Best Vitamins That Boost Immune System
Best Supplements to Boost Your Immune System
Your immune system is your first line of defense against germs. A healthy immune system can help your body fight off bacteria, viruses, toxins and other pathogens. Staying active, hydrated and stress-free can help keep your immune system strong, but your diet plays a crucial role in immune health. In addition, there are many vitamins that boost immune system function.
Let’s look at some of the best vitamins that support your immune system.
Note: always consult with your doctor or health care provider before taking any nutritional supplement.
Best Vitamins That Boost Immune System
There are many vitamins that boost immune system health, including:
Vitamin C is probably the most well-known immune-boosting vitamin. That’s because a deficiency in this vitamin has long been associated with poor immune health and a greater risk of infections.
In fact, studies have found that supplementing with vitamin C when you’re sick can help you recover faster, even if you already get your daily recommended dose from your diet.
But how exactly does vitamin C help your immune system?
- It’s an antioxidant, so it helps fight free radicals
- It helps heal wounds and repair bones, skin, teeth and cartilage
- It helps your body produce white blood cells, which are your body’s defense against pathogens
The body doesn’t produce vitamin C naturally, so this essential nutrient needs to come from your food.
Citrus fruits, like grapefruits and oranges) are some of the best food sources of vitamin C. Tomatoes, berries, broccoli, melons and bell peppers are also great sources of this vitamin.
Taking a vitamin C supplement may help give your immune system a little extra boost. We like Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C + Rose Hips (get it on Amazon) because it’s affordable, has 1,000mg of vitamin C and comes in a convenient caplet form.
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. But it also helps your body fight infections. Research has shown that vitamin E is actually one of the most important nutrients for immune health because it helps your T-cells work optimally. T-cells are a type of white blood cell.
Vitamin E also:
- Widens blood vessels to prevent clotting
- Helps form red blood cells
- Helps the body use vitamin K
Vitamin E is found in a variety of foods, including nuts, wheat germ oil, nut butters, kiwi, spinach and mango.
You can also find vitamin E supplements, like this one from Nature Made on Amazon, which gives you nearly a year’s supply. It doesn’t contain any artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or gluten either.
The B-vitamin complex plays an important role in creating immune system cells. Deficiencies in these vitamins can make it harder for your immune system to run optimally.
While all B vitamins are important to your health, there are a few in particular that are crucial for immune health:
Vitamin B9, or folate, plays a crucial role in producing RNA and DNA, which are necessary for immune system health.
B9 deficiency can impair your immune system and reduces the circulating levels of T lymphocyte cells. If your B9 and B12 levels get too low, homocysteine (an amino acid created by protein metabolism) can get to dangerously high levels and suppress the immune system.
Food sources of B9 include beans, dark leafy green vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruits, peanuts, liver and seafood.
You can also supplement B9. NOW (get it on Amazon) sells a form of B6 that’s metabolically active, allowing for greater bioavailability.
Vitamin B6 plays a crucial role in immune function because it helps your body produce antibodies. Research has found that B6 deficiency can reduce antibody production and the growth and activity of some types of white blood cells.
Food sources of B12 include:
- Beef liver
- Dark leafy greens
Of course, you can also supplement B6. You can find capsules and gummies, but if these don’t work for you, EZ Melts (get it on Amazon) has a sublingual option, which dissolves in your mouth.
Your body also needs B6 to absorb B12, another essential vitamin for immune health.
Research has shown that a deficiency in vitamin B12 can decrease the activity and quantity of immune system cells. The good news is that supplementation can also help reverse this effect.
Many people are at risk of B12 deficiency. In fact, the National Institutes of Health says that B12 deficiency affects 1.5-15% of the population.
If you fall into any of these categories, you may be at higher risk of B12 deficiency:
- Vegetarian or vegan (B12 comes from animal protein)
- An older adult, as they may lack the stomach acid needed to extract B12
- People who have a gastrointestinal disorder or who have had gastrointestinal surgery
Dietary sources of B12 include meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs and fortified cereals. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, supplements are a great option. Mary Ruth’s B12 supplement (get it on Amazon) also includes vitamin D3 and comes in a tasty gummy form.
