Young woman consuming healthy drink to strengthen her immune system

Immune Supplements That Work Best Together

By: Mia Syn, MS, RD

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD

Supporting immune health has been at the forefront of everyone's mind, particularly in the past year and a half as people have been eager to stay healthy all year long. Today, everything seems to be the answer to immune health. From superfoods to wellness routines, the truth is that there are certain key nutrients that play a key role in helping to get the job done.

Here is everything you need to know about supporting your immune system using dietary supplements.

What is the immune system?

Joyful woman with healthy immune system frolicking outdoors

The immune system is made up of a network of intricate stages and pathways that work together to protect the body against challenges and helps the body stay strong. It is made up of two parts: the innate and adaptive immune systems, which work closely together and play different roles.

The innate immune system is the body's first line of defense and consists of the skin and mucous membranes as well as immune system cells and proteins. The adaptive immune system takes over if the innate immune system is not able to properly do its job. This process involves specialized immune cells and antibodies that help support overall health now and in the future by remembering what those challenges look like by kickstarting your immune system at the first sign of them.

How does diet impact immune health?

Fresh salmon and tomatoes, food that can help boost immune system

When it comes to a healthy diet, variety and whole food ingredients are key, so that your body gets a range of nutrients to meet your needs. Diets limited in healthy proteins, carbohydrates and fats, as well as diets high in processed foods may impact immune health. This may be because each stage of the body's immune response relies on the presence of certain nutrients. Some of those that have particular importance for the growth and function of immune cells are vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and protein. Some foods particularly rich in immune-supporting nutrients include asparagus, salmon and oranges.

Vitamin D3: The sunshine vitamin for immune health

Young woman outdoors nurturing her healthy immune system

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally found in only a handful of foods like fatty fish and added to others like some dairy products and cereals. Our skin also produces its own vitamin D when in direct sunlight. Despite the importance of the sun for vitamin D synthesis, limiting UV exposure is critically important to protecting overall skin health.

A vitamin D3 supplement makes it easy to help meet your daily needs without seeking out hard-to-find vitamin D-containing foods. A high-potency supplement can help fill in the gaps by delivering 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per easy-to-swallow softgel.

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Vitamin C: A skin-loving nutrient that is also critical for immune health

Fresh oranges providing vitamin C, a nutrient for immune support

Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient found primarily in fruits and vegetables. It is needed for the synthesis of collagen, a structural protein in the skin, and is also an important antioxidant that helps inhibit free radicals. Additionally, it may support immune health during the winter months.

Vitamin C also plays a critical role in modulating the immune response by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. It supports epithelial barrier function and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, helping to protect against potential environmental oxidative stress. Another benefit of vitamin C is that it may help make plant-based iron, found in spinach, grains and nuts for example, more bioavailable to the body.

Support your immune health with a high quality vitamin C supplement that also contains an ultra-absorbable form of bio-quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that complements vitamin C's ability to help inhibit oxidative stress.

Zinc: An essential mineral for immune support

Fit man stretching, aware of how zinc helps his immune system

Zinc is an essential mineral found throughout the body needed for many biological functions including protein synthesis, skin health, and immune function. The body requires zinc to develop and activate immune cells. Daily zinc intake is crucial since the body has no specialized zinc storage system. While oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, it is also found in red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, fortified cereals, whole grains and dairy products.

Something to note about zinc found in plant-based foods like legumes, nuts and whole grains, is that it is often present with phytate, which is considered an "anti-nutrient" due to its ability to bind zinc and inhibit its absorption. So, while we can get zinc from food, many people may not be consuming or absorbing enough to reap all of its benefits.

However, supplementing with zinc capsules or lozenges is an easy way to fill in the gaps. Look for a high-quality formula that is not only based on clinical studies, but provides 18.75 mg of zinc as zinc oxide and zinc gluconate

Not sure which immune support supplements are right for you and your wellness needs? Take our Immune Health Quiz to find out!

About the Author: Mia Syn, MS, RD is a national on-air nutrition expert, host of Good Food Friday on ABC Charleston and one of the most recognized and trusted young dietitians in the media. With a master's degree in human nutrition from Columbia University and over 500 TV appearances, she has helped millions of viewers, readers and clients learn and implement healthier, sustainable eating habits.