Finding the Right Supplements for Your Immune System
We are all living in very uncertain times, both from an economic perspective and, more crucially, from an individual health perspective. Even if you’re in good health, the specter of illness looms in our news media, our communities, and perhaps unfortunately, even in our families, and coronavirus hasn't done much to ease that.
In times of crisis, the volume of misinformation increases and opportunists begin descending on a frightened populous looking for answers and reassurance. The top priority during these times is our health, and consequently, we all look for ways to ensure that we are protected from harm. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought out a fair bit of deceptive marketing in the health and wellness space, as it relates to the idea of “boosting our immunity.”
Overall, our immune system is a pretty flawless biological process that doesn’t require “boosting," even though a lot of us turn to guzzling down vitamin C and antioxidants in efforts to boost immune function if we think we're getting sick. In fact, all that it requires from us to function optimally is that we don’t engage in behaviors that deplete its capacity to heal, and we focus on immunity-optimizers like a healthy diet. Many of the healthy lifestyle behaviors that help keep our immune system in its best state are:
- Minimizing stress
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Getting enough sleep
- Regular exercise
- Eating a balanced diet high in essential minerals, vitamins, and probiotics
- Not smoking
- Drinking in moderation or not at all
- Taking steps to avoid infection – i.e. washing hands and cooking meat thoroughly
Perhaps, for many, these lifestyle habits are self-evident and you already practice these things regularly in your daily life. If not, this list is a good roadmap to keeping your immune health in top shape. The one point on this list that seems to give even the healthiest people the most issues is consistently eating a diet high in essential minerals and vitamins--the powerful antioxidants and immune cell-supporters that can make a difference are rarely a part of the average American's daily meals. The problem is that while some of us do eat healthily, the quality and variety of the foods we eat often leaves us lacking some important nutritional elements, thus depleting our immune system.
A massive vitamin supplementation industry has been built on exposing this nutritional shortfall and offering us “vitamins in a bottle” to fix it. While the right supplements can provide enormous benefits to us with nutrients like vitamin D, elderberry, echinacea, and turmeric to support our immune response and make for a healthy immune system overall, you'll rarely find these powerful ingredients altogether, and the dietary supplement industry itself is highly unregulated. This can give way to misleading claims from companies regarding a vitamin’s efficacy and can even lead to harmful dosing for the consumer. When we cook dinner, we understand that our meal will only be as good as the ingredients that go into our recipe - this same principle applies to supplements. The danger with poor quality supplements is that at best they don’t absorb into our bodies, and at worst they can make us ill. It is imperative that we are armed with accurate information to help us find high quality supplements that will actually help us make-up the shortfall in our diets and prevent immunity depletion, and that seeking medical advice isn't glossed over if we're trying to figure out if that over-the-counter vitamin C supplement or elderberry syrup lozenge is something that will actually benefit us or if it'll just act as a placebo.
Here are some tips when looking for quality supplements and multivitamins:
- Does the supplement have the right dosage?
- Does it have lab results that prove efficacy and did any of the ingredients undergo clinical trials?
- Are there any colorants, binders, excipients or fillers?
- Is it Non-GMO?
- Is it gluten and allergy free?
- Is it made in an FDA-regulated manufacturing facility?
Not all supplements are created equal. It’s important for us to separate marketing “noise” from actual science when it comes to our well-being.
In order to get the answers we need and the health we want, we need to be asking the questions that will get us there.