With the 2019 coronavirus pandemic, it’s especially important to boost our immunity against covid 19 other than physical distancing, also known as social distancing, and proper hygiene practices.
Currently, no research supports the use of any supplement to protect against COVID-19 specifically.
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.
Here are some supplements that are known for their immune-boosting potential.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient essential to the health and functioning of your immune system. It enhances the pathogen-fighting effects— white blood cells that are important parts of your immune defense — and decreases inflammation, which helps promote immune response.
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. In a 2019 review of randomized control studies in 11,321 people, supplementing with vitamin D significantly decreased the risk of respiratory infections in people deficient in this vitamin and lowered infection risk in those with adequate vitamin D levels. This suggests an overall protective effect.
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.
Zinc is a mineral that’s commonly added to supplements and other healthcare products like lozenges that are meant to boost your immune system. Zinc is needed for immune cell development and communication and plays an important role in 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. And its 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. And 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.
3. Vitamin C
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. A large review of 29 studies in 11,306 people demonstrated that regularly supplementing with vitamin C at an average dose of 1–2 grams per day reduced the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children.
Interestingly, the review also demonstrated that regularly taking vitamin C supplements reduced common cold occurrence in individuals under high physical stress, including marathon runners and soldiers, by up to 50% & significantly improve symptoms in people with severe infections, including sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) 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.
Black elderberry 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 & enhance immune system response and may help shorten the duration and severity of colds, as well as reduce symptoms related to viral infections.
An older, 5-day study from 2004 demonstrated that people with the flu who supplemented with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of elderberry syrup 4 times a day experienced symptom relief 4 days earlier than those who didn’t take the syrup and were less reliant on medication.
5. Medicinal mushrooms
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.
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, especially in people with certain types of cancer. Medicinal mushroom products can be found in the form of tinctures, teas, and supplements.
Some Other Immune Boosting Supplements.
Aside from the items listed above, many supplements may help improve immune response:
- Astragalus. Astragalus is an herb commonly used in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
- Selenium. Selenium is a mineral that’s essential for immune health & enhance antiviral defense against influenza strains, including H1N1.
- Garlic. Garlic has powerful anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties & enhance immune health by stimulating protective white blood cells like NK cells and macrophages.
- Andrographis. This herb contains andrographolide, a terpenoid compound found to have antiviral effects against respiratory-disease-causing viruses, including enterovirus D68 and influenza A.
- Licorice. Licorice contains many substances, including glycyrrhizin, that may help protect against viral infections & exhibits antiviral activity against severe acute respiratory-syndrome-related coronavirus (SARS-CoV).
- B complex vitamins. B vitamins, including B12 and B6, are important for healthy immune response. Yet, many adults are deficient in them, which may negatively affect immune health.
- Curcumin. Curcumin is the main active compound in turmeric & has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and it helps improve immune function.
- Propolis. Propolis is a resin-like material produced by honeybees for use as a sealant in hives. It has impressive immune-enhancing effects and have antiviral properties.
However the above supplements has shown significant immune boosting capability but still further studies are being carried out.
The bottom line
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.
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. Moreover, remember that there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that any of them can protect against COVID-19 — even though some of them may have antiviral properties.
If you decide that you want to try a supplement, you can speak to your healthcare experts, as some supplements may interact with certain medications or are inappropriate for some people.
You can consult with us. Book an Appointment with our expert dietitian.
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