With cold and flu season here, many people are understandably searching for ways to keep their immune systems in tip-top shape. As many as 20% of Americans come down with the flu each year, resulting in 10+ billion in hospitalization and outpatient visit costs, not to mention a great deal of missed work. While there’s no surefire way to avoid getting sick this winter, there are a handful of things you can do to help boost your immune system so that you have a fighting chance against what’s out there.
Scared of getting sick and losing work? Here are five supplements that may bolster the effectiveness of your immune system, all of which are common enough to be found at your local specialty foods store.
Vitamins C, B6 and E
When attempting to supplement the immune system, vitamins are a natural area to focus on first. Vitamins C, B6 and E in particular are all capable of benefiting the immune system. Vitamin C deficiencies can actually lead to illness, and B6/E help to support biochemical reactions within the body that offer additional immune system support. While all three of these vitamins can be found in foods such as leafy greens, fruits and nuts, boosting your daily intake in supplement form can be an easy way to ensure you get enough.
The benefits of echinacea when it comes to the immune system are quite powerful and supported by scientific studies that have shown effectiveness against recurrent infections and prevention against the common cold. An herbaceous flowering plant that helps to stimulate the immune system, echinacea is available in supplement form and can also be taken as a tea.
Elderberry often gets mentioned alongside echinacea as being one of nature’s best supports for the immune system, and for good reason. For one, the fruit is packed with flavonoids, which have the potential to fight congestion. One study on elderberry even found that extract from the fruit can assist in reducing flu symptoms by as many as three days—a veritable eternity for anyone who is sick with the virus.
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that make up the body’s microbiome and can have a major impact on overall gut health. As much as 70% of the immune system actually lives within the gut, and when a microflora imbalance exists, it can lead to poor immune function and chronic illness. Though probiotics can be found in certain fermented foods, they’re most effective when taken in large concentrations as supplements.
Ginseng has long been taken in supplement form to boost vitality and energy levels, but it can also help to strengthen the immune system. The plant’s roots, stems and leaves can all help to maintain immune system homeostasis, which results in a more dynamic defense against unwelcome pathogens. Look for Panax ginseng for best effects.
So don’t hide at home in fear of getting sick during cold and flu season! Focus on protecting your immune system, getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet to stay healthy this winter.