If there has ever been an important time to take steps to support the immune system, now is the time to deal with the epidemic of coronavirus, eat a dense diet of nutrients, have a good night’s sleep and manage stress levels. These are good ways to get started.
But if you want to give a strong boost to your immune system, you may want to boost your diet with vitamins. But what vitamins and supplements do you need to keep your immune system functioning at a high level (and help you stay healthy).
You may not immediately connect your immune system to your gut, but the fact is that a significant portion of the immune system’s function is directly tied to this part of your body. “About 70 to 80 percent of the immune system is found in your gut,” says Dr. Horton. And because the gut plays an important role in the functioning of the immune system, it’s important that you make every effort to support its pervasive health The best way to do this? “Studies show that probiotics play an important role in repairing and maintaining intestinal bacteria and fighting infections,” says Dr. Horton. They also boost antibodies that help improve the immune system’s function and reduce the risk of inflammation and infection.
2- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that is essential for the health and function of your immune system. Many people are deficient in this important vitamin, which may adversely affect immune function. In fact, low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections, including influenza and allergic asthma. Some studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation may improve immune responses. In fact, recent research suggests that taking this vitamin may protect against respiratory infections.
A 2019 survey of 11,321 randomized controlled trials found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of respiratory infections in people with vitamin D deficiency and it reduces the risk of infection in people with high levels of vitamin D. Other studies suggest that vitamin D supplements may improve response to antiviral therapy in people with specific infections, including hepatitis C and HIV.
Zinc is a mineral that is usually added to supplements and other health care products to boost the immune system. This is because zinc is essential for the functioning of the immune system. Zinc is needed for the growth and formation of immune cells and plays an important role in the inflammatory response. The deficiency of this nutrient significantly affects the functioning of your immune system and leads to an increased risk of infection and disease, including pneumonia. Zinc deficiency affects about 2 billion people worldwide and is very common in older adults. In fact, up to 30% of older people are deficient in this nutrient. Numerous studies show that zinc supplements may protect against respiratory infections such as colds. In addition, taking zinc supplements may be helpful for those who are currently ill. In a 2019 study of 64 children hospitalized with acute lower respiratory tract infection (ALRIs), taking 30 mg of zinc a day reduced the total duration of infection and hospital stay by an average of 2 days compared with the placebo group. Excess zinc may also help reduce the duration of colds. Long-term zinc intake is usually safe for healthy adults as long as the daily dose is below the set limit. Overdose may interfere with copper absorption, which can increase your risk of infection.
4- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is perhaps the most popular supplement to protect against infection due to its important role in safe health. This vitamin supports the function of various immune cells and enhances their ability to protect against infection. It also helps your immune system by clearing old cells and replacing them with new ones. Vitamin C also acts as a powerful antioxidant and protects against the damage caused by oxidative stress, which occurs by the accumulation of reactive molecules known as free radicals. Oxidative stress can negatively affect the health of the immune system and is associated with countless diseases. Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of respiratory infections, including colds.
A large study of 29 studies in 11,306 people showed that regular intake of vitamin C supplementation with an average dose of 1-2 grams per day reduced the duration of colds in adults by 8% and in children by 14%. Interestingly, the study also found that regular intake of vitamin C supplements reduced the incidence of colds in people with high body pressure, including marathon runners and soldiers, by up to 50 percent. In addition, high-dose vitamin C therapy has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in people with severe infections, including sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) caused by viral infections. These results confirm that vitamin C supplements may affect immune health, especially in people who do not get enough vitamins through their diet. High levels of vitamin C are 2000 mg. Daily doses of supplements are usually between 250 and 1000 mg.
Black Elderberry(Sambucus nigra), which has long been used to treat infections, is being studied for its health effects. In experimental tube studies, Elderberry extract showed antibacterial and antiviral potential against bacterial pathogens responsible for respiratory tract infections and influenza virus strains. In addition, it has been shown to enhance the immune response and may help reduce the duration and severity of colds, as well as reduce the symptoms of viral infections.
A study of four randomized controlled trials in 180 people found that Elderberry supplements reduced the upper respiratory symptoms caused by viral infections. A five-day study from 2004 found that people with the flu who took 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of Elderberry syrup four times a day recovered 4 days earlier than those who did not.
6- Medicinal fungi
Medicinal fungi have long been used to prevent and treat infections and diseases. Many types of medicinal fungi have been studied because of their immune-boosting potential. More than 270 known species of medicinal fungi are known to have immune-boosting properties.
Some research suggests that supplementation with certain types of medicinal fungi may enhance body health in several ways and reduce the symptoms of certain conditions, including asthma and lung infections. For example, a study in mice with tuberculosis, a serious bacterial disease, found that treatment with Cordyceps significantly reduced bacterial load in the lungs, increased immune response and reduced inflammation compared with placebo.
Turkey tail is another medicinal fungus that has powerful effects on the health of the immune system. Research in humans suggests that turkey tail may increase the body’s immune response, especially in people with certain types of cancer. Many other medicinal fungi have also been studied for their beneficial effects on immune health. Medicinal fungal products can be found in the form of tinctures, teas, and supplements.
Other supplements with immune-boosting potential
- Astragalus is a plant commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Animal studies suggest that the extract may significantly improve immune-related responses.
- Selenium is a mineral that is essential for immune health. Animal studies suggest that selenium supplements may enhance antiviral defenses against influenza strains, including H1N1.
- Garlic has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. It has been shown to boost immune health by stimulating protective white blood cells such as NK cells and macrophages.
- Andrographis (Green chiretta), The plant contains androgyrolide, a compound of terpenoids that has antiviral effects against viruses that cause respiratory diseases, including enterovirus D68 and influenza A.
- Licorice contains many substances, including Glycyrrhizin, which may help protect against viral infections. According to research on the test tube, Glycyrrhizin shows antiviral activity against coronavirus associated with acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV).
- Pelargonium sidoides (South African geranium), Some human studies have used the plant’s extract to reduce the symptoms of acute viral respiratory infections, including colds and bronchitis. However, the results are mixed and more research is needed.
- B-complex vitamins, including B12 and B6, are important for a healthy immune response. However, many adults are deficient in them, which can negatively affect the health of the immune system.
- Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and animal studies suggest it may help improve immune function.
- Propolis is a resin-like substance made by bees for use as a sealant in urticaria. Although it has significant immune-boosting effects and can also have antiviral properties, more human research is needed.
According to scientific research, the supplements listed above may have immune-boosting properties. However, keep in mind that many of the possible effects of these supplements on the human immune system have not been fully tested, and this highlights the need for future studies.