As the world begins to readjust to a world with COVID-19, winter doesn’t just bring cold and flu season. And staying healthy has taken on a whole new importance. That’s where supplements might play a role in wellness.
Healthcare professionals generally recommend trying to get your daily vitamins from the foods you eat, at least as much as possible. But when your diet leaves gaps, supplements can help fill that in. When considering taking a vitamin or supplement, it’s best to talk with your healthcare provider first.
Some vitamins in certain forms can interact with medications in a way you don’t want. And sometimes, you may be getting enough of a particular vitamin, so getting more in supplement form could cause harm. But you may find that your doctor will recommend you take one. Here are a few vitamins and supplements with the strongest association with boosting immunity.
Vitamin D has long been recognized for its importance in supporting bone health, allowing your body to absorb calcium. It’s now also associated with immune system health. Being deficient in vitamin D can make you more likely to get infections like the flu, colds, or Covid-19. It is a vitamin that is harder to get naturally from foods, which is why it’s often added to milk, juice, or cereals. It can be found in some fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna. Your body makes vitamin D from sunlight, but it is often impossible to get enough in winter in northern, snowy climates like Montana. That’s where taking a supplement may be helpful.
Vitamin C is the classic immune system–boosting tonic, and that is likely because it’s an antioxidant that supports cellular function in your immune system. Evidence shows that it helps to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. If you cannot get enough vitamin C from fresh fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries, among many others. This vitamin is found in so many foods that you can usually get enough without a supplement. But talk to your doctor if you think vitamin C might be missing from your diet, and they may recommend you take a supplement.
Without oxygen, you couldn’t survive. And iron helps carry oxygen to your cells, which is essential for many immune system processes. You can get iron from animal products like red meat, fish, and shellfish, and you can also add more to your diet with broccoli, spinach, kale, and beans. But if your healthcare provider is still finding that you’re iron deficient, they may recommend an iron supplement in pill or capsule form.
Zinc helps produce new cells for your immune system. That’s certainly important for supporting immune health. You can get zinc in your diet with foods like yogurt, crab, chickpeas, baked beans, lean meats, and poultry like chicken or turkey. But you can also pick up a supplement from the pharmacy. This may be especially important for people who don’t eat meat since it’s harder to get enough zinc from a vegetarian or plant-based diet.
During cold and flu season, it’s best to support your immune system health. That includes sleeping well, eating nutritious foods, and getting your flu and Covid-19 vaccinations. Talking to your healthcare provider is an excellent first step when you’re wondering if you should do something more for your immune system. Make an appointment at a CHP clinic to get a professional recommendation tailored to you.