Thank you iHerb for sponsoring this blog post about the best supplements for immunity! Also – I have to say it – I’m not a medical professional and this is not medical advice. Check with your healthcare provider before taking supplements – especially if you are pregnant or have any medical conditions.
People are so worried about getting sick in the winter, but you can get sick literally ANY TIME! Germs don’t take time off! Spring is coming and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste time being sick in bed, so I’ve got a list of the best supplements for immunity for you! You can’t decide when you’ll get sick, but you CAN give your body the ammo it needs to ward off colds and infections. There are so many supplements for immunity that can help to boost your system in different ways. There are also supplements that can shorten the duration of an illness once you’ve caught it (unfortunately there’s nothing that will make it stop immediately). The natural supplement industry is big business and there’s a lot of BS out there. Let’s have some no-nonsense science talk while I walk you through the vitamins, herbs and probiotics I use to keep the colds and flus away.
So, you’re exercising, eating right (well except for that one night we won’t talk about), not drinking too much, staying hydrated, and otherwise doing whatever you can to stay healthy…but your partner (boss, sister, friend, etc.) just came down with a cold and you want to be sure you don’t get it? Don’t worry! I got you!
We’re going to be talking about supplements from Nature’s Way, a brand I have been using for many years (more than I’ll admit)! You can find all of these at iHerb, an online natural products retailer that I trust. iHerb has over 30,000 brand name products and although they are based in California, they ship to a bajillion countries (they offer free or discounted shipping to over 150 countries). Their prices are amazing and they have a triple guarantee to make sure their customers are happy. They also have a really cool rewards program, and if you use the links in this post to buy, I get store credit (so I can keep my house stocked with supplements – thank you)!
Let’s start with Vitamin D. It’s actually a hormone, not a vitamin, but was mislabeled back in the day and for some reason we just went with it. There have been many studies showing that most of us are deficient to some degree, and that is not good news for our immune system (or our bones). I think we’re a little too obsessed with sunscreen (plus many of are sitting indoors at computers all day…like moi), so we’re not getting as much Vitamin D as we need. Research has shown that lack of Vitamin D3 is associated with auto-immunity and susceptibility to infection. Most people can take 5,000 or even 10,000 IU a day and be fine, but I would recommend checking your levels to make sure you’re not over-doing it. To be extra safe, go with Nature’s Way Vitamin D3 2,000 IU, which is a decent amount, but unlikely to cause an overdose. These softgels are easy to swallow and they are gluten free.
Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is known for being an immune system stimulant and for having anti-viral properties. If you have the flu, or are in close proximity to someone who does, this could be your secret weapon. Black elderberry also contains polyphenols, which act as antioxidants, and are basically just really great for overall health. Nature’s Way Black Elderberry capsules are non-GMO verified, gluten free and vegetarian.
Now, we’re getting to my ALL TIME FAVORITE immune system supplement (and one I have raved about for a long time) – Cat’s Claw! Don’t worry – no kitties were harmed in the making of this product! Cat’s Claw is a woody vine that grows in the rainforests of South and Central America. It has major immune system boosting properties and can also reduce inflammation and pain. Nature’s Way Standardized Cat’s Claw is standardized to 4% POAs (pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids), which is the active immune-booster in the bark (standardized means you can take fewer capsules to get enough of the “good stuff”). Some say Cat’s Claw shouldn’t be taken if you have an auto-immune disease or other health conditions. I have intestinal permeability (my immune system attacks me when I eat certain foods), but I haven’t had a problem with Cat’s Claw. It’s always made me feel great (my husband loves it too), but please be careful and do your research before taking it.
Now we come to one everyone knows about – Vitamin C! Your phagocytes and T cells need Vitamin C to do their jobs. Everyone’s favorite antioxidant, Vitamin C, is also necessary for overall health and skin health (and SO many other things), so if you’re not getting it from your diet, make sure you’re supplementing. In times when you’re feeling run down, you may need more. Our moms and grandmas told us to take Vitamin C to avoid getting sick, but the problem is that Vitamin C can be quite irritating to sensitive stomachs. I love Nature’s Way Buffered C-500 because the Vitamin C is buffered with small amounts of calcium and magnesium to make it less acidic. That means no tummy troubles for me!
