Top 15 Supplements To Boost Your Immune System

10 min read
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Jan 31, 2024
Top 15 Supplements To Boost Your Immune System
Your immune system may be weakened by deficiencies in specific vitamins, such as zinc, vitamin C, and other nutrients. Consuming these vitamins as supplements may aid in maintaining immune system performance.

An important note

There is no substance that can stop or cure illness. It's crucial to realize that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2019, there is no diet , supplement, or other lifestyle change that can prevent COVID-19 infections other than physical distance—also referred to as social distancing—and good hygiene habits.As of right now, no study backs up the usage of any supplements to particularly guard against COVID-19.

Your body's defense mechanism against pathogens such as viruses, toxins, and bacteria is your immune system, which is made up of an intricate network of cells, processes, and substances (1, 2).
The key to avoiding illness and infection all year long is maintaining a strong immune system.
Choosing a healthy lifestyle that includes eating a balanced diet , getting adequate sleep, and exercising are the most effective ways to strengthen your immune system.
Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that taking supplements containing specific vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other materials might enhance immune response and possibly offer protection against disease.
Be aware, though, that certain supplements may conflict with over-the-counter or prescription drugs you are taking. Some might not be suitable for those who have specific medical issues. Make sure you consult a medical practitioner before beginning any supplementation.
These are 15 substances that have a reputation for strengthening the immune system.

1. Vitamin D

A fat-soluble vitamin that is vital to the health and operation of your immune system is vitamin D .
Vitamin D reduces inflammation, which aids in promoting immunological response, and strengthens the pathogen-fighting capabilities of monocytes and macrophages, two crucial components of your immune defense (3).
This crucial vitamin is often lacking in the population, which may have a detrimental effect on immunological function. In actuality, there is a correlation between low vitamin D levels and a higher risk of upper respiratory tract infections, such as allergic asthma and influenza (4).
According to certain research, taking vitamin D supplements may enhance immunological response. In fact, consuming this vitamin may help prevent respiratory tract infections, according to current studies.
Supplementing with vitamin D significantly reduced the incidence of respiratory infections in those lacking in this vitamin and decreased infection risk in those with adequate levels of the vitamin, according to a 2019 analysis of randomized control trials including 11,321 participants (5).
This implies a general protective impact.
According to other research, vitamin D supplementation may help patients with some illnesses, such as HIV and hepatitis C, respond better to antiviral therapies (6, 7, 8).
Most people only need 1,000–4,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D per day, depending on their blood levels; however, those with more severe deficiencies frequently need much larger dosages (4).
A lot of research has been done on vitamin D and COVID-19 because of how the vitamin affects the immune system. Studies have shown that Vitamin D can expedite healing and stall inflammation in the respiratory system (9).
A recent quick review study came to the conclusion that further investigation is required before vitamin D administration is advised for COVID-19 prophylaxis and therapy (10).
Nonetheless, a number of experts in the fields of science and health contend that vitamin D supplements are generally harmless and may even help shield people from the virus (11).

The immune system need vitamin D to function. Raising your vitamin D levels may help reduce your risk of respiratory infections.

2. Zinc 

Minerals like zinc are frequently included to health items like lozenges and pills that are said to strengthen your immune system. This is so because healthy immune system operation depends on zinc.
Zinc is essential for the growth and communication of immune cells as well as for the induction of inflammation. Additionally, zinc particularly guards the body's tissue barriers, which aid in preventing the entry of external infections (12).
Your immune system's capacity to operate normally is severely impacted by a shortage in this nutrient, which raises your risk of infection and illness, including pneumonia (13, 14).
Zinc deficiency has been linked to 16% of all deep respiratory infections globally, according to research (15).
Around 2 billion individuals worldwide suffer from zinc insufficiency, which is particularly prevalent in older adults. In fact, deficiencies in this vitamin are thought to affect as many as 30% of older persons (16).
In North America and other wealthy nations, zinc deficiency is rather uncommon (17, 18).
However, a large number of Americans suffer from a marginal zinc shortage that is linked to either consumption or absorption. In general, older people are more vulnerable (18).
Zinc supplementation have been linked to protection against respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, according to numerous studies (19, 20).
Furthermore, those who are already ill may benefit from taking zinc supplements.
Taking 30 mg of zinc daily reduced the overall length of the infection and the length of the hospital stay by an average of 2 days in a 2019 trial including 64 hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRIs), as compared to a placebo group (21).
Moreover, taking extra zinc may shorten the duration of the common cold (22). Zinc also exhibits antiviral properties (23, 24).
As long as the daily dosage is within the established upper limit of 40 mg of elemental zinc, taking zinc over the long term is generally safe for healthy persons (13).
Overdosages may prevent the absorption of copper, raising your risk of infection.

