Read these 16 Immune System Support Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Vitamin tips and hundreds of other topics.
Although it's important to avoid saturated fats, other kinds of fats, including essential fatty acids, are truly essential for good health. Flax and flaxseed oil, as well as flaxseed oil supplements, are excellent sources of essential fatty acids. These nutrients promote a healthy metabolism, support cell function and support the immune system by helping the body heal after injuries.
In particular, athletes have reported that flaxseed oil helps them recover more quickly after a workout by promoting muscle tissue repair, and some athletes have reported that flaxseed oil heals sprains and bruises more quickly, too. These reports suggest that flaxseed has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it is being studied as a possible treatment for anti-inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
But flaxseed's benefits aren't just for athletes. As a healthy source of an omega-3 essential fatty acids called alpha-linolenic acid, they promote overall good health in anyone. And if you are trying to lose weight, flaxseed oil may support healthy weight loss by promoting metabolism and helping the body burn fat effectively. Flaxseed oil also may help compensate for the constipation associated with some high-protein diets.
Flaxseed may play a role in cancer prevention, too. The National Cancer Institute is studying flaxseed after findings from studies in Europe suggested a link between flaxseed oil and shrinking tumors in prostate, breast and lung cells.
Where can you buy flaxseed? Most health stores and specialty supermarkets will carry flaxseeds (which should be ground up, and can be sprinkled on your cereal, yogurt, etc.), as well as flaxseed softgels. Flaxseed oil, which has a mild nutty taste, can even be consumed in liquid form (take 1-2 Tbs a day). Refrigerate after opening the bottle, and keep in mind that the bottle's shelf life is four to six months. Note: Do not use flaxseed oil for cooking.
Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins that you need for good health because it is involved in maintaining your immune system. Adequate vitamin C helps you fight off infections. In addition to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C does most of the repair work on the body. Vitamin C is necessary to help the body make collagen, a protein that is a component of skin, scar tissue, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. Vitamin C helps the body maintain and repair bones, teeth, and cartilage. It can even help wounds heal.
Vitamin C is water-soluble, so it is not stored in the body and you need to consume it every day. That's where supplements can come in, especially if you are following a restricted diet or if you just don't eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Many multi-vitamin formulas contain vitamin C, or you can find it as its own supplement. The Institute of Medicine recommends 90 milligrams per day for men older than 18 years and 75 milligrams per day for women older than 18 years. Can you take too much vitamin C? The most common doses are 500-1,000 mg of vitamin C.
Some evidence suggests that vitamin C may cut down on your risk of getting a cold because of its role in immune system health, but it is more likely to help promote your recovery. In addition, research suggests that vitamin C may improve iron absorption. So if you are taking an iron supplement, you may want to include vitamin C, too, perhaps with a multivitamin.
Antioxidants are compounds that counteract free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen particles that damage cell function. By damaging cell function, free radicals contribute to aging and possibly to the development of cancer and other diseases. Although some free radicals arise naturally in the body over time, the body produces free radicals in response to external factors, such as pollution and smoking. Antioxidants work against these free-range oxygen particles to keep them from damaging cells.
Exercise also produces free radicals in the body and antioxidants helps promote speedy recovery from tough workouts and competitions. Tough workouts and competitions deplete the body, which is why athletes may get colds after a marathon, triathlon or other major event.
Antioxidants that are important for overall good health include: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene, beta-carotene, lutein, selenium, alpha lipoic acid and green tea extract. Some of these antioxidants have been associated with specific health benefits. For example, vitamin C supports your immune system, beta-carotene is important for developing good vision and selenium has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate, colorectal and lung cancers.
If you are deficient in a specific nutrient or antioxidant, you can find a supplement to meet your needs. Or you can choose a multi-vitamin supplement or a multi-vitamin pack that contains several anti-oxidants.
Some of the most well-known antioxidants include beta-carotene, lutein, selenium, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E. Basically; all antioxidants protect our bodies from free radicals. Free radicals are produced in our bodies as they break down foods, but they are also caused by environmental factors, such as smoking and exposure to radiation. Too many free radicals can cause everything from cancer to heart disease.
Luckily, antioxidants are found in a variety of foods, from tomatoes to many oils like flaxseed oil. They are also available as supplements, if you don't get enough in your diet. Eating a balanced diet made up of fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, fish and poultry is the best way to ensure you get enough antioxidants to keep your immune system healthy and free of disease.
