The Best Vitamins, Minerals & Herbs To Support Your Immune System
Last updated on : September 23 2020
Immune System Support
Your immune system leads the vital task of defending your body against infection. It is in charge of guarding your body against harmful elements such as bacteria and viruses.
As a result, you need to keep yourself healthy to boost your immunity and help your body defend itself.
Ensuring you eat a nourishing diet with sufficient micronutrients is an excellent way to support and boost your immune system.
What Exactly Is Our Immune System?
The immune system comprises particular organs, cells, and chemicals that fight infection. Its main parts are white blood cells, antibodies, the complement system (proteins), the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and the bone marrow.
Additionally, the immune system keeps a record of every germ it has ever defeated before, to recognize and destroy it quickly if it enters the body again. This memory of previous germs is why vaccines work.
Abnormalities of the immune system can lead to allergic diseases, immunodeficiencies, and autoimmune disorders.
What Can We Do To Support Our Immune System?
There is still much that researchers don't know about the complexities of our immune response. And there are currently no scientifically proven links between lifestyle, including diet, and improved immune function.
However, scientists generally accept that healthy-living strategies are an excellent way to give your immune system a boost.
This article looks at how you can potentially support your immune system by adding specific vitamins, minerals, and herbs to your diet.
The Four Best Vitamins To Support Your Immune System
The National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements defines vitamins as substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally.
They include vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, choline, and B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate/folic acid).
Ensure you get enough of the following vitamins to support your immune system.
Vitamin C is famous for its immune-boosting properties. Though an essential vitamin for good health, your body can't produce and store vitamin C, so you must take it through food and supplements.
Vitamin C brings a lot of good health benefits. To begin with, it is a powerful natural antioxidant, protecting cells from free radicals and diseases. Additionally, vitamin C increases white blood cells' production, an integral part of the immune system.
Taking vitamin C will not only keep your immune system more robust, but it will also keep you looking young and energized - many beauty products and serums use vitamin C to bring youthful and glowing skin.
You can get vitamin C from different fruits and vegetables such as oranges, tangerines, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, and other leafy greens.
The good news is that vitamin C comes in so many foods that most people don't need to take a vitamin C supplement unless a doctor advises it.
The eight B vitamins include B-1 (thiamine), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 (niacin), B-5 (pantothenic acid), B-6 (pyridoxine), B-7 (biotin), B-9 (folic acid), and B-12 (cobalamin).
These different vitamins regulate body functions and affect your energy, brain function, and cell metabolism. They are all equally important, and you need a regular dosage to keep your health in check.
Among the B vitamins, vitamin B-6 or pyridoxine helps in immune system support. It is in charge of the health of both the nervous and immune systems producing red blood cells, white blood cells, and T cells. And it also regulates the transport of oxygen throughout your body.
You can quickly get your dose of B-6 by eating chicken, tuna, salmon, and chickpeas.
For the full range of B vitamins, eat healthy whole foods such as dairy products, milk and cheese, eggs, chicken and red meat, shellfish, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and dark green vegetables.
Supplements containing B complex are available as well, although please consult your doctor before taking them.
Vitamin D plays a significant role in our immune response.
White blood cells have vitamin D receptors, and when they get the right dose of this vitamin, they function at their best, defending the body against harm-causing pathogens that bring infection.
Extreme deficiency in this vitamin may lead to sickness and, in the worst-case scenarios, autoimmune diseases.
The best source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. The sun's ultraviolet rays give your body the vitamin D it needs, so it's good to have a regular dose of sunshine. If spending time under the sun isn't your thing, you can get vitamin D through food and supplements.
Foods rich in vitamin D include salmon, sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolks, and mushrooms. You can also find dietary supplements that will provide you with vitamin D, however, again be sure to consult your healthcare provider first.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight off infection. Foods rich in vitamin E include nuts, seeds, and spinach.
These Important Minerals Support Your Immune System
Minerals are essential for your body to stay healthy, and play a part in keeping your bones, muscles, heart, and brain working properly. They are also critical for making enzymes and hormones.
Minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur, the macrominerals. And iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium, the trace minerals.
Most people get the minerals they need from eating a balanced diet and a wide variety of foods. However, the following three minerals play an essential part in our immunity to sickness and disease.
