Boosting Your Immunity: Can Supplements Prevent You From Getting Sick?

Fighting Illness With Supplements

A runny nose, cough, fever, body aches, and chills are never fun. Getting sick often does not have to be a part of life and having a healthy diet and routine is the first step . With a strong immune system, individuals may be able to ward off sickness. To stay well throughout the year, people may wonder if supplements can help prevent the common cold, flu, or other illnesses.

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Cough, cough, sniffle

Many respiratory illnesses are spread from person to person via respiratory droplets. This means that a cough or sneeze from a friend nearby can be enough to take an individual from healthy and active to sick in bed. Other risk factors for illness include working or congregating indoors with other people, having a child in daycare or school, and low humidity. Viruses tend to spread more during winter, but people can get sick anytime.

The role of the immune system

To fight off illness, a robust immune system is necessary. The immune system is made up of different organs, cells, and proteins and is comprised of 2 main parts. A baby is born with an innate immune system, including the skin and mucus membranes, designed to create a physical barrier to keep foreign invaders out. An acquired immune system develops over time as the body learns to protect against specific invaders by creating antibodies. Vaccines, like the flu shot, can help to train the acquired immune system further.

Can supplements help?

Once a person is sick, there isn’t much that can be done to speed up recovery. Medications can help keep symptoms bearable, but in most cases, the passage of time is the primary antidote available. Is the same true of taking supplements preventatively? Although most research seems to conclude that prophylactic supplementation has no proven benefit, some herbals may help. Preliminary studies show that elderberry may significantly affect the duration and severity of colds. Echinacea is another option that may reduce the odds of developing a cold. Evidence remains preliminary and subject to limitations, and additional studies are needed.

Vitamins may help

Vitamins play a supportive role in keeping a robust immune system, which can help fight off illness. Vitamin C, for example, helps white blood cells function and may shorten the duration of a cold. Vitamin D also plays a part in immune response, and maintaining adequate levels might be especially important during winter months when sunlight exposure is limited. Vitamins aren't magic shields and work best when combined with a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and good hygiene.

Supplements plus diet

A healthy lifestyle is a multi-pronged defense against getting sick. Eating a balanced diet provides nutrients needed to function optimally, including those that support the immune system. Getting enough sleep allows time to repair and recharge, strengthening natural defenses. While some vitamins and supplements can offer additional support, these are most effective when combined with other healthy habits.

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