Foods containing vitamin A may be some of the best foods to boost immune system needs and health. Studies indicate that vitamin A can fight infection and inflammation in the body, and can even fight against some toxins, such as some types of food poisoning. Vitamin A-rich foods boost immune system properties by influencing and even helping to create beneficial cells in the body that fight certain diseases and conditions. So eating more vitamin A can boost immune system properties throughout the body.
Some common foods that provide vitamin A and boost the immune system include chicken, turkey, beef, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, collard greens and most all tomato products. There are also vitamin A supplements available if you need to boost immune system properties even more.
Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant that helps prevent scurvy and other diseases. That's why you'll find so many products fortified with vitamin C at your local supermarket. The recommended daily dose is 90 mg per day, and no more than 2,000 mg per day. We cannot manufacture vitamin C in our bodies, but in most cases, our diets are sufficient to maintain the right levels of vitamin C.
However, smokers, pregnant women, and those under stress may need more vitamin C, and supplements can help prevent a vitamin C deficiency. Signs of a vitamin C deficiency (called scurvy) include spongy, soft gums, liver spots on the skin, bleeding from the mucous membranes, depression, and pale skin. If not treated, the deficiency can lead to death. Vitamin C supplements are a good way to ensure you always get the vitamin C you need every day.
Flaxseed oil comes from the seeds of the flax plant, and it contains many healthful properties, include antioxidants that can help boost the immune system and keep it healthier. This oil is loaded with alpha-linolenic acid (
You can find flaxseed oil supplements in both liquid and soft gel capsules. You should keep flaxseed oil supplements in the refrigerator, as they can turn rancid (like any other oil) if you store them too long at room temperature. Heat, light, and oxygen can destroy the antioxidant properties of this oil, so make sure to purchase your supplements from reputable firms that process, package, and ship it so it is safe from these elements.
Old age isn't so bad...when you consider the alternative. Right. In youth-oriented societies, the alternative is plastic surgery and, for men, finding trophy girlfriends. Relax. You can still date (Sherry Halperin humorously explores this in RESCUE ME, HE'S WEARING A MOOSE HAT AND FORTY OTHER DATES AFTER FIFTY) and exercise and eat right to look good. Some of our not-so-bad alternatives to putting on your mom's granny dress:
You bake with it. You love it in your latte. But too much cinnamon sugar and you worry you'll put on pounds. Why not try a cinnamon supplement instead? You know about the benefits of echinacea, vitamin E, vitamin C and zinc, especially when it comes to immune system health. But have you heard that cinnamon supplements can boost your immune system, not to mention your heart health? Cinnamon is supposed to support sugar and fat metabolism--you were worried about laying it on your latte at Starbucks! However, dumping out the spice rack in your coffee isn't always an option. Cinnamon can stimulate the immune system--a slow metabolism can lead to more problems than just having a latte a week. So indulge your cinnamon cravings--we suggest a cinnamon complex formula. And cinnamon buns. Are we on our way to a cinnamon cure?
Vitamin C. You have to have vitamin C. Just hype from the citrus growers, right? Vitamin C can't possibly do everything it's supposed to do. Isn't zinc the superfood? It promotes the immune system, not to mention sexual health. Sorry to say, plain old reliable vitamin C is the ultimate immune system booster -- Dr. Linus Pauling brought vitamin C to the forefront and made Tropicana happy. But long before Dr. Pauling, British sailors ate limes (hence the word "Limey") and oranges to prevent all kinds of scurvy sea diseases in a hygiene-challenged dangerous job. So vitamin C inspires a whole generation of immune system vitamins, including echinacea, zinc, vitamin E, and cinnamon, as well as selenium, beta-carotene, lycopene and luo han kuo. C-C-Cheers for vitamin C!
Your mother called you today and said that she heard too much vitamin C and too much vitamin E are bad for your health. Too much sugar, you say, will harm you. Not too many vitamins. Vitamin dosage varies from person to person, and too much immunity...no such thing! Bring on the zinc, selenium, and echinacea with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. In 2000, an upper limit of 2,000 mg per day had everyone and your mother afraid of stomach cramps, an increased risk of cancer, diarrhea, and other good stuff. Plus, people with too much iron (hemochromatosis) said, "No, ve don't want to pump up." In 2001, Dr. Dean Ornish recommended taking 1,000 mg a day, but on the other side of the coin, some sources advise that when you're exposed to significant stress (like a move...to Iraq), 20,000 mg dosages aren't out of the question. You are an individual, completely separate from your mother, aunt, father, or anyone else. You decide how much vitamin C to take, especially if you're sick--you may need to take 1,000 to 6,000 mg a day to restore your immune support system in several doses, since your body can't absorb more than 1,000 mg in a single dose. Current wisdom holds that it's a good idea to include the other immune system boosters, or to take vitamin C as part of an immune system antioxidant formula with flavonoids and vitamin E. You can get too much sugar, and sometimes, you can get too much advice. Tell your mom to relax--that nauseated feeling could be from worry over the latest "new shocking health study."
