When trying to prevent illness and prevent disease you can use immune booster supplements to help.
In this post, learn about the fundamentals of immune response from a functional medicine standpoint. A healthy immune system is critical for heart health, mental health, preventing infections, and more. And your immune health even plays a role in keeping you healthy during flu season.
Keep in mind, that while diet is the foundation of our immunity, certain supplements can provide immune support.
In this post research related to various immune booster supplements, including balanced nutrition, vitamins, and minerals, is presented.
From there, you and your doctor can decide what is best for you and how to care for your immune system.
Table of Contents
Healthy Immune System Basics
Your immune system is primarily found in your digestive tract. Here are some interesting and related facts about gut health and immune function.
- 70% or more of our ability to fight illness begins in the gut with our gut-associated lymphoid tissue.
- Some strains of viruses are contracted through the gut.
- For colds, the ratio of good-to-bad healthy bacteria predicts the presence of illness.
- HIV viral-infected patients with spontaneous control have healthier gut-associated lymphoid tissue.
- Probiotics in the gut create a healthier immune system.
- Probiotics help stimulate interferon production and activation of innate immunity to viruses.
Bottom line: immune support starts with a healthy digestive tract.
Immune Booster Supplements: Mushrooms
All edible mushrooms are packed with nutrients that support immune function.
Mushrooms can also improve T-cell counts and immune compounds in the body.
In fact, research shows that mushroom intake is linked to improved immune response.
Medicinal mushrooms are undoubtedly good for your immune system while supporting healthy brain function too.
Some of the best mushrooms for immunity are:
You can add these mushroom powders to any recipe including soups, stews, stir-fries, sauces, and more. I like to make mushroom coffee or mushroom tea with them as well. Simply add a 1/2 tsp or more to anything you desire.
Bottom line: mushrooms have been used for thousands of years to support health and immunity. You too can enjoy their health benefits by including them in your immune-boosting supplements or in your meals.
Nutrients that Reduce Cold Symptoms
You may recall that there are many variations of the common cold.
Our immune system often responds in similar ways to different viruses, which is good for us. A basic premise is staying hydrated. Make sure to drink adequate water and hydrating beverages like herbal teas.
Viral replication, or the spread of viruses, is reduced by the following nutrients in human studies and cell culture studies.
If you want a supplement that has almost all of these nutrients in one, try adding MK Supplements Grassfed Beef Liver supplements.
Immune Booster Supplements: Zinc
Long known to support immune health and gut health, zinc is an obvious nutrient to list here. Another important fact about zinc: it plays a key role in sexual health. WebMD says that zinc is possibly effective for the common cold and for reducing other discomforts like acne, depression, diarrhea, and more.
Immunity and zinc details:
- Zinc lozenges reduced cold symptoms by 33% to 35% in a large review of almost 600 people. Smaller doses also seem effective.
- Zinc helps with the repair of the gut lining and innate immune response.
An issue of zinc within the body is its ability to be transported. Some natural substances can enhance zinc uptake within cells in order for it to be effective.
Immune Booster Supplements: Natural Zinc Ionophores
A couple of options are available to use as natural zinc ionophores.
What are zinc ionophores? They simply are substances that help get zinc into the cell where it is needed.
Zinc ionophores help the cell stop viruses from multiplying.
One zinc ionophore is called quercetin, a natural plant extract from apples and onions.
Green tea extract (epigallocatechin gallate) and resveratrol also serve to increase the ability of zinc to get inside your cells.
Immune Booster Supplements: Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps immune function, and deficiencies are related to compromised immune response. Here is evidence about infections, immunity, and vitamin C:
- Extra doses of vitamin C during upper respiratory infections reduced days of sickness, severity of illness, and fever, in a review of 8 clinical studies.
- Doses to reduce symptoms of common colds are greater than 1000 mg of vitamin C per day.
- A case report of severe respiratory illness (ARDS) showed that IV vitamin C resulted in rapid and complete recovery.
I recommend liposomal vitamin C for the best absorption. If you have a history of kidney stones, use caution with vitamin C, and as always, consult with your doctor before using.
Immune Booster Supplements: Selenium
Your body needs just the right amount of selenium, so don’t get carried away with high-dose supplements. Generally, around 100 micrograms per day is plenty.
