What vitamins and supplements should you take this winter to boost your immune system?
Meta Description: Worried about the coming cold or flu season? Find out which supplements to take this winter to boost your immune system.
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In winter, the likelihood of contracting an infectious disease increases. Colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses become more common this time of year.
It’s not the cold in itself it does cause infection, however – it’s a myth. Rather, it’s how the cold interacts with our body’s ability to kill germs. Low temperatures change the way the lining of our nasal passages behaves, reducing its ability to kill germs and protect us from infections. Plus, the cold conditions encourage people to snuggle inside for warmth, making it easier for the infection to spread from person to person.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself. “Vitamin supplements during the winter can boost your immune system a few notches,” pharmacist Stuart Gale of Oxford Online Pharmacy tells uknews.com today. Plus, they’re easy to take: just take a pill and you’re good to go.
So what vitamins and supplements should you be taking to maintain your immune system at its best between December and February? We will take a look.
There is no evidence that vitamin C can prevent you from catching colds, the flu, or any other respiratory infection. However, this can shorten their duration and severity.
According to a Cochrane review – the highest level of scientific evidence available – people who take at least one gram of vitamin C per day have had 8% shorter cold episodes. It is not known if this works for COVID-19.
Vitamin D is another highly prized micronutrient for keeping disease at bay. Historically, populations that are the most exposed to the sun (and, therefore, generate the most vitamin D in their skin) have been the most protected against virulent killers, such as tuberculosis.
Today, the evidence that this vitamin can protect people against colds and flu is strong. According to another Cochrane Review, those who took the sunshine vitamin daily or once a week had a 50 percent lower incidence of colds.
The ancient Indians believed that virtually all illnesses start in the intestines. If you could make it healthy, the rest of the body would follow suit soon.
Modern science proves they were right. Feeding the good bacteria in your small intestine and colon can have extremely beneficial effects on your health and resistance to disease.
Unfortunately, some people don’t have optimal microbiomes (colonies of microbes living in their gut), so they may need probiotics. These supplements contain live cultures of bacteria that are beneficial for health. Taking enough of them can help achieve digestive harmony which, in turn, can improve your body’s resistance to infections.
Zinc is an essential mineral that helps the body fight disease. The immune system uses it to build DNA and proteins, the tools the body needs to resist invaders.
Low levels of zinc are potentially harmful. Studies show that people who lack minerals have a higher risk of pneumonia, a serious lung infection common in older people.
Like vitamin C, zinc can help reduce the duration of cold symptoms. A review published in the Open respiratory medical journal found that it could shorten the duration of colds by about 20 percent.
Zinc is also important for maintaining healthy skin. People with low zinc levels often have persistent sores that do not heal and are therefore susceptible to infection.
Echinacea is a traditional herbal remedy for cold and flu-like symptoms. It comes from Echinacea, native to North America.
Unlike other vitamins and supplements on this list, there is compelling evidence that Echinacea can prevent the common cold from developing during the peak of the season. Studies show that when participants take it three or more times a day, they can reduce their risk of developing disease by up to 26%.
Folate (or folic acid if you decide to get it in synthetic form) is a nutrient found in most whole plant foods, including green vegetables, legumes, and some root vegetables. It is essential for DNA and protein synthesis as well as for cell-mediated immunity. People who lack nutrients tend to have worsening T-cell responses to infections, according to research.
Green tea is touted as a tonic for everything from unwanted wrinkles to premature aging. Now research shows that it can also help protect against viruses.
Matcha – a type of powdered tea leaf – is rich in a compound called EGCG. Researchers believe that this chemical can protect cells against several RNA and DNA-based viruses because of its ability to prevent viruses from entering cells.
Matcha is available in tea and capsule form. Most people take it daily in the morning.
Quercetin has recently become famous for its ability to eliminate zombie cells from the body when used in combination with the drug Dasatinib. However, this long chain polyphenol found in apples, berries and green vegetables can also boost the immune system.
In lab experiments, researchers found that high intake of quercetin can prevent certain viruses from entering cells. It works by blocking cell receptors that allow viruses to enter, thereby stopping certain infections in their tracks.
Quercetin can also be a mucolytic agent. By improving the production of sticky mucus that lines the airways, it helps the body trap germs before they have a chance to enter cells or the bloodstream.
Finally, herbs, such as ashwagandha and Panax ginseng (not Siberian), can potentially support the immune system via their adaptogenic properties.
During immune deregulation, stress hormone levels increase. And when they do, it stops the immune system from working as well as it could. Adaptogens help bring this back to baseline, allowing the immune system to resume normal function.
Evidence suggests that vitamins and supplements can individually prevent or shorten the duration of a variety of airborne illnesses, including those of the upper respiratory tract. Interestingly, they work through different mechanisms, which suggests that complementary use may be beneficial as well.