Fall is here, which means flu season is right around the corner. Is your immune system ready? Oftentimes people believe that they can support their immune system just by eating a healthy diet, but the reality is that there are many factors that influence immune function. The immune system is a balanced group of cells and organs that work together to defend your body against disease-causing microorganisms. In order for the immune system to work properly, it needs the right amount of nutrients and the right environment.
Ways to Support a Healthy Immune System
In order for not only your immune system, but your entire body to function properly, it is important to follow a healthy lifestyle. There are many good habits that will help you lead a healthy lifestyle; these include but are not limited to the following:
- Manage Stress: There have been many studies that have found that high stress levels may negatively affect the immune system. Sometimes stress is inevitable, so try to be aware of when you are stressed and learn good coping mechanisms such as meditation.
- Get Enough Sleep: Research on the links between sleep and health shows that sleep and the immune system are closely connected. When the body is trying to fight a disease, sleep is negatively affected. But, when the body gets enough sleep, the immune system is strengthened. Try aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep every night and keeping a consistent sleep schedule.
- Exercise Regularly: It is no secret that being physically active is one of the best things people of all ages can do to improve their health.The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has resources that provide evidence-based advice on how physical activity can promote health and reduce the risk of diseases. You can download the current Physical Activity Guidelines here.
- Eat a Balanced Diet: A balanced diet is one that supplies the body with the nutrients it needs to work effectively. This means that most of your calories should come from fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
- Take Supplements: If eating a balanced diet is not accessible to you, consider taking a multivitamin that contains the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of several nutrients. Focus Vitamins recently launched an immunity line that includes multivitamin gummies. contain the essential vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and more!
Dietary Supplements that Support the Immune System
Research shows that some ingredients may help prevent or reduce symptoms of the common cold, influenza, and other respiratory tract infections. Below is a summary of some of those ingredients.
Elderberry - The elderberry is a fruit of a small tree called Sambucus nigra. It contains elements that might have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial and even immune-stimulating effects. Research shows that because of this, elderberry might help prevent upper respiratory tract infections. Additionally, clinic trials involving elderberry’s effects on the common cold and influenza have shown promising results. To date, there are no clinical trials that study the effects of elderberry in treating or preventing COVID-19, according to ClinicTrials.gov.
Vitamin C - It is no secret that vitamin C is vital for the immune system and that is because of its antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral effects. Vitamin C is normally found in many fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and more.
Vitamin C deficiency is not very common in the United States, but some people may not be able to get enough vitamin C through their diet. When there is vitamin C deficiency, the immune function becomes impaired and therefore the body becomes more susceptible to infections and diseases. Fortunately, there are dietary supplements available that can help reach the RDA. Most multivitamins contain vitamin C, but vitamin C can also be found alone or in combination with other nutrients. Focus Vitamin C comes in orange flavored gummies and has 250 mg of vitamin C. Focus Multivitamins come in orange, cherry, and strawberry flavored gummies! For a limited time get 10% off your first bottle and two free KN95 masks!
Vitamin D - Vitamin D comes in two forms, vitamin D-2 and D-3, and is present in fatty fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks, and cheese. Vitamin D is best known for its role in keeping teeth and bones healthy by increasing the absorption and retention of calcium and phosphorous. If there is not enough vitamin D, the body can only absorb10% to 15% of dietary calcium, instead of the 30% to 40% that can be absorbed with enough vitamin D. The RDA for vitamin D ranges from 10 to 15 mcg for children and 15 to 20 mcg for adults.
In addition to calcium absorption, vitamin D plays an essential role in immunity. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) vitamin D “appears to lower viral replication rates, suppress inflammation, and increase levels of T-regulatory cells and their activity”. This means that vitamin D can help the immune system stay balanced. Studies have shown that people with vitamin D deficiency were more likely to contract COVID-19 than those who were vitamin D sufficient and that people who regularly took vitamin D supplements were less likely to develop COVID-19 than those who did not.
One of the most common ways people get vitamin D is through fortified foods, such as fortified milk and fortified cereals, and sun exposure. Because vitamin D is only present in a few foods, for most people the best way to get vitamin D is by taking supplements. Vitamin D can be found in 2 forms. Ergocalciferol (vitamin D-2) which is the plant form of vitamin D that typically comes from yeast, and Cholecalciferol (vitamin D-3) which the body produces after being exposed to the sun and the type that can be found in certain foods. So which vitamin D supplement is best? Because our bodies metabolize vitamin D-3 more effectively, it is less likely to result in toxicity. Additionally, studies show that daily vitamin D-3 is two to three times more efficient than weekly or monthly high-dose vitamin D-2. Focus Vitamin D-3 Gummies contain 50 mcg of vitamin D-3 and can help increase bone health, boost the immune system, and support a healthy heart.
To view a full list of the ingredients that may help prevent or reduce symptoms of the common cold, influenza, and other respiratory tract infections, click here.
Dietary Supplements and COVID-19
Although treatments and vaccines are now available, people remain curious about dietary supplements that may help strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, or even prevent COVID-19. Unfortunately, there haven’t been enough studies on people with COVID-19 that show the effectiveness of various dietary supplements, but research does show that they may improve the function of the immune system. The Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health has a fact sheet that discusses this topic in-depth and you can read it here.
If you are not sure you are getting the RDA for specific nutrients, taking supplements can help ensure you do, but make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about the options you have. Vitamin C, vitamin D-3, elderberry, and multivitamins that contain these and other essential nutrients can help assure that you get enough of the vital substances the body needs to function properly and help fight any viruses that it may be exposed to. Remember that dietary supplements should not replace a healthy diet and lifestyle, they should complement each other.