How to strengthen your immune system with supplements
Research has shown that several supplements can help your body fight off infection and reduce inflammation. Supplements that can boost your immune system include:
- Vitamin D
- Ginseng extract
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
Vitamin D can modulate your immune response to antigens. Research has shown that being deficient in vitamin D is linked to increases susceptibility to infection. One study from Queen Mary University of London found that when people who are vitamin D deficient take supplements, their risk of infection with cold or flu viruses is reduced by half.
Extract from North American ginseng appears to shorten the length of colds and acute respiratory infections when taken for several weeks. Asian ginseng extract has been shown to reduce inflammation and boost your immune system’s response to infection.
Zinc deficiency has been linked to immune system dysfunction, while zinc supplementation has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on diseases ranging from infantile diarrhea to certain forms of dermatitis. One research team found that taking zinc lozenges within 24 hours of the onset of a cold helps reduce the duration of cold symptoms.
Vitamin C is one of the building blocks of a healthy immune system, and getting sufficient vitamin C can help your immune system function optimally, fight off infections, and reduce the severity of allergies. However, research indicates taking extra vitamin C supplements when you have an infection will not reduce the duration or severity of your symptoms.
Vitamin B6 supports immune health, and if you are deficient, taking supplements may help strengthen your immune system’s response to disease. Therapy with vitamin B6 has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve immune response in critically ill patients and those who have received kidney transplants. However, most people get plenty of B6 in their diets, and taking too much for a prolonged period of time can actually be harmful. You should not take vitamin B6 supplements unless you have been diagnosed as deficient by a medical professional.
Garlic supplements may also boost your immune system. Studies of cancer patients have found that garlic has strong anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Other trials indicate that garlic can improve the immune system’s response to disease and stimulate the production of disease-fighting cells.
If you want to use supplements to strengthen your immune system, you should always speak with a medical professional first. Many supplements can cause interactions with other medications, and too much of certain vitamins and minerals can have unintended side effects. Always tell your doctor what supplements you are taking.
To learn more about how to strengthen your immune system with supplements safely and effectively, talk to your doctor to come up a plan that is right for your body and lifestyle; the belief that using more supplements is better can lead to significant harm and side effects over using too many supplements.
March 26, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA