Supplements to Support Immune Health
With so many supplements claiming to boost your immune system, it can be hard to know what’s going to actually work for you. Don’t settle for just any supplement—make what you opt for ones that have evidence to back up the claims. Here are supplements with science to support their role in immune health.
1. VITAMIN C
Vitamin C tops the list in terms of supporting your immune health. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, working to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. (You can read more about antioxidants here.) Plus, vitamin C helps the body make collagen and helps improve the absorption of iron from plant-based foods. It also helps the immune system so it can do its job.
Fruits and vegetables like green peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli and leafy greens are all great sources of vitamin C. But if you’re worried that you’re not getting enough from your diet, a supplement can also cover the bases for you. They even come in tasty, chewable tablets, so they’re not a total chore to take.
Along with immune support, zinc is involved in the majority of metabolic processes in the human body. It plays a key role in carbohydrate metabolism, glucose utilization and insulin production. It’s also involved in collagen synthesis and is an essential nutrient for the formation of bone matrix. In addition, zinc supports the body’s natural resistance.
Zinc is found in many foods, such as red meat, poultry and seafood. Some plant-based foods, such as beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy, have some zinc, too. Fortified breakfast cereals also have zinc. Plus, zinc is present in almost all multivitamin/mineral dietary supplements and is available alone as a dietary supplement.
3. VITAMIN A
Vitamin A is most often associated with vision, but its role goes way beyond eyesight. When it comes to your body, it does a little bit of everything. It does a big part in gene expression, meaning it has influence on the body through its regulation of genes. Plus, vitamin A plays a role in the maintenance of body linings and skin, immune defenses and reproduction. There is considerable research supporting the need for vitamin A in the regulation of the genes involved in immune health.
To make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A, eat plenty of vegetables like broccoli, green, leafy veggies, carrots and squash. Fortified breakfast cereals, dairy products and some types of fish—like salmon—can also help you meet your daily needs. Of course, you can also get vitamin A as a dietary supplement, usually in the form of retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate, beta-carotene, or a combination. Most multivitamin supplements are formulated to include vitamin A, too.
4. VITAMIN D
Vitamin D might be referred to as a vitamin, but it also acts as a hormone, participating in many roles in the body. Vitamin D helps to maintain strong bones, helps muscles move and—you guessed it—supports your immune system as well. Keeping your body supplied with adequate amounts of it can help boost your overall immune health.
Very few foods have vitamin D naturally. Fortified foods, such as milk, as well as some fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna, are among the best food sources. Due to the limited food sources, vitamin D supplements are pretty popular. It can be found in two different forms, D2 and D3—and both have been shown to increase vitamin D levels in the blood.
5. VITAMIN B6
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is a critically important nutrient with a wide range of functions in the body. In fact, the body needs Vitamin B6 for more than a hundred enzyme reactions involved in metabolism. It plays a big role in protein metabolism and is involved in multiple roles related to immune function.
Vitamin B6 comes from a variety of foods in your diet, such as poultry, fish, potatoes, starchy vegetables and non-citrus fruits. Vitamin B6 is also found in most multivitamin and mineral supplements, as part of a B-complex vitamin, or alone, as pyridoxine hydrochloride.
6. VITAMIN E
Looking for yet another powerful antioxidant? You’ll want to check out Vitamin E. It works in the body to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Cells use vitamin E to interact with each other and to carry out important functions. The body also uses Vitamin E to help boost its immune system.
Vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and green, leafy vegetables are all good sources of Vitamin E. Some breakfast cereals, margarines and other foods have vitamin E added to them during manufacturing—just another reason to read your labels! Most multivitamin supplements include vitamin E as part of the formula. You can also get vitamin E alone in a dietary supplement.
If you want to do even more to support your immune health—be sure to go with your gut! The digestive track serves as an immune organ by protecting the body from potentially harmful microbes that have been consumed. Probiotics are known for their positive role in supporting digestive health, but research suggests that some strains of probiotics support immune health as well. You can find probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut or kombucha. Probiotics are also available as a dietary supplement. And for even more support, you can find probiotics that are formulated with vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc. GNC probiotics have been clinically studied, are guaranteed live and active until the end of shelf life and do not require refrigeration.
8. GNC EARTH GENIUS™ IMMUNE MUSHROOM COMPLEX
You might not think about mushrooms when you’re looking for immune health supplements, but this blend of seven mushrooms and other ingredients provides powerful immune support. Immune Mushroom Complex includes Wellmune, a beta-glucan from a proprietary strain of non-GMO baker’s yeast (Sacchromyces cerevisiae) and is clinically studied to support immune function. Beta-glucans can also be obtained from many types of mushrooms. Immune Mushroom Complex contains mushroom powders including Maitake, Reishi, Lion’s Mane and Codyceps. This formula also includes Elderberry Fruit Extract and vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps support your immune system.
9. SLEEP SUPPORT
Getting adequate sleep is so important for your overall health. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep are less likely to feel their best. Sleep and the circadian rhythm can influence your immune health. Adults ages 18-64 should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you need help supporting restful sleep, try a melatonin sleep supplement or GNC Preventive Nutrition® Tri-Sleep®, a triple-layer sleep supplement that supports relaxation, going to sleep and calm sleep.
OTHER RECOMMENDED HEALTHY HABITS
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends these everyday healthy habits:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.