A healthy immune system is the bedrock of your body’s health. Immune system supplements ensure you have no compromising vitamin deficiencies or gaps in your immune system function.
We cover 10 great immune system supplements to support immune health, each of them with bonus health benefits of their own.
Two in three American adults take dietary supplements. And there are hundreds of studies to back up their health claims. Of course, we need to maintain a healthy diet and good hygiene. But where our eating habits leave gaps, immune boosting supplements can begin to work their magic.
Whether it’s flu season or there are infectious diseases sweeping across your city, now is the best time to make sure your immune system works.
Best Practices for a Healthy Immune System
Before we try to balance our immune system with supplements, it’s important to adopt healthy habits. Healthy diet and good hygiene are sure to improve your immune health. Even exercise is shown to slow the age-related deterioration of the immune system.
Hand sanitizer is not beneficial to immune health. Though we need to keep our body clean, studies have indicated that children aren’t always exposed to enough bacteria to build a strong immune system.
T Cells and B Cells
T cells are named for the thymus gland, the gland from which T cells originate. T cells are responsible for many immune functions:
- Killing virus-infected cells
- Killing cancer cells
- Identifying infected cells
- Identifying foreign bodies
- Regulating the production of white blood cells
B cells are a type of white blood cell. B cells are imperative to your immune health because they fight foreign invaders in the body.
Research has linked T cell and B cell production with healthy practices. B cell and T cell production can actually be hindered by calorie restriction dieting. When dealing with any sort of illness, eat a balanced healthy diet if possible. Healthy practices and supplementation will ensure your immune system is the best it can be.
Support a Balanced Gut Microbiome
In disease and health, the gut is where 70-80 percent of the immune system takes place. The term for the relationship between the trillions of microbes that live in our gut and the foods we eat to regulate that environment is the gut microbiome. Research shows that the immune function of the gut affects the immune function of the rest of the body.
Understanding our microbiome may help to treat diseases outside the digestive system. Scientists believe treating the immune system in the gut will treat systemic immune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Limit Use of Antibiotics
The World Health Organization warns of antibiotic resistance as “an increasingly serious threat to global public health.” Trillions and trillions of microscopic bacteria live inside our bodies. While some of these bacteria are harmful if left unchecked, many intestinal bacteria are good for us.
Every time you take an antibiotic, the good bacteria that haven’t had to build a resistance to our immune system tend to die off. Meanwhile, the bad bacteria have had to build a resistance to your immune system, so they are less likely to be killed by the antibiotic.
Antibiotic resistance happens when bad bacteria are able to adapt and mutate their DNA so well, drugs are rendered ineffective. Each year, two million Americans come down with an antibiotic-resistant infection. Antibiotics are occasionally necessary to treat serious bacterial infections. But there are more natural, less harmful methods of promoting a stronger immune system.
Therefore, talk to your doctor about alternative treatment options from antibiotics when possible.
Food Sensitivity Test
It is beneficial to know as much as you can about your body. For instance, you don’t want to take certain kinds of gluten-fortified ginger supplements if you need to be gluten free.
A food sensitivity test will help you to figure out the answer to two questions:
- What foods are harmful to my body and immune system?
- What immune system supplements does my body want/not want?
Here are two common types of food sensitivity tests.
As you might be able to guess, an elimination diet has you eliminate certain foods from your daily eating. One by one, you reintroduce these foods. Whenever symptoms of a food allergy arise, you have a better idea of which foods to avoid.
The most common example of a cell-based test is the ALCAT. (ALCAT stands for Antigen Leukocyte Cellular Antibody Test.)
In cell-based tests, you provide a blood sample. A lab test exposes the blood sample to food antigens and examines the reaction of your white blood cells. If the white blood cells shrink, they are probably releasing chemicals which could provoke an allergic reaction.
Identify and Treat Leaky Gut
It sounds pretty gross, but leaky gut is a serious problem we all have to consider. What is leaky gut syndrome? Poor dietary and lifestyle habits compromise our digestive tract. When our gut health malfunctions, our immune system suffers.
Leaky gut is caused by the weakening of proteins in the intestines. These tight junction proteins regulate what gets into your bloodstream. Tight junction proteins have to distinguish between essential nutrients and foreign bodies. In leaky gut, tight junction proteins are not functioning properly.
Several factors can lead to leaky gut:
- Diet includes allergens, GMOs, and synthetic additives
- Constant stress in your daily life
- Overload on toxins like antibiotics, aspirin, pesticides, and alcohol
The first step to treating leaky gut is identifying foods bad for gut health, including foods to which you may have a food sensitivity. Identify healthy foods to fill those gaps, left behind by abandoning bad foods. Most immune system supplements also enhance gut health.
