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6 Supplements That Really Do Boost Immunity

Five supplements that work, according to experts.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

There's no shortage of supplements for consumers to choose from, but how do you know which ones actually work? Most experts agree it's better to get your nutrients from food and a proper diet if possible. Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D. Professor of Public Health New Mexico State University explains, "Vitamin pills cannot counter the effects of poor diet, lack of exercise, remaining isolated or indoors all the time, drinking or smoking a lot—these habits independently affect physical and mental health and one must stay away from these. There is no better source of vitamins than a diverse and natural diet full of plants, vegetables, fruits, and dairy." But if you must take supplements to help boost your immune health, consult with your doctor first. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to experts who explain which supplements help keep you healthy and why. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Why Supplements are Important for Immunity

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Robert G. Lahita MD, Ph.D. ("Dr. Bob"), Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health and author of Immunity Strong, says, "If you don't get proper nutrients and vitamins, your immune system won't be as strong. It's important to ensure your diet includes plenty of vegetables and prebiotics/probiotics (like yogurt) to maintain a balanced gut microbiome. I also take a multivitamin every single morning, and a baby aspirin (81mg) every night before bed. It prevents your blood from clotting in a big way for stroke and heart disease, but in particular for COVID, the Delta variant causes micro clots to form which destroy the lung tissue. By taking the baby aspirin, it helps prevent this from happening."

2

Vitamin C

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Dr. Bob says, "Vitamin C encourages the body to produce white blood cells called lymphocytes and phagocytes, which can help protect the body against infection."

Latonya Fore, MSN, APRN-CNP and obesity and weight management specialist adds, Vitamin C, "helps with stimulating neutrophil migration, goes to the site of infection, helps reduce symptom severity and duration.  Foods high in vitamin c include spinach, kale, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, strawberries and papaya."

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3

Vitamin D

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Dr. Bob explains, "Vitamin D is critical to proper immune function. It has anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties, and it enhances the function of immune cells called T cells and macrophages. These protect your body against harmful pathogens. Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of infection and disease, including respiratory diseases like asthma and COPD. Some studies have found that people with sufficient levels of Vitamin D are less likely to experience very severe or life threatening effects from COVID."

Fore states, "Fat soluble hormone, low levels decrease immunity, Enhances white blood cells. enhances innate immunity which is the body's first line of defense. Foods with vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. Vitamin D is also fortified in milk, orange juice and cereals. Studies to support vitamin D and reduction of Covid-19 are mixed and need additional research."

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4

Zinc

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According to Dr. Bob, "Zinc plays an extremely central role in immune function, overall. It's especially needed for developing immune cells and in the inflammatory response the body initiates."

Fore says, Zinc "is a mineral, helps with immunity by decreasing excessive inflammation once you get an infection, stops infection from getting out of control. Foods high in zinc include oysters, crab, lean meats and poultry, baked beans, yogurt, and chickpeas." 

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5

Beta-Carotene and Vitamin E

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Dr. Melissa A Murphy, Ph.D. explains, "These nutrients have many different forms that come from many red, orange and blue/purple fruits and vegetables. They support the roles of vitamin C and D by protecting important cellular structures and immune cell components." Better to get them from foods.

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6

Vitamin K2

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Registered Dietitian Mia Syn, MS, RDN says, "While vitamin D is vital for immune health,it is important to note that vitamin D supplementation is critically important in relation to vitamin K2. Vitamin K2's main role is to work with vitamin D to regulate the transport and distribution of calcium in the body to support heart and bone health. Without enough vitamin K2, osteocalcin remains inactive and calcium will not be integrated into our skeletal system which can lead to excess calcium that can be deposited in the cardiovascular system, where it can have harmful effects." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more