Supporting your immune system with great nutrition is one of the best ways to get a leg up in keeping you well.
Start at the grocery store
The first place to start is to ensure your body is getting enough protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Protein is especially important and essential for the health of the immune system. Healthy fats (EPA and DHA) are important to the immune system as well.
When choosing foods, make sure you focus on fruits and vegetables because they contain nutrients your body needs like antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, and minerals such as zinc and magnesium.
- Mushrooms (shiitake, matsutake, and others) have a long history of helping support the immune system, especially the reishi mushroom in traditional Chinese medicine. Modern science has shown that mushrooms contain substances (such as beta-glucans and others) that can enhance immune system function.
- Garlic and onions not only taste great but research suggests they have the ability to modulate immune function.
- Herbs such as turmeric, ginger, and others have long been used as spices and to preserve foods; these herbs also have benefits for our immune system.
A good multivitamin is always a great place to start because almost any vitamin or mineral deficiency can affect a healthy immune system. Vitamins B6, B12, folate, C, E, and minerals zinc, copper, and iron all support a healthy immune response.
After a multivitamin, you may want to consider adding in some additional support with the following:
- Beneficial bacteria: Since 80 percent of your immune system is located around your digestive tract, it makes sense that having good gut flora would benefit the immune system. Research supports there is a relationship between probiotics and general immunity.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D, in particular, has been the focus of much research on optimal immune system functioning. Vitamin D plays a role in the improving mucous membrane barrier functioning, the production of antimicrobial peptides (small proteins), and overall immune support.
- Vitamin C: While there has been some controversy regarding the usefulness of vitamin C, a recent review of evidence suggests vitamin C may help the immune systems of people who are exposed to extreme physical stress.
- Herbs: There are a number of herbs that have been used traditionally for immune system support. Research indicates there are immune modulating properties of Echinacea, larch, elderberry, and others.
Your immune system is complex and has many moving parts that all need the proper nutrition in order to function well. Give your immune system strong nutritional support for the best chance of being well prepared.
Chair of Medical Affairs, Health Science, & Education
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