Boosting the immune system is fundamental for your safety and well-being. It defends our body against all kinds of infections by eliminating pathogens like bacterial, toxins, and viruses. Hence, keeping it in optimal condition should be your priority.
But what is the Immune System?
It is just like other systems of our body but the job that it performs is extremely crucial in preventing illnesses. It supports a complex network of chemicals, cells, and processes that collectively protect your body against pathogens. When this system is working perfectly, you will enjoy good health and won’t get sick often since your body will be strong enough to fight infections and diseases.
How can you ensure a healthy immune system?
Every system in our body can be bolstered by making the right dietary and lifestyle choices including the immune system. A healthy and nutritious diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep are the key to a healthy immune system.
Can Supplements Boost the Immune System?
Research suggests that certain minerals, herbs, and vitamins are vital to boost our immune system. However, it is not possible to incorporate everything into our daily diet. To prevent nutritional deficiencies, nutritionists suggest taking supplements. Supplements can instantly boost your immune system and improve its defense mechanism against viruses and infections.
However, it is just a misconception that supplements can prevent or treat diseases, because these can only strengthen the immune system’s protective layer to enhance its capability of fighting diseases.
What about the COVID-19 Pandemic?
We are living in difficult times where infectious viruses are far stronger today than around two decades back. That’s why the world is currently at a standstill because of the novel coronavirus.
You need to realize the seriousness of the situation and instead of relying upon hearsay, do research on your own to find out the best ways to protect yourself against the virus.
Nothing other than proper hygiene practices and social distancing can protect you from COVID-19, not even supplements. But, it is a fact that supplements improve the disease fighting capability of your immune system tremendously.
For your information, coronavirus is the name of a family of viruses and it can be of many types. COVID-19 is one of the more serious types of coronaviruses while there are many milder types of coronavirus too. COVID-19 is a dangerous and life-threatening viral infection that has already taken thousands of lives worldwide.
In such a turbulent time, you need to pay special attention to keeping your immune system in perfect condition. Taking supplements is a good idea along with a balanced diet.
We can help you out in choosing the best supplements to boost your immune system. Here are our top five picks:
Zinc is one of the most important minerals to boost your immune system. A majority of immune system boosting health supplements and products like lozenges contain zinc because it is essential for ideal immune health. Zinc facilitates the process of cell development and helps in the management of inflammatory responses.
Zinc deficiency can negatively impact your immune system functioning and make you vulnerable to serious infections and ailments such as pneumonia. Unfortunately, Zinc deficiency is gradually becoming common among people and approx. 2 billion people around the world currently suffer from zinc deficiency, in which 30% are older adults.
Several studies in this regard revealed that zinc supplements can offer sufficient protection against many respiratory tract diseases such as the common cold and can treat people who already are ill.
The year 2019 study conducted on 64 hospitalized children suffering from chronic lower respiratory tract infections (ALRIs) revealed that after administering 30mg of zinc supplements per day, their infection levels decreased considerably.
Their hospital stay duration was decreased by an average of two days. Similar impacts weren’t observed in the placebo group examined for the same study, proving that Zinc supplements can reduce the severity and length of infections like the common cold.
Taking Zinc supplements on a long-term basis is generally considered safe in healthy adults but the dose of elemental zinc should not exceed 40mg per day. A higher dose can negatively impact your body’s copper absorption tendency and may even increase the risk of infection.
Key Points: Zinc supplements can prevent the risk of respiratory tract infections and reduces the length and severity of the common cold.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the most popular immune system boosting supplements around the world. Vitamin C offers maximum protection against infections and promotes immune health and vitality. It supports the functioning of immune cells and improves the body’s ability to fight infections.
Vitamin C plays a productive role in cellular death, which is a necessary process to ensure healthy immune system activity as older cells are replaced with new ones.
Moreover, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and protects our body from oxidative stress, which may happen when there is excessive accumulation of harmful reactive molecules called free radicals.
Oxidative stress has negative impacts on your overall immune health and is the root cause of several diseases.
By using Vitamin C supplements the duration and intensity of numerous upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold can be reduced considerably.
In 2019, an extensive review of 29 studies encircling 11,306 individuals declared that taking approx. 1-2 grams of Vitamin C supplements per day led to a reduction in the duration of common colds by 14% in children and 8% in adults.
The same review also revealed that the frequency of common cold occurrence in individuals who undergo high physical stress regularly such as marathon runners or military personnel was reduced by 50% in those who consume Vitamin C supplements daily.
Moreover, people dealing with chronic viral infections like acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and sepsis experienced significant improvement in symptoms of infection by taking a high dose of Vitamin C through intravenous treatment.
These findings prove that immune health can be improved by taking Vitamin C supplements regularly, and this is particularly relevant for those unable to receive sufficient Vitamin C from the daily diet. However, do remember that the daily dosage should not exceed 2,000mg; on average between 250-1,000 mg of Vitamin C is enough.
Key Points: For optimal immune health, Vitamin C supplement is essential. This highly beneficial nutrient can reduce the length and severity of the common cold and many other respiratory tract infections.
