The Best Supplements for Your Immune System

The Best Supplements for Your Immune System

Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD

Staying well is key to a better life. To do that, we need to eat right, exercise and practice healthy lifestyle choices, such as getting enough sleep and keeping stress at bay. But with the world around us being what it is, there's another thing to consider—nutritional supplements.

Certain vitamins and other formulas have been shown to support a robust immune response, even in the challenging winter months, when the world's throwing its worst at you!

What supplements should I take for my immune system?

Woman taking a supplement with a glass of orange juice

A glass of orange juice (although delicious) just isn't going to cut it through today's challenges. Instead, more and more people are turning to nutritional supplements to encourage their chances of successfully fighting off an immune challenge.

Let's explore some of these fantastic formulations:

  • N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC)

    N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) is an old supplement to some, a relative newcomer to others—but everyone can benefit from its immune, lung and cellular health support properties. That's because NAC supports your body's ability to fight oxidative stress, which can help keep cells healthy and impacts how well cells (including immune cells) do their job. Plus, NAC supports respiratory and bronchial health (liver health, too). When it comes to an all-around immune health supplement to help you live better, put NAC at the top of the list!

  • Elderberry

    Elderberry (or Black Elder) has been around for a long time. In fact, the ancient Egyptians used it for everything from burn salves to cosmetics, and the berries of the black elder tree are still gathered by traditional communities throughout Europe. New research suggests that the health benefits of black elder are more than an old wives' tale: in multiple clinical studies, standardized black elderberry extract promoted a healthy immune response because of its anthocyanin compounds. For fast immune health support, choose an elderberry supplement that's not only standardized, but also contains vitamin C and zinc.

  • Probiotics

    Probiotics for immune health. We think of probiotics as digestive health support. But they can be so much more than that! This shouldn't be that surprising because as it turns out, about 70% of your immune system is in your gut. Probiotics can help promote a healthy immune response by encouraging your body's production of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an essential compound your body uses to defend itself.

Which daily vitamins and minerals support the immune system?

Healthy man taking a vitamin capsule with a glass of water

Odds are you know that vitamin C has a sterling reputation for immune health. But what you may not know is that vitamin D3 also helps support your immune system. It's true: vitamin D3 is a key player in your immune system's healthy response, helping your body manage your immune cells so that they all work together to help you mount a robust defense.

Even better news for your immune system: both vitamin D3 and vitamin C supplements are very affordable!

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention perhaps the most famous immune health nutrient: zinc. This mineral helps your immune system to both build and maintain its arsenal of immune cells such as macrophages, natural killer cells and lymphocytes—as well as to help protect the vulnerable mucus membranes in your nose and throat.

You know where you can get all of these immune health vitamins and more? A good, high-quality multivitamin. It might not sound like some high-tech immune response nutritional supplement, but a two-per-day multivitamin can have just as much zinc as a stand-alone zinc supplement—plus goodies like vitamin C, antioxidant vitamin E and much more.

Supplements for the immune system that work best together

Man and woman playing chess

Your immune system isn't a single thing, like a shield. It's more like a chess set, and your health is the king—lots of individual pieces with different roles to play, strengths to utilize, and weaknesses that will have to be compensated for if you're going to remain healthy. Many supplements work best in harmony with other supplements.

But trying to remember to take all of these separate nutrients every day can be tricky, especially on those busy weekday mornings…so we put them all in one place: Immune Packs with Vitamin C & D, Zinc and Probiotic. If you're looking for an easy way to get your daily immune health nutrition, this is it: simple, on-the-go packs. One a day contains vitamin C plus quercetin, zinc, vitamin D3, and our very own FLORASSIST® Immune and Nasal Defense.

Our Immune Packs help support immune health in a variety of ways: vitamin D, vitamin C, and quercetin promote a healthy immune response, zinc supports the integrity of your body's immune system, and FLORASSIST® Immune and Nasal Defense encourages the production of secretory IgA as well as the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, which your body uses to meet challenges head-on.

What happens when immune cells get old?

If you're getting older, are you concerned that your immune system isn't working quite like it used to? We hate to say it, but these fears are somewhat justified. This phenomenon is called "immune senescence," and it's very common. So common, in fact, that nutritional science is trying to address it.

Nutrients like reishi mushroom, cistanche and pu-erh tea can help you fight back against immune senescence. But to understand how they work, you need to know about immune cells—namely naïve and memory T cells, as well as natural killer (NK) cells. Naïve T cells attack new invaders. Memory T cells attack previously known invaders. Think of NK cells as your body's first responders on the front line.

Cistanche contains a compound called echinacoside, which encourages naïve T cell development, as well as increases natural killer cell activity. Triterpenes and other compounds found in reishi mushroom encourage the function of hematopoietic stem cells, T cells and other important immune factors.

Facts about immune supplements with Michael A. Smith, MD

Older man talking to a doctor about maintaining immune health

Your immune system is made up of many parts—as is your diet. To make the most of one, you have to optimize the other…and that means modifying your supplement intake to get as many immune defense friendly nutrients as possible. We asked Life Extension's Director of Education, Michael A. Smith, MD, what to look for:

We’ve heard of vitamin C and zinc. What else is out there?

I believe we've covered vitamin D before, so I'll say N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine. It's a precursor to glutathione, one of your body's most essential antioxidants. It also supports both respiratory and bronchial health. And recently, people are turning to NAC for its potent immune support properties.

Are plant extracts effective?

Yes, if you choose the right ones. Quercetin is a good one—especially in the winter. But listen, it's important not to limit yourself to plants: EpiCor® is an innovative yeast fermentate that encourages natural killer cell activity as well as the production of secretory IgA, both of which are key to a healthy immune response. And that's not even mentioning mushrooms!

Can reishi mushrooms support immune health?

Yes, compounds in reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) encourage your body's natural defenses. People have been eating them, brewing them into tea, and of course taking reishi mushroom supplements for years. But it's not just reishi: shiitake, maitake and chaga mushrooms all have strong immune health benefits as well.

EpiCor® is a registered trademark of Embria Health Sciences, L.L.C.

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