Like most things, there is no ‘one hit wonder’ when it comes to the best way to boost immune system function. There are many nutrients that support a strong immune system and each has a different role. Thus, just taking lots of one or two of them is sort of like expecting your car to run well with lots of oil, while ignoring the transmission fluid. There are a number of important nutrients to boost your immunity that are also backed by science. So, without further ado, here are 5 nutrients for a strong immune system:
Vitamin C, one of the best vitamins for immune system health
We often overlook the importance of vitamin C because there are fewer instances of deficiency these days. However, low vitamin C has proven to be a scourge for folks in the past who didn’t always know why they were literally falling apart. Vitamin C is essential in just about every tissue in the body, which is why not having enough will cause the breakdown of tissues. Gums bleed, muscles degenerate, wounds don’t heal, and massive infections can result. Immune tissues are no exception. Not enough vitamin C and they simply cannot function properly, which is why it is one of the best immune boosting vitamins. Plus, vitamin C fights infection, which it can only do if you have plenty of it.1
Science has known that zinc can improve immune system function for quite a while now. People that are deficient display poor immune cell function, increased inflammation and even death. Without it (even if we have plenty of vitamin C), our immune response will be abysmal at best. This goes for both the ‘innate’ immune system and the ‘adaptive’ immune system. Innate just refers to fighting off infections in general, while adaptive refers to creating longer-term immune system support against infections you’ve already had.2
If you eat yogurt, pickles, or other fermented foods or drinks, you already get at least some probiotics that ultimately boost your immunity. These are the “good bacteria” that live inside of your digestive system. You provide a place for them to live, and they provide you with health benefits. However, not all things that you end up swallowing contain these good guys. Some are bad. Fortunately, the good ones don’t like the bad ones and kill them off. But if there aren’t enough good ones, the bad ones take over and end up making you sick. So, if you want a strong immune system and wish to avoid inflammation in your guts, get plenty of probiotics in your diet.3
These are a less commonly known, but a big deal none-the-less. Beta glucans are just certain types of fiber that come from bacteria, fungi, yeasts and some plants. They are commonly used to decrease heart disease risk as there is some good evidence for this. In addition, they are known to boost your immunity by stimulating macrophages (which “eat” intruders), killer cells and the production of antibodies. All this activity can even potentially destroy cancer.4
Selenium is a mineral that we need in pretty small amounts, but it is essential. First, it acts as an antioxidant. Since it is a mineral, it is fat soluble and thus can destroy fatty waste products that are a natural byproduct of cell metabolism. Normally, these could cause damage to your cells, tissues or even DNA. Vitamin C, mentioned above, is also a really strong antioxidant, but it can only eliminate non-fatty waste products. In addition, selenium is an essential part of many immune cells. Without it they cannot function and thus fight infection or even prevent it in the first place.5
Boost your immunity because potential infection is everywhere!
The air, the water, everything around us is literally crawling with bacteria, viruses and other potential pathogens. Oddly, most of them are harmless and some are even helpful, but of course a few of them are happy to do their best to knock you off. This is why you have an immune system; to deal with all these intruders. Without a strong immune system, you’re just an infection waiting to happen. It’s hard to overemphasize this, so consider getting plenty of vitamin C, zinc, probiotics, beta glucans and selenium to boost your immunity to its strongest. If you find that you don’t get much of any of these in your diet, use supplements to boost immune system function to its peak.