Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
5 Natural Ways to Protect Your Immune System
As a 7-month long (and counting) pandemic and 13 weeks of heightened cold and flu risk start to converge, this promises to be a sick season like no other. This is why it’s important for you to take extra precautions to protect your natural defense system.
Without a healthy and properly functioning immune system, your body cannot fight off microbial and viral assaults. A weakened or vulnerable immune system is not simply the inconvenience of repeated bouts of colds and other feelings of malaise. An immune system that’s compromised may leave you vulnerable to other complications and can make ordinary colds and flu more severe.
A diet filled with immunity-boosting fruits and vegetables is a good start, but this year calls for heavy artillery through supplementation.
Nutritional supplements designed to support the immune system supply concentrated amounts of key nutrients shown to work to support your resistance to harmful microbes. And, they can help you feel better faster if a bug does breakthrough.
Your immune system is delicately balanced and highly complex. And while no single vitamin can guarantee immune health and complete resistance, there are specific nutrients that are considered crucial to optimizing a healthy immune system, especially during high-risk season.
Some of them are familiar to you, such as vitamins C and D—two nutrients personally recommended by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Others may be less familiar to you or may not be nutrients at all. But each one in its own distinct way does its part in helping to build a nutritional forcefield around your immune system.
Here’s a look at 5 nutrients and plant compounds that help boost immune system function:
#1 Black elderberry
Many varieties of elderberry exist, but black elderberry (Sambuca nigra) is said to contain twice the amount of anthocyanin antioxidants of any fruit. Black elderberry has been traditionally used in herbal medicinal tonics and preparations for centuries. In recent years, some studies have borne out the effectiveness of certain elderberry preparations in supporting immune health.
To find out how to “bulletproof” your immune system with a black elderberry extract that’s 20X more potent than many leading brands, read this fascinating guide on black elderberry.
#2 Vitamin D
The “sunshine vitamin” as it’s known is actually a fat-soluble hormone that our bodies produce in response to the sun’s UVB rays. According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, vitamin D may “help control infections and reduce inflammation”. In fact, studies show that vitamin D deficiency is connected to an increased risk of infection.*
Because vitamin D synthesis relies on ample exposure to sunlight, you may not get enough if you live in cold-weather climates or spend most of your time indoors. And it’s not readily found in food, which makes a vitamin D supplement vital to protect your body’s immune system.
#3 Vitamin C
Vitamin C is touted as the go-to staple for fighting bugs and pathogens, and for good reason. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that doubles as a powerful, free radical-fighting antioxidant, and it enhances your immune response and overall health in a variety of ways, such as enabling iron absorption. Iron is a key mineral needed to support the body’s first line of defense against harmful bugs and microbes.
Another way vitamin C supports immunity is by aiding production of white blood cells, which help protect the body against sickness.* And studies show vitamin C can help reduce the duration of colds by about one day… and every day counts when you’re not feeling well. Experts suggest 1,000 mg of vitamin C is an effective, therapeutic serving.
This mineral is considered a gatekeeper of immune function.* One study described zinc’s important job like this: “New research suggests that zinc helps control infections by gently tapping the breaks on the immune response in a way that prevents out-of-control inflammation that can be damaging and even deadly.”
If you’ve heard that zinc can reduce the duration of cold symptoms, it’s true, according to an analysis of several studies. Lozenges and syrup forms are best, because they allow the mineral to come in direct contact with the cold bug in a way that a tablet or capsule cannot.
This may be the least familiar immune support ingredient to you. Fermentate is a whole food ingredient derived from the fermentation process. Specifically, Epicor fermentate is the pathogen-fighting ingredient causing a buzz, because it’s a tough contender in the immune support arena that’s backed by 15 human clinical trials and preclinical studies.
Epicor fermentate is unique in how it supports an active immune response. Because it has a probiotic makeup, it helps to strengthen the GI tract—where healthy immunity starts—by arming the trillions of good bacteria in the gut. And it’s so powerful, studies show it triggers immune system activity starting in just 2 hours! You can find the ingredient here.
Remember, all supplements should be consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet. But when it comes to putting your immune system in the best possible position to ward off airborne threats to your health, these powerful immune fighters can give you a big advantage.