4 Supplements That Support Immunity

Research shows that certain supplements may reduce your risk of infection and the severity of your symptoms. In this article, we recommend scientifically-proven supplements that may safely support your immune system. As always, you should consult your medical doctor before taking any nutritional supplement. If you have or suspect a medical condition, or are taking any medications, please consult a doctor before acting on any of our recommendations to prevent any side effects.

Vitamin D

The relationship between vitamin D and good health is indisputable. This seemingly super nutrient is linked to everything from bone health to enhanced immunity. Research shows that people with optimal vitamin D concentrations are less likely to experience the common cold and other respiratory tract infections than those with low vitamin D. What’s more, respiratory tract infections were found to be inversely associated with levels of vitamin D in blood – that is, as your vitamin D levels go down, your chance of infection goes up! 

Our bodies are absolutely capable of making vitamin D from the sun, but most of us who live in very cold or very hot climates and have to stay inside much of the time will end up with insufficient levels. Statistics from the UAE show that nearly 90% of the population are deficient in this critical vitamin. It also happens that getting enough vitamin D from food alone is difficult, as very few foods naturally contain it. Also, if you have a darker skin, your risk for a vitamin D deficiency is generally higher due to melanin – the skin pigment which acts as a shade from sunlight.

For many people, vitamin D supplementation is an effective and safe way to restore a vitamin D deficiency and make sure that they don’t lack this crucial vitamin.

 

Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in immunity. Low or deficient levels of zinc have been shown to greatly affect the number of  immune cells that are available to fight an invader. After examining 13 placebo-controlled studies between zinc and the common cold, researchers found that taking zinc within 24 hours of the first signs of cold could shorten its duration and make the symptoms less severe. Zinc can be found primarily in red meats and seafoods, especially oysters and mollusks. Zinc is also found in plant sources like tofu, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, but in much lower quantities and with lower absorption than that from animal products. That’s why vegetarians and older people may be at particularly higher risk for insufficient zinc intake from diet alone and may need to support their diets with supplements.

 

Garlic complex 

For centuries, our ancestors have touted the beneficial properties of garlic. In addition to repelling blood-sucking vampires, garlic has long been used as a folkloric cure to treat infections. Incorporating garlic or garlic extracts into your diet may actually activate immunity genes and reduce the severity and incidence of a cold. In a double-blind randomized control trial (the gold standard of scientific studies), subjects were given a garlic supplement or a placebo over 12 weeks between November and February (peak cold and flu season). The treatment group presented with fewer colds and recovered quicker compared to the placebo group. In a similar study design, after 45 days of supplementing with garlic, participants presented with significant improvement in the function of 2 types of immune cells (NK and T-cells) compared to the placebo group. After 90 days, the garlic group also had fewer cold symptoms, sick days, and incidences of colds compared to the placebo group.

Garlic’s health benefits are rooted in its heavy concentration of a sulfur-containing compound called allicin which is released when garlic is chopped or crushed and is responsible for its pungent smell. Allicin and the antioxidants inside garlic are known to exert antimicrobial activities in the body which help fight off infections and support the immune system’s function.

You may also consider adding raw garlic to your diet! Not only is garlic beneficial to health, but it is also full of flavor and an easy vegetable to work into your diet that can be added to anything. If you crush your garlic and let it stand for ten minutes before cooking with it, this helps protect the allicin content. Also, adding the garlic towards the end of cooking will help retain more of the medicinal properties of the plant, as allicin is destroyed by cooking.

 

Probiotics

Microbes in the lower intestinal tract help you fight harmful bacteria and regulate the immune system, acting as your body’s first defense against infection. They also digest nutrients that you otherwise couldn’t (like fiber and other carbohydrates) in a process called fermentation, which results in byproducts that play many important roles in the body from protecting the colon to improving insulin sensitivity. When the gut becomes unbalanced with unhealthy levels of certain bacteria, probiotics can help restore the balance. Research has found that having a healthy microbiome is a key component of a healthy immune system and your body’s ability to fight off viral and bacterial infections. Both probiotic supplements and fermented foods (like live yogurt and kimchi) – which are sources of live microbes – can significantly reduce your risk of infection by fighting pathogens in the gut and contributing to anti-inflammatory pathways around the body.

 

Wait…what about Vitamin C?

 

We can’t talk about immunity without addressing vitamin C. Like zinc, vitamin C is an essential micronutrient that we must obtain from our diets. It plays an important role in immunity by acting as an antioxidant, enhancing immune cell function and supporting anti-inflammatory pathways in the body. However, research shows that while vitamin C supplementation might help with decreasing the length of colds, it is unlikely to prevent us from getting the cold in the first place. What’s more, the absorption of vitamin C decreases with increased intake. For example, up to 98% of vitamin C is absorbed at low intakes (<20mg), but only 16%is absorbed at high intakes (~1,200mg) while the rest is just excreted in the urine! Keep in mind that a typical vitamin C packet or supplement has around 1,000mg of the vitamin! 

Vitamin C is also easy to come by from foods –  having just one cup of chopped red bell peppers provides about 211% of your daily value of vitamin C. 

 

It’s important to remember that supplementation should be personalized and tailored to your bloodwork and medical history. Get tested with our Vitamins & Minerals at-home blood test package or request a free supplement consultation by a Valeo Health Coach to get the best out of your immunity supplements. In today’s world, it’s safe to say that all supplements aren’t created equal, nutrients come in different forms with different absorption properties and are manufactured in different ways. If a supplement has a long list of unidentifiable ingredients, please question using it, as you should be informed of what you are taking. Bottom line, support your immunity with supplements if needed but make sure of what you’re putting inside your body.