As the COVID-19 pandemic continues after nearly two years, people continue searching for new ways to take control of their health and support overall wellness.
This interest in self-care has led to increased interest in immune-strengthening strategies, including the use of dietary supplements.No supplements can prevent or treat COVID-19 or other illnesses, but a combination of healthy lifestyle practices and the responsible use of science-backed supplements can keep the immune system functioning at its best. A strong immune system is your best defense against any germs you may encounter. In addition to getting vaccinated, the preventive steps of hand-washing, mask wearing, and social distancing, plus other lifestyle factors including healthy diet, regular exercise, and quality sleep, can keep your immune system functioning at its peak.
Evidence suggests that despite our best intentions to eat right and exercise, life’s daily stressors often get in our way. Many Americans face nutrition gaps in areas that directly support immune function. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimates that more than 90 percent are deficient in vitamin D, which is often linked to a stronger immune system. Although vitamin D can be obtained through sunlight, not everyone is able to be outdoors long enough to benefit. Few foods are a natural source of vitamin D, but dietary supplements are a prudent choice to meet the daily recommended intake. This is especially important throughout the pandemic, as several recent studies associated sufficient vitamin D levels to less severe cases of COVID-19.Other science-backed ingredients that are important for the immune system include:
Vitamin C — an essential vitamin that acts as an antioxidant to support the body’s natural immune defenses
Vitamin E — a fat soluble antioxidant that plays a role in antibody production and natural killer cell activity
Selenium — an essential mineral that supports innate and adaptive immunity
Zinc — an essential mineral with antiviral and antimicrobial activity
Omega-3 Fatty Acids — essential fatty acid that are important mediators of inflammation and immune function.
Other science-backed supplements include elderberry and echinacea, which have been researched to support immune health. In addition, emerging probiotic research demonstrates how a healthy gut, full of good bacteria, is directly tied to optimal immune health. These vitamin, mineral, herbal, and probiotic supplements s are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and may be subject to third-party and retaile- quality review. Do your research and ask your doctor or pharmacist which supplements might be right for you.Visit KnowYourOTCs for more information about how dietary supplements can support a healthy immune system. Duffy MacKay is a senior vice president of Dietary Supplements at Consumer Healthcare Products Association.