This is part 1 in a 3 part series!
Immune System Boosters: Are They Real? There are a lot of claims that certain foods or supplements can boost your immune system. But the immune system is still not fully understood; therefore any research on improving immune function and fighting off infections is preliminary. Also, even if a compound is found to have an effect on immune function or a specific component of the immune system, it is difficult to measure its ability to prevent an infection. The immune system is a system, with many different cells and components.
No one single food or food component has been found to affect the system as a whole.
Therefore, the current recommendations for immune health are the same as current overall health guidelines. For more information the website below from Harvard Health Publications provides an excellent overview about what is currently known about the immune system: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system.
What Does the Research Say?
Though research has found that deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamins A, D, C, and E, zinc, and selenium, may increase the risk for infection, consumption or supplementation beyond the body’s need has not been shown to further immune function.
There is not enough evidence to support the claim that Vitamin C can prevent a cold, and any reduction in symptom length is not dramatic enough to support supplement use.
Zinc supplementation has also not been shown to prevent a cold and too much zinc may actually impair immune function. Also, there is no convincing evidence that any herb or supplement can improve the body’s ability to fight off an infection, and over supplementation with certain herbs can be dangerous.
Finally, it is important to remember that supplements are not regulated, and therefore may not even contain the ingredients they claim to contain.
The Bottom Line:
The best thing you can do to improve immune function is to improve the health of your body as whole!!
Following these steps can help ensure your immune system is functioning properly.
- Consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Consuming a varied diet will ensure you are consuming all the nutrients that are important for immune health
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day
- Get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep every night
- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. This means using warm water and scrubbing with soap for at least 20 seconds.
In the next 2 months, we will cover the most current information regarding the pattern of eating that is “Immune Boosting” and the pattern of eating that is “Immune Busting.”
Article by Julie Lanford, MPH, RD, LDN, The Cancer Dietitian, December 10, 2015