Talking Ticks with Dr. Casey Kelley: Strengthening the Immune System

Talking Ticks with Dr. Casey Kelley: Strengthening the Immune System

October Subject: Strengthening the Immune System

Casey Kelley, MD, a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM), a Director on the board of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), Founding Member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM), and faculty at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, and Founder of Case Integrative Health, talked ticks in the kick off to this new monthly column exclusively for Ranger Ready. Each month, Dr. Kelley will talk with Alex Moresco, Lyme warrior, tick-borne disease advocate and owner of A Moresco PR, to answer questions about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.


This month, our call for questions from the Lyme disease community were focused on the immune system. Below, Dr. Kelley answers your top questions.

Q: The Mayo Clinic recently stated in an article that vitamin supplements can be dangerous. What should I be careful of when taking supplements like Vitamin C or Vitamin D? - Teresa, NYC 

Dr. Casey Kelley: Let’s unpack this a little. Taking copious amounts of supplements without a physician directing you can be dangerous, but the bigger issue is that they may not be helpful. First, you need high quality supplements that contain what they say they contain and have solid science behind them. Second, you need to know what your body needs. For example - it is possible to get too much Vitamin D as it’s a fat soluble vitamin, so you should have your levels checked regularly if you are taking it. Too much Vitamin C can really upset your gut and can lead to kidney stones if you are prone to them. If monitored and prescribed by a physician, supplements are not dangerous. 

Q: I do not include gluten or sugar in my diet. Are there any other foods I should be consuming on a daily basis to help strengthen my immune support? -Caroline, CA

Dr. C.K.: Let’s start with the foods to avoid - junk food, fast food, soda/juice, sugar and processed foods can all make your immune system weaker. Highly inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy should also be avoided. Next, start to eat the rainbow. Try to get 4-6 servings of vegetables on your plate every day, of all colors: green leafy vegetables, carrots, red peppers, yellow squash. Also, include 1-3 colorful fruits, especially berries and citrus fruits. Try to get organic when possible and if accessible. High quality proteins like wild-caught fish, pasture raised beef and chicken are also important. Other foods that are immune system all-stars: onions, garlic, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, clove, ginger, cayenne, olive oil, and fermented foods like sauerkraut.

Q: Is liposomal vitamin C really any better than normal vitamin C? - Abbey, IN

Dr. C.K.: The liposomal form is created when the nutrient (such as vitamin C in this case) is encased in tiny fat particles which make it more highly absorbable. With liposomal forms you can often get higher doses faster and with fewer side effects (ie: upset stomach/loose stools with too much vitamin C). That being said, these forms may not be palatable for some and if you aren’t going to tolerate the liposomal forms, you can take the powder or capsule forms if you will be more consistent with it. I would suggest a buffered vitamin C if not the liposomal form to reduce GI side effects. 


As always, Dr. Kelley and Alex Moresco recommend wearing insect repellent with Picaridin 20%, the safe and effective alternative to DEET. Picaridin is safe to apply directly to skin every day for adults, children over age-1, and women who are pregnant. It protects against ticks and mosquitos for 12 hours, has a non-greasy feel and is non-corrosive. Plus, Ranger Ready’s new clothing-worn Permethrin 0.5% should be applied only to clothing and gear, and will protect against ticks for up to 40 days or 5 washes. The CDC recommends wearing both for maximum protection – with the Ranger Ready P2 PAK you’ll be ready to safely enjoy any outdoor adventure.