Whether you’re battling an infection or a cold, adding a few immune-boosting vitamins to your routine can be very beneficial. In fact, some vitamins, minerals, and supplements have been shown to adjust immune function, improve antibody production, and reduce inflammation to help you feel better.
In this article, we will present you with the most important nutritional supplements that strengthen the immune system and their beneficial effects on your health, as well as simple suggestions on how to use them.
Many vitamins have been shown to help boost the body’s ability to ward off infection. Here are some essential vitamins that strengthen the immune system.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a central role in immune function and is often used to help strengthen the body’s defenses against infection. Impressively, a 2006 trial in Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism found that getting enough vitamin C in your diet can help reduce symptoms and duration of respiratory infections.
Recommended dose: 75-90 milligrams for women and men, respectively.
2. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D is an important micronutrient involved in many aspects of health. It is also an essential vitamin that strengthens the immune system. Not only is Vitamin D3 integral to the function of immune cells in the body, but a deficiency in this important micronutrient can actually increase the risk of infection. Make sure to choose vitamin D3 over other forms, as it is the most effective in improving the condition of vitamin D in the body.
Recommended dose: 400-800 IU
3. Vitamin A
This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for maintaining healthy vision, healthy skin, and proper growth and development. In addition, vitamin A is also necessary for the development of certain immune cells that are necessary to fight inflammation and infection, which has made it a place among the best supplements to strengthen the immune system.
Recommended dose: 700-900 EAR for women and men, respectively.
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant, which helps fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells. As one of the major immune-boosting vitamins, studies show that vitamin E supplementation may improve immune function, increase white blood cell production, and increase resistance to infection.
Recommended dose: 15 milligrams
5. Vitamin B6
Promising research suggests that vitamin B6 may help boost immune function to fight foreign invaders in the body. According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, administering vitamin B6 to critically ill patients significantly improved their immune response over a two-week period. Meanwhile, other studies show that a deficiency in this essential vitamin can reduce the production of important antibodies involved in immunity.
Recommended dose: 1.2-1.7 milligrams
Several minerals have been studied for their effects on immune function and their ability to strengthen the body’s natural defense system. Here are some of the best minerals for immune health.
Zinc is often considered one of the most effective supplements for strengthening the immune system, and is essential for maintaining overall good health. Research shows that zinc helps regulate the immune response and is essential for the survival, reproduction, and maturation of immune cells.
Clinical trials have also shown that adequate daily zinc intake can reduce infection and improve outcomes for serious conditions such as pneumonia and malaria.
Recommended dose: 8 to 11 milligrams for women and men, respectively.
Although iron is known for its role in the production of red blood cells and the transport of oxygen, it is also considered one of the best supplements for strengthening the immune system. Studies show that iron deficiency anemia can impair the body’s immune response, which can increase the risk of disease and infection. Women, infants, children, and people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may be at increased risk of deficiency.
Recommended dose: 8 to 18 milligrams for men and women, respectively.
Selenium is a powerful micronutrient that acts as an antioxidant to neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce cell damage. In addition to stimulating immunity, studies show that selenium may also be involved in regulating excessive immune responses to prevent widespread inflammation. A review in The Lancet also noted that low selenium intake may be linked to several negative health effects, including poor immune function, cognitive decline, and an increased risk of death.
Recommended dose: 400 mcg
In addition to the immune-boosting vitamins and minerals listed above, many other supplements may also benefit immune function. Here are some of the best immune-boosting supplements to add to your routine.
1. Elderberry syrup
Derived from the elderberry plant, elderberry syrup is one of the best natural supplements for strengthening the immune system. Elderberry syrup, which is rich in health-promoting polyphenols, is often used as a natural remedy to treat flu symptoms and speed recovery.
According to a study conducted in Israel, taking elderberry syrup four times daily for five days significantly reduced the duration of influenza infection compared to a placebo. Another review in 2019 concluded that elderberry may also help treat upper respiratory symptoms.
Recommended dose: 1 tablespoon up to four times daily.
Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria found in the digestive system. Probiotic supplements have been linked to a long list of health benefits, including improved digestion, lower cholesterol levels, and most importantly, improved immune function. In fact, studies show that probiotics regulate the function of certain immune cells and may also benefit immune-related conditions, ranging from viral infections to allergies and eczema.
Recommended dose: 10-100 billion CFU
Besides bringing a vibrant color to curries, soups and sauces, turmeric has also been extensively researched for its powerful medicinal properties.
In particular, curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has been shown to reduce inflammation, enhance antibody responses, and modulate immune function, which may offer protection against conditions such as heart disease, allergies, arthritis, and diabetes.
Recommended dose: 500-2000 milligrams of turmeric extract.
4. Holly Basil
Also known as tulsi or Ocimum tenuiflorum, holy basil is commonly used as an adaptogen to help improve the way your body reacts and adapts to stress. This wonderful herb also possesses anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and immunomodulatory effects and may be a treatment for viral infections, cognitive function, and some metabolic disorders.
Recommended dose: 300-2000 milligrams
5. Oregano essential oil
With its powerful healing properties, oregano essential oil is often considered one of the best herbal immune supplements on the market, especially when it comes to fighting infections. For example, a University of Arizona study measured the antiviral efficacy of oregano oil and its main active ingredient, carvacrol, against murine non-enveloped norovirus (MNV) and found that it could help control human norovirus. Another in vitro study showed that oregano essential oil was also effective in inactivating certain strains of disease-causing bacteria.
Recommended dose: Dilute 1 drop in 12 cl of liquid.
Risks and side effects
While supplements can be a useful tool to increase your intake of certain health-promoting vitamins, minerals or compounds, remember that they should not replace a balanced, nutritious diet. Nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes not only provide many of the vitamins and minerals listed above, but can also provide other essential nutrients to support immune health, including fiber, heart-healthy fats, and antioxidants.
If you have any underlying health conditions or are on medication, be sure to check with your doctor before adding any of these immune-boosting vitamins to your routine. In addition to finding the right supplement for you, they can also help you determine the right dosage for your specific needs.
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