Your immune system consists of a complex collection of cells, processes, and chemicals that constantly defends your body against invading pathogens, including viruses, toxins, and bacteria
Keeping your immune system healthy year-round is key to preventing infection and disease. Making healthy lifestyle choices by consuming nutritious foods and getting enough sleep and exercise are the most important ways to bolster your immune system.
In addition, research has shown that supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances can improve immune response and potentially protect against illness.
However, note that some supplements can interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Some may not be appropriate for people with certain health conditions. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any supplements.
- Protects Against Viral & Bacterial Threats
- Provides Clean Energized Feeling
- Sharpens Memory & Focus
Medicinal mushrooms have been used since ancient times to prevent and treat infection and disease.
Many types of medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their immune-boosting potential.
Over 270 recognized species of medicinal mushrooms are known to have immune-enhancing properties.
Cordyceps, lion’s mane, maitake, shitake, reishi, and turkey tail are all types that have been shown to benefit immune health.
Some research demonstrates that supplementing with specific types of medicinal mushrooms may enhance immune health in several ways, as well as reduce symptoms of certain conditions, including asthma and lung infections.
For example, a study in mice with tuberculosis, a serious bacterial disease, found that treatment with cordyceps significantly reduced bacterial load in the lungs, enhanced immune response, and reduced inflammation, compared with a placebo group.
In a randomized, 8-week study in 79 adults, supplementing with 1.7 grams of cordyceps mycelium culture extract led to a significant 38% increase in the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, a type of white blood cell that protects against infection.
Turkey tail is another medicinal mushroom that has powerful effects on immune health. Research in humans indicates that turkey tail may enhance immune response, especially in people with certain types of cancer.
Many other medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their beneficial effects on immune health as well. Medicinal mushroom products can be found in the form of tinctures, teas, and supplements.
Many types of medicinal mushrooms, including cordyceps and turkey tail, may offer immune-enhancing and antibacterial effects.
Here are 8 other supplements that are known for their immune-boosting potential.
The Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), which has long been used to treat infections, is being researched for its effects on immune health.
In test-tube studies, elderberry extract demonstrates potent antibacterial and antiviral potential against bacterial pathogens responsible for upper respiratory tract infections and strains of the influenza virus.
What’s more, it has been shown to enhance immune system response and may help shorten the duration and severity of colds, as well as reduce symptoms related to viral infections
A review of 4 randomized control studies in 180 people found that elderberry supplements significantly reduced upper respiratory symptoms caused by viral infections.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient essential to the health and functioning of your immune system.
Vitamin D enhances the pathogen-fighting effects of monocytes and macrophages — white blood cells that are important parts of your immune defense — and decreases inflammation, which helps promote the immune response
Many people are deficient in this important vitamin, which may negatively affect immune function. In fact, low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections, including influenza and allergic asthma.
Some studies show that supplementing with vitamin D may improve immune response. In fact, recent research suggests that taking this vitamin may protect against respiratory tract infections.
Other studies note that vitamin D supplements may improve response to antiviral treatments in people with certain infections, including hepatitis C and HIV.
Depending on blood levels, anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D per day is sufficient for most people, though those with more serious deficiencies often require much higher doses.
Vitamin C is perhaps the most popular supplement taken to protect against infection due to its important role in immune health.
This vitamin supports the function of various immune cells and enhances their ability to protect against infection. It’s also necessary for cellular death, which helps keep your immune system healthy by clearing out old cells and replacing them with new ones.
Vitamin C also functions as a powerful antioxidant, protecting against damage induced by oxidative stress, which occurs with the accumulation of reactive molecules known as free radicals.
Oxidative stress can negatively affect immune health and is linked to numerous diseases. Supplementing with vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold.
Additionally, high dose intravenous vitamin C treatment has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in people with severe infections, including sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome resulting from viral infections.
All in all, these results confirm that vitamin C supplements may significantly affect immune health, especially in those who don’t get enough of the vitamin through their diet.
The upper limit for vitamin C is 2,000 mg. Supplemental daily doses typically range between 250 and 1,000 mg.
Zinc is needed for immune cell development and communication and plays an important role in the inflammatory response.
A deficiency in this nutrient significantly affects your immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease, including pneumonia.
Zinc deficiency affects around 2 billion people worldwide and is very common in older adults. In fact, up to 30% of older adults are considered deficient in this nutrient.
Numerous studies reveal that zinc supplements may protect against respiratory tract infections like the common cold. What’s more, supplementing with zinc may be beneficial for those who are already sick.
In a 2019 study in 64 hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRIs), taking 30 mg of zinc per day decreased the total duration of infection and the duration of the hospital stay by an average of 2 days, compared with a placebo group. Supplemental zinc may also help reduce the duration of the common cold.
Taking zinc long term is typically safe for healthy adults, as long as the daily dose is under the set upper limit of 40 mg of elemental zinc.
Excessive doses may interfere with copper absorption, which could increase your infection risk. Supplementing with zinc may help protect against respiratory tract infections and reduce the duration of these infections.
Selenium is a mineral that’s essential for immune health.
Animal research demonstrates that selenium supplements may enhance antiviral defense against influenza strains, including H1N1.
Garlic has powerful anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.
It has been shown to enhance immune health by stimulating protective white blood cells like NK cells and macrophages. However, human research is limited.
B complex vitamins
B vitamins, including B12 and B6, are important for a healthy immune response.
Yet, many adults are deficient in them, which may negatively affect immune health.
Curcumin is the main active compound in turmeric.
It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and animal studies indicate that it may help improve immune function.
Echinacea is a genus of plants in the daisy family.
Certain species have been shown to improve immune health and may have antiviral effects against several respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus and rhinoviruses.
According to results from scientific research, the supplements listed above may offer immune-boosting properties.
However, keep in mind that many of these supplements’ potential effects on immune health have not been thoroughly tested in humans, highlighting the need for future studies.
In summary astragalus, garlic, curcumin, and echinacea are just some of the supplements that may offer immune-boosting properties. Still, they have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and more research is needed.
Many supplements on the market may help improve immune health. Zinc, elderberry, and vitamins C and D are just some of the substances that have been researched for their immune-enhancing potential.
However, although these supplements may offer a small benefit for immune health, they should not and cannot be used as a replacement for a healthy lifestyle.
Maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, and not smoking are some of the most important ways to help keep your immune system healthy and reduce your chances of infection and disease.
Our immune function tends to get worse with age, unless you do something about it.