Another way to ensure you get enough B12, B6 and B9 is to take a B-complex supplement, which provides all of your B vitamins. Thorne’s B-complex vitamin (get it on Amazon) contains the active forms of these vitamins for better bioavailability.
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Vitamin A is also amongst the vitamins that boost immune system function. In addition, this essential nutrient helps keep the tissues in your intestines, stomach, mouth, respiratory system and skin healthy.
It also helps you fight off disease by stimulating the production of white blood cells
Beta carotene is an excellent source of vitamin A. It’s found in orange and yellow vegetables (like carrots and cantaloupe), leafy green vegetables, salmon, eggs, beef liver, fortified milk and yogurt.
Vitamin A supplements are also available. NOW’s vitamin A supplement (get it on Amazon) comes from fish liver oil.
Add vitamin D to the list of vitamins that boost immune system health and function. Vitamin D helps your immune system function optimally, and a deficiency can increase your risk of developing autoimmunity.
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin for a reason – the sun is your best source. But there are a few food sources of this essential vitamin: tuna, salmon, eggs, sardines and fortified foods.
Of course, you can also find vitamin D supplements. NatureWise’s vitamin D supplement (get it on Amazon) gives you 125 mcg or 5,000 IU. Each bottle gives you nearly a year’s supply, and it comes at an affordable price.
Minerals That Boost the Immune System
There are quite a few vitamins that boost immune system health, but there are also a few minerals that are just as important. These include:
Selenium plays a critical role in immune function. According to research, this trace mineral activates your immune system and tells the system when it’s time to settle down. In other words, selenium can help keep your immune system from going overboard.
It may help protect against autoimmune disease and inflammation.
Several foods are rich in selenium, including Brazil nuts (you can grab a bag on Amazon), eggs, cottage cheese, lean meat, tuna, brown rice, nuts and seeds, oatmeal, peas and more.
You can also find selenium supplements. Bronson’s selenium supplement (get it on Amazon) provides 200 mcg per serving.
Zinc is another mineral that supports immune function. It’s a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Zinc has been called the gatekeeper of the immune system because it helps all of your immune cells function properly.
Several foods are rich in zinc, including oysters, pumpkin seeds, blue crab, turkey breast, cheddar cheese and Greek yogurt.
If you’re not getting enough zinc from your diet, you can find supplements. For example, garden of Life’s Vitamin Code Raw Zinc supplement (get it on Amazon) also includes organic fruits and vegetables, other trace minerals, enzymes and probiotics.
According to research, iron helps regulate your immune system. In addition to carrying oxygen to your cells, iron is also an important component of enzymes that play a role in immune cell function.
Without enough iron, your body won’t be able to produce hemoglobin (a red blood cell protein).
Food sources of iron include red meat, seafood, fortified cereal and nuts.
You can also supplement iron. Solgar offers a Gentle Iron supplement (get it on Amazon) that’s ideal for people with sensitive stomachs.
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Other Immune Supporting Supplements
Along with vitamins and minerals, you can find other supplements that can help support immune health, including:
Black elderberry has been used to treat infections for a long time. Researchers are now looking into its effects on immune health.
Test-tube studies have found that elderberry extract has potent antiviral and antibacterial effects against bacterial pathogens that cause upper respiratory infections. It’s also been shown to improve immune response and reduce the duration and severity of colds.
Nature’s Way has a great Sambucus Elderberry gummy supplement (get it on Amazon) that also includes zinc and vitamin C for immune support.
Most of your immune system is located in your gut, so taking steps to improve your gut health can also help your immune system.
Probiotics are one way to help support a healthy gut.
You can get probiotics through yogurt and fermented foods (like kimchi). But you can also find probiotic supplements.
Physician’s Choice probiotics (get it on Amazon) has 60 billion CFU and 10 different strains.
Nutrition can go a long way in improving and supporting your immune health. Ensuring you’re getting enough of the vitamins and minerals above can help keep your immune system running in tip-top shape all year long.