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Immune supplements: vitamins and minerals to stay well

By on July 27, 2021 0

A strong immune system helps you prevent ailments, recover faster, and even sleep better. And immune supplements can help keep your immune system in peak condition.

Every day our immune system is bombarded with pathogens, bacteria, parasites and pollution, and every day it intervenes to protect us and essentially save our lives. “As amazing as the immune system is, we have to take care of it if we are to make it work at its best,” says Rob Thorp, founder of Vite Natural.

A healthy and balanced diet is essential to strengthen our immunity. “We need to have a healthy amount of all the essential vitamins and minerals for our immune system to function optimally,” adds Dr. Jenna Macciochi, immunologist and wellness brand ambassador Healthspan. “Deficiencies in any of these can impair your immunity and increase your risk of infection.” Often times, our busy lives mean that we are not eating as healthy as we should. Health issues, such as poor gut health, food allergies, microbiome imbalances (after a high dose of antibiotics), or conditions like IBS, can also prevent us from properly absorbing nutrients.

It is then that a little hero, in the form of a vitamin or mineral supplement, can work wonders. You may have turned to supplements for sleeping before, but have you considered any supplements to boost your immunity?

Why immune supplements are good for our bodies

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(Image credit: Getty images / Evgeniia Siiankovskaia)

Immune supplements provide our immune system with the fuel it needs to fight germs. And, if you are deficient in nutrients, it is essential to strengthen your immune system. When our body is struggling with an infection, such as a cold or the flu, our immune system becomes more and more active. They need a ready-made source of energy to fight, so the demand for nutrients is skyrocketing. “Not to mention the collateral resolution, healing and repair after the germ is gone,” says Dr. Rob Macciochi.

“While we can try to provide our body with everything it needs to keep our immune system healthy, this is not always possible,” says Dr. Macciochi. Time, finances, and access to fresh ingredients are often a barrier to a perfect diet. If you are not getting your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals, it may be a good idea to supplement with immune supplements to compensate for the nutritional deficit and help your immune system do its job.

5 vitamin supplements that will boost your immunity

Here, we reveal which immune supplements you should get yourself to stay healthy.

1. Vitamin C

When it comes to protecting against infection, vitamin C is arguably the most widely used pill. This is because it is a powerful antioxidant that encourages the production of white blood cells, which protects the body from infections. “It can also slightly reduce the duration and severity of a cold,” says Dr. Macciochi.

It is often available as a supplement combined with zinc. This is because zinc is necessary for the development of immune cells and plays an important role in the response to inflammation. It also protects tissue barriers in the body and helps prevent viruses or bacteria from entering. According to scientists at the University of Aachen in Germany, 16% of all deep respiratory infections in the world are due to zinc deficiency. So, together, they can provide the ultimate immune boost.

How much should you take?

The recommended daily allowance (RDI) of vitamin C is 40 mg / day, while the RDI of zinc is 8 mg for women per day.

When should it be taken?

Ideally, take vitamin C in the morning, about 30 to 45 minutes before breakfast. This is because it is water soluble and therefore better absorbed on an empty stomach. If you are taking a combined vitamin C and zinc supplement and the zinc is disturbing your tummy, you can take it with a meal.

2. Vitamin E

Not only responsible for promoting healthy skin and hair, but vitamin E is also one of the most effective nutrients known to regulate immune function. Studies have revealed that it is found in a higher concentration in immune cells compared to other cells in the blood.

It helps your body’s immune function by supporting the growth of T cells. The role of a T cell is to fight infection by fighting infected cells and activating other immune cells to help your body fight back.

How much should you take?

The RDI for vitamin E is 3 mg per day for women.

When should it be taken?

Vitamin E is fat soluble, so it must be taken with foods containing fat to be absorbed.

3. Selenium

This essential trace element can help stop a sniffle in its tracks. And it is also backed by science. Researchers at the University of Jinan in China and the John A Burns School of Medicine in Hawaii have found that selenium deficiency has a negative impact on how you fight infections and diseases.

“A low selenium content is considered to be a contributing factor in the viral mutation, which could explain why so many new [flu-type] viruses are emerging from Asian countries where selenium intakes are very low, ”adds Healthspan medical director Dr Sarah Brewer.

Selenium also helps reduce oxidative stress in your body, which reduces inflammation and boosts immunity.

How much should you take?

The RDI for selenium is 55mcg per day.

When should it be taken?

Selenium and vitamin E facilitate mutual absorption, so take them together. But be sure to talk to your doctor before you start taking any new or combining different supplements.

4. Vitamin D

It’s called the immune super vitamin, but despite it, only 25% of us take it. Research has shown that up to 40% of us have low levels during the winter months, so it’s no wonder that a daily vitamin D supplement is recommended in countries without much sun. In warmer weather we can get our daily dose from the sun (it is synthesized by our bodies through exposure to the sun) but, from October to March in countries like the UK, UVB rays are simply not not powerful enough.

The vitamin from the sun may help activate our hunter-killer immune cells, a type of white blood cell that cleanses and destroys viruses and bacteria. “Maintain Vitamin D Levels [also] reduces the risk of respiratory tract infections, ”adds Dr Macciochi.

How much should you take?

The RDI for vitamin D is 10 mcg per day.

When should it be taken?

Like vitamin E, vitamin D is also a fat soluble vitamin. This means that it doesn’t dissolve in water and is better absorbed into your bloodstream when paired with foods high in fat.

5. Probiotics

Not only good for our gut, probiotics can also keep our immune systems healthy. With over 70% of our immune cells located in our gut, which communicate directly with our gut bacteria, evidence indicates that supplements of live bacteria help our ability to fight infections. Our gut health is also linked to anxiety.

To really boost their immune system enhancing abilities, probiotics are actually more effective when combined with prebiotics. “Together they exhibit a potent anti-inflammatory effect and help prevent a wide range of immunity-related diseases,” says Rob.

How much should you take?

The RDI for probiotics is 5-10 billion colony-forming units per day.

When should it be taken?

The best time to take a probiotic is on an empty stomach, either first thing in the morning or at least an hour before meals.

Natural immunity boosters

Smiling running woman hiking with trekking poles

(Image credit: Getty Images / Peathegee Inc)

Consuming your RDI of vitamins and minerals is essential for keeping us healthy. However, in addition to taking immune supplements, there are other things you can do to stay healthy.

  • Get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week– this should include aerobic and muscle building sessions. Why not slip on one of the best women’s walking shoes and hit the hills this weekend?
  • Aim for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep– establish a bedtime routine with regular waking and sleeping times. Making sure you have the best pillow for you and the right sleeping conditions can really help.
  • Maintain a healthy weight– aim for a BMI between 18.5-24.
  • Avoid smoking and drink less alcohol– The NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, spreading the units out over the week and also having lots of alcohol-free days.
  • Manage stress levels– short term stress can help improve performance and even strengthen our immune system. But long-term chronic stress can suppress our immune system. Simply learning to breathe better can help reduce stress levels.

Can you take too many supplements?

According to experts, yes, you can take too many supplements. Never be tempted to take more than you need to keep a cold at bay.

“Mega-dosing of supplements is never a good idea because they can lead to toxic levels,” says Dr. Macciochi. Some can also interact with medications, so talk to your doctor before taking any new vitamins or minerals.

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