Your immune system is the courageous army that protects your body from outside invaders. It is composed of cells, tissues, organs, and chemicals. All of these elements work together to fight off bacteria, viruses, and toxins. This is why strengthening your immune health can prevent illnesses and diseases.
In addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can also take supplements to build a healthy immune system. Here are the 6 best supplements to support your body’s natural defenses.
Your immune system needs zinc to perform its job.
Zinc is a mineral that you will often find in supplements for immunity. This is because your immune cells require zinc to develop and communicate with each other.
This trace element also regulates your immune response by preserving your natural tissue barriers to prevent the entry of foreign substances.
Several studies show that zinc offers protection against respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. In fact, research shows that taking zinc every day can shorten the duration and reduce the severity of acute lower respiratory tract infections.
Furthermore, zinc is a cofactor in collagen production and supports healthy digestion and metabolism. It is also a component of more than 24 enzymes, including carbonic anhydrase, which plays a critical role in respiration.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the amount of zinc your body needs depends on your sex, age, and condition:
- 0-6 months: 2 milligrams
- 7 months-3 years: 3 milligrams
- 4-8 years: 5 milligrams
- 9-13 years: 8 milligrams
- Teens and adults (male): 11 milligrams
- 14-18 years (female): 9 milligrams
- Adults (female): 8 milligrams
- Pregnant teens: 12 milligrams
- Breastfeeding teens: 13 milligrams
- Pregnant adults: 11 milligrams
- Breastfeeding adults: 12 milligrams
It’s important to note that taking too much zinc can be harmful. Some telltale signs of excessive zinc include:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
Around two billion people in the world are zinc-deficient. Luckily, this condition is uncommon in North America, as well as in most developed countries.
If you have zinc deficiency, your immune system may not function properly. Low zinc levels may put you at an increased risk of developing lung infections, such as pneumonia. Another alarming fact is that 16% of respiratory tract infections globally are due to zinc deficiency.
Moreover, without this mineral, your carbohydrate metabolism is affected, your collagen synthesis and tissue growth slow down as well. Infants and children may experience slow growth, and men may develop impotence.
This deficiency may also result in:
- Eye pain
- Skin lesions
- Wound healing complications
- Hair loss
- Weight loss
- Taste disorder
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased alertness
Zinc deficiency poses a wide range of consequences, especially on your immunity. Thankfully, you can keep your immune system strong, make your tissues work efficiently, and prevent other diseases from happening with the help of zinc supplements.
Is vitamin C or ascorbic acid your go-to supplement when you have sniffles or a runny nose? Well, you’re not alone! Vitamin C is perhaps the most well-known supplement that can treat and prevent bacterial and viral infections.
This water-soluble vitamin strengthens your immune system by supporting the functions of multiple immune cells and enhancing your cells’ ability to defend your body against infection.
Like zinc, studies show that vitamin C supplementation can help shorten and reduce the gravity of upper respiratory tract infections, such as a cough, runny nose, or sore throat. It can also stimulate an immune response against flu symptoms and viruses.
Additionally, research demonstrates that vitamin C can significantly improve the symptoms of patients with sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Aside from its antiviral effects, vitamin C also has powerful antioxidant properties. It protects your body against damage caused by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress refers to an imbalance between the antioxidants and free radicals in your body. This phenomenon can negatively affect your immune health and lead to multiple diseases.
Here are the Recommended Dietary Allowances for vitamin C:
- 0-6 months: 40 milligrams
- 7-12 months: 50 milligrams
- 1-3 years: 15 milligrams
- 4-8 years: 25 milligrams
- 9-13 years: 45 milligrams
- 14-18 years (male): 75 milligrams
- 14-18 years (female): 65 milligrams
- Adults (male): 90 milligrams
- Adults (female): 75 milligrams
- Pregnant teens: 80 milligrams
- Breastfeeding teens: 115 milligrams
- Pregnant adults: 85 milligrams
- Breastfeeding (adults): 120 milligrams
You may safely take up to 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily. However, keep in mind that this is the maximum daily intake. If you go beyond this level, you may experience diarrhea or gastric distress.
Besides, your intestines can only absorb so much vitamin C. Your body absorbs less than 50% of this vitamin when you take more than 1,000 milligrams per day. Only take amounts higher than the upper limit if you are under the supervision of your healthcare professional.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Being deficient in vitamin C may lead to:
- Hair loss
- Gum infection
- Tooth loss
- Skin problems
- Delayed wound healing
- Iron-deficiency anemia
In addition, Vitamin C deficiency may still occur even in developed countries, especially if there is:
- smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- alcohol and drug abuse
- restriction of citrus fruits and vegetables
This is why it is vital to take vitamin C supplements, especially if you don’t get enough of this vitamin through your diet.
Calcium also plays a key role in activating your immune cells! In fact, a flash of calcium already triggers your immune response to healing. It is the first step in tissue repair and lets your T cells use certain nutrients to fight infection.
Apart from calcium, iron also influences your immune health. Iron is an element needed to form hemoglobin, a protein found in your red blood cells, which carries oxygen throughout your body. But this isn’t its only function!
