Dr. Jeff Egler, MD is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and has completed the certification training with the Institute of Functional Medicine. He graduated from Drexel University School of Medicine in Philadelphia and completed his residency training at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He subsequently completed a fellowship in Academic Medicine/Faculty Development at UCLA before practicing the full spectrum of family medicine in a group practice in South Lake Tahoe for 5 years. Jeff was an Assistant Clinical Professor and residency Director of Health Information Technology at the University of Southern California for 5 years while obtaining a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology.
We sat down with Dr. Egler for a short Q&A to get his perspective on GEM, the supplement industry, and immune system support.GEM: Tell us more about your discipline – what is it and why is it important?
Dr. Egler: As a functional MD, my main goal is to clearly identify the values and health priorities of my patients as well as their underlying challenges and together cultivate an effective, efficient and sustainable plan that addresses the physical, mental, emotional as well as spiritual aspects of the individual.GEM: In your own words, we'd love to hear how you describe GEM and why you think it's important.
Dr. Egler: GEM is whole food, a combination of numerous whole superfoods actually, empowered with key, essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to fill the gaps in even our best, organic, whole food diets (and especially those diets that are even less than optimal). It is a supplement that is itself a whole food. Perhaps we shouldn’t call it a vitamin at all. It’s really much more than that: it’s a convenient way to diversify, balance, and optimize your mind & body health. This is so important in that most recent thinking and the science that supports it suggests that nutrients are better absorbed and work better in the body when obtained from whole foods.GEM: Broadly speaking, what role can supplements and vitamins play in boosting immune health?
Dr. Egler: Simply put, it’s important for immune health to get all the nutrients consistently that the immune system needs for optimal function. It’s best to eat a diverse array of organic, whole and plant-based foods. Eating nutrient-packed whole foods allows better absorption and synergy in the effects between the nutrients rather than relying on supplementing independent ingredients. But even in the best of diets, not all the nutrients needed are properly absorbed or consistently delivered depending upon the diversity and consistency of foods. Supplements and vitamins can help to assure that nutrient delivery is consistent while providing adequate levels to better assure proper absorption and assimilation into the body system.GEM: How do supplements stack up against other immune influencing factors such as sleep, a healthy diet, and reducing stress?
Dr. Egler: All of these factors are equally important. An individual will be more susceptible to disease when sleep deprived or under tremendous stress even if they have an impeccable food plan and vice versa. Assuring that a nutrition plan meets the unique needs of an individual is foundational in establishing optimal immunity. The quality of one’s nutrition and their immune function are directly related and proportional. Poor diet, poor immune function. Good quality supplementation, when prescribed appropriately and specifically to the needs of an individual, can help to assure that there are no critical gaps or deficits in vital nutrients.
GEM: We’d love to have you help us break down the effects of common nutrients on the immune system, some of which are found in the GEM Medicine Cabinet.
While taking vitamin C prophylactically does not seem to prevent the onset of a cold, it does modestly reduce the duration and severity of a cold. It helps to protect you from infection by stimulating the formulation of antibodies and thereby boosting immunity.
Vitamin D is essential to healthy functioning of the immune system as it also helps the body to produce antibodies. Low levels of vitamin D, which is very common, is a major risk factor for developing respiratory problems and infections.
Helps the immune system work properly and is important in wound healing and recovery from illness.
There is some evidence that propolis might be helpful for treating the common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections. Better evidence seems to suggest usefulness in applying propolis-containing ointments or creams to improve the healing and symptoms of cold sores.
There are numerous B vitamins (B1: thiamine, B2: riboflavin, B3: niacin, B5: pantothenic acid, B6: pyridoxine, B7: biotin, B9: folate and B12: cobalamin). Each has their own unique contribution to your overall well-being affecting everything from heart and brain health to promoting the health of your skin, hair and nails. Together they help to stimulate the metabolic functions and are catalysts to the chemical reactions that are essential to immune system function.
Perhaps the most widely used Western herb for immune-enhancement, echinacea compounds have been found to boost production of immune chemicals that stimulate macrophages, the white blood cells that track down and engulf microbial invaders. Taking echinacea proactively may modestly help prevent the common cold. It does not, however, seem to help treating colds that have already developed.
GEM: What should we look for when we research supplements? Is there a brand you recommend, or a certain seal? Anything we should be aware of in terms of sourcing?
Dr. Egler: I suggest using only products that contain or brands that utilize Pharmaceutical Grade Compounds (PGCs). Look for the seals of the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) and cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices). The best and safest products are those that hold themselves to these higher standards. Often they do not sell directly to consumers and work with health care providers to prescribe these therapeutics in well-established and scientifically-backed fashion. It’s important to find a provider that really invests themselves in understanding these concepts and understanding you and your nutritional and supplementation needs as an individual.
Eating real, whole foods rich in nutrients is the best way to balance your immune system and improve your health overall. GEM, for example, distinguishes itself as a unique opportunity to intentionally supplement key nutritional and therapeutic elements by eating real foods with real, healthy sourced, and nutritionally-labeled ingredients.