Boost Your Immune System With These Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements
Whether you’re fighting off an infection or combating a cold, adding a few immune-boosting vitamins to your routine can be incredibly beneficial. In fact, certain vitamins, minerals and supplements have been shown to fine-tune immune function, enhance antibody production and alleviate inflammation to keep you feeling your absolute best. In this article, we’ll cover some of the top immune-boosting supplements and how they can benefit your health, along with some simple suggestions for how to use them.
Many vitamins have been shown to help boost your body’s ability to fend off infection. Here are a few of the top immune-boosting vitamins.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a central role in immune function and is often used to help bump up your body’s defenses against infection. Impressively enough, one 2006 trial in Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism even found that getting enough vitamin C in your diet could help decrease symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory infections.
Dosage recommendation: 75–90 milligrams for women and men, respectively.
2. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D is an important micronutrient involved in many aspects of health and is also one of the top immune system booster vitamins. Not only is vitamin D3 integral to the function of immune cells in the body, but a deficiency in this important micronutrient can actually increase the risk of infection. Be sure to opt for vitamin D3 over other forms, as it’s the most effective at improving vitamin D status in the body.
Dosage recommendation: 400–800 IU.
3. Vitamin A
This fat-soluble vitamin is vital for maintaining healthy vision, supporting skin health and promoting proper growth and development. What’s more, vitamin A is also crucial for the development of certain immune cells necessary to fight inflammation and infection, earning it a slot as one of the best supplements to boost the immune system.
Dosage recommendation: 700–900 RAE for women and men, respectively.
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E doubles as both a fat-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant, helping to fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to the cells. As one of the top immune-boosting vitamins, studies show that supplementation with vitamin E could enhance immune function, boost the production of white blood cells and increase resistance against infection.
Dosage recommendation: 15 milligrams.
5. Vitamin B6
Promising research suggests that vitamin B6 could help ramp up immune function to fight foreign invaders in the body. According to one study published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, administering vitamin B6 to critically ill patients was able to significantly enhance their immune response over a two-week period. Meanwhile, other studies show that a deficiency in this key vitamin can reduce the production of important antibodies involved in immunity.
Dosage recommendation: 1.2–1.7 milligrams
Several minerals have been studied for their impact on immune function and their abilities to bump up the body’s natural defense system. Here are some of the best minerals for immune health.
Often considered one of the most effective immune-boosting supplements, zinc is crucial to maintaining overall health. Research shows that zinc helps regulate the immune response and is necessary for the survival, proliferation and maturation of immune cells. Clinical trials have also found that getting enough zinc in your daily diet can reduce the incidence and improve the outcome of serious conditions like pneumonia and malaria.
Dosage recommendation: 8–11 milligrams for women and men, respectively.
Although it’s most well-known for its role in red blood cell production and oxygen transport, iron is also considered one of the best immune-boosting supplements as well. Studies show that iron deficiency anemia can impair the body’s immune response, which could potentially ramp up the risk of illness and infection. Women, infants, children and those following a vegan or vegetarian diet may be at an increased risk of deficiency.
Dosage recommendation: 8–18 milligrams for men and women, respectively.
Selenium is a powerful micronutrient that acts as an antioxidant to neutralize harmful free radicals and decrease cell damage. In addition to initiating immunity, studies show that selenium may also be involved in regulating excessive immune responses to prevent widespread inflammation. One review in Lancet also noted that low intake of selenium may be associated with several adverse effects on health, including poor immune function, cognitive decline and an increased risk of mortality.
Dosage recommendation: 400 micrograms.
In addition the immune-boosting vitamins and minerals listed above, several other supplements may also be beneficial for immune function. Here are a few of the top immune-boosting supplements to consider adding to your routine.
1. Elderberry Syrup
Derived from the berries of the Sambucus tree, elderberry syrup is often hailed as one of the best natural immune-boosting supplements. Rich in health-promoting polyphenols, elderberry syrup is frequently used as a natural remedy to treat flu symptoms and speed up recovery. According to one study out of Israel, taking elderberry syrup four times daily for five days significantly shortened the duration of the flu compared to a placebo. Another analysis in 2019 concluded that elderberry could also help treat upper respiratory symptoms.
Dosage recommendation: 1 tablespoon up to four times daily.
Probiotics are a form of beneficial bacteria found in the digestive tract. Probiotic supplements have been linked to a long list of health benefits, including enhanced digestion, decreased cholesterol levels and, most notably, improved immune function. In fact, studies show that probiotics regulate the function of certain immune cells and may even be beneficial for immune-related conditions, ranging from viral infections to allergies and eczema.
Dosage recommendation: 10–100 billion CFU.
In addition to providing curries, soups and sauces with a vibrant hue, turmeric has also been extensively studied for its potent medicinal properties. In particular, curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric, has been shown to reduce inflammation, enhance antibody responses and modulate immune function, which may provide protection against conditions like heart disease, allergies, arthritis and diabetes.
Dosage recommendation: 500–2,000 milligrams of turmeric extract.
4. Holy Basil
Also known as tulsi or Ocimum tenuiflorum, holy basil is commonly used as an adaptogen to help improve the way that your body reacts and adapts to stress. This impressive herb also boasts anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and immunomodulatory effects and may be therapeutic for viral infections, cognitive function and certain metabolic disorders.
Dosage recommendation: 300–2,000 milligrams.
5. Oregano Essential Oil
Thanks to its powerful healing properties, oregano essential oil is often considered one of the best vegan immune-boosting supplements on the market, especially when it comes to fighting infections. For example, a study conducted by The University of Arizona measured the antiviral efficacy of oregano oil and its primary active component, carvacrol, against the nonenveloped murine norovirus (MNV) and found that it potentially help control the human norovirus. Another in vitro study demonstrated that oregano essential oil was also effective at inactivating certain strains of pathogenic bacteria.
Dosage recommendation: Dilute one drop in four ounces of liquid
Risks and Side Effects
While supplementation can be a useful tool to increase your intake of certain vitamins, minerals or health-promoting compounds, keep in mind that it shouldn’t be used in place of a nutritious, well-rounded diet. Not only can nutrient-dense foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes provide many of the vitamins and minerals listed above, but they can also supply other essential nutrients to support immune health, including fiber, heart-healthy fats and antioxidants. If you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications, be sure to talk to your doctor before adding any of these immune-boosting vitamins to your routine. In addition to finding which supplements are right for you, they can also help determine the right dosage to fit your specific needs.
Several supplements have been shown to help support immune health.
Some of the top immune-boosting vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin D3 and vitamin E.
Meanwhile, zinc, iron and selenium have can help enhance immune function, protect against cell damage and fight infection.
Other immune-boosting supplements include elderberry syrup, probiotics, turmeric, holy basil and oregano essential oil.
For best results, be sure to pair these supplements with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle.
Additionally, if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking other medications, talk to your doctor before starting supplementation.