Taking zinc supplements may help shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections and provide protection against them.

3. Vitamin C

Because it plays such a vital role in immunological function, vitamin C is probably the most commonly consumed supplement for infection prevention.
This vitamin improves the capacity of different immune cells to fight infection and promotes their normal function. Additionally, cellular death—which replaces old cells with new ones and helps maintain the health of your immune system—requires it (25, 26).
In addition to its anti-oxidant properties, vitamin C also works as a powerful shield against oxidative stress, which is caused by an accumulation of reactive molecules called free radicals.
Numerous disorders have been connected to oxidative stress, which might have a deleterious impact on immunological health (27).
It has been demonstrated that taking vitamin C supplements shortens the duration and intensifies upper respiratory tract illnesses, such as the common cold (28).
According to a comprehensive analysis of 29 trials including 11,306 participants, taking regular vitamin C supplements at a daily average dose of 1-2 grams shortened the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children (29).
Remarkably, the research also showed that taking vitamin C supplements on a daily basis reduced the incidence of common colds by up to 50% in people who were under significant physical stress, such as soldiers and marathon runners (29, 30).
Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that high-dose intravenous vitamin C therapy greatly reduces symptoms in patients suffering from severe infections, such as sepsis and viral-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) (31).
However, additional research has indicated that more needs to be done to fully understand vitamin C's significance in this situation (32, 33).
Overall, these findings support the hypothesis that vitamin C supplements may have a major impact on immunological function, particularly in individuals whose diet s are deficient in the nutrient.
There is a 2,000 mg upper limit for vitamin C. The usual range for additional daily doses is 250–1,000 mg (34).

Immune system health depends on vitamin C. This nutritional supplementation may help shorten the length and intensity of upper respiratory tract infections, which includes colds.

4. Elderberry

The effects of black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), which has traditionally been used to treat infections, on immune function are currently being studied.
Elderberry extract has strong antibacterial and antiviral activity against influenza virus strains and bacterial pathogens that cause upper respiratory tract infections in test-tube experiments (35, 36).
Additionally, it has been demonstrated to improve immune system function, which may help lessen the length and intensity of colds as well as the symptoms associated with viral infections (37, 38).
Supplementing with elderberry supplements significantly reduced virally-induced upper respiratory symptoms in 180 persons, according to a review of four randomized control trials (39).
A previous, 5-day trial conducted in 2004 showed that those with the flu who took 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of elderberry syrup four times a day as a supplement saw symptom alleviation four days sooner than those who did not take the syrup and required less medicine (40).
Nevertheless, the results of this study may have been distorted because it is out of date and was funded by the company that makes elderberry syrup (40).
We also need to be mindful of the hazards, even if it has been indicated that elderberry can help reduce the symptoms of the influenza virus and some other diseases.
According to some, consuming elderberries may cause an overabundance of cytokines, which may harm healthy cells (41).
Because of this, several experts advise against using elderberry supplements until the early stages of COVID-19 (41).
It should be mentioned that no published research studies have assessed elderberry's effectiveness in treating COVID-19 (42). These suggestions are supported by earlier studies on elderberries.
After systemic review, elderberry (43) was found to:
Elderberry had antiviral properties in laboratory studies including both humans and animals, as it inhibited multiple strains of influenza A and B.
Cooking raw elderberries reduces the risk of cyanide poisoning and nausea/vomiting.
Elderberry should only be utilized under a licensed healthcare provider's supervision.
The most common forms of elderberry supplements for sale are liquid or pill forms.
Taking supplements containing elderberries may help lessen the symptoms of the flu and viral upper respiratory infections. Elderberry, though, is not without risk. Further investigation is required.

