The Best Vitamins, Minerals & Herbs To Support Your Immune System
Last updated on : August 16 2021
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.
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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.
Bonus Section - The Best Vitamins For Great Skin
In this section, we look at how vitamins play a process in your skin's health and recommend five that are the most crucial - vitamins A, C, D, E, and K.
The deficiency of vitamins and other nutrient staples like fatty acids, omega 3, folic acid, and vitamin b complex is always evident on your skin. It shows the vital role that vitamins and a balanced diet play in skin health and, consequently, your levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.
Consuming plenty of vegetables and fruits and adding supplements infused with the right vitamins and other nutrients will keep your skin glowing and your vitamin levels optimal.
When you feed your skin with essential vitamins, together with an effective daily skincare routine, you can maintain skin health for a lifetime and face every day with a radiant complexion at any age.
A. General Impact of Vitamins on Skin
Vitamins are essential for a robust immune system, your mental well-being, and overall health, but they also play a vital role in the health of your skin.
Vitamins D, C, E, K, and A (beta carotene) are some of the skin's best vitamins. Getting enough of these vitamins can keep your skin looking youthful and healthy, which can lead to a reduction in:
- Excessive dryness
- Dark spots
- Rough patches
On the other hand, a general deficiency in vitamins can cause adverse effects on the skin, particularly vitamins C and E, which play an essential role in protecting your skin from the sun and skin cancer.
According to research by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer has been the most frequent cancer type in the United States.
As a result, consuming the right amount of vitamins and using vitamin-laced skincare products can help prevent your skin's premature aging.
B. The Best Vitamins For Great Skin
There are many vitamins recommended by health professionals that have significant effects on the skin. However, we have narrowed it down to the five vitamins that play substantial roles in the health of your skin.
Try to incorporate these five vitamins into your diet and daily skincare routine by following the advice below.
1. Vitamin D
Your body makes vitamin D when your skin absorbs sunlight. When this happens, it converts cholesterol to vitamin D, which is then taken up by your kidneys and liver and transferred throughout the body to create healthy skin cells.
Vitamin D plays an essential role in skin tone, and it may also help treat psoriasis.
A natural version of vitamin D produced by humans is called calcitriol - a well-known topical cream used to treat psoriasis. The Journal of Drugs and Dermatology published a study in 2009, showing that calcitriol reduced skin irritation and inflammation in psoriasis patients.
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University recommends 600 IU of vitamin D daily for healthy skin. You may need more if you are over the age of 70 or pregnant.
If you don't think you are getting enough, you can do the following to increase your vitamin D intake:
- Consume foods that naturally contain vitamin D, such as tuna, salmon, and cod.
- Consume fortified foods such as orange juice, yogurt, and breakfast cereals.
- Get a daily exposure of 10 minutes to the sun. However, we advise you to first check with your doctor before doing this, especially if you have a skin cancer history.
On this last point - most healthcare professionals will advise you to reduce your exposure to the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and wear protective sunscreen on exposure to sunlight.
2. Vitamin C
You can find vitamin C in the dermis (inner layer of the skin) and epidermis (outer layer of the skin) of the skin in high levels. It helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and heal damaged skin.
An adequate intake of vitamin C can also help prevent and repair dry skin.
Its role in collagen production and its antioxidant (cancer-fighting) properties promote cell turnover, help keep the skin healthy, and reduce the aging signs caused by free radicals. It also keeps the skin looking lifted and firm.
Additionally, consuming oral vitamin C can boost the protection provided by topical sunscreens against damage caused by the sun's UV rays.
These reasons are why vitamin C remains one of the most significant ingredients in numerous antiaging skincare products, both topical and oral.
However, according to a review from the University of Otago, topical vitamin C's effectiveness is unclear. It seemed to help in some studies but not in others, or it worked only when paired with vitamin E and a delivery oil.
Therefore it's best to get your daily vitamin C requirement - 1000mg -through your diet. Fortunately, due to its prevalence in the foods we eat, its deficiency is rare.
However, you can do the following if you don't get adequate vitamin C in your diet:
- Consume more citrus foods like oranges
- Consume plant-based sources of vitamin C, such as broccoli, spinach, and strawberries
- Use supplements recommended by your doctor.
- Use antiaging skin treatments containing vitamin C for treating wrinkles, dryness, age spots, and redness.
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a well-known antioxidant like vitamin C. Its primary function in the skin is to protect it against sun damage by absorbing the harmful UV light from sun exposure.
Vitamin E can help prevent wrinkles and dark spots with its photoprotective properties, thus promoting clear skin.
The body transports vitamin E from the blood to the skin's surface through sebum, an oily substance released through the pores. In the right balance, sebum helps prevent dryness and keeps the skin conditioned.
Vitamin E can help counterbalance a lack of sebum if you have dry skin. It is also helpful in treating skin inflammation.
About 15mg of vitamin E is needed daily by most adults, and you can get all you need by eating a variety of foods, including:
- Vitamin E-rich foods like seeds and nuts, like hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, and almonds.
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach or broccoli.
- If necessary, a separate vitamin E supplement or a multivitamin.
4. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is vital in helping the process of blood clotting in the body, which allows the body to heal bruises, wounds, and places affected by surgery.
Additionally, vitamin K helps some skin conditions, like:
- Spider veins
- Dark spots
- Stretch marks
- Stubborn circles under the eye
You can find vitamin K in numerous topical creams. Doctors frequently use creams containing vitamin K on patients who have just undergone surgery to reduce bruising and swelling. This application can help to speed up the skin's healing process.
Also, vitamin K helps retain moisture on the skin and may help improve skin strength. Altogether, vitamin K in topical creams aids in improving skin smoothness and tone.
Deficiency of vitamin K is rare in the United States, according to the University of Florida. For a great skincare routine, between 90 and 120 ugs of vitamin K is needed daily by adults.
You can increase your intake by eating:
- Green beans
- Green tea
5. Vitamin A (Beta-carotene)
Beta-carotene is another UV-fighter on the list and a staple in every skincare routine. It is found majorly in carrots.
The vitamin is also a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent sun damage from your skin and improve skin health.
The consumption of beta-carotene makes you less sensitive to UV rays. The primary way to protect your skin against sun damage is through sunblock, but beta-carotene may confer extra protection against the harmful sun rays.
You can usually get beta-carotene through food; therefore, supplement isn't always necessary, as long as you consume your vegetables. Consuming carrots is the best way to get beta-carotene, and you may earn extra by eating the following:
- Leafy greens
C. Are You Getting Enough Of These Vitamins
As essential as these vitamins are, you are probably getting more than enough through your daily diet.
If you're concerned about a deficiency, speak with your health care provider, who might offer a blood test to determine if you are deficient in any vitamin.
Similarly, to prevent an overdose of vitamins, you should only take vitamin supplements with a medical professional's guidance.
However, as always, we advise that you consult your doctor or dermatologist before you make any significant changes to your diet or skincare routines.
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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