The Top Ingredients to Support the Immune System
The immune system is your body’s primary mechanism of defense, responsible for protecting you from potentially harmful invaders, including bacteria, fungus, viruses and parasites. Certain lifestyle interventions can support your immune function, including:
- Maintaining a balanced healthy diet, which focuses on whole, unprocessed foods high in antioxidants
- Engaging in regular physical activity
- Getting adequate, good-quality sleep; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults sleep for seven or more hours per night
- Managing your stress, which may include counseling and relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and meditation
Depending on your distinct genetic variations, some individuals are at an increased risk for deficiency of certain nutrients that are essential for the proper function of the immune system.
Identifying these genetic risk factors help to tailor individual gene-based treatment strategies, including the appropriate dose and form of certain vitamins to optimize your immune function.
The following are some of the top ingredients recommended for immune support:
Active Vitamin A comes from the conversion of beta-carotene, found in brightly coloured vegetables, such as beets and carrots. Vitamin A is essential for immune health, helping to improve resistance to respiratory and gastrointestinal infections; modify the inflammatory response; aid in the maturation of immune cells and transportation of zinc. Vitamin A deficiency is linked to an increase in susceptibility to viral, bacterial and parasitic infections.
Vitamin C, found in dietary sources such as citrus, broccoli, and kiwi, plays an important role in immune function by supporting both innate and adaptive immune systems. Vitamin C deficiency may result in reduced immunity and a higher risk of infections. Supplementing with vitamin C has been shown to be effective in treating respiratory and systemic infections.
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Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin required in mineral metabolism, bone health, and immune function. Research has demonstrated that individuals with vitamin D deficiency are at increased risk of contracting upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold, compared to individuals with normal vitamin D status. Further research suggests that vitamin D supplementation may support immune tolerance in autoimmune conditions and enhance the anti-microbial effect of certain immune cells.
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The mineral zinc is commonly recommended to protect against the common cold. Zinc can be obtained in the diet from seafood, animal proteins, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, and cashews, as well as from dietary supplements. Research has found that zinc lozenges, when taken at the onset of a cold for a minimum of one to two weeks, may help reduce the symptoms and duration of colds in children and adults.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus is a medicinal herb with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-viral, and immunomodulating properties. While astragalus has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine to treat individuals with increased susceptibility to infections, studies suggest it may improve outcomes of inflammatory conditions and certain cancers. Research has also shown that astragalus may have anti-influenza virus properties.
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Probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms that may support immune health by modulating immune responses and inhibiting the growth of pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics may be obtained from fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, unpasteurized pickled vegetables, and kombucha. Probiotic supplements may help protect healthy individuals against respiratory infections, reduce the severity of colds, and improve the efficacy of certain influenza vaccination.
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The information outlined in this blog is not a guide on treating or preventing COVID-19 and is only to provide you with knowledge on how to support your immune system.
Questions? Contact us today to book with one of our expertly trained Ace Certified Practitioners. Also available is a complimentary 10-minute introductory call with our Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Murphy, to identify the appropriate steps for you and your health.