Although zinc is an essential mineral for immune system support, your body doesn't naturally produce it, so you must obtain it through food or supplements. However, you only need a small dose of it to get a multitude of health benefits.
Zinc is excellent at keeping your body's immune system function in place. A study by the European Journal of Immunology shows that your body needs zinc to activate T cells or T lymphocytes. T cells are essential warriors in your immune system. Also, it's critical for the development and function of immune cells.
Zinc also helps heal wounds. Doctors prescribe topical zinc or creams and lotions to heal rashes and wounds.
The best way to get zinc is by eating zinc-enriched food, which you can easily find in your nearest grocery store. Sources of zinc include animal meat like beef, seafood such as crabs, oysters, lobsters, fish, whole grain, and dairy.
There are also dietary supplements with zinc and zinc throat lozenges to speed up the recovery from a sore throat. As noted, please consult your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
Selenium is crucial for the health and proper functioning of your immune system.
Its antioxidant properties help reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and improve overall immune system health.
Many whole grains and dairy products, including milk and yogurt, are good sources of selenium. Additionally, pork, beef, turkey, chicken, fish, shellfish, and eggs contain high amounts of selenium. As do some beans and nuts, especially Brazil nuts.
If necessary, you can also take selenium supplements, but please consult your healthcare provider first.
You can find good iron sources in legumes (such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas), tofu., tempeh, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds, also in nuts, especially cashews and almonds. And wholegrain cereals such as oats or muesli, wholemeal bread, brown rice, and quinoa. Dried apricots are also a good source of iron.
Your doctor might recommend that you take an iron supplement if your iron levels are low, regardless of your diet.
Try These Herbs For An Immune System Boost
Herbs generally refer to the leafy green or flowering parts of a plant (either fresh or dried).
Herbs also have a variety of uses, including culinary and medicinal. And these medicinal properties potentially support our immune systems by fighting microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, worms, and bugs.
Echinacea, usually sold over the counter in liquid form, is best known as a herbal remedy for the common cold or flu. However, we can also use Echinacea to treat pain, inflammation, migraines, and many other health issues.
It's high antioxidant levels may help boost immune system responses helping us beat infections and viruses and improve illness recovery times.
Garlic is a powerful herb and is known to boost the immune system.
Studies show it has antibacterial, antiviral, and antiprotozoal (anti-parasitic) properties that help with ailments from chest infections to the common cold.
So consider adding garlic to your diet, either by eating it raw or cooked, or taking a supplement to boost your immune system.
Ginseng can boost the immune system by supporting the T cells, B cells, natural killer cells, and macrophages within our immune system.
You can take ginseng in a fresh ginseng root tea or ginseng capsules. However, the herb is potent, so it might be best to consult a herbalist before taking it.
The use of elderberry as a medicinal plant goes back to the ancient civilizations of the Native Americans, Europeans, and Egyptians. These civilizations used it to heal burns and treat infections, similar to how we use it today.
When eaten, elderberries have low calories and are rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, phenolic acids, flavonols, and anthocyanins - all excellent supporters of our immune system.
You can find elderberries readily available in the market, and processed supplements using elderberries are generally safe to consume.
Can Supplements Help Your Immunity?
While supplements can help, the best way to take in essential nutrients is to get them straight from food. It is better because your body absorbs and uses nutrients more thoroughly when they come from a dietary source.
It is best to consult a doctor before taking supplements for many reasons. Firstly, the FDA considers supplements as food, and so does not regulate them. As a result, you can't be sure how much of the supplement you are taking, the quality, or the side effects it might cause.
Some supplements may be harmful, especially vitamin E supplements, and side effects are not thoroughly tested or understood, especially on children and pregnant women, or when taken with other medicines.
Talk with your healthcare provider if you're thinking about taking dietary supplements to ensure they are right for you.
Keeping your immune system healthy and in check is one way to prevent yourself from being sick. After all, your immune response is your body's protective wall and the first line of defense.
A healthy diet, exercise, and enough rest will keep your immune system in place. However, it is also good to take specific vitamins, minerals, and herbs to help boost your immunity and keep your body's natural defenders functioning at their best.
You can quickly get these vitamins by eating healthy food that is readily available in the grocery, and this is the preferred way.
Supplements are also available to give you your required dosage if you cannot get what you need through your diet. However, please consult your healthcare provider before taking supplements as they can be dangerous.
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Editor: Charles Fitzgerald