As flu season approaches, you might start wondering how to prepare yourself for it. One method is to have your yearly flu shot of course, but there are a few other key ways you can improve your immune health.
Today, we’re going to talk about how certain vitamins and herbal supplements can help improve your immune system and get you ready for flu season!
WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE A DAILY MULTIVITAMIN
Most of us aren’t getting the vitamins we need from our diets. With modern, fast-paced lifestyles, many of us end up in fast food drive-through’s more often than we’d like to admit.
When you skip out on fresh, whole foods for fast, easy, but highly-processed options, you’re missing a lot of the vitamin intake that keeps your body healthy and ready to fight off invaders.
Not getting enough vitamins can also affect the absorption of other vitamins. For example, you could be getting the right amount of magnesium – but if you aren’t also getting the right amount of vitamin D, your body can’t absorb magnesium properly. Calcium and Vitamin D3 have a similar dependency.
Magnesium plays many crucial roles in the body, like supporting nerve and muscle function. It also supports energy production. Chronically low levels of magnesium can increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. And that’s just one essential nutrient out of many that your body needs to function properly.
This is why it’s always a good idea to take vitamins and supplements, even when it’s not flu season. But here are a few supplements that can bolster your immunity as well:
VITAMINS THAT HELP BOOST IMMUNITY
Your cells break down nutrients from the diet to help the body function at peak capacity, and one of the most important bodily functions is your immune response.
Your immune system not only wards off illness, it also plays a crucial role in regulating inflammation, promoting healing, and much more. The immune system is in charge of cleaning up all debris and problem cells produced during life.
With an environment that induces inflammation and oxidative stress continually and at high levels, the immune system is especially important for human health even without pathogens.
When pathogens are introduced, as during flu season, the system is very much over-taxed and stops working well for us.
Many studies have proven the importance of a variety of vitamins, minerals and supplements with regard to the human immune system.
For example, this study stated: “Key dietary components such as vitamins C, D, E, zinc, selenium and the omega 3 fatty acids have well-established immunomodulatory effects, with benefits in infectious disease.”
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Vitamin C is well-known as a micronutrient that helps support immunity. It supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens - which helps keep infection out of the body. It also has antioxidant capabilities. Vitamin C is integral to the effective function of the first line of defense - the innate immune system. It is also important to regulate the overall levels of inflammation and to reduce production of ‘cytokine storms’.
Vitamin D (cholecalciferol)
There are Vitamin D receptors and enzymes on the surfaces of all white blood cells, which play a key role in finding and eliminating infectious agents. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to increased rates of infection and respiratory illness. In addition, low vitamin D levels have been associated with autoimmune diseases, such as MS, diabetes, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, and even Parkinson’s. D3 is certainly important for the health and well-being of the skeletal system, but it is also critical for the proper function and maintenance of the immune system.
Zinc is crucial for the development and function of the specialized cells within your immune system. It’s crucial for the development of neutrophils and NK cells. Macrophages, which are involved in the detection and destruction of bacteria and other harmful organisms, are also impacted by zinc deficiencies. Wound healing is supported by zinc and it is a co-factor in the function of 100 or more enzymes in our cellular processes.
NEED AN EXTRA BOOST? CHOOSE QUERCETIN
Quercetin is a plant-based antioxidant that helps improve immunity through its “anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant” properties.
Its antioxidant properties are especially beneficial for immune health. This means that it helps scavenge and neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are produced within your body as it breaks down things like oxygen and nutrients for its use.
Free radicals are like car exhaust; they are a normal byproduct when cells make and use energy. However, like exhaust, this byproduct (free radicals) is not really good for you in excess.
Free radicals are a normal part of life – but when they overwhelm your body’s natural antioxidants, which help neutralize free radicals, oxidative stress occurs. Oxidative stress has been linked to accelerated aging, chronic diseases like certain cancers and heart disease, and heightened inflammation levels.
These are phytochemicals.
‘Phyto’ denotes being plant-based.
Flavonoids give your fruits and veggies bright colors like the red in beets and cherries or the orange in carrots.
Remember when we said that your immune system doesn’t just protect you from illness? It also plays a role in your inflammatory response as well.
Some inflammation is normal, but too much can lead to a host of health conditions. But beyond that, if your immune response is overloaded with chronic inflammation throughout the body then it can’t effectively respond to and eliminate viruses and bacteria along with other pathogens or toxins. So reducing inflammation with antioxidant supplements, like quercetin, is a great way to improve the efficacy of your immune system.
In addition to taking a multivitamin, you should also take care to get enough sleep, exercise, and try to find ways to reduce stress. As always, we recommend a healthy diet (like the Mediterranean lifestyle plan) and having fun with friends and family as well.