According to the Council for Responsible nutrition, our bodies depend on vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for a healthy immune system. Yet we may not always get all these nutrients from food alone. That’s where dietary supplements come in. While these supplements don’t entirely replace food, they can provide many essential nutrients if used responsibly.
In America, more than 75% of its citizens take at least one supplement daily. Dietary supplements contain one or more of the vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. They could also have ginger, Echinacea, and other immune-enhancing herbal ingredients. Other dietary supplements include pre and probiotics and colostrum, which are rich in antibodies.
Dietary supplements come in various forms, including capsules, tablets, drinks, powders, gummies, and energy bars.
It’s advisable to obtain nutrients from food rather than supplements. In many, a balanced diet supplies sufficient amounts of nutrients for a strong immune system. However, some populations especially need them including:
Sometimes, even people who eat well might be at risk of being deficient in a particular vitamin. The National Institute of Health noted that people who reside in cloudy environments can get a vitamin D deficiency for not getting enough sunlight.
Supplements are taken to support mental or sports-related performance, provide immune system support, or maintain good health.
Vitamin C is a famous immune system booster. This vitamin is present in many citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, and supplements. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps the body neutralize free radicals that can cause cell damage. It also stimulates the activity of white blood cells hence supporting the body’s immune system. Research has shown that Vitamin C may help in decreasing the duration and severity of colds in some people.
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine helps in the formation of red blood cells and the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates. It also supports brain health. A study found that taking 75mg of vitamin B6 daily decreased anemia symptoms in pregnant women.
A lack of adequate vitamin B6 can cause high homocysteine levels. High levels of homocysteine is one of the leading cardiovascular disease causes in the body. The American Heart Association is yet to endorse vitamin B6 in reducing cardiovascular disease because of inconclusive research.
Folate in the form of folic acid is found in many foods and supplements. Folic acid is better absorbed in the body than folate and is involved in protein metabolism. It helps in producing genetic materials such as DNA and RNA. Doctors recommend expectant mothers take 400 micrograms of folate daily to prevent birth defects.
Cardiovascular disease is responsible for about a quarter of all deaths in the U.S. each year. Folic acid supplements lower the risks of getting the disease by breaking down homocysteine which is lethal in high levels.
The primary role of vitamin D is to help the body regulate levels of calcium and phosphorus; both critical for building bones. You can get vitamin D through exposure to the sun’s UV rays. This, however, proves a challenge to people living in areas with little sunshine who will need to fill the nutritional gap with a vitamin D supplement.
Very few foods contain vitamin D hence the need for supplements. Vitamin D dietary supplements can be found in two forms: vitamin D2 and D3. Both forms aid in controlling infections and reducing cancer cell growth. Vitamin D regulates immune and inflammatory cells that are cardiovascular disease causes in conditions such as atherosclerosis.
Zinc supplements relieve the rhinovirus cold symptoms such as nasal congestion, sore throat, and cough. They also help in the production and activation of T-cells responsible for triggering the body’s immune response to infections.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in oils of certain types of fish, vegetables, and other plant sources. They are not made by the body and must be consumed in the diet or through supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids lower the body’s production of triglycerides. High triglyceride levels can lead to heart attack or cardiovascular disease symptoms such as body numbness and pain in the left shoulder.
Vitamins and minerals are not always provided in diet, and supplementing may be beneficial to the immune system. Multivitamin dietary supplements combine the benefits of individual vitamins and treat vitamin deficiency or certain illnesses. Not all supplements are safe for use. Consult with a physician before taking any dietary supplement.