You hate taking chewable vitamin C because it reminds you too much of grade school. You would take chewable C if you could sneak your kids' Flintstones vitamins. But your immune system isn't worth the ridicule. So you give your kids chewable echinacea with goldenseal, blackberry flavor, and Vitamin C to keep away colds and flu. Relax --you're not missing out on immune system support if you don't take chewable vitamin C. However, you hate traditional vitamin C capsules, and you don't own your own personal orange grove. Flintstones addiction is looking better all the time. We recommend vitamin C (and vitamin E) liquid drops--you can combine them with your orange juice. Liquid absorbs as fast as Dino leaping on Fred. We also like vitamin C powder that you can mix with your favorite juice. Chewable tablets, including vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc, usually contain sugar, so we recommend the organic sugarless kind with natural flavors for your kids, and no chewables for you. Awww. You were looking forward to sampling a Wilma and a Barney again.
In the TV series "Roswell" that your kids may have watched as teenagers, the heroine, Liz Parker, takes echinacea, which her father mistakes for illegal drugs. Just say no. Dads aren't always in tune with your life, and your dad has the worst immune system of anyone you know. He'd sooner try medical marijuana than he would echinacea, noting that years ago UC Berkeley (Berserkely) was skeptical of the herbal supplement. You're a little foggy on what echinacea does as well--although you know it's not like cannabis, which can make you foggy. Echinacea commonly comes from the purple coneflower in the US and became a popular cold remedy in the 1800s after the Native Americans had been using it for years. Coincidentally, a Native American shaman played a key role in "Roswell." Now, echinacea with goldenseal is a popular immune system booster. Your dad may not understand you, but you and echinacea are in good company. Echinacea's effects are still a source of dispute in the herbal community--especially when it comes to supplements. Not all capsules are created equal. Some hints to avoid one of those "anti drug" talks:
Luo Han Kuo. You can't remember -- is that a Cantonese dish or a North Korean Dictator? When you're ill it's difficult to think. Maybe you need a shot of ginkgo biloba with you Luo Han Kuo, a supplement made from a sweet fruit found in China. The immune system cannot live by zinc, echinacea, Vitamin E and vitamin C alone. Luo Han Kuo helps your intestines stay healthy with increased bacteria. Ugh -- no one likes to think about bacteria, just like no one likes to think about dictators, but bacteria are a step up above tyrants. Bacteria, like acidophilus, can actually promote immune system health. It's important to remember that many herbal immune system supplements haven't been proven yet, so use caution when taking a new one. In the meantime, enjoy your moo goo gai pan, cook healthier, and get better!
AIDS. We wear red ribbons, we watch celebrity announcements...and now you even have AIDS, or you love someone who does. What do you do? It's difficult to tell someone with a deadly disease to eat well, but you can't stop taking immune system boosters such as zinc, vitamin E, cinnamon, echinacea with goldenseal (this is one time when you'll try everything despite the warnings), acidophilus, fish oil and selenium. Don't forget the C -- C for courage, C for compassion, C for cheerfulness, and C for vitamin C. You can now ingest larger doses of vitamin C than normal simply because the vitamin gets drained faster from your system. The ascorbate "burn" (vitamin C is ascorbic acid) from AIDS wipes out the body's natural supply -- humans can't manufacture vitamin C in their own bodies in large doses anyway. Most AIDS patients take liquid vitamin C, according to Dr. Robert Cathcert, but ask your doctor. You may have diarrhea and stomach problems at higher doses, so take a mixture of calcium, magnesium and potassium ascorbate too. Or advise your loved one to take it. The Vitamin C is worth it -- ascorbic acid inhibits the virus! What do you do when you have AIDS or love someone who does? You lay in a supply of vitamin C and plenty of hope.
Some studies show a relationship between antioxidants and cancer prevention. Antioxidants fight against free radicals in the body, and free radicals can be the cause of cancer in at least some cases. Free radicals literally "steal" the electrons from other cells in the body, and this can lead to free radicals becoming unstable and causing diseases like cancer. Antioxidants clean up and destroy free radicals, and so, could prevent at least some types of cancer.
There are several studies underway that are looking at the relationship between antioxidants and cancer. Antioxidants include beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. You can find these in many foods, but also in supplements that contain all these antioxidants, which is one good way to ensure you get enough of all of them every day.