Iron is also needed by your immune cells so they can rapidly reproduce. It’s crucial for both primary and secondary immune responses. This is why individuals with iron deficiency are more likely to have a weakened immune system.
NAC stands for N-acetyl cysteine. It’s the supplement form of cysteine, which is an amino acid essential for the production of proteins. NAC bonds with other amino acids, namely glycine and glutamine, to make and increase the glutathione levels in your body.
Glutathione is a powerful and important antioxidant. It helps neutralize free radicals and boost your white blood cells or T cells so they can function properly. This enables the front-line troops of your immune system to multiply and activate your natural killer cells. Aside from boosting immunity, glutathione can also keep your brain, heart, and lungs healthy.
Studies show that NAC can protect your respiratory system by reducing inflammation and breaking down mucus. With its antioxidant properties, it can clear your airways and make your cough less sticky.
If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), NAC can help improve your daily lung function. Meanwhile, if you have bronchitis, these supplements can calm your cough.
Another study suggests that NAC can significantly decrease the symptoms of the influenza virus. It can also reduce its lifespan to prevent the virus from replicating.
Your body can make cysteine on its own. But you may also get it naturally through your diet. Some excellent sources of this amino acid include:
- Sunflower seeds
In addition, supplements can also help replenish the natural cysteine levels in your body. The usual recommendation for NAC is 600 to 1,800 mg.
Have you heard of quercetin? Well, it’s one of the less popular dietary supplements out there, but it actually offers numerous health benefits to the human body!
Quercetin is a flavonoid or a plant pigment found in apples, green tea, red wine, and berries. It can support immune health, as it contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
As a powerful anti-inflammatory, quercetin is effective in suppressing disorders, such as asthma and allergic rhinitis, and can also relieve allergy symptoms.
Meanwhile, as an antioxidant, it can neutralize free radical damage associated with chronic diseases, thanks to its phenolic compounds.
Research also proves that quercetin has anti-viral effects. In fact, experiments show that it can inhibit virus entry and prevent certain infections.
Moreover, foods that are rich in quercetin, such as red onions, can serve as mucolytic agents, too! They can help get rid of phlegm and decongest your lungs.
For enhanced immune response, try taking quercetin in the form of dietary supplements. Typical doses vary from 500 to 1,000 milligrams a day.
Surprisingly, the administration of vitamin C and quercetin produces a collective antiviral action! This is because quercetin intensifies the function of vitamin C while boosting your blood circulation and strengthening your immune function. This, in turn, also makes your skin, bones, and teeth healthier.
Additionally, the combination of quercetin and other compounds, like catechins, resveratrol, and genistein, increases the supplement’s beneficial effects.
If you’re looking for a supplement that can provide health benefits to your whole body, then Pure Encapsulations Quercetin is perfect for you!
This antioxidant supplement reduces oxidative stress. It also boosts your heart health while managing your blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Pure Encapsulations Quercetin is made with the following ingredients:
- Hypoallergenic plant fiber
- Vegetarian capsule
Recommended Intake: Take two capsules one to two times a day between meals.
Medicinal mushrooms and mushroom extracts have been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. They have been used since the olden days to cure and prevent infectious diseases.
Several species of medicinal mushrooms have the potential to boost your immune function. In fact, more than 270 types of mushrooms have immune-boosting effects, including:
- Turkey Tail
- Lion’s Mane
Several studies show that taking mushroom supplements can also treat symptoms of some conditions, including respiratory infections.
For instance, research was conducted on mice with tuberculosis. Results showed that using cordyceps significantly eased inflammation, lowered bacterial loads of the lungs, and increased immune function compared with a placebo group.
Another study demonstrated that individuals who had cordyceps mycelium culture extract showed a significant increase in the function of their natural killer cells.
Meanwhile, the turkey tail, which is another type of mushroom, contributed to improved immune health, especially in cancer patients.
For healthy adults, taking mushroom supplements daily is a safe and effective way to reap its full range of health benefits. However, like any other dietary supplement, it’s still best to consult a wellness professional to ensure that mushroom supplements are good for you.
Manage Stress for Stronger Immunity
Have you ever gotten sick after a week of high stress? Turns out, stress is the likely reason. While these might seem like separate causes, stress and immune system function are closely linked — and not in the best way.
Our bodies respond to stressful situations by releasing the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which increase heart rate and blood pressure and halt functions like digestion and immunity. This is what’s called the “fight-or-flight” response, and it takes over nervous system function until the stressful situation has passed.
Normally, our bodies remain in the “rest-and-digest” mode, which allows for normal functioning of bodily processes like digestion, immunity, reproduction, and more. If we are in a frequent state of fight or flight or regularly suffer from stress, it diminishes our ability to maintain strong immunity. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural methods to relieve stress and strengthen immunity at the same time.
The next time you’re feeling under the weather, try one of these trusted immune supplements! They are sure to deliver the immune boost that you need. However, they are not a substitute for a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
Eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated, exercising, managing stress, and getting adequate sleep are still crucial for optimal immune system functions.
Additionally, keep in mind that supplements may interact with medications you’re currently taking. Some may also be inappropriate for individuals with health conditions. So consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before trying any supplement.