3. Vitamin D
The fat-soluble Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for a healthy immune system. It improves the immune system’s ability to fight pathogens by enhancing the effects of key white blood cell macrophages and monocytes, which are vital to improving the defense mechanism of our immune system. Moreover, Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties that promote a better immune response.
A large number of people suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, which is mainly because it is difficult to incorporate it into our diet regularly. Vitamin D deficiency can adversely affect our immune system functioning and low levels of Vitamin D make the body vulnerable to various upper respiratory tract infections such as allergic asthma and influenza.
To prevent Vitamin D deficiency, supplementing has proven to be beneficial. Research suggests that Vitamin D supplements can prevent respiratory tract infections too. The year 2019 review of several random control studies on a total of 11,321 people suggested that Vitamin D supplements were positively associated with decreased vulnerability to respiratory tract infections.
People having Vitamin D deficiency and those with sufficient levels of the vitamin both benefited from its protective effects. Many other studies on Vitamin D supplements reveal that it can improve the body’s response to antiviral treatments in people dealing with infectious diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C.
But you should be careful about the dose of Vitamin D supplement. The dosage depends upon your blood levels, and for most people between 1,000 and 4,000 IU of Vitamin D supplement is sufficient. A higher dose may be required in people having a serious deficiency.
Key Points: For a healthy immune system, Vitamin D is necessary. Adequate levels of Vitamin D can reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections.
Sambucus nigra is the scientific name for Black Elderberry. For centuries, it has been used for treating infections and its positive effect on our immune health has been proven by several studies.
Several test-tube studies concluded that the extract of elderberry has antibacterial and antiviral properties that protect our body against bacterial pathogens. These pathogens are responsible for causing upper respiratory tract infections as well as influenza virus strains.
Additionally, elderberry extract can enhance the immune system’s response and reduces the length and intensity of viral infections and the common cold.
When 14 random control studies involving 180 participants were examined, it was identified that elderberry supplements reduced the symptoms of upper respiratory tract related infections.
A 5-day study conducted in 2004 concluded that flu patients demonstrated considerable improvement in symptoms and got recovered four days earlier when administered 15ml of elderberry syrup four times a day in comparison to those who didn’t take the syrup.
However, the results of this study seem somewhat unreliable because of two reasons- one, it is an old study; and secondly, it was sponsored by an elderberry syrup manufacturer. However, the beneficial nature of elderberry supplements for immune health is a proven fact. Hence, you can take an elderberry supplement, which is available in capsule or syrup form.
Key Points: Elderberry supplements can potentially reduce the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections and lessen flu symptoms. However, there is a dire need for more research on other benefits of elderberry.
5. Medicinal Mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms have been used to treat diseases and infections since ancient times.
Recent studies have revealed that medicinal mushrooms like maitake, lion’s mane, cordyceps, reishi, shitake, and turkey tail play a positive role in boosting immune health. In fact, there are more than 270 species of mushrooms identified so far that have medicinal properties and immune health-boosting capabilities.
Several studies have demonstrated that taking medicinal mushrooms supplements can encourage significant improvement in immune health by reducing symptoms of viral infections that impact the respiratory tract such as lung infection and allergic infections like asthma.
In a study conducted on mice with TB (tuberculosis), a chronic bacterial disease identified that a treatment involving cordyceps reduced inflammation and bacterial load in the lungs considerably and led to an improvement in immune response, while the placebo group did not show such improvement.
In another 8-week randomized study around 79 adults were administered 1.68gm of cordyceps mycelium culture extract and showed a 38% increment in the natural killer (NK) cell activity. NK cells are a kind of white blood cells that defend the body against infections.
Research on Turkey Tail has proved that it is immensely beneficial for improving immune health in humans as it promotes efficient immune response, especially in people suffering from certain types of cancer.
Similarly, many other medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their impact on the immune system. You can easily find medicinal mushrooms supplements, teas, tinctures, however, do consult your nutritionist or medical specialist regarding the ideal daily dose of the supplement.
Key Points: There are more than 270 different types of medicinal mushrooms; the most researched ones include turkey tail and cordyceps. Medicinal mushrooms have antibacterial and immune health-boosting properties.
Other Proven Immune Boosting Supplements:
Studies on these supplements suggest that they are also very beneficial in improving the immune system’s defense mechanism. However, most of these supplements haven’t been tested on humans specifically regarding their impact on immune health. More research is required to evaluate its benefits.
Immune health is extremely important for our overall well-being. Some of the best immune system boosting supplements currently available in the market include Zinc, Vitamin C, Elderberry, Vitamin D, and Medicinal Mushrooms. These are scientifically proven supplementing options with the guaranteed potential for enhancing immune health.
However, these are merely supplemental options and not a replacement for a balanced diet or healthy lifestyle. For optimal immune health, you need to follow a nutrition-rich diet, have at least 8 hours of sleep, and indulge in regular physical activities. Along with that, avoid unhealthy habits like cigarette smoking if you want to stay away from diseases and infections.
Lastly, do not consider immune-boosting supplements as a powerful preventive measure from COVID-19 despite their antiviral properties. To protect yourself against COVID-19, follow the government guidelines and maintain personal hygiene.