supplements that support the immune system

5 April 2020  |  Editor

Supplements to Support Immune Health

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a huge increase in demand for dietary supplements that help support the immune system and fight viruses. This has led, unfortunately, to a lack of supply.

Confusion about what food and supplements help the immune system

There is considerable confusion about what works best in maintaining a healthy immune system. Some people simply search out supplements that have the word "immune" in their name. This is far too simplistic; it doesn't reflect there ingredients but simply the supplement brand's decision as to what name is likely to be most popular. We have found also that other people are fixated on certain, nutrients, for example Vitamin C or zinc

The truth is that there are many vitamins and minerals that support immune health. If we were to suggest one above all, it would be vitamin C, however, as you will see below, because of the large range of nutrients that support the immune system, you may instead want to think about a multivitamin and mineral (here).

Here are supplements with science to support their role in immune health.

Immune support and vitamin C

Vitamin C is at the top of the list in supporting your immune health. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, working to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.  Vitamin C also helps the body make collagen and helps improve the absorption of iron from plant-based foods. It helps the immune system do its job.

Fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamin C include green peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli and leafy greens but a supplement be extremely helpful. See Vitamin C supplements here.

Immune support and zinc

As well as helping immune support, zinc helps metabolic processes in the body, playing a key role in carbohydrate metabolism, glucose utilization and insulin production. It’s also involved in collagen synthesis and is an essential nutrient for the formation of bone matrix. In addition, zinc supports the body’s natural resistance.

Zinc is found in red meat, poultry and seafood. Some plant-based foods, such as beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy, have some zinc, too. Fortified breakfast cereals also have zinc. Plus, zinc is present in almost all multivitamin/mineral dietary supplements and is available alone as a dietary supplement. See zinc supplements here.

Immune support and vitamin A

Although Vitamin A is known for helping vision, its role goes much further. Vitamin A plays a role in the maintenance of body linings and skin, immune defences and reproduction. There is considerable research supporting the need for vitamin A in the regulation of the genes involved in immune health.

Eat plenty of vegetables like broccoli, green, leafy veggies, carrots and squash to get your Vitamin A. Fortified breakfast cereals, dairy products and some types of fish — like salmon — can also help. You can also get vitamin A as a supplement. Most multivitamin supplements include vitamin A too.

Immune support and vitamin D

Vitamin D helps to maintain strong bones, helps muscles move and supports your immune system as well. Keeping your body supplied with adequate amounts of vitamin D can help boost your overall immune health.

Very few foods have vitamin D naturally. Fortified foods, such as milk, as well as some fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna, are among the best food sources. Due to the limited food sources, vitamin D supplements are important

Immune support and vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is critically important. The body needs Vitamin B6 for more than a hundred metabolic enzyme reactions. It is involved in many jobs related to immune function.

There is Vitamin B6 in a variety of foods like poultry, fish, potatoes, starchy vegetables and non-citrus fruits. Vitamin B6 is also part of most multivitamin and mineral supplements. See Vitamin B6 supplements here.

Immune support Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. It protects the body from damage caused by free radicals. Your body also uses Vitamin E to help boost its immune system.

Good sources of Vitamin E are vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and green, leafy vegetables. Some breakfast cereals, margarines and other foods have vitamin E added to them. Most multivitamin supplements include vitamin E. You can also get vitamin E alone in a dietary supplement.

Immune support and probiotics

Probiotics are very important for gut health and gut health is very important in supporting your immune health. The digestive track serves as an immune organ by protecting the body from potentially harmful microbes that you have eaten. Research suggests that probiotics support immune health. See probiotics here.

Immune support and healthy habits

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic these recommendations are even more important and most countries' governments have imposed more severe restrictions than those shown above.