Your immune system is what keeps you healthy, so it’s in your best interest to keep it running smoothly. Eating right is the key to getting the nutrients needed to keep your immune system in the best shape possible, but with today’s diets and processed foods, we don’t always get the nutrients that our bodies demand of us. This is where immune system supplements come in. Here are some of the best natural supplements to boost your immune system and keep your body strong and healthy.
First on our list is a group of vitamins, called the B vitamin family. B vitamins cannot be stored in the body, which means that you’ll need to consume your requirements every day, whether through supplements or B vitamin-rich foods. These vitamins play a key role in the proper functioning of innate and adaptive immune responses, help to keep inflammation to a minimum, and have been shown to reduce the length of hospital stays.*
Although you can find them as individual supplements, the B vitamins are also often sold together as a complex containing all of these important nutrients. The eight B vitamins and their primary functions are:*
- Thiamine (B1) — Converts carbohydrates to energy.
- Riboflavin (B2) — Aids in the production of red blood cells.
- Niacin (B3) — Maintains healthy skin and nerves at lower doses and helps to lower cholesterol in larger doses.
- Pantothenic acid (B5) — Plays a role in digestion as well as the production of hormones.
- Pyridoxine (B6) — Helps with brain function and the production of red blood cells. This vitamin is also used in the processing of proteins.
- Biotin (B7) — Helps to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates.
- Folic acid (B9) — Helps to form red blood cells and is used in the production of DNA, which promotes tissue growth and proper cell functioning.
- Cobalamin (B12) — Promotes proper metabolism and the creation of red blood cells.
Native to America, this brightly colored flower was first used by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. It has historically been used for a variety of health-related purposes, especially to boost immune system performance.* For this purpose, it is often taken in the form of oil or powder and made into a tea. Regardless of the form, Echinacea helps to boost the number of white blood cells,* which are a key component of the immune system that help to fight off infections.
Like many of the other immune system supplements, Echinacea has other benefits as well. The oil has been used to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, or aid in the speedy recovery of wounds.* In addition, many people have found Echinacea tea to have a soothing effect that relieves stress and anxiety.
Rich in antioxidants, black elderberry has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to reduce infections. Because of its history, there have been many studies surrounding elderberry and its role in warding off illnesses. One study showed that elderberry aids the cold and flu recovery process by acting as an antibacterial that reduces the chances of bacterial infections.* Another study revealed that elderberry has a more direct effect on reducing symptoms of influenza.* There have also been other studies done that show elderberry’s efficacy specifically at boosting the immune system.*
With such a wide range of benefits, elderberry supplements are usually in the form of liquids or capsules.
Spirulina is a type of algae packed with nutritional benefits. It boasts 60% protein by weight and is a great source of antioxidants such as C-phycocyanin and beta carotene as well as healthy polyunsaturated fats. In one study, spirulina was shown to have not only antioxidant properties but also immune-boosting and microbial modulating properties that help to keep you healthy.* In another, scientists took a closer look at the mechanisms through which the algae can benefit the immune system.*
A common delivery form for spirulina is a supplement powder, which can then be mixed with water or other liquid mediums to create an enhanced supplement drink.
Selenium is an essential mineral that performs an important role in the proper functioning of your immune system. Lack of selenium in the diet, often coupled with a lack of vitamin E, has been shown to increase the probability of contracting a wide variety of illnesses.*
One of the major benefits of selenium on the immune system is that it acts as an antioxidant, reducing the inflammation that can make it harder for the immune system to do its job*. It is also responsible for proper thyroid metabolism and providing aid in the creation of certain proteins that are vital to proper immune system function.*
Selenium supplements on the market are often in the form of tablets, sometimes as capsules as well.
As a vital part of our health, the immune system needs all the support it can get. Although adding these supplements to your diet won’t make you “immune”, they may give your immune system the boost it needs to bounce back quicker and get you back on your feet sooner.*
*Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products and supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.