- Many people are deficient in selenium and don’t know it because it is low in the soil where foods grow.
- Short-term doses of 100 mcg per day of selenium are safe for humans.
Men’s multivitamins typically have more selenium than women’s vitamins, so men and women would benefit from the men’s multivitamin variety.
Immune Booster Supplements: Vitamin A
- About 30 percent of people have genes that limit their ability to make active vitamin A in the body.
- Experts recommend short-term dosing of vitamin A that is activated (retinol) for immune health and healing.
If you want to use vitamin A for immunity, it is recommended for short-term use. For example, take vitamin A for a week or two and make sure to combine it with adequate vitamin D.
Immune Booster Supplements: Vitamin D
Vitamin D improves immune response to infections. This critical vitamin may help with healthy blood pressure, and joint health, reducing cancer risk, reducing chronic pain, and more.
A review of studies found that vitamin D supplements improve the innate and adaptive response to upper respiratory illnesses.
- This includes T-cells, B-cells, and antigen-presenting cells called dendrites
- Vitamin D3 may effectively treat flu-like symptoms.
Most people benefit from vitamin D supplements if they lack sun exposure, take medicines that deplete vitamin D3 or people who use a lot of sunscreen, or live in northern latitudes.
Bottom line: while your dose should be individualized, vitamin D3 is known to boost your body’s immunity. I recommend screening your blood levels of vitamin D with your doctor yearly or more. Always check with your doctor before adding vitamin K2 if you are on a blood thinner called warfarin.
Immune Booster Supplements: Probiotics
The best way to get probiotics is by eating fermented foods like:
- Apple cider vinegar with the mother
- Fermented teas like oolong or Pu erh
Then, make sure to get a lot of good fiber from things like vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruits to provide the digestive tract with prebiotics. You can buy supplements of probiotics as well, which are generally safe unless you are severely immune-compromised.
So far, research hasn’t discovered if probiotics prevent viral infections, but they sure do support many aspects of immunity.
Do you dislike all fermented foods? A good place to start is by adding a probiotic supplement.
Immune Boosting Supplements: Protein
Protein is a critical building block for immune cells and intestinal cells.
Make sure to get about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of your body weight. This translates to about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you should get at least 75 grams of protein per day.
Immune Boosting Spices and Herbs
Humans have long turned to spices and herbs for their immune system benefits.
You can support a healthy immune response with a wide range of foods and herbs.
Use what you have in your cooking and make up some soothing herbal teas.
Immune Boosting Supplements: Elderberry
Elderberries are widely used to help reduce symptoms of viral infections and this is supported by research. A review of research on 160 people concluded that elderberry supplements reduce symptoms of upper respiratory infections.
Since elderberries are safe to use daily, you can harvest your own and make syrup using this simple elderberry syrup recipe.
Supporting Gut Health for Immunity
Nourishing your body means that you are nourishing your immune system in your gut. This means that the foods you include in your diet affect your immunity.
Gut health requires the following components:
Digestive immunity also thrives if you are limiting or eliminating common allergen food triggers, processed foods, including sugars, packaged foods, herbicides and pesticides on foods, and GMO foods (my suspicion).
We know you can’t fix your gut overnight, but it can heal pretty fast, according to research.
Improving your diet changes your gut bacteria in as little as a few days, according to a recent publication by Scientific American.
Ingredients that May Worsen Your Immunity
Some food products contain additives that may reduce your immune function. Make sure to read your immune-boosting labels. Common brands designed for immune benefits can have possibly harmful additives that disrupt your gut immunity.
These ingredients include [R]:
You will find that many packaged foods contain these ingredients. The best course of action is to eat unprocessed foods, such as vegetables, fruits, fish, grass-fed meats, organic nuts, and seeds.
Immune Booster Supplements Summary
In this post, I describe many ways to support your immune health. Our overall immune response depends on the foods we eat and the nutrients we get. Immune booster supplements can add to a healthy diet if done in an informed way.
Remember, many viruses and illnesses don’t thrive in a well-nourished host.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice. Of note, you should call your doctor if you are making any changes to your health care regimen. Individual guidance is based on your baseline health and should be judged by your healthcare provider. All rights reserved.