Natural Immune Boosting Supplements for Cold and Flu Season

Cold and flu season is once again upon us, and it seems everyone turns to vitamin C as the first line of defense. However, other natural immune-boosting supplements should be incorporated to support a healthy immune system. 

People eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables may still not be getting enough of the vitamins they need due to agricultural elements such as herbicides and pesticides used on crops.

Dr. Kiera Smialek, ND, of Natural Kid Doc, said supplementing your diet with certain herbs, minerals, vitamins, and probiotics is beneficial in supporting a healthy immune system.

There is research to support that specific vitamins, minerals, and herbs regulate immune system function, Having a combination of these vitamins, minerals, and herbs can also help fight off the viruses causing colds and the flu.


– Dr. Kiera Smialek, ND, of Natural Kid Doc

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral for the development of particular immune cells. These immune cells help target infections in the body and fight viruses. According to research by the Mayo Clinic, taking zinc at the onset of a cold often decreases the symptoms if it is taken within the first 24 hours of infection.

Foods containing zinc include shellfish, meats, whole grains, legumes, egg yolk, nuts, and seeds. 

Vegetarians and vegans often need to supplement zinc due to the lack of zinc in their diet.


– Dr. Kiera Smialek, ND, of Natural Kid Doc

Garlic

Garlic is an exceptional antiviral and antimicrobial food due to a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin. Allicin has immune-boosting properties that help prevent the common cold and flu.

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, garlic has been shown to treat chronic bronchitis, sore throat, sinus problems, and respiratory infections.

Garlic can be eaten as a food, infused into tea or herbal cough syrups, or taken as a supplement in capsule or tablet form. 


– Dr. Kiera Smialek, ND, of Natural Kid Doc

Vitamin D

Some studies show a deficiency in vitamin D is associated with an increased susceptibility to infections in general. 

Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins when it comes cold and flu season because it helps boost the immune system, according to the University of Maryland Medical System

Supplementing vitamin D is needed during the cold and flu season because most of the vitamin D people receive comes through sunlight.

I typically recommend vitamin D supplementation during cold and flu season.

During the colder months, there is less exposure to sunlight, which is the main source of vitamin D.

It is recommended you be outdoors with most of your skin exposed for at least 15 to 20 minutes a day to receive enough vitamin D from the sun.


– Dr. Kiera Smialek, ND, of Natural Kid Doc

Vitamin D can be found in the skin of fatty fish. There are also small amounts found in cheese, egg yolk and beef liver. Many foods are now fortified with vitamin D, including milk, orange juice, breakfast cereal, and bread. 

Elderberry

Elderberry is a plant that produces berries with medicinal properties. 

Elderberry is often formulated into a palatable syrup, or the extract is put into capsules. 

Elderberries are high in antioxidants and have immune-modulating benefits. These antioxidants help fight viruses and support healthy immune system function.

Most people buy or make elderberry syrup because it tastes excellent and can be taken from a spoon. Elderberry tea is another popular option for those who enjoy drinking tea.


– Dr. Kiera Smialek, ND, of Natural Kid Doc

Probiotics

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria in the gut, which play a major role in immune health. Probiotics work by enhancing digestive and immune system function. People often think of eating yogurt as a good source of probiotics.  

 Yes, yogurts have some good bacteria, but a lot of yogurts have a ton of sugar in them.

However, you aren’t going to receive all of the benefits from the probiotics in yogurt because you are eating a large amount of sugar, which is inflammatory and has a detrimental effect on your immune system.

Fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut are preferred over dairy-based products as a source of dietary probiotics.


– Dr. Kiera Smialek, ND, of Natural Kid Doc

Smialek said she recommends people supplement high-quality blends of probiotics in a powder or capsule form to receive all of the benefits.

Proper Doses

Taking the right dosage of a vitamin is the most crucial aspect in receiving the therapeutic benefits. The recommended daily amount on the packaging for vitamins is the bare minimum a person should take.

Taking more than the recommended dose is not always beneficial. For example, if you take too much vitamin C, you will just pass it out of your body through your urine. Taking more than recommended vitamins A, D, and K can cause you to overdose, which can be dangerous. 


– Dr. Kiera Smialek, ND, of Natural Kid Doc

Smialek recommends consulting with a healthcare provider, such as a naturopathic doctor, functional medicine doctor, or nutritionist, to determine the correct dose of nutritional supplements.   

In general, I encourage people to eat a healthy diet high in antioxidant foods during cold and flu season. Making sure they are eating more fruits and vegetables, and less inflammatory foods like dairy and sugar is beneficial in keeping the immune system healthy.


– Dr. Kiera Smialek, ND, of Natural Kid Doc

Keep in mind you should always consult a physician before starting any supplement regimen.

Author:

Joey Hancock is a freelance writer living in Tempe, Arizona. He has reported health, politics, sports, engineering, and education at multiple Southern Arizona publications.

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