More than150 million Americans take dietary supplements each year, and according to a survey from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), one quarter of adults take dietary supplements for immune health. The immune system is the body’s defense—the stronger the immune system, the healthier you are. However, when your immune system is weakened, you’re more likely to get sick. Fortunately, there are certain dietary supplements that provide the body key nutrients that can support the immune system.
For instance, zinc, a mineral dietary supplement, is especially helpful for supporting the immune system in the elderly, according to studies. “As we age, our bodies do not absorb nutrients as well as they used to—and zinc is one of those nutrients—so supplementing ensures the body is getting enough of what it needs to stay well,” said Duffy MacKay, N.D., senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN.
Beyond vitamins (like vitamin C) and minerals, other examples of dietary supplements that can support the immune system in adults of all ages include: botanical dietary supplements, like elderberry, garlic and astragalus; probiotics; and dried fermentate (made using baker’s yeast), which, according to published research, has been demonstrated to be helpful for adults to experience more healthy days during winter months.
“During the winter months, our immune systems can weaken, which means we are more susceptible to getting sick. We’re exercising less and straying from healthy diets to indulge in seasonal treats. We also experience stress from travel and family gatherings, and lack of sleep from staying out late at holiday parties. All of these can contribute to weakened immune systems,” said Dr. MacKay. In his part-time practice, Dr. MacKay reminds his patients that dietary supplements should be incorporated into a health and wellness regimen along with other healthy practices, and are not silver bullets or substitutes for healthy habits. Talk with your doctor or other healthcare practitioner about how dietary supplements can play a role in helping to support the immune system.