Your immune system is a complex collection of cells, chemicals and processes that constantly defends your body from the attack of bacteria, pathogens, toxins and viruses. So using supplements to boost your immune system can help to defend off infection and disease.
Making healthier lifestyle choices in the way of consuming nutritious foods, a good night’s sleep and regular exercise all contribute to improving your immune system.
In addition to eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly, research has shown that supplements with certain herbs, minerals and vitamins can improve immune response and potentially protect against illness.
Please be careful though, supplements can have great benefits like in this case, boosting your immune system, however some of these supplements can interact with prescribed and over-the-counter medicines. Be sure to seek professional healthcare advice, if in doubt before self trials.
Here are my top 5 supplements their immune-boosting qualities
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient to the health and function of your immune system.
Vitamin D enhances white blood cells that are an important part of the pathogen fighting effects of monocytes and macrophages of your immune defense and decreases inflammation, which helps promote immune response.
Many people are deficient in this important vitamin, which may negatively affect immune function. In fact, low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections, including influenza and allergic asthma.
Studies have shown that taking vitamin D regularly can improve immune response.
In a randomized review in 2019, controlled studies in 11,321 people, using vitamin D significantly decreased the risk of respiratory infections in people deficient in this vitamin and lowered infection risk in those who had adequate vitamin D levels
This suggests an overall protective effect.
Other studies note that vitamin D supplements may improve response to antiviral treatments in people with certain infections, including hepatitis C and HIV.
Depending on blood levels, anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 IU of supplementing vitamin D per day is sufficient for most people, though those with more serious deficiencies often require much higher doses
Zinc is a mineral that’s commonly added to supplements and other healthcare products like lozenges that are meant to boost your immune system. This is because zinc is essential for immune system function.
Zinc is needed for immune cell development and communication and plays an important role in inflammatory response.
A deficiency in this nutrient significantly affects your immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease, including pneumonia.
Zinc deficiency affects around 2 billion people worldwide and is very common in older adults. In fact, up to 30% of older adults are considered deficient in this nutrient.
Numerous studies reveal that zinc supplements may protect against respiratory tract infections like the common cold.
What’s more, supplementing with zinc may be beneficial for those who are already sick.
In a 2019 study in 64 hospitalised children with acute lower respiratory tract infections, taking zinc of 30 mg per day decreased the total duration of infection and the length of time the stayed in hospital by an average of 2 days, compared with a placebo group.
Taking zinc as a supplement may also help reduce the duration of the common cold.
Taking zinc long term is typically safe for healthy adults, as long as their daily consumption is under the set upper limit of 40 mg of elemental zinc.
Excessive consumption of zinc may react negatively to your respiratory system.
Supplementing with zinc may help protect against respiratory tract infections and reduce the duration of these infections.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the most popular supplement taken to defend against infection due to its important role in immune health.
This vitamin supports the function of various immune cells and enhances their ability to protect against infection. It’s also necessary for clearing out old cells and replacing them with new ones, which helps keep your immune system healthy by cellular death.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, protecting against damage induced by oxidative stress, which occurs with the accumulation of reactive molecules known as free radicals.
Oxidative stress can negatively affect immune health and is linked to numerous diseases.
Supplementing with vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections, including the.
A large review of 29 studies in 11,306 people demonstrated that regularly supplementing with vitamin C at an average dose of 1–2 grams per day reduced the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children.
Interestingly, the review also demonstrated that regularly taking vitamin C supplements reduced common cold occurrence in individuals under high physical stress, including marathon runners and soldiers, by up to 50%.
Additionally, high dose intravenous vitamin C treatment has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in people with severe infections, including sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome resulting from viral infections.
These results confirm that vitamin C supplements may significantly affect immune health, especially in those who don’t get enough of the vitamin through their diet.
The upper limit for supplementing with vitamin C is 2,000 mg. A Typical daily dose can range between 250 and 1,000 mg.
Vitamin C is vital for your immune system. Taking vitamin C may reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold.
Black elderberry, has long been a treatment for infections, it is being researched for its effects on immune health.
In test-tube studies, elderberry extract demonstrates potent antibacterial and antiviral potential against bacterial pathogens responsible for upper respiratory tract infections and strains of influenza virus.
What’s more, it has been shown to enhance immune system response and may help shorten the duration and severity of colds, as well as reduce symptoms related to viral infections.
A review of 4 controlled studies in 180 people found that symptoms of upper respiratory were significantly reduced upper respiratory symptoms caused by viral infections.
An older, 5 day study from 2004, demonstrated that people with the flu who regularly supplemented with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of elderberry syrup 4 times a day experienced relief from their symptoms 4 days earlier than those who didn’t take the syrup and were also less reliant on medication.
These studies are outdated and were sponsored by the elderberry syrup manufacturer, which may have tampered with the results.
Elderberry supplements are most often sold in liquid or capsule form.
Taking elderberry supplements may reduce upper respiratory symptoms caused by viral infections and help alleviate flu symptoms. However, more research is needed.
5. Medicinal mushrooms
Many types of medicinal mushrooms have been used since ancient times to prevent and treat infection and disease. Medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their immune-boosting potential.
There are over 270, species of recognised medicinal mushrooms that are known to have immune enhancing properties.
Cordyceps, lion’s mane, maitake, shiitake, reishi, and turkey tail are all popular types of medicinal mushrooms that are known to show a benefit for the immune system.
Research has demonstrated that supplementing with specific types of medicinal mushrooms can enhance immune health in several ways. Medicinal mushrooms can reduce symptoms of certain conditions, such as asthma and lung infections.
Studies in mice with serious bacterial disease, such as tuberculosis, found that treatment’s with cordyceps reduced bacterial load in the lungs significantly, enhanced immune response, and reduced inflammation, compared with a placebo group.
In a 8 week study of 79 adults, using cordyceps mycelium culture extract as a supplement led to a significant 38% increase in the activity of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that protects against infection.
Turkey tail is another medicinal mushroom that has powerful effects on immune health. Research in humans indicates that turkey tail may enhance immune response, especially in people with certain types of cancer.
Many other medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their beneficial effects on immune health as well. Medicinal mushroom products can be found in the form of tinctures, teas, and supplements.
Many types of medicinal mushrooms, including cordyceps and turkey tail, may offer immune-enhancing and antibacterial effects.
Many supplements on the market can help improve your immune system. Zinc, elderberry, and vitamins C and D are just some of the substances that have been researched for their immune-enhancing potential.
However, although these supplements may offer a small benefit for immune health, they should not and cannot be used as a replacement for a healthy lifestyle.
Maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, and not smoking are some of the most important ways to help keep your immune system healthy and reduce your chances of infection and disease.
If you decide that you want to try a supplement, speak with your healthcare provider first, as some supplements may interact with certain medications or are inappropriate for some people.
Written by: Jason Wadsworth