How can I keep my immune system in the best shape? Is there something I can take to stay healthy?
Today, Binto is exploring the relationship between supplements and immunity, and giving you tips to keep your body in tip top shape.
First, to bust a few myths...
You should be wary of any claims that a certain product “boosts immunity.” The immune system must be carefully balanced to effectively limit the ability of harmful bacteria and viruses to multiply in your body. An across the board boost in immune system activity could actually be detrimental. As Michael Stambach, a professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, said, “A hyperactive immune system that can cause such problems as allergies, diabetes, and other types of autoinflammatory and autoimmune disorders.”
While there is no special pill you can swallow that will magically make your immune system invincible, there are certain supplements you can take to improve immune function. Instead of turbo charging your immune system, think of these products as ways to fine-tune your engine.
First, Vitamin D.
According to NIH, Vitamin D plays a role at a cellular level to monitor your immune system and make sure it is responding to threats properly. A Cambridge study found that Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating immunity in your upper respiratory tract. One study found that a single dose of Vitamin D can enhance your immunity to tuberculosis. Another NIH study has even found that Vitamin D supplementation is associated with decreased general mortality rates.
In addition, Vitamin D is important for the reproductive health of women at all ages, so make sure you are still getting outside and getting sunlight. If you live in a climate that is unfriendly to the sun, consider adding a Vitamin D into your supplement regime, like our Bare Essential Multivitamin! You can also get Vitamin D by eating fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, egg yolks, and foods fortified with the vitamin like some dairy products and orange juice.
Zinc plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of cells. Specifically in the immune system, it is essential for cell reproduction. It also acts in an antiviral capacity in your body. Zinc supplementation can improve its function as an antiviral in two ways: first, improving the immune response to viruses for people with zinc deficiency, and second, to stop viral replication or infection-related symptoms. One study indicated that zinc supplementation can reverse the effects of zinc deficiency and improve immune cell development and immune response. It even suggests that zinc supplementation might even help to prevent allergies.
You can find zinc in oysters, red meat, and poultry, as well as whole grains and milk products. If you are thinking about adding zinc to your supplement routine, reach out to our nurses who can add it to your Binto pack!
Omega-3s play an important role in regulating your immune system by forming part of the cell membrane in immune cells. This means they function as a sort of train conductor of immune activities, moderating the levels of activation of various immune functions.
Omega-3 can be found naturally in most fish, especially salmon, walnuts and chia seeds. You can also find it in the DHA/Fish Oil supplement in your Binto pack!
Antioxidants play a key role on a molecular level in your body. As part of the chemical reactions involved in breaking down food, molecules in your body can become unstable if they don’t have the right amount of electrons, turning into what are called free radicals. Left unchecked, these can cause chain reactions that damage your cells.
Specifically in regards to your immune system, bacterial or viral infections can lead to oxidative stress, which is when your body has too many free radicals. Antioxidants protect your immune system function by passing along electrons to these free radicals and stabilizing them. People who are low in antioxidants can be more susceptible to infection and can even experience impaired immune function.
Adequate antioxidant levels are critical for efficient immune function, so it’s important to make sure you are getting enough. How? You can beef up your diet with antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries, raspberries, kale, dark chocolate, and pecans. Sometimes, you may need to also add in some supplements to maintain your antioxidant levels.
A good place to start is Vitamin C.
According to NIH, Vitamin C prevents the excessive activation of the immune system and supports antibacterial activity. Supplementation with Vitamin C can be beneficial in various inflammatory conditions, as well as helping to reduce the intensity of respiratory infections. Studies indicate that Vitamin C can even help regenerate other antioxidants within the body.
You can get Vitamin C from citrus fruits, leafy greens, or our Binto Bare Essential Multivitamin!
Another great antioxidant supplement is N-acetylcysteine, or NAC.
NAC works to make glutathione, which is the main antioxidant neutralizing free radicals in the body. It also plays a key role in detoxifying the liver and expelling pollutants from the body. Furthermore, NAC can target key mechanisms of lower respiratory tract viral infections, like inflammation. NAC works to prevent the “cytokine storm,” or the overproduction of immune cells. During a flu infection, this storm is associated with a surge of activated immune cells into the lungs, causing inflammation and difficulty breathing.
NAC is the supplement form of cysteine, which can be found in most high-protein foods like chicken, turkey, eggs, and beans. We also offer an NAC supplement here at Binto that can be added to your pack.
Don't forget your probiotics!
When trying to protect your immune system, make sure you don’t overlook your gut!
The relationship between the immune system and your gastrointestinal tract is incredibly important, as your body has to balance eliminating pathogens and maintaining your body’s tolerance to the bacteria in your gut that keep you healthy. Your gastrointestinal tract has certain biological defenses to protect it from infection. Research also indicates that the flora in your gut has a significant effect on your immune system and can even affect autoimmune-related diseases.
Taking probiotics makes sure your gut remains healthy, and thus maintains a healthy ability to protect you from infection. Including probiotics in your supplement regimen can improve your ability to filter toxins, chemicals, and pathogens out of your body, protecting you from substances that cause allergies and infections.
The berries and flowers of the elderberry plant are packed with antioxidants. Elderberry has been used for centuries in herbal medicine to treat viral infections that affect the upper respiratory tract, like the cold and the flu. Available commercially as syrups, gummies, lozenges, pills, and teas, elderberry extracts are thought to contain antioxidant and antiviral properties.
Empirically speaking, research indicates that elderberry can be effective in fighting symptoms of the flu. In one study, 93.3% of the participants taking elderberry extract had improved flu symptoms within 2 days, compared to 6 days for the placebo. Researchers believe that the extract inhibited several strains of the flu by binding to the virus and preventing it from sticking to target cells in the body, essentially blocking it from taking hold.
Furthermore, some research indicates that people who have taken elderberry in some form might be better prepared to fight off the flu. One study found that people who had taken elderberry had higher levels of antibodies to fight the flu virus.
Moving on to: Bee Pollen.
Another more herbally based form of immune health protection is bee pollen. With a high concentration of nutrients, amino acids, vitamins, and lipids, bee pollen has become popular in the health community in recent years.
A mixture of the pollen of flowers from different species, bee pollen is believed to have anti-allergenic properties, functioning as a sort of antihistamine. It has also been found to kill harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. Other studies have indicated that it has antimicrobial properties which may protect against wound infections.
Researchers believe it could help improve cell immune response, as well as have antifungal, anticarcinogenic, and antioxidative effects. While much of this research is preliminary, bee pollen is available commercially as a capsule, powder, pill, liquid and spray.
Finally, keep your engine running!
While supplements can help improve immune function, they do their best work when you are taking good care of your body. If you want to avoid getting sick, make sure you are drinking LOTS of water, washing your hands regularly and vigorously, getting exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep.
Take care of yourself! If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please reach out to our care team for a free consultation or nurse chat.