Focus on dietary and supplemental probiotics. Since probiotics are simply the good bacteria your body wants, probiotics are a great step to restore the delicate microbiome in your gut.
10 Best Immune System Supplements
Though it can be difficult to narrow the list down this much, we are confident these are the ten highest-quality immune system boosters available. Each supplement is backed by multiple studies, so you can rest assured you’re making an evidence-based choice.
1. Vitamin C
Though it has long been known to possess many health benefits, vitamin C’s position among the strongest immune system supplements is a more recent discovery. Vitamin C has been shown to shorten the duration of infections like pneumonia, malaria, and the common cold.
Elderly people experience a natural drop in vitamin C levels. But studies show vitamin C supplements enhance weakened immune systems, despite their drop. Moreover, vitamin C deficiency leads to a reduction in collagen production. This reduction in collagen levels leads to your body aging more quickly, including your immune system.
Beyond general immune system function, preliminary studies suggest vitamin C supplementation may play a part in preventing cancer. Animal studies accentuate how important vitamin C is for the immune system. In animals which cannot produce vitamin C naturally (like humans), vitamin C supplementation greatly enhances the immune system.
That’s right. The human body lacks the ability to synthesize vitamin C. So, to boost your immune system, make sure you don’t have any vitamin deficiencies, particularly vitamin C deficiency.
Foods rich in vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
- Spinach, kale, cabbage, and broccoli
Suggested Dosage for Vitamin C
- 75 to 250 milligrams orally daily
- Do not exceed 1800 milligrams per day
Though its scientific name is Sambucus nigra, most have called it elderberry for centuries. Mothers and doctors alike prescribe a spoonful of elderberry syrup for cold and flu symptoms. How effective is elderberry syrup?
Research shows elderberry syrup shortens the duration of the flu — by four days on average, compared to the placebo. Another study identifies the reason elderberry stops the flu and the common cold in its tracks. It says that elderberry syrup is antiviral and stimulates a beneficial immune response.
Like several other immune system supplements, elderberry is an antioxidant. It is able to repress oxidative stress and inflammatory response. Elderberry extract not only displays immune enhancement. Preliminary research also indicates elderberry is capable of tumor suppression.
So, stop by your local Whole Foods or Walgreens and pick up a bottle of elderberry syrup. Your immune system will thank you! Elderberry syrup can be a little more expensive than other immune system supplements, so look for special offers.
Suggested Dosage for Elderberry
- 15 milliliters (or, one tablespoon) of elderberry syrup, three or four times a day, orally
Used for ages as traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng is best known for its brain health effects. But ginseng may help fight infections and promote immune function. A 2012 study showed ginseng is both anti-inflammatory and antiviral. It also regulates immune cells, such as T cells and B cells.
Ginseng supplements play a part in antibody production. These antibodies fight against infectious diseases and bacteria. Even in exercise studies, research shows ginseng to be a strong anti-inflammatory immune booster.
Look for a Panax Ginseng dietary supplement. Panax is the genus of ginseng on which most research has been conducted. Panax, or “true ginseng,” has been most strongly linked with immune system support.
Suggested Dosage for Ginseng
- 200 to 400 milligrams daily, orally
- As low as 40 milligrams daily is shown to be effective, if part of a multivitamin course
4. Colloidal Silver
Another remedy from days of old, colloidal silver has been used for centuries to stop infectious diseases and promote a healthy immune system.
What does “colloidal” mean? A colloid is something which cannot be seen because it is thoroughly dissolved into its solution. In this case, colloidal silver is made of silver particles invisibly dissolved into water. Under various conditions, colloidal silver is able to curb the spread of bad bacteria.
Silver nanoparticles are the precursor to colloidal silver. Researchers found these silver nanoparticles modulated the immune response in the digestive tract. Following silver nanoparticles entering into human cells, oxidative stress is regulated. This indicates silver as an antioxidant.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any drugs which contain silver as an active ingredient. Fortunately, dietary supplements are available.
Suggested Dosage for Colloidal Silver
- 50 to 250 micrograms daily, orally
- Do not exceed 350 micrograms a day
Argyria is a condition where someone turns blue. Some believe this occurs when you use colloidal silver on a regular basis. However, others believe argyria is brought on by products which are not true colloidal silver. Imitators like ionic silver and silver protein can both turn the skin blue.
Myrrh is among the most potent immune system supplements to help fight infections and increase immune response. Myrrh supplementation has displayed multiple signs of boosting the immune system:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Increased white blood cell count
- Wound healing traits
- Clear correlation to invading infections
Animal studies also show a clear relationship between myrrh and immune health. Dietary supplementation of myrrh resulted in enhanced immune response in multiple test groups of mice. Some research shows myrrh is more effective when taken with frankincense oil.
