The Best Immune Supplements to Stock up on (Before Cold & Flu Season)
Your immune system needs certain nutrients to function. And when diet or the limitations of lifestyle get in the way of optimal immune function, a collection of tried and true supplements for optimal immune health come to the rescue.
Functional medicine can help you build immune health by addressing gaps in nutrition, and providing unique and beneficial phytonutrients to keep you feeling your best.
Supplements for a Healthy Immune System
Supplements for immune health help the immune system manufacture necessary proteins, produce specialized cells, and defend against harmful microbes. Some of the crucial nutrients your immune system relies on to function are found in our diet, but there are two reasons you may not be getting what you need.
First, an average diet doesn’t supply adequate amounts of the micronutrients like zinc, selenium, or vitamin D. Unless you love canned oysters, or eat your fair share of liver, it’s likely your intake of these crucial immune nutrients is optimall. With functional medicine, we can address nutrition gaps and supplement accordingly.
The other reason is that some phytonutrients and plant compounds that support healthy immune function aren’t normally found in our diet. As is the case with beta-glucans from mushrooms, or botanicals like astragalus.
Benefits of Immune Health Supplements
Certain roots, herbs, and spices contain beneficial compounds that calm inflammation, support the function of immune cells, and have antibacterial or antimicrobial properties. These are functional nutrients that can help your immune system perform its best.
The following are our favorite immune supplements to stock up on early, and the best to keep on hand for a healthy immune system.
1. Medicinal Mushrooms
Humble fungi may hold the key to immune health with a unique range of potential benefits. Dozens of compounds like beta-glucans, terpenes, and other components found in the fruiting body and root system (mycelium) of the mushroom promote a balanced and healthy immune system.
The reishi mushroom, for example, supports free and easy breathing, and the activation of anti-inflammatory proteins (1). Having been a staple in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, Reishi is also used to support mood and emotional wellbeing.
Another mushroom, chaga, is the highest single-ingredient source of antioxidants, with the highest ORAC score of any single substance. Chaga supports cellular health, immune function, and more.
You can find 7 of the most powerful mushrooms in Metagenics Mycotaki.
In 2012, the FDA also approved a clinical trial of turkey tail mushrooms in people with breast cancer to evaluate its effects upon supporting the immune system. Researchers found an increase of specialized immune cells, and other markers of cellular health (2).
The world of medicinal mushrooms is quickly expanding with research, and for good reason, as these fungi certainly have great potential for a plethora of immune benefits.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for immune function, cardiovascular health, mood regulation, and much more.
With approximately ⅔ of the U.S. residing above the 33rd latitude line, there is a significant portion of the year during which adequate sunlight isn’t available to synthesize vitamin D from skin exposure to sunlight.
Low vitamin D levels are linked with serious illnesses like depression, certain cancers, and poor cardiovascular function.
Want to find out where your vitamin D levels are? Get them tested and develop a plan with your integrative provider. Learn more about symptoms of vitamin D deficiency and how to raise your levels.
A spectrum of minerals is required for immune activation, including zinc, magnesium, selenium, iron, and others.
For example, your body needs magnesium to activate vitamin D, and zinc is responsible for the growth and development of immune cells (3).
Other less common–but just as essential–micro-minerals include selenium (a powerful antioxidant) and iron, which helps transport nutrients and oxygen to tissues.
4. The Defender
Most people would prefer to add as few extra supplements to their routine as possible–opting for fewer pills to pop and the greatest efficiency possible. This is where comprehensive immune support from the Defender comes in.
Bioavailable zinc citrate, antioxidant vitamin C, and the Ayurvedic botanical astragalus combine to support each arm of the immune system. Together, these ingredients activate immune cells, protect T-cell mediated immune function, and promote a balanced immune response.
5. Bee Propolis
Propolis is a resin-like material produced by bees and which they use as a sort of glue in their hive. When used by humans, propolis is thought to heal infection, fight illness, and support immune function (4).
To make propolis, bees collect compounds from the various plant matter they consume, and the resulting product in a nutrient-rich and immune-healthy blend of many different constituents.
Like mushrooms, propolis contains more than 600 compounds (terpenes, flavonoids, phenolic compounds) which serve as immunomodulators.
6. Black Elderberry
Sambucus nigra, or black elderberry is a deeply colored purple berry native to North America, has been shown to have antiviral and immune supportive effects.
In one study, elderberry extract was effective against 10 different strains of influenza, reducing the duration of symptoms to 3-4 days. Elderberry is most likely most effective at first onset of symptoms, as it supports the production of inflammatory cytokines responsible for creating antibodies during the initial immune response (5).
7. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and an important regulator for both innate and adaptive immune function (6). It’s a precursor for various enzymes necessary for immune function, and promotes cellular health throughout the entire body.
Umcka, a compound derived from South African geranium can be found in various natural over-the-counter cold remedies. This extract supports immune function by activating adaptive immune cells and certain specialized immune cells which bolster your body’s natural defense against microbes especially in respiratory passages (7).
Immune Health with Integrative Medicine
Dozens of different vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and proteins are necessary for proper immune function, and the addition of added supplements can bolster immune response when we’re not able to obtain them from diet.
In addition to supplements, taking care of your immune health requires an integrative approach. This means using diet, lifestyle, exercise, and emotional well-being to improve overall health and support immune function.
Take a look at more functional supplements for immune health in the CentreSpringMD online store.