Fight back this cold and flu season with the vitamins, herbs, and other supplements nutritionists use for immune system support. Take with lots of fluids and plenty of rest to help your body battle the virus. You’ll be back on your feet in no time!
Vitamin D does more than strengthen your bones. “It’s not a vitamin, but a hormone that boosts your immune system,” explains Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, of Simple Cravings Real Food. She recommends vitamin D supplements, especially for people who live in northern climates and don’t get much sun exposure at certain times of the year. More than 36 percent of healthy adults have a vitamin D deficiency, a condition that is linked to a higher risk of infection. Check out these symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
Registered dietitian Maria Zamarripa says, “Vitamin D supports a healthy immune system by acting like a so-called volume control—turning up or down our immune cell actions.” Supplementing with vitamin D may reduce your risk of getting the flu as well as the common cold.
This mineral offers both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power. “Research suggests that people who are deficient in zinc have severe dysfunction in their immune systems,” says Ginger Hultin, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Studies have shown that people who took a zinc acetate lozenge (13.3 milligrams zinc) significantly reduced the duration of cold symptoms (cough, nasal discharge, and muscle aches) compared with a placebo. “Not to mention that zinc is also important for enzyme function, wound healing, and protein synthesis,” Natalie Rizzo, RD, explains.
Hultin recommends getting zinc from food sources like seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products, especially during cold and flu season. Because a little zinc goes a long way—and it’s easy to take too much, resulting in toxicity—she also recommends that you ask your doctor how much may be appropriate for you. Rizzo likes LifeExtension Zinc Caps. They are vegetarian and contain zinc methionate, one of the most absorbable forms of the mineral. Check out these 21 natural cold remedies that really work.
Even though there isn’t much research on it, Chrissy Carroll, RD, takes elderberry extract when other people in her house are sick or when she feels herself coming down with something. A 2016 study found that air travelers who took elderberry extract spent less time sick with a cold and had lower symptom scores than a placebo group.
Carroll says that even if it turns out that elderberry isn’t effective for immune support, it’s generally thought to be safe for short-term consumption and is also rich in phenolic compounds like anthocyanins. She recommends trying NOW Elderberry Liquid or lozenges.