Now that winter is upon us, it’s important to keep our immune system fighting fit to ward off dreaded colds and flu. We are more likely to succumb to illness in the colder months for a variety of reasons. Spending time indoors with the windows shut and the heating on makes it easier for germs to spread. Less daylight makes it harder for us to get adequate vitamin D and unfavourable weather makes it less conducive for staying active. If you are feeling below par, going through a stressful time or feel your diet may be lacking in nutrients, supplements may be your key to a stronger immune system. But with so many new products on the market it can be difficult to keep up to date with what is available, so we’ve put a list together of ingredients that can help boost immunity.
A digestive tonic that is soothing to the stomach and intestines, aloe vera can help balance acidity, aid in cleansing our system of toxins, help maintain healthy intestinal bacteria, as well as supporting the immune system and promoting healthy skin. The inner gel of the aloe plant has a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, nutrients and enzymes essential for cell growth and renewal inside and outside the body.
Vitamin B complex includes the range of B vitamins from B1 to B12. While each vitamin has a specific action, working together they are vital for the optimal functioning of the immune system.
Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides that are found in mushrooms and yeast. They have been shown to increase immune defence by enhancing macrophages (a type of white blood cell that attacks foreign substances) and natural, killer-cell function.
Joints can ache with the colder weather. Supplements with a natural type II collagen work with the immune system to help preserve joints and support the regeneration and maintenance of healthy cartilage. Collagen is a protein that has different functions in the body. Type 1 and III support skin, muscles, bones, hair and nails. Type II collagen supports cartilage and joints.
Researchers from the University of Queen Mary in London have found that vitamin D supplements can protect against acute respiratory infections, including colds and flu. The results, published in The BMJ, are based on analysis of raw data from around 11,000 participants in 25 clinical trials, conducted in 14 countries, including the UK, USA, Japan, India, Afghanistan, Belgium, Italy, Australia and Canada. Vitamin D, commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin”, is thought to protect against respiratory infections by boosting levels of antimicrobial peptides in the lungs. The research shows that daily or weekly supplementation halves the risk of acute respiratory infection in people with the lowest baseline vitamin D levels, below 25 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L). However, people with higher baseline vitamin D levels also benefit, although the effect is more modest (a 10 per cent risk reduction).
Vitamin E is a potent fat-soluble antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that helps maintain the immune system. While vitamin E deficiency is rare, some people are more at risk than others, such as those with fat-malabsorption disorders, Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis.
Gut health is vital when it comes to immunity. In fact, 80 per cent of your immune system is located in your gut. Probiotics are live bacteria that help to increase the amount of good bacteria in the digestive tract. Prebiotics provide the food for probiotics, helping to increase the effectiveness of the probiotic.
Selenium is a mineral found in soil, water and some food. It has antioxidant properties that support the immune system.
You may have been adding turmeric to your latte or curry for a while now, but the new generation of supplements containing turmeric extract use technology to enhance absorption, making it more bio-available. The active component of turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it an important supplement for a range of conditions and also for maintaining general wellbeing.