The immune system is the body’s defensive system – it is extremely important for helping your body avoid illness, disease and promoting overall well-being. The system is made up of a network of tissues, cells and organs that work together throughout the entire body.
Though it is your body’s protector, it is not indestructible and it can be damaged due to lifestyle choices, diet and pollution. Getting enough sleep, eating healthily and regularly exercising are all ways to help support your immune system. However, exercising consistently with high intensity can stress your body and weaken the immune system.
There are some supplements that can support and promote your immune system – improving your body’s overall health, and helping your immunity.
Why Should You Take Immune Support Supplements?
With continuous exposure to toxins, bacteria, viruses and stress, everyone’s immune system can be bombarded and weakened. Some people may even develop secondary immunodeficiency disorders from things such as diabetes, malnutrition, exposure to radiation, chemotherapy and severe burns.
Immune boosters are effective at helping the immune system in a variety of ways. They can be antimicrobial and antiviral, stimulate and regulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, help to fight oxidative damage and more.
Anyone can benefit from taking the best immune support supplements, because they help enhance your body’s ability to protect itself. There are some people in particular who may need powerful immune support supplements more than others, however.
Who Can Benefit?
- Athletes – Athletes who perform high intensity workouts on a regular basis can benefit from immune boosting supplements. This is because intense workouts, especially endurance training, can induce immunosuppression due to physiological stress.
- Aging Adults – Aging has a destructive effect on the immune system – the older we get, the weaker our immune systems become.
- Those Who Live in Urban Environments – The physiological stress that comes along with an urban lifestyle include pollution, noise, toxins and more. These stresses, higher population density and the sedentary lifestyles of many people in urban regions can also contribute to a weakened immune system.
- Those Taking Antibiotics – Antibiotics are medications that kill bad bacteria, but in the process they also kill good bacteria in the body. This can make you more susceptible to contracting illnesses and bacterial infections.
- Those with Allergies – Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system. An allergic reaction occurs when the body perceives a foreign substance as a threat, and the immune system attacks it. This can cause swelling, irritation, redness, watery eyes, runny nose etc.
10 Immune Support Supplements to Consider
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living bacteria that are necessary to your digestive health. They help to digest foods in your intestines and balance your internal pH. These good bacteria also discourage the growth of bad bacteria that can harm your health. The body contains these beneficial microbes naturally.
They also come from certain probiotic foods in the diet, such as yogurt, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut and more. Probiotics can be taken as supplements as well in forms such as freeze dried powders, capsules, liquids and tablets.
How Probiotics Support the Immune System
Probiotics help the immune system by reinforcing the intestinal lining, which functions as a barrier against harmful microbes. It is known that 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, so keeping your gut healthy is important to supporting a strong and effective immune system.
A study conducted with New Zealand athletes found that taking probiotics reduced the incidence of colds by when compared to taking a placebo.
How to Take Probiotics
Probiotics are best to take in the morning or at night when the stomach is lower in acidity. This helps to ensure that the majority of probiotics survive and make it to the intestinal tract. Probiotic supplements should also be stored away from heat, dampness and air to keep them alive.
Probiotic Supplement Side Effects
Probiotics are generally safe and well tolerated top immune boosting supplements. However, some people may experience gastrointestinal side effects such as diarrhea, gas and bloating.
What is Echinacea?
Echinacea, also known as coneflower, is a flowering herb that is native to moist black soil prairies, openings in woodlands, savannas, thickets and limestone glades. These environments are found in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.
It is one of the most popular herbal supplements in America, and Native Americans have used echinacea for over 400 years.
How Echinacea May Support the Immune System
Echinacea contains many active compounds that help fight pain and provide antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects; making it a powerful immune boosting supplement. The many benefits of echinacea make this effective immune booster a well rounded health supplement. It can perform its function of improving immunity as well as supporting overall health in other ways.
How to Take Echinacea
Good echinacea supplements can be taken with or without food, and at any point in the day. It is available in tinctures, capsules, tablets, and extracts. Some people drink echinacea tea as well. For dosage instructions, check the label on your supplement.
Echinacea Side Effects
Echinacea is considered a typically safe and well tolerated herbal supplement. However, it may cause side effects in some people such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain etc.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant vitamin that is essential to the human body. This is because humans are unable to produce vitamin C, so it must be obtained through diet. It is required for protein metabolism and the production of neurotransmitters, L-carnitine and collagen.
