraceuticals (targeted supplements) to help you achieve your goals and improve your health.


What I stand for

Understanding the underlying causes of digestive discomfort and IBS

Understand the common root causes of digestive discomfort and IBS and what you can do..

What is Functional Medicine anyway?

In the olden days, it was thought that disease was caused by some entity, such bad air (a miasma), that we needed to get rid of in some way. We now know that this idea of something that we need to get rid of only makes sense in specific cases. Traditional Western medicine works wonders in these areas of infectious disease, surgery, and acute trauma. But what about preventing or treating chronic health conditions such as auto-immunity, depression, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or Alzheimers? Or complex cases where the patient has an endless list of symptoms (and is often given an endless list of drugs)? Are we merely putting bandages on an inevitable disease process? Can anything else be done? We have a pill for everything but those pills rarely, address the root cause of the disease.

Do diseases actually exist?

You might answer ‘of course they do!’. And you are right, the symptoms obviously exist. But at the level of our biochemistry, disease is just a result of poor function at the cellular level, which results in poorly functioning organs and systems in the body. For example, Dr. Dale Brdesen argues that Alzheimer’s is not a single disease, but identifies three major metabolic imbalances that contribute to Alzheimer’s:
  1. Inflammation from things like poor diet and lifestyle choices, infection, and other issues
  2. An insufficient amount of supportive elements like hormones, nutrients, and brain-supporting compounds that result in poor functioning and repair of neurons in our brain.
  3. Toxic exposure to heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, or lead, and biotoxins like mold and other microbes
Based on this understanding, a disease becomes only a convenient label for a collection of imbalances and diseases don’t actually exist in and of themselves. Although a ‘disease’ may present in a seemingly consistent way, in this case ‘Azheimer’s’, the actual causes associated with that disease and the imbalances in the body may be different. And that’s why Dr. Rangan Chatterjee has boldly declared that he can make diseases disappear. His approach to making ‘diseases’ disappear is largely based in Nutritional Therapy and Functional Medicine, and addressing the root cause of the disease rather than the symptoms.

So, What is Functional Medicine?

Functional Medicine is the identification of the root causes of the imbalances that give rise to disease.
Once the root causes are identified, they can be addressed through personalised and targeted lifestyle interventions such as nutrition, sleep, rest, and movement. Pharmaceuticals may be required in some cases, but lifestyle interventions will always benefit the patient. In our Alzheimer’s example, inflammation and poor functioning of neurons can be addressed in part by nutrition and lifestyle changes. Similarly, we can reduce our exposure to toxins by changing our environment and take steps to eliminate toxins that are stored in the body (sauna anyone?).

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas Edison

Functional Medicine sees a return to this care for the body and answers questions such as:

Why do you have this problem in the first place?

Why has function been lost?

What can we do to restore function?

Functional Medicine in Action

Functional medicine is based in systems theory.
system is a cohesive grouping of interrelated and interdependent parts
Because of this interconnectedness and interdependence, our digestive health may have an impact on our immune system and hormonal system and vice versa. And inflammation and oxidative stress may affect all systems in our body, and are in-turn affected by our diet and stress levels. Functional Medicine looks at the functioning of the systems within the body, and looks to improve their functioning to regain or maximise health. We use nutrition and lifestyle interventions (e.g. rest, sleep, movement), rather than a single pharmaceutical. This allows us to target multiple systems in the body at the same time and address root causes, rather than symptoms. We may look at environmental toxins, genetics, nutrient status, poorly functioning detoxification, cellular energy pathways. Advanced laboratory testing may be used to help get to the root cause where necessary… This process may take some time and money, but it is generally a very effective investment. Although it may appear expensive, resolving issues at their root, may reduce the amount spent on healthcare in the future. Of course, the most important outcome is that you get back your health and vitality and that you feel the difference. If you have any questions, I’m always happy to help so please get in touch. To know more about how you can work with me, you can find out more here.
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Stephen Ward (MSc) is trained in assessing the root cause of chronic health issues through Functional Medicine. He uses nutrition, lifestyle changes, and nutraceuticals (targeted supplements) to help you achieve your goals and improve your health.