Even outside of a global pandemic, winter weather means we’re more prone to colds, flus, and coughs. The good news is, if you’re already eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and sleeping well, your immune system is probably in decent shape.
But a little “boost” in immune function could help in case you come into contact with viruses. One of the easiest ways to strengthen your immune system is to add supplements to your daily routine. Here are four of the best supplements for immunity that can help you fend off the next flu virus or coronavirus outbreak.
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is critical in immune system function. That’s because it’s necessary for the genomic transcription (that is, the process of copying a segment of DNA into RNA) required for immune cells to initiate a response to an acute infection. Or, put another way, vitamin D helps your immune system rally to respond to that cold you’re fighting off.
Several large studies (as in, over 20,000 participants) have shown that vitamin D levels under 30 nanograms/milliliter are associated with more regular infections. Recently, another double blind placebo study showed that vitamin D supplementation resulted in a 42% decrease in the incidence of influenza infection.
Your immunity Rx: check your vitamin D levels and make sure you’re around 50 nanograms/milliliter. If not, talk to your doctor about adding in a supplement.
Zinc is a mineral found throughout your body that’s known for helping your immune system and your metabolic function. Zinc deficiency is associated with immune dysfunction, including pro-inflammatory cytokines, weakening of the thymus gland (a lymphatic organ that plays a role in immunity), and a reduction in T regulatory cells (T regulatory cells, by the way, help prevent autoimmune disease and maintain balance in your immune system).
And here’s something you may not know: you lose zinc when you sweat, especially in hot temperatures. Plus, vegetarians and vegans might be at greater risk of zinc deficiency since animal products are a major source of zinc.
Your immunity Rx: Take 15-30 mg of zinc per day depending on how much you sweat when you exercise and your diet. For better dosing precision, look at zinc levels and zinc:copper ratios in your labs.
Olive Leaf Extract
Not to be confused with the health benefits of olive oil, olive leaf extract contains oleuropeins. Oleuropeins have antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties. Plus, they help maintain a healthy balance of cytokines in the body.
Never heard of those? Cytokines are proteins secreted by cells of the immune system that act as chemical messengers, helping to regulate the body's immune response and inflammatory response. A recent study in young athletes showed a reduction in sick days and severity of illness by 28% in students who took a daily dose of olive leaf extract.
Your immunity Rx: Take 500mg twice of olive leaf extract per day.
Mushroom extracts can increase macrophage and NK-cell activity, as well as immune signaling, each of which improve healthy immune function. Cordyceps, reishi, and maitake stimulate immune cells, while Cordyceps, shiitake, and Coriolus possess protective activity against the harmful microorganisms themselves.
Your immunity Rx: Eat mushrooms regularly or take an adaptogenic mushroom blend (like those from Four Sigmatic or MUD\WTR) every morning.
While these immunity-boosting tips are helpful for the general public, your specific genomics, lifestyle, and physiology can impact your immune system too. Want to make sure you’re doing all you can to protect yourself during cold and flu season? A precision healthcare professional can help you make a plan to optimize your personal immunity.