Part 2: Supplements to Boost the Immune System

supplements and your immune systemIn the last part of this series of nutrition and immune system, we discussed changes you could make to your diet to help boost and strengthen your immune system.  This included eating sufficient protein and healthy fats, as well as limiting sugar, and including some foods high in immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.

Now we wanted to talk a little about supplements to boost the immune system, in addition to following a healthy diet. Remember, no supplement will override a terrible diet, lack of exercise, excessive stress, or poor sleep habits. So, you still have to have an overall healthy lifestyle. We will discuss lifestyle issues in the third part of this series.

Probiotics and Your Immune System

Shockingly, over 90% of the cells in our bodies are not our own, they are actually bacteria cells. This may seem frightening to those who believe that all “germs” are dangerous, but most of the bacteria are quite helpful to our immune system.

The balance between health and illness is a very delicate interplay between bacteria and our immune cells. In the right balance, “good” bacteria help prevent disease-causing bacteria from taking over our bodies. Certain bacteria may also help improve the function of immune cells, called T cells. The research in the area of how exactly bacteria interact with our immune system is still relatively new and scientists are still trying to figure out the details of this complex system.

Since the science of probiotics is still new, it is difficult to make an exact recommendation of how much and what type of probiotic to take for optimal health.  Common bacterial strands that are generally considered healthy are called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, so look for those on the label. Look for probiotics that need to be refrigerated and that contain a large number of bacterial strains, a billion or more. I love the broad spectrum probiotic Bioceuticals Ultrabiotic 45 – which has 45 billion bacteria per capsule.   Metagenics Ultraflora Immune is also terrific. Both of these contain specific strains that may help promote the growth and increase the number of beneficial bacteria within the digestive system which may assist in the maintenance of a healthy immune system.  Alternatively, you may also want to consider getting probiotics from fermented foods such as Kefir, yoghurt, kimchee, tempeh, miso or sauerkraut.

Herbs: Andrographis, Echinacea, and Olive Leaf

Several herbs can help boost your immune system and keep you healthy during cold and flu season. Andrographis, Echinacea, and Olive Leaf, all immune-boosting herbs, can be found in the Bioceuticals ArmaForce supplement, along with some vitamin C and zinc. This supplement, or something similar, would be a great addition to your cold and flu prevention regimen.

Andrographis is a plant commonly found in India and Sri Lanka that is ground up and used to prevent colds and and the flu. It has also been used to treat several other medical conditions such as diarrhoea, liver problems, and even infectious diseases such as leprosy or tuberculosis. There is some evidence that Andrographis may help improve sore throats and reduce the duration of the common cold.

Echinacea is an herb native to North America that has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. It is most commonly used to help fight the common cold and other types of respiratory illnesses. It has been shown to help reduce the severity of cold symptoms, although it is not known to actually prevent illness. People with ragweed allergies should avoid taking Echinacea because it could trigger an allergic reaction.

Olive Leaf Extract has been found to help suppress several viruses, including those of colds and cases of flu. The specific extract from the olive leaf is called Oleuropein which is removed during processing of the olive plant. This extract has antibacterial, antiviral, and antiprotozoal properties. It may also help enhance the function of immune cells called natural killer cells. There is no specific recommended dose for olive leaf extract, but it may help the next time you have a cold or flu.

In addition to a healthy diet, you now know what supplements can also help boost your immune system during cold and flu season. In the next instalment of this series, we will discuss how your lifestyle has an effect on your immune function.

Please note, this post is NOT sponsored by any companies – I recommend these supplements and brands purely because I think they are great and see fantastic results with my clients. If you’d like to order any of these Bioceuticals supplements, you can use the Patient code C10248-04 via their online ordering system.