The Best Vitamins and Minerals For a Healthy Immune System
The immune system is one of the most extraordinary systems in the body. It's like our own internal army of specialized cells that fight to protect us from harmful bacteria, viruses, environmental toxins, and parasites that can cause infection and disease – also known as pathogens.
The immune system's "soldiers," namely white blood cells, can identify and fight off foreign substances and potential threats, and also warn other fighter cells to ‘report for duty.'
The body has two lines of immune defense against foreign invaders:
1. Innate immunity
This is the protection you are born with. It Includes external barriers, like skin, as well as internal barriers, like white blood cells. If a pathogen gets past the external barriers, the white blood cells jump into action two ways: 1) they alert other cells that there is a threat (such as harmful bacteria), and 2) they fight off the pathogens by enclosing and digesting them.
2. Adaptive immunity
This is the line of defense you develop throughout your life. When your body successfully fights off an infection, it builds antibodies which are proteins that can identify and target specific pathogens.
When your immune system isn't functioning well, it can increase your risk for infections and illness. This can happen for many reasons: nutrient deficiencies, exposure to environmental toxins, stress, smoking, lack of physical activity, not getting enough sleep, or immuno-compromised health conditions.
If you're looking for ways to bolster your immune system, making sure it has enough of the right nutrients to do its job is a great start. Here are the main vitamins and minerals your immune system relies on to keep you healthy:
Vitamin A helps support the body's innate immunity by maintaining the structure of mucosal cells so that they can perform their protective functions. These cells line the skin, gut, and respiratory system and help keep pathogens from getting into our bloodstream.
Vitamin A also plays a role in adaptive immunity and the healthy production of antibodies, which are necessary for the immune system to identify and fight ‘invaders.'
Likely the most popular of all vitamins, Vitamin C helps the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells.
A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C helps protect our cells from damage by neutralizing reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are produced when the immune cells fight pathogens. If they aren't kept under control, ROS can damage our cells, DNA, and proteins, increasing the risk for chronic disease.
Vitamin C is water soluble which means it can't be stored in the body. Therefore, it's imperative to maintain a constant, daily intake of Vitamin C through diet and supplementation.
Evidence shows that routine supplementation of Vitamin C may reduce the occurrence of the common cold, and regular, high doses of Vitamin C may decrease the duration of a cold.
Vitamin D can help regulate both innate and adaptive immune responses, making it an essential vitamin for proper immune function.
Vitamin D stimulates the production of pathogen-fighting proteins in immune cells, helping these cells protect your body from foreign invaders. Studies have found that adults with low Vitamin D levels are more likely to experience colds, coughs, and upper respiratory tract infections.
There is a clear link between Vitamin D deficiency and adverse health outcomes. For one, low Vitamin D levels are linked to an increased risk of respiratory infections, as well as autoimmune diseases.
Similar to Vitamin C, Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that can help protect immune cells from damage. When ROS aren't balanced by sufficient antioxidant defense, immune cells can't perform to their best. Therefore, antioxidants like vitamin E are essential for healthy immune function.
Vitamin E also plays an important role in adaptive immunity, the one we develop after being exposed to infections. Vitamin E has been shown to enhance the body's immune response with age, which is especially important as our immunity declines as we grow older.
Zinc and Other Minerals
Although they are needed in smaller amounts than the essential vitamins listed above, minerals play a pivotal role in keeping the immune system healthy.
Zinc, for example, is a big player in healthy immune function. This mineral is required for the growth and development of immune cells. It's also a structural component of the proteins that protect immune cells from damage.
Studies show that zinc supplementation may improve cold symptoms and shorten the duration of colds by as much as 33 percent when taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Preliminary research also suggests that zinc may be able to physically block the attachment of viruses in some parts of the body, although more research is needed.
Other important minerals for healthy immune functions are selenium and copper. These act as messengers for immune cells, helping them communicate with one another more effectively.
Selenium can also help combat immune system stressors like inflammation and oxidative stress. Low levels of selenium have been associated with weakened immunity.
The Best Way To Support Your Immune System
Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods is the best way to provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain a healthy immune system. This also supports optimal gut health – the gateway to healthy immunity – as nutrient-rich foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber. This fiber acts as a prebiotic to nourish the microbe colonies within your gut biome.
However, even the healthiest diets can sometimes fall short. Daily supplementation of immune-supportive vitamins and minerals can round out your diet and fill in any potential nutrient gaps.
Blueshift's Immune supplement packs a defensive dream team of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that have been scientifically shown to support white blood cells and your body's first line of defense. This drinkable blend boasts a blackberry ginger flavor for the most enjoyable way to keep your body in the game every day.
The Blueshift Immune Ultra blend goes even further. It combines 5 powerful immune products in 1 delicious drink for next-level support. The unparalleled cocktail of science-backed ingredients includes Wellmune® & Epicor®, which are clinically proven to help immunity, as well as immune-boosting superfoods, antioxidants, and pre- and probiotics, which naturally support the body's response to stress and promote a strong and healthy immune response.
For many people, a daily multivitamin is a great way to cover their nutritional bases and fill in any nutrient gaps. Blueshift offers a game-changing approach to the multi with Foundations: an AM+PM drinkable multi that's personalized to your unique biological needs. In addition to broad-spectrum vitamins and antioxidants, the AM formula contains 200% of the recommended daily value for Vitamin A and 100% for Vitamin E – two of the immune support heavy hitters we mentioned above. You can visit our multivitamin page to find the best Foundations blends for your needs.
As with any supplement, it's always important to keep your own unique biological needs in mind to determine what is right for you. For example, men and women have different nutritional needs, which is why Blueshift Foundations come in a variety of formulations. It's important to know now how to meet your daily requirements and which supplements are best for you. A great place to start is with this quiz and personalized roadmap.
If you'd like to learn more, we've got you covered with our Ultimate Guide To Micronutrients for Women At Every Life Stage and the Best Vitamins and Minerals for Men Of All Ages.
Going beyond nutrition, there are other lifestyle practices that can strengthen your immune system include managing stress levels, getting adequate sleep, proper hygiene, regular physical activity, and avoiding drugs, alcohol, and smoking.
We are constantly exposed to external threats – from environmental toxins to everyday germs – that can compromise our health and weaken our immune system. For this reason, finding ways to incorporate immune system support into our daily lives can be a powerful way to stay healthy. There are several vitamins and minerals that work directly and synergistically with the immune system to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. We don't always get everything we need from diet alone, so supplementation can ensure we get adequate levels of these essential nutrients to maintain a strong and well-functioning immune system.