In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you must be well-acquainted with taking routine precautions, like avoiding sick people and washing your hands often, to stay healthy. But here's the thing. You may need a little more protection to maintain your best health. In fact, experts advise that taking steps to strengthen your immune system may give you an edge in fighting off harmful pathogens or disease-causing organisms. How can this be done?
Do you have time to sleep for 10 hours, instead of your usual 7? How about time to carve out 20 minutes every day to meditate? While the above could definitely help, they’re also terribly time-consuming; there’s a much easier way to bolster your immune system. And that is supplementation with various vitamins, minerals, and herbs.
What Is The Immune System?
The immune system, as it's appropriately termed, is your body's natural defense system. It does not occupy any single part of your body–instead, it is made up of a network of different cells, molecules, tissues, and organs (thus, explaining the term 'system') working together to fight infections (1, 2, 3). So, it's your immune system that tries to keep you in the best of health as you drift through a sea of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more as you go about your daily life.
How Does The Immune System Work?
As the immune system is responsible for fighting harmful things that enter the body, it’s always on the lookout for disease-causing 'invaders'–and then mounts a complex immune response once an enemy is indeed spotted. A properly functioning immune system can distinguish a host's tissue from foreign tissue (self from non-self). This prevents the immune system from attacking healthy, harmless cells in your body (i.e. autoimmune response).
There are 2 subsystems within the immune system: the innate (non-specific) immune system and the adaptive (specific) immune system. Both of these subsystems are closely-linked and work together whenever a harmful substance triggers an immune response (4, 5).
The Innate (Non-Specific) Immune System
Many of us are born with some level of immunity to invaders. This innate immunity provides a general defense against pathogens; this is also called the non-specific immune system. It mostly fights with immune cells such as phagocytes and natural killer cells. The innate immune system includes the external barriers of your body–which provide the first line of defense against pathogens–such as the skin and mucous membranes of the throat and gut.
The Adaptive (Specific) Immune System
The adaptive immune system, on the contrary, makes antibodies and uses them to specifically fight specific pathogens that your body has previously come into contact with. This is also known as an 'acquired' or 'specific' immune response. Because the adaptive immune system is continually learning and adapting, the body can fight viruses or bacteria that evolve.
Natural ways to boost your immune system
As you probably know by now, the best way to stay in the best of health is to ensure that every component of your immune system is performing according to plan. But how do you do that? How do you strengthen your immune system such that it efficiently fights off diseases? There are 6 vitamins, minerals, and herbs worth paying attention to.
#1 – Vitamin A
Mention vitamin A, and if you're like most people, you'd think that its benefits are maintaining healthy vision, reduce risk of acne, bone health. But there's a crucial benefit that you might not have known. And that is: vitamin A helps support a healthy immune system. Why? Well, because this vitamin is involved in the production and function of various immune system cells (e.g. white blood cells), which help capture and clear bacteria and other pathogens from the body (6).
Studies have shown that vitamin A supplementation can help decrease the risks of mortality and morbidity from some forms of diarrhea, measles, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, as a testament to its importance to the immune system and malaria (7, 8).
#2 – Vitamin C
Vitamin C–a water-soluble vitamin found in many fruits and vegetables–is often touted as a natural cold remedy. In fact, you might have even bought into the belief that taking large doses of vitamin C can help thwart a cold. Guess what? There may very well be some truth to that as the vitamin is indeed involved in many parts of the immune system. In addition to encouraging the production of white blood cells, which help protect your body against infections, vitamin C also helps these white blood cells function more effectively by protecting them from damage (9). That's not all, either! Vitamin C is also known to act as an antioxidant at the skin, thus strengthening its barriers against harmful pathogens (10).
#3 – Vitamin D
Because vitamin D is produced in your skin in response to sunlight, you may know the vitamin as the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ And if you needed more reason to feel all warm and fuzzy when thinking about vitamin D, here’s one. This vitamin is necessary for the proper functioning of your immune system. More specifically, vitamin D exerts both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory effects–and is crucial for the activation of immune system defenses (11, 12).
To illustrate just how vital this vitamin is to the immune system: studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased susceptibility to infection, disease, and immune-related disorders (13). That includes respiratory diseases, such as tuberculosis, asthma, as well as various viral and bacterial respiratory infections (14, 15, 16). Interestingly enough, researchers have even speculated that vitamin D supplementation can help reduce complications and uncontrolled inflammation in COVID-19 patients (17, 18).
#4 – Zinc
Look through any supplement or healthcare product meant to boost your immune system, and you’d most likely spot zinc in its ingredient label. This is for a good reason. Zinc is essential for an optimal immune system function. This mineral helps your body create immune cells, like T-cells and white blood cells, that fight off disease. Multiple studies have shown that zinc deficiency can significantly impact your immune system's functions–resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease, including pneumonia (19, 20).
Promisingly, zinc supplementation can help protect against respiratory tract infections like the common cold (21, 22). For example, a 2019 study found that 30 mg of zinc supplementation per day decreased the total duration of acute lower respiratory tract infection (ALRI) by an average of 2 days, compared with a placebo group (23).
#5 – Black Elderberry
Black elderberry is the dark purple berry from the European elder tree (24, 25). The use of the black elderberry fruit for its medicinal properties dates back in history. In fact, it's said that Hippocrates, the father of medicine, touted its medicinal properties. People–including the Native Americans and European herbalists–have been using it for generations. And it seems that they were right to do so, as there's evidence showing that the elderberry can strengthen the immune system–helping the body fight off colds, flu, and other respiratory infections (26).
According to a 2004 study of 60 people with influenza, those who took elderberry syrup 4 times a day showed quicker recovery rates (2 to 4 days) than the control group (7 to 8 days) (27). Another study showed that elderberry extract supplementation resulted in significant improvement in flu symptoms, including headache, fever, muscle aches, and nasal congestion, after just 24 hours (28).
#6 – Acerola
Acerola cherry–also commonly called the West Indies cherry, Barbados cherry, or just simply ‘Acerola’–is a plant that is native to tropical regions of the Western Hemisphere. And the reason it belongs on this list is its high vitamin C content (29, 30). In fact, according to a 2011 study of various vitamin C-containing fruits and their relative amounts, acerola outperformed all the rest–especially when grown organically (31). For reference: the berry has higher amounts of vitamin C than even oranges and strawberries! Better still, the acerola cherry is also a very significant source of vitamin A.
As mentioned earlier, both vitamin C and vitamin A are essential to the immune system's optimal functioning. This thus confirms the acerola cherry's place as an all-natural way of strengthening your body's defense against harmful bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. Just note that the fruit is commonly found in supplement form as it decomposes within 5 days of harvest–losing much of its nutrition.
Get Your Immune-System Boost in a Single Pill
There’s no doubt about it: popping 6 different pills to strengthen your immune system sounds like no fun at all, even if you don’t want to fall sick. That’s why Dr. Danielle has combined and bottled the power of the above-mentioned immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, and herbs into a convenient product for you and your family. Just one pill and you know you're giving your immune system all the help it needs. How great is that?