Immune Health Supplements
Better Nutrition|October 2020
Immune Health Supplements
Is it a cold, flu, or Covid? This fall and winter, many of us will be wondering just that if we start feeling sick, especially since many of the symptoms associated with these viruses overlap. What can you do? Focus on supporting your immune system with a daily immune health regimen—here’s how to create your plan.
By Lisa Turner

All of the following remedies can be taken daily, all year long, so pick the ones you are most likely to take every day. One other option: find a combination formula that includes some or all of these ingredients.

Vitamin C

It’s one of the best immune health vitamins out there. It’s a safe, effective antioxidant that’s been shown to prevent and treat flu and other viral infections. Studies suggest that taking vitamin C frequently throughout the day, rather than in one concentrated dose, results in higher plasma levels. For maximum effectiveness, choose ascorbic acid in combination with bioflavonoids and other associated micronutrients.

Higher doses of ascorbic acid can cause stomach upset; buffered forms or liposomal vitamin C prevent this, and some research suggests that liposomal vitamin C is also better absorbed than traditional ascorbic acid. One form, called Ester-C, uses a proprietary, water-based process that creates a pH-neutral product that’s gentler on the stomach and has improved bioavailability.

Whole food-based vitamin C supplements may also be easier to absorb, as they rely on body-ready fruits and veggies that are rich in vitamin C.

Vitamin D

A number of studies have found that vitamin D boosts the body’s natural defenses, and helps ward off viruses that cause colds, flu, and respiratory illness. Vitamin D supplements should be taken daily during the winter, when sunshine is at a minimum and levels of this crucial substance can drop dramatically.

In addition to supporting overall immunity, vitamin D supplements may reduce risk of respiratory infections by 50 percent. Studies show a direct and dramatic impact of vitamin D on respiratory and lung health, including preventing viral and bacterial respiratory infection, asthma, and other conditions. The recommended form is vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol. Studies show that D3 converts to its active form faster than vitamin D2, and is significantly better at raising blood levels of vitamin D.

Medicinal Mushrooms

Used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, medicinal mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides and betaglucans, both of which help protect against viruses and support overall immune function. Mushrooms are also high in L-ergothioneine and glutathione, extremely powerful antioxidants that protect against viruses and support the immune system.

Reishi, shiitake, maitake, and turkey tail mushrooms are the most widely used medicinal varieties, but even culinary mushrooms such as button and porcini have the same type of immunostimulatory compounds. Some studies also suggest that mushrooms are even more potent when taken with ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herb that also promotes immune function.

Another immune-enhancing fungus related to the mushroom family is Cordyceps sinensis, which has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine. It’s a bizarre fungus that grows on the bodies of caterpillars (modern versions are grown on grains, so they’re vegan). Cordyceps has powerful immunomodulatory effects and has been studied for its effects on the flu virus. Studies show that cordyceps has antiviral, anti-influenza properties, and appears to work in part by increasing the number of natural killer cells and the expression of proteins that regulate white blood cell activities.


IV vitamin C is currently being studied in China and Italy as an adjunct therapy for Covid-19. However, there is not yet enough scientific evidence to determine if it can help reduce the severity of the novel coronavirus.

How might vitamin C work in Covid-19 patients? According to the Linus Pauling Institute, one of the world’s foremost vitamin C research centers, “Very high vitamin C levels may create free radicals that destroy viruses and bacteria. Our body’s cells have defenses against these free radicals, but viruses do not. Another possibility is IV vitamin C renews the body’s antioxidant protection. Serious infections can use up our body’s vitamin C and other antioxidants very quickly.” Keep in mind, IV vitamin C and vitamin C supplements are not the same: You can’t get blood levels of vitamin C as high with supplements as you can with IV vitamin C.

Vitamin D status may also play a role in the severity of Covid-19 symptoms. According to a recent study using real-world data in The FEBS Journal, low plasma levels of vitamin D appear to be an independent risk factor for Covid-19 infection and hospitalization. “The main finding of our study was the significant association of low plasma vitamin D level with the likelihood of Covid-19 infection among patients who were tested for Covid-19, even after adjustment for age, gender, socioeconomic status, and chronic mental and physical disorders,” said Eugene Merzon, MD, one of the lead researchers.



You can read up to 3 premium stories before you subscribe to Magzter GOLD

Log in, if you are already a subscriber


Get unlimited access to thousands of curated premium stories, newspapers and 5,000+ magazines


October 2020