Milk thistle is a medicinal plant that helps the liver. You may have heard that people who drink alcohol heavily take this to protect their livers. That is true, and it has been shown to regenerate liver cells and help with liver diseases, but in addition it also boosts glutathione (your body’s master antioxidant), reduces inflammation, and may help your liver to detox pollutants and environmental toxins. Milk thistle has also been shown to fight bacteria, flu virus (Influenza A) and parasites. You can see the research studies linked in this article. Nature’s Way Standardized Milk Thistle is standardized to contain 80% silymarin (the “good stuff”). It’s gluten free, vegetarian and has no GMOs.
Oregano oil sounds like it would be really tame. I mean, you probably use dried oregano in your cooking, right? Well don’t underestimate your favorite pizza topping – oregano oil is concentrated and it’s NOT MESSING AROUND with bacteria! Oregano is actually part of the mint family, and its medicinal properties include killing bugs, lowering inflammation and reducing oxidation. My immune system is a little tricky because of the leaky gut I mentioned, so when I take oregano, it goes into overdrive. Because of that, I only take it when I’m sure I’m getting sick. I consider it to be a “big gun.” My husband can take it anytime and he has no reaction, so that may just be me. Either way, I feel preeeeety confident that it revs up the immune system. Nature’s Way Standardized Oregano Oil capsules are standardized for 75-85% carvacrol. Oregano oil kills a lot of bugs – possibly even some good ones. So when you take it, be sure to take a probiotic at the same time (which you should be doing anyway).
Now we come to another supplement for immunity that a lot of you are probably familiar with – zinc. It’s a trace element that is necessary for a healthy immune system. You want to be sure you’re getting enough zinc, and it can be smart to ramp that up when you’re feeling run down. But, don’t over-do it or you could start to get low on copper, which ironically, can lower your immune system’s function. So make sure you’re not taking high doses without some copper in the mix, and you’ll be fine. Nature’s Way Zinc Chelate is a super-absorbable form of zinc (zinc biglycinate chelate) and the price is RIGHT. It’s definitely an affordable option when it comes to immunity supplements.
Now let’s talk probiotics. As a society, we are just starting to realize the power of the gut bugs in our bodies. Did you know that there are at least as many (if not more) microbes in your body than actual human cells? The friendly bugs in our bodies help us so many things (way more than we realized when I was a kid), but one of the big ones is immunity. I have been loving Nature’s Way Primadophilus Optima 50 Billion CFU, because the strains of probiotics are optimized for digestive health AND immunity (two for one)! I love Optima, because it’s free from dairy and gluten (two triggers for my overactive immune system). The product is shelf-stable, so I don’t have to put it in the fridge (where I usually forget to take it). The probiotic strains are 100% HDS probiotics (human digestive strains). According to Nature’s Way, HDS probiotics are probiotic strains that were originally isolated from the natural human intestinal microbiota as opposed to being isolated from animals, plants, dairy or soil sources. They say that today these strains are grown and fermented in a controlled environment by some of the most respected probiotic producers in the world. Plus, the capsules are made to resist stomach acid, which is HUGE – it means the bugs can actually make it to your intestines to start colonizing. I’m picturing the gut bugs starting a little homestead out on the prairie (but in my body). Hey little guys – I know it’s tough in there, but you’re doing great!
This last one is the nuclear option. This is the one you take if everything has failed, and you’ve fallen prey to a nasty bug or virus. SystemWell Ultimate Immunity is a cocktail of pretty much every immune supplement you can think of. It’s very strong, so my advice is to only take this when you’re fighting something off, and you want to shorten the duration. It’s got vitamins, minerals, herbs, mushrooms and other extracts that support the cellular, circulatory, digestive, respiratory and systemic systems. I can’t list them all here, because there are just too many, but have a look. You may want to consider having this on hand for the next family member who gets sick (but always pay attention to expiration dates). I would take this one with a probiotic too.
My personal opinion with supplements is to be careful and not over-do it. If something makes you feel bad, stop taking it. I also believe that most supplements should not be taken long-term. If there’s something that really works for you, give it a break every now and then. But especially with immune-boosting supplements, I recommend only taking them when you need a boost (when you’re feeling run down or someone close to you is sick). The exception would be with Vitamin D and Vitamin C – as long as you are taking a relatively low dose, and getting your levels checked every now and then, I think they are fine for long-term use. But again, I’m not a doctor, so PLEASE do your own research and talk to a health care professional first.
Want to try some of these immunity supplements? I highly recommend iHerb – as I mentioned it’s one of my go-tos for health and wellness products. New and Existing Customers can get a discount off their iHerb order with no minimum purchase by clicking here!
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