Most importantly, it is essential for the growth and repair of the body. Vitamin C foods include colorful fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits and dark leafy greens. Deficiency causes symptoms such as gingivitis, dry and splitting hair, dry skin, slow and decreased wound healing etc.
How Vitamin C May Support the Immune System
Vitamin C is a good supplement for protecting against immune system deficiencies. Not consuming enough vitamin C can weaken the immune system and increase risk of illness and disease – sadly, 30% of Americans do not meet their vitamin C needs! Vitamin C is an effective immune booster that also has additional health benefits due to its status as an essential vitamin. This makes it a top immune support supplement to consider.
How to Take Vitamin C
Vitamin C is best taken in split doses throughout the day with meals. The best dosage of vitamin C may vary depending on your age and gender, but in general, follow the instructions on your supplement product.
Vitamin C Side Effects
Vitamin C is safe and is generally well tolerated in most people. It is water soluble, so the body excretes the vitamin C that it does not use; making it difficult to overdose. However, some people may experience side effects such as cramps, chest pain, fatigue etc.
What is Elderberry?
Elderberries grow from elder bushes, also known as sambucus nigra. These scruffy looking shrubs tend to grow in woodlands, waste ground, embankments and graveyards. The berries and flowers have been used medicinally for centuries. It contains more antioxidant flavonoids than blueberries, goji berries, cranberries and blackberries.
How Elderberry May Support the Immune System
Elderberries help to boost immune system function and protect against bacterial infection, reducing the potential for immune system damage. The powerful antioxidant properties of elderberry also helps counteract the effects of aging on the immune system – making this a powerful immune booster.
Elderberry also helps to support, protect and regulate the immune system from a variety of fronts. If you are looking for a well-rounded supplement to boost your immune system, this may be the one for you.
How to Take Elderberry
Elderberry comes in many forms including tinctures, liquids, syrups, standardized extracts, lozenges, dried flowers and more. It may also be consumed as a tea. For dosage instructions, follow the directions on your supplement. Unripe or undercooked elderberries should not be consumed.
Elderberry Side Effects
Elderberry is generally safe, however some people may experience side effects. These may include nausea, diarrhea, gas etc.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a bright-yellow spice used in various world cuisines, most notably in Indian curries. It’s also an extremely popular health supplement, due to its well-known benefits and anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric is primarily used as an anti-inflammatory, but the active compound in the spice, curcumin, has also been shown to support the immune system. This makes turmeric a powerful immune support supplement, which also offers a host of other benefits.
How Turmeric May Support the Immune System
The active compound in turmeric is called curcumin. In clinical trials, curcumin has been shown to help modulate the immune system, helping to support the body’s natural defenses. It can also enhance antibody responses. Much of turmeric’s reported immune-boosting benefits are still being studied, but the compound curcumin shows great promise.
How to Take Turmeric
Turmeric is a spice, which can be purchased in bulk and used in home cooking. However, the easiest and most effective way to reap the benefits of this spice is to take turmeric pills. These capsules generally contain turmeric and often black pepper extract, which helps to enhance bioavailability and improve the efficacy of the supplement. To take turmeric supplements, simply follow the instructions found on the product packaging.
Turmeric Side Effects
Turmeric does not generally cause side effects. In some cases, some people have reported issues such as nausea, dizziness, and stomach upset, but most people report no ill effects at all.
What Is Astragalus Root?
Astragalus root comes from the astragalus plant, also called milkvetch or huang qi. The plant is a legume whose roots have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to boost the immune system. It is a powerful antioxidant that stimulates the immune system.
How Astragalus Root May Support the Immune System
Astragalus root is a special herbal supplement known as an adaptogen. Adaptogens help improve the body’s ability to cope with stress, and also helps to normalize the immune system.
These many benefits can be attributed to three important compounds found in astragalus root known as flavonoids, polysaccharides and saponins. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, polysaccharides are antimicrobial and antiviral, and saponins are beneficial to the cardiovascular system.
How to Take Astragalus Root
Astragalus comes in the form of tinctures, tablets, capsules, teas and more. It can be taken with or without food, and it is often recommended to be taken in the morning and evening. For dosage instructions, check the supplement label.
