We all do our best to dodge germs during the dreaded cold and flu season; but there is more to the story of good health than being on the defensive. Shifting your focus to proactively strengthening your immune system, rather than simply avoiding germs, not only helps keep you healthy, it benefits your wellness on a larger level.
“Immunity is not just a defense against sickness; it is synonymous with overall health,” says Kris Somol, ND, an adjunct faculty member at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle. “By caring for your immune system, you also heal from injuries faster and prevent chronic disease.”
Strengthening your immune system is a daily practice, meant to be as easy and natural as any other part of your normal routine, and the benefits are great—namely, optimum health, all year long.
Supplement For immunity
Once you have an immunity-supportive lifestyle in place, it is time to start thinking about what you put in your body. Supplements play a crucial role in staying well. Studies show some directly affect how the immune system mounts its defense against invaders. In the process, they also help reduce inflammation and boost overall health for the long-term. Experts say supplements are a sort of insurance policy, and like any insurance, it is not a good idea to be without. These supplement picks are evidence-based and they work.
7 Best Immunity Supplements
How it works: Not long ago, probiotics were just a distant thought and now many integrative physicians recommend probiotics daily. Why the shift? Solid data suggests microbes may play a causal role in a large number of ailments—and restoring the proper balance of these microbes is shown to help with colds and flus, mental health and most recently biggies like diabetes and heart disease. Probiotics reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms and increase overall immune activity, and a recent study on older adults finds that certain strains alter the immune cell profile to more closely resemble those found in healthy, younger populations.
How much to take: Dosage varies based on strain.
2. Aged Garlic Extract
How it works: With ample evidence for supporting healthy blood pressure levels, a strong heart, and reducing accumulation of plaque in the arteries; aged garlic extract also has a hefty resume for immunity. Odorless and aged for over 20 months to strengthen its immune-boosting properties, this supplement has been proven to support killer cell function and reduce the symptoms and duration of colds and flu. Researchers suspect this happens in combination with supporting healthy inflammation response.
How much to take: 1,200 mg daily (Studies use up to 2.56 grams daily.)
How it works: A supplement star for fighting pain, chronic inflammation and joint health and the key antioxidant in the herb turmeric, curcumin is now being found to promote gut health and support a healthy immune system. One pathway is its ability to raise levels of a protein called cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, or CAMP, that helps prevent infection by fighting off unfamiliar bacteria, viruses and fungi. Research shows that combining curcumin with phosphatidylcholine increases its bioavailability by more than 20 times.
How much to take: Take 400 to 600 mg of curcumin with each meal.
4. Elderberry Extract
How it works:Antioxidant-rich elderberry has strong antiviral properties. Consuming the plant’s extract may alleviate both the symptoms and duration of colds and flu, including fever. According to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 90 percent of the people in a 40-person study experienced a “complete cure” within two to three days.
How much to take: Adults can take 1 to 2 teaspoons of the extract twice daily for prevention; increase your dose to four times per day if you start feeling sick.
How it works: A recent review of studies looking at vitamins and minerals for colds and flu treatment showed that taking 70 mg of zinc helped improve health if taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms—which is why this mineral is a key ingredient in many throat lozenges. Another study found that the mineral reduced the duration and severity of colds.
How much to take: 4.5 to 23.7 mg zinc lozenge taken every half hour. Warning: Excessive zinc can depress the immune system, so don’t exceed the recommended dose of 70 mg daily.
6. Vitamin C
How it works: Although vitamin C may not reduce your chances of contracting a cold or flu, research indicates it can reduce an infection’s symptoms and length. In general, antioxidants help your body resist illness because they protect cells against harmful free radicals and oxidative stress.
How much to take: Aim for 2,000–6,000 mg of C daily in divided doses; reduce dose if digestive upset results. If you have a sensitive tummy, opt for the gentler Ester-C form.
7. Vitamin D
How it works: Researchers believe wintertime susceptibility to the flu and colds may be related to less sunlight exposure and lower vitamin D production. Studies have found that people with low levels of vitamin D miss significantly more days of work due to respiratory illnesses and are more likely to have recent respiratory infections. Conversely, Vitamin D regulates several germ- fighting immune factors, and recent studies show supplementing with D can cut the risk of contracting the flu.
How much to take: 2,000 IU daily during fall and winter, or up to 4,000 IU if recommended by your health care provider after blood testing.
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