How Prepared Are You:The Best Immune Support Ingredients
Modern life throws challenges and environmental stressors at us every day. Significant bio-stressors often appear globally, triggering abnormal responses in the human immune system. These environmental stressors increase because of pollution, rapid and potentially unsafe increases in food production