People seeking a natural approach to immunity support often turn to dietary supplements. Immunity supplements typically fall into two categories: vitamins and minerals or herbs. Each specific supplement can have different effects on the body, so supplement users may focus on one kind of immunity supplement to meet their needs or use a combination of vitamins, minerals, and herbs to boost immunity. Supplement users should be aware, however, that some medical studies have shown little to no positive effects from immunity supplements in already generally healthy people.
Vitamin C, for example, has long had a reputation as an immunity booster. Vitamin C protects people from some cancers, stroke, and cardiovascular disease, in addition to providing immunity support. It is common for people to take more Vitamin C or drink more foods containing it, such as orange juice, during cold and flu season. People should refrain from putting too much faith in the vitamin for influenza immunity though; the amount of Vitamin C supplements required to boost immunity are well over daily recommend intake levels.
On the mineral side, zinc often is taken as an immunity supplement. Zinc has a reputation for shortening the length and severity of colds. Like Vitamin C, however, the amount of zinc needed to function as an immunity supplement usually far surpasses the daily recommended limit. In fact, too much zinc may have the opposite effect by depressing immunity function.
Those seeking natural immunity supplements may instead turn to several herbs believed to help bolster the body’s defenses against illness. Echinacea, for example, is a very common choice for immunity support and is known by herbalists as an immunostimulant. Studies on echinacea are mixed. Some find little or no immunity boosting power, while others draw a connection between the herb and improved immunity. Echinacea may help generate more white blood cells to fight infections, as well as help the body release interferons, a key component to fighting infections.
Probiotics also have a well-known reputation as immunity supplements. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and live microorganisms similar to what occurs naturally in digestive systems. Available in pill or powder forms and found in some foods, probiotics may aid immunity by attacking harmful bacteria and helping to detox the body.
People using immunity supplements should consult with a doctor first. Some vitamins, minerals, or herbs may interfere with prescription drugs or aggravate other medical conditions. Additionally, users should be aware that while some supplements may boost immunity, the protection can be short lived. Immunity protection through supplements is not the same kind of immunity to illness that comes artificially through vaccinations or naturally from passive or innate immunity.