Can Supplements Boost Your Immune System?

The best way to support your immunity is with a healthy lifestyle and a diet that supplies the minerals and vitamins needed to support a balanced immune system.

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Your immune system is an intricate and complex system that works best when it is in perfect balance. Boosting it can lead to an overactive immune system, which actually makes immune health worse.

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It would be great if there was an over-the-counter supplement that would boost your immune system enough to prevent a cold or the flu. Unfortunately, according to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health, there are no proven benefits to supplements for the immune system. In fact, the whole idea of boosting your immune system is wrong. [1]

Your immune system is an intricate and complex system that works best when it is in perfect balance. Boosting it can lead to an overactive immune system, which actually makes immune health worse. An overactive system can lead to allergies and inflammatory diseases of the immune system. However, there are some things you can do to support your immune system and keep it in balance. [1-3]

How to Support Your Immune System

There are two ways to support your immune system that have been studied or are being studied. First, there is good evidence for taking vitamins and minerals, and there are ongoing studies for probiotics. Probiotics may help provide healthy bacteria to your gut microbiome. A balanced microbiome has been linked to immune system stability, but the jury is still out on the benefits of probiotics for the immune system.

Foods to Support Your Immune System

Vitamins and minerals do help, and the best way to get them is from food, not supplements. If you are elderly or unable to maintain a healthy diet, a multivitamin with minerals may be an option. Otherwise get your immune system support from these sources:

  • Vitamin C from citrus fruits, strawberries, spinach and leafy green vegetables, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and papaya
  • Vitamin E from  nuts and seeds like almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Vitamin A from fish, meat, dairy, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, cantaloupe, and leafy greens
  • Vitamin D from cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, as well as fortified milk, juice, and cereals
  • Vitamin B (folic acid) from lentils, beans, leafy greens, avocado, and enriched pasta, bread, or rice
  • Iron from red meat, poultry, shellfish, beans, leafy greens, fortified cereal, and canned sardines, or tuna
  • Selenium from animal foods including seafood, meat, poultry, and dairy,
  • Zinc from animal foods like shellfish, meat, poultry, and from chickpeas or baked beans [2]

Make Lifestyle Changes to Support Immune Health

The other best way to support your immune system is to stay healthy, which takes a lot of pressure off your immune system. These are the key lifestyle support strategies:

  • Wash your hands frequently, this will reduce germs entering your body.
  • Stay physically fit and maintain a healthy weight with exercise.
  • Reduce your stress level. Stress causes inflammation which weakens your immune system.
  • Get enough sleep. Research shows the being sleep-deprived weakens immunity.
  • Stop smoking and drink alcohol only in moderation, which is a limit of one drink a day for women and two for men [1-3].

Finally, the one thing that might actually be a beneficial boost to your immune system is getting your vaccinations. Ask your doctor about a vitamin and mineral supplement if you can’t maintain a healthy diet or lifestyle.

Do Herbal Supplements Boost Immunity?

As for any herbal supplements to boost immunity, keep in mind these guidelines from the National Institutes of Health:

  • Scientific evidence supporting these supplements are limited and benefits may not be supported by evidence.
  • Supplements in stores may not be the same as supplements in research studies.
  • Supplement ingredients are not regulated by the FDA, what you are actually taking may be different from what you see on the label [4].

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SOURCES

  1. Harvard Heath, Can supplements help boost your immune system? – Harvard Health
  2. Cleveland Clinic, 8 Vitamins & Minerals You Need for a Healthy Immune System – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
  3. Mayo Clinic, Building Immunity – Self Care in Times of Difficulty | Mayo Clinic Connect
  4. NIH, Dietary and Supplements, Dietary and Herbal Supplements | NCCIH (nih.gov)

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Chris Iliades, MD

Chris Iliades has an MD degree and 15 years of experience as a freelance writer. Based in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, his byline has appeared regularly on many health and medicine … Read More

View all posts by Chris Iliades, MD

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  • Your blog is very good. From my perspective, eating food rich in “favourable” bacteria is quickly proving to be the best way to support your health, strengthen the immune system and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Great list. I include ALL of the listed items in my daily routine and many other herbals. Daily consumption of D3 is 4000+ IU and 5000 mg vitamin C. If vitamin C is kept near tissue saturation levels it protects against Ultraviolet Rays, makes sunscreen unnecessary except for highly susceptible fair skinned people and also prevents the replication of viruses in the bloodstream. Sufficient vitamin C and collagen in the diet can repair cell damage faster than viruses can produce that damage. Also, keeping vitamin D levels in the upper third of normal range potentiates the immune system as well as tumor suppression which can switch off when vitamin D (actually a hormone) is low Also, in older people, current research has continually found a relationship between lowering DHEA levels as we age and All Cause Mortality. DHEA, which exists only in primates and is highest in our brains, is related to many processes and not just the two sex hormones. That is why Life Extension Foundation recommends DHEA supplements for the elderly: more years of life and more life in the years and most amateur athletes over 50 take DHEA supplements to help with recovery, energy, and metabolic rate.

  • Is there a daily shake you can recommend for all of these things? My WBC count is only 2.8. I am otherwise very healthy. Dr. Thinks it’s telated to tramadol use for scoliosis. I would like to bring them up the holistic wY before I freak and have to have further tests . I’m a cancer nurse so I am very concerned . I keep up in all of my scopes mammo’s blood work etc . Can you advise please. There are so many things out there and I don’t think they are approved by the FDA. In the meantime I do have a health food store I can go to .

    • Hi Kingsley, since we’re unable to provide personalized advice, we suggest that you contact your doctor. Thank you!

  • Excellent information, it is very true all the benefits of these products, I personally take curcuma powder because it is easy to use and I can mix it with any food or drink, I take it twice a day and I feel great I leave the information for anyone who wants to try.

  • I have taken turmeric with black pepper for over 6 months for arthritis. I can tell it has helped my hands which stayed sore and palms were red and Inflamed. Prior to that my PCP allowed me to stay on 500 mg x 2x day of Naproxen for approx 12 years. I think that caused my stage 3 chronic kidney disease. Doctor should have warned me long before he he took me off them.

  • Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps to increase, maintain muscle mass and help people tone their body.

  • Can you take all of these together? If so is there one supplement that you can take for all of them? Thank you

  • Thanks so much. This is very useful information. Can people with low immunity be permanently treated to a normal count?

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