Suggested Dosage for Myrrh
- 500 milligrams daily, orally (though more research is needed)
- Do not exceed 2 grams daily.
- Avoid taking a myrrh supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Echinacea has gained popularity as a treatment for the common cold. But this goes further. Echinacea is one of the most potent immune system supplements. Its effective against infectious diseases, like the common cold, especially when used as a preventative measure instead of a reactive one.
Researchers have looked at multiple studies, including blind randomized trials, concerning echinacea as an immune support supplement. Echinacea is most promising at treating upper respiratory infections. A 2012 study showed echinacea exhibited its most effective results on recurring infections.
On top of immune system support, echinacea has been observed to alleviate anxiety and depression.
Suggested Dosage for Echinacea
- 300 to 500 milligrams of dehydrated powder, three times a day, orally
- 2.5 to 3.0 milliliters of tincture, three times a day, orally
Because the immune system is influenced by the digestive tract, it is important to consume probiotic foods and supplements. Probiotics are good bacteria which aid in digestive health and support your immune system function.
Usually, probiotics are used to treat conditions such as:
- lactose intolerance
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Urinary tract infection
Examples of foods high in probiotics:
Suggested Dosage for Probiotics
- Because there are so many individual probiotics (such as L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, and L. johnsonii), dosages vary for each probiotic supplement. However, quality supplements will typically contain 10-50 billion CFU (colony-forming units).
- Supplementing a probiotic can result in bloating.
- Consult your health care provider for more information about the best probiotic supplement for you.
8. Vitamin E
First discovered in 1922, scientists believed vitamin E was primarily for successful in carrying pregnancies to term. Now, we know that vitamin E is a potent antioxidant which supports the body’s immune system.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E fights free radicals and oxidative stress. Simply put, vitamin E helps to prevent infectious diseases, heart disease, brain disease, tumor growth, and aging. One study showed that vitamin E outperformed vaccines in preventing certain diseases in sheep. Overall, vitamin E has been shown to decrease vulnerability to infections.
Foods rich in Vitamin E include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Spinach and broccoli
Suggested Dosage for Vitamin E
- 250 to 750 milligrams daily, orally
- For children under eight years old, do not exceed 300 milligrams daily
- For children nine to thirteen years old, do not exceed 600 milligrams daily
9. Vitamin D
For decades, scientists have known that vitamin D is crucial to bone health, even heart health. But vitamin D is proving its worth by fighting infectious diseases and promoting a healthy immune system.
A systematic review in 2015 looked at 23 studies concerning vitamin D and the immune system. Researchers found consistent data that shows vitamin D is an anti-inflammatory immune support nutrient.
Like others, vitamin D deficiency can lead to increased susceptibility to diseases. Other studies show that a vitamin D deficiency can lead to autoimmune diseases, as well as cardiovascular diseases, or even type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin D is an antioxidant which can be produced naturally through exposure to sunlight. But as we grow older, less of this essential nutrient is produced. So we need to make sure we consume enough vitamin D in our daily diets, as well as in dietary supplement form.
Foods rich in Vitamin D include:
- Salmon, trout, other fish
- Hard boiled eggs
- Raw mushrooms
Suggested Dosage for Vitamin D
- 10 to 40 micrograms daily, orally
10. Vitamin B6
Of all the B vitamins, researchers have observed vitamin B6 to best assist in immune function. A deficiency in vitamin B6 leads to poor immune health. But vitamin B6 supplementation not only leads to stronger immune system. It may even slow or stop tumor growth.
Another study suggests vitamin B6 may be clinically important for cancer treatment, as well as other infectious diseases. Even very recent studies are still legitimately exploring vitamin B6’s role in preventing tumors from forming or progressing.
Foods rich in Vitamin B6 include:
- Salmon, tuna, other cold water fish
- Chickpeas, main ingredient in hummus
- Green vegetables
Suggested dosage for Vitamin B6
- 25 to 100 milligrams daily, orally
- The human body possesses a comprehensive immune system. When it works properly, your immune system protects you from bacteria, viruses, and inflammation.
- Limit the use of antibiotics to promote a healthy microbiome.
- Elderberry, echinacea, ginseng, myrrh, and colloidal silver are all science-backed immune system supplements.
- Probiotics are good bacteria that your stomach needs to protect the body from infection. It is important to eat foods rich in probiotics, but probiotic supplementation may help as well.
- Vitamin deficiencies often lead to a weakened immune system. Make sure you maintain the necessary intake of vitamins A to E.