Supplements And Immunity: Facts vs Fiction

Most people have been told at least once to take vitamin C to speed up recovery after catching a cold or the flu. But do supplements help boost immunity? And if so, which supplements should people prioritize? This article takes a look at a few of the most popular recommendations for immunity-boosting supplements and highlights the truth behind the claims.

center for family medicine Vitamin C Zinc Can Supplements Really Boost Your Immune System

Vitamin C and colds?

Hands down, vitamin C is one of the most popular supplements promoted as a preventative measure for the common cold. According to experts, little evidence exists to support the theory that vitamin C can prevent respiratory illnesses, including colds. But studies have shown that taking the vitamin can help with shortening colds. Reviewing data from the studies showed that colds could be reduced anywhere from 8-14% in adults and children. But the caveat is people must take vitamin C consistently, not just during an illness.

The lesser-known vitamin D

Vitamin C may get all the attention, but the real MVP is vitamin D. There are plenty of studies that show that vitamin D can reduce a person’s risk of catching a cold or the flu. Known as the sunshine vitamin, many people can get the supplement by simply going outside on a sunny day. But since many people don’t spend enough time outside, a supplement is a good idea if daily diets don’t include foods rich in vitamin D. Along with helping reduce the risk of catching the flu, vitamin D also reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis and developing heart disease. Added benefits include boosting weight loss and reducing depression symptoms.

Zinc for reducing cold durations

Zinc is another popular option that many people recommend when trying to shorten the duration of a cold. While the mineral can’t prevent colds, evidence supports the claim that zinc shortens colds. According to one study, colds were shortened by 30-40% in people who took zinc lozenges. However, people thinking about adding zinc to their cold recovery plan should look for supplements or lozenges that contain at least 80-100mg of zinc. And for best results, try to take zinc within the first 24 hours of experiencing cold symptoms.

What about probiotics?

Most people associate probiotics with regulating the gut. But since the gut contains helpful bacteria, adding a quality probiotic isn’t a bad idea. However, research into whether taking a probiotic can prevent a respiratory infection is mixed. Still, a probiotic can help to shorten a cold. People considering adding the supplement should focus on options that include Lactobacillus rhamnosus or Bifidobacterium animalis lactis since both strains have been proven to reduce symptoms and to block the body’s inflammatory response.

Practice healthy habits

While supplements are a great option to help boost the body’s immunity response, most experts agree that the best way to support immunity is by eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting plenty of rest. Likewise, people considering taking a vitamin or mineral supplement should speak with a physician first, especially if a person is taking prescription medications or has underlying conditions.