Never has the importance of the immune system been as important and vital as it is now. The immune system, which is made up of many different cells, tissues, and organs working together, helps to protect the body from viruses, infections, and other diseases. However, like other things in the body, the functionality of the immune system can be compromised. Thankfully, there are ways to help maintain it and this ranges from foods and exercising to getting plenty of sleep and even using supplements.
It should be noted that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that any of the below-mentioned supplements can help to protect you against the coronavirus. The only way to reduce your risk of contracting the virus is through social distancing and proper hygiene practices. The fact is, supplements are not a fix-all method, but instead, they help to give your immune system an added advantage by keeping it strong and healthy.
10 Supplements to boost your immune system
1. Vitamin D
Commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential to one’s overall health. Unfortunately, around 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to have vitamin D deficiency, resulting in health concerns such as a weakened immune system.
In fact, research published in the journal Nutrients found a strong federation between low levels of vitamin D and an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections, such as influenza.
Additionally, a review published last year in the Health Technology Assessment journal found that supplementing with vitamin D helped to significantly decrease the risk of respiratory infections in people with a vitamin D deficiency. Additionally, in those with already had sufficient vitamin D levels, supplementing with the vitamin helped to reduce the risk of infection.
As with all supplements, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking vitamin D supplements. That said, vitamin D can also be found in fatty fish (tuna, salmon, and mackerel) and mushrooms.
2. Vitamin C
When it comes to supplements for your immune system, it would be almost impossible not to mention vitamin C.
With its powerful antioxidant value, vitamin C not only protects the body from oxidative damage but it also supports the immune system, boosting its ability to fight against infections and diseases. What’s more, if you are stricken down by an infection, vitamin C can also help your body fight it.
For instance, a review of 29 studies published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that regularly supplementing vitamin C helped to reduce the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children. The same review also found that the supplements reduced common cold occurrence by up to 50%.
Be sure to consult your healthcare professional for dosage recommendations.
3. B complex vitamins
The body needs B vitamins to make immune cells, so supplementing with B vitamins would be a great way to boost your immune system.
The most B vitamins that can help to prevent the risk of diseases, as well as boost the immune system, are vitamins B12 and B6 – both of which can be found in turkey, beans, spinach, and salmon.
The body uses zinc to help produce and activate T-cells, which are cells that activate the immune cells to protect the body against infection. A zinc deficiency may affect your immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease.
Last year, a study published in the journal Pediatric Reports focused on 64 hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections. After taking 30mg of zinc per day, the results found that the total duration of infection and the duration of the hospital stay had decreased by an average of 2 days.
As it is possible to overdose on zinc, which can weaken your immune system, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider before you being supplementing with the nutrient.
Commonly sold in both liquid and capsule form, elderberry supplements help protect your immune system by providing a strong dose of antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Doing so allows for it to be an effective remedy for colds, flu, and even sinus infections (1).
In fact, a 2019 review found in a peer-reviewed journal showed that elderberry supplements helped to significantly alleviate upper respiratory symptoms caused by viral infections.
6. Medicinal mushrooms
Mushrooms boast some strong medicinal properties and this can help the immune system, by preventing as well as treating infections. The most popular medicinal mushrooms that can be found in supplement form include cordyceps, lion’s mane, maitake, shitake, reishi, and turkey tail.
One animal study done in mice with tuberculosis revealed that the use of cordyceps helped to boost immune response and even reduce the number of bacteria in their lungs (2).
In terms of human studies, researchers have found that supplementing with around 1.68 grams of cordyceps mycelium culture extract led to a significant increase in the activity of white blood cells that help to protect against infection (3).
Curcumin is the main active compound in turmeric, one of the most popular spices in the world. It is commonly used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as a result of its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.
That said, it also boasts some great immune-boosting properties. For instance, research published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology found that curcumin can help to heighten the responses of the bodies’ antibodies.
Omega fatty acids can provide your body with a number of health benefits, including a much happier immune system.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can promote immune health by encouraging the growth of T cells.
If you want optimum health, then you need to make sure that your gut is as happy as can be. This is because the state of the gut can affect your health in a number of ways, including your mental health and even the state of your immune system.
Probiotics are “good bacteria” that live in the gut and promote gut health. There over millions of probiotics in the world, but the most notable are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces, each of which has been extensively studied. In fact, a study published in the Current Opinion of Gastroenterology found that when combined, these probiotics were found to help support the immune system by encouraging the production of T cells.
Aside from taking supplements, probiotics can also be found in yogurt and fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut.
Referred to as the sleep hormone, melatonin is a hormone whose primary function is to regulate sleep. Additionally, melatonin also plays a role when it comes to the immune system.
As we know, sleep is incredibly important to our overall health, and not getting enough of it can do more than leave us cranky. One study published in the journal Sleep found that adults who got less than 6 hours of sleep a night faced a significantly increased risk of developing a common cold after exposure than adults who have received 7 or more hours. Another study, also published in the journal Sleep, revealed that women who had slept 5 or fewer hours a night faced an increased risk of pneumonia. Lastly, a third study located in Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that adults who got less than 7 hours of sleep a night were three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 or more hours.
Why does this happen?
Well, when you sleep, your body releases molecules known as cytokines. Cytokines are responsible for signaling to and recruiting other immune cells to the area of an infection and they also regulate their behavior. So, if you’re not getting enough quality sleep, then the production of cytokines will obviously decrease.
Aside from taking melatonin supplements, you can also promote healthy sleep by cutting out caffeine, turning off your devices an hour before bed, and practicing stress-relieving techniques such as meditation and yoga.
A note about supplements
As mentioned, it’s important to speak first before you begin taking supplements. This is because some supplements may be inappropriate for you and others may interact with certain medications.
Also, while supplements may provide your immune system with an added advantage, they should never be used as a replacement for a healthy lifestyle. If you want to ensure that your immune system is running smoothly, you should not rely on just supplements. In fact, the best way to boost your immune system would be to eat a nutrient-rich diet, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, avoid smoking, manage stress, and regularly wash your hands and disinfect the surfaces in your home.