What health supplements are proven to boost the body’s immune system against common illnesses like a cough and cold?

Doctor's Answers (1)

Our body’s natural defence

When it comes to fighting common illnesses such as a cough and cold, our immune system plays an important role in defending us against disease-causing microorganisms.

 

How can you help strengthen your immune system?

health-suppliments

There are many products which claim to help boost our immunity. Out of all the health supplements that can help strengthen our immunity, Vitamin C is the likely supplement that comes to mind. Lesser-known (but still important!) nutritional building blocks include:

  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B6
  • Selenium
  • Folic acid
  • Iron

 

Zinc

Zinc is a critical trace element in human health for:

  • Tissue growth
  • Immune response
  • Proper thyroid function
  • Blood clotting
  • Cognitive functions
  • Foetal growth
  • Sperm production.

It’s required for the functions of over 300 enzymes and involved in many important processes in your body. Your body doesn’t store zinc, so you need to eat enough every day to ensure you’re meeting your daily requirements

Food rich in zinc include:

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Legumes, seeds, nuts
  • Dairy products

 

Vitamin D

Other than its classic effects on calcium and bone homeostasis, vitamin D also plays an important role in modulating innate and adaptive immune responses.

A recent study concluded that there is a high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in Singapore.  This shows that living in a region with year-round sunlight is not a guarantee for optimal vitamin D levels.  If you spend a lot of time working indoors or have a habit of generally avoiding sunlight, you may be at risk of Vitamin D deficiency.

Sunlight exposure as a source of vitamin D is not recommended due to the potentially harmful effect of UV exposure(skin cancer). Instead, oral supplementation is recommended if your blood tests show that you are vitamin D deficient.

 

Iron

Iron is necessary for the proliferation and maturation of immune cells. In particular, it is important for lymphocytes, which generate a specific immune response to infection. Iron deficiency is normally associated with anaemia, or low blood counts. But, did you know that you can have low iron levels without being anaemic?

Ask your doctors about checking ferritin levels – the population most at risk of iron deficiency include vegetarians (meat sources of iron are much more bio-available), people who enjoy endurance exercises, women with multiple pregnancies (you use up almost 30% of your body’s iron stores with each pregnancy), or have a history of heavy menstrual bleeding.

 

A holistic view of health and immunity

health-immune

While immune function may be improved by restoring deficient micronutrients to recommended levels, to assume micronutrient supplementation as the sole contributor to a strong immune system is somewhat reductive.

It is important to remember that our lifestyle choices also play an important role in immune modulation – following general good health guidelines are important for our immune system, but also our body as a whole:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a varied diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • If you consume alcohol, drink in moderation
  • Rest and get adequate sleep
  • Take care of your mental wellbeing. Take time to unwind and stress relief.
  • Take active steps to avoid infection, such as hand washing, ensuring hygienic food preparation practices, and keeping up to date with vaccinations.
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