Fall is here. The leaves are changing, the air is chilly and the days are getting shorter. It is also (unfortunately) the start of cold and flu season. If you’re starting to notice everyone around you coughing and sneezing, you may be wondering if getting sick is inevitable or if there’s any way you can protect yourself (and your children) from getting sick. It all comes down to your immune system.
Essential Nutrients that Support Immune Health
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the recommended essential nutrients that support immune health include vitamins A, C, B6, and E, as well as folate, selenium, iron, and zinc. While it’s always ideal to get these important nutrients from food, for time-crunched families and picky eaters, it’s not always possible to get adequate amounts from diet alone. Nutritional supplements may be a convenient and easy way to ensure that nutritional needs are met. So, which nutrients are the best for helping to keep your immune system strong?
- Probiotics: Probiotics are good bacteria that inhabit the gut and are an essential part of the immune system. Research has found they have beneficial effects on the immune system and may help to protect against infections.
- Multivitamin: Adequate micronutrients in the body help the immune system to function at its best. When there is a deficiency of certain nutrients in the body, such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E, immunity may be suppressed, which can leave the body susceptible to infections.
- Vitamin D: Studies have found Vitamin D may help to strengthen the immune system and that vitamin D supplements may help protect against acute respiratory infections including colds and flu.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C may help protect you from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity.
- Zinc: Zinc is required for the optimal function of different types of white blood cells that protect the body from illness and infection, as well as other immune system processes.
- Garlic: Garlic contains a sulfur compound called allicin that according to research may help to boost your immune system.
- Green Tea: May help to enhance immunity due to its high antioxidant level. Some studies have shown it may have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects.
Remember, don’t wait until you get sick to think about your immune system. Getting a head start on supporting healthy immunity to face the long winter ahead is extremely important. By following a healthy diet and ensuring you are getting enough of the key nutrients above, you may help keep your immune system strong and working its best. And don’t forget to wash your hands! A lot!
(1) Arreola, R., Quintero-Fabián, S., López-Roa, R. I., Flores-Gutiérrez, E. O., Reyes-Grajeda, J. P., Carrera-Quintanar, L., & Ortuño-Sahagún, D. (2015). Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds. Journal of Immunology Research, 2015, 1–13. doi: 10.1155/2015/401630
(2) Calder, P. C. (2013). Feeding the immune system. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 72(3), 299–309. doi: 10.1017/s0029665113001286
(3) Chandra, R. K. (1997). Nutrition and the immune system: an introduction. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 66(2). doi: 10.1093/ajcn/66.2.460s
(4) Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). How to boost your immune system. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
(4) Klemm, S. (n.d.). Protect Your Health with Immune-Boosting Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/protect-your-health-with-immune-boosting-nutrition
(6) Martineau, A. R., Jolliffe, D. A., Hooper, R. L., Greenberg, L., Aloia, J. F., Bergman, P., … Camargo, C. A. (2017). Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. Bmj, i6583. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i6583
(7) Nantz, M. P., Rowe, C. A., Muller, C. E., Creasy, R. A., Stanilka, J. M., & Percival, S. S. (2012). Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clinical Nutrition, 31(3), 337–344. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2011.11.019
(8) Recharging the Immune System With Supplements. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2018/September2018/recharging-the-immune-system-with-supplements
(9)Song, Jae-Min, et al. “Antiviral Effect of Catechins in Green Tea on Influenza Virus.” Antiviral Research, vol. 68, no. 2, 2005, pp. 66–74., doi:10.1016/j.antiviral.2005.06.010.
(10) Steinmann, J, et al. “Anti-Infective Properties of Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (EGCG), a Component of Green Tea.” British Journal of Pharmacology, vol. 168, no. 5, 2013, pp. 1059–1073., doi:10.1111/bph.12009
(11) Wartian Smith, P. (2008). What you must know about vitamins, minerals, herbs & more. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers.
(12) Yan, F., & Polk, D. B. (2011, October). Probiotics and immune health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006993/