5. Medicinal mushrooms 

Since ancient times, medicinal mushrooms have been used to both prevent and treat illness and infections. Numerous varieties of therapeutic mushrooms have been investigated for their ability to strengthen immunity.
It is known that over 270 recognized species of medicinal mushrooms have immune-boosting qualities (44).
Certain species of mushrooms have been demonstrated to support immunological function, including cordyceps, lion's mane, maitake, shitake, reishi, and turkey tail (45).
According to some study, taking supplements containing particular kinds of medicinal mushrooms may improve immune function in a number of ways and lessen the symptoms of a number of illnesses, such as lung infections and asthma.
For instance, compared to a placebo group, cordyceps treatment dramatically decreased the amount of germs in the lungs, improved the immune system, and decreased inflammation in mice with tuberculosis, a dangerous bacterial disease (46).
The administration of 1.7 grams of cordyceps mycelium culture extract as a supplement resulted in a noteworthy 38% increase in the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, a subset of white blood cells that fight infection, in a randomized, eight-week research including 79 individuals (47).
Another therapeutic fungus with potent benefits on immunological function is turkey tail. Turkey tail may improve the immune system, according to human research, particularly in those with specific cancers (48, 49).
Numerous other therapeutic mushrooms have also been investigated for their positive benefits on immunological function. Supplements, tinctures, and teas are among the items made from medicinal mushrooms (50, 51, 52, 53).

Numerous kinds of medicinal mushrooms, such as turkey tail and cordyceps, may have antibacterial and immune-boosting properties.

6-15. Other supplements with immune-boosting potential 

In addition to the goods mentioned above, a variety of supplements may enhance immune response:
  • Astragalus: A prevalent plant in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is astragalus. According to studies on animals, its extract may greatly enhance immune-related reactions (54).
  • Selenium: One mineral that is necessary for a healthy immune system is selenium. Selenium supplementation may improve antiviral response against influenza viruses, particularly H1N1, according to investigations on animals (55, 56, 57).
  • Garlic: Garlic possesses potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory qualities. It has been demonstrated to improve the immune system by inducing macrophages and NK cells, two types of protective white blood cells. But there isn't much research done on humans (58, 59).
  • Andrographis: Andrographolide, a terpenoid molecule present in this herb, has been shown to have antiviral actions against viruses that cause respiratory diseases, such as influenza A and enterovirus D68 (60, 61, 62).
  • Licorice: Glycyrrhizin is one of the several compounds found in licorice that may help stave off viral infections. Glycyrrhizin has antiviral action against the severe acute respiratory syndrome–related coronavirus (SARS-CoV), according to test-tube studies (63).
  • Pelargonium sidoides: The use of this plant's extract to treat acute viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold and bronchitis, has been supported by some human study. Yet, the outcomes are inconsistent, and further study is required (64).
  • B complex vitamins: B vitamins, such as B12 and B6, are necessary for a strong immune system. However, a lot of individuals lack them, which could have a bad impact on immunological function (65, 66).
  • Curcumin: Turmeric's primary active ingredient is curcumin. Strong anti-inflammatory qualities and evidence from research on animals suggest that it may enhance immunological function (67).
  • Echinacea: A genus of plants in the daisy family is called Echinacea. Research has demonstrated that specific species can enhance immune function and potentially possess antiviral properties against various respiratory viruses, such as rhinoviruses and respiratory syncytial virus (68).
  • Propolis: Honeybees create a substance called propolis that resembles resin and is used as a sealant in hives. Further human study is necessary, despite its remarkable immune-enhancing benefits and potential antiviral characteristics (69).
Scientific study suggests that the aforementioned substances may have immune-boosting qualities.
Remember, too, that a lot of these possible effects that these supplements may have on immunological health have not been fully investigated in humans, which emphasizes the need for more research.

Curcumin, astragalus, garlic, and echinacea are other substances that may fortify the immune system. They haven't, however, undergone extensive testing on people. Further investigation is required.

In summary

Numerous substances available now may support stronger immune function.
Several chemicals, including zinc, elderberry, and vitamins C and D, have been studied for their potential to strengthen the immune system.
But even when there might be a slight advantage to these supplements for immune function, a healthy lifestyle is still necessary and should come first.
Aiming for a balanced, nutrient-dense diet , getting enough sleep, exercising frequently, and avoiding smoking—or, if you do, thinking about quitting—are some of the most crucial steps you can take to support the health of your immune system and lower your risk of illness and infection.
Consult a healthcare provider before taking any supplements if you've made up your mind to do so because some may conflict with certain drugs or not be suitable for some individuals.
Furthermore, keep in mind that, despite the possibility that some of them have antiviral qualities, there is no scientific proof that any of them can defend against COVID-19.