Astragalus Root Side Effects
Astragalus is generally considered a safe herbal supplement, however some people may experience side effects. These may include changes in blood pressure, digestive issues and more.
What is Ginger?
Ginger is a plant with thick rhizome roots that have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is a popular spice and has been used in cooking and in Chinese, Indian and Arabic medicines for centuries. The active compounds in ginger are known as gingerols and shogaols.
How Ginger May Support the Immune System
Inflammation is a reaction of the immune system through a process involving white blood cells. Ginger is an effective anti-inflammatory that may help excessive inflammation that can cause stiffness and pain.
The antioxidant benefits of ginger also helps to fight free radical damage to cells that can age you more quickly and weaken your immune system. By offering anti-aging benefits and regulatory benefits to the immune system, ginger is one of the best supplements for boosting the immune system.
How to Take Ginger
Ginger is available in many different forms including dried ginger root, ginger pills, tinctures, extracts and teas. Ginger can be taken with or without food. For ginger dosages, follow the instructions on your supplement. Raw ginger may also be consumed, however raw ginger is quite pungent in flavor and may create a burning sensation in your mouth.
Ginger Side Effects
Ginger is typically safe and is generally well tolerated. However, some people may experience side effects such as nausea, gas, bloating etc. Raw ginger may create a burning sensation in the mouth, or increase risk of ginger side effects.
What is Ginseng?
How Ginseng May Support the Immune System
Ginseng is a well-known adaptogen that can help improve the body’s stress response and reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol can compromise the immune system and reduce one’s ability to fight off sickness and remain energized. Studies have found that ginseng may help increase the number of immune cells in the blood.
How to Take Ginseng
It can be in various forms including pills, capsules, powders, liquid extracts etc. For dosing, check the supplement label. Ginseng may interact with certain prescriptions, so talk to your doctor before adding ginseng to your daily regimen.
Ginseng Side Effects
Ginseng is tolerated by most people, however some people may experience negative side effects such as nervousness or trouble sleeping. Allergic reactions may also occur.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can come in small amounts from foods, but is mostly produced by the body endogenously (in the skin). Vitamin D is produced when UV-rays from the sun hit the skin, which is why it is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin.”
Many people do not have the proper levels of vitamin D in their bodies due to lack of sun, geographic location, skin color, diets and more. Vitamin D deficiency causes symptoms such as increased risk of cardiovascular disease, severe asthma in children, cognitive impairment or anxiety and depression.
How Vitamin D May Support the Immune System
Immune cells such as B-cells and T-cells have receptors for vitamin D, which shows the importance of vitamin D to the immune system. Low levels of vitamin D are linked with increased risk of infection and autoimmunity (overactive immune system). Because many people are deficient or at risk of vitamin D deficiency, this is a good immune booster that provides additional overall health benefits. If you live in a region that is colder or gets less sunlight, this may be the most effective immune booster for you.
How to Take Vitamin D
Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it is best taken with food or a source of fat. However, it can be taken without food as well. Optimal dosing may vary depending on age, gender and geographic location.
Vitamin D Side Effects
Vitamin D taken in the correct dosages is very safe and well tolerated by most people. However, large doses of vitamin D may cause side effects such as weakness, fatigue, headache, sleepiness etc.
What is Myrrh?
Myrrh is a sap-like resin that comes from the bark of a tree native to Ethiopia, the Eastern Mediterranean, Somalia and the Arabian Peninsula. It has been used for centuries as a fragrance, oil, and herbal medicine.
How Myrrh May Support the Immune System
Myrrh is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the immune system from the damaging effects of aging. It is also antibacterial and antifungal, and it can be used as aromatherapy. It can even be used as a mouthwash to help fight dental infections in a process known as oil-pulling.
How to Take Myrrh
Myrrh can be used as a topical oil or as an aromatherapy scent, and it may also be taken as a supplement. Topical oils are generally applied to help wrinkles and improve wound healing. Aromatherapy with myrrh oil may help some people’s stress.
Myrrh Side Effects
Myrrh is typically a safe supplement, but should not be taken in large amounts. Myrrh may cause diarrhea in some people. When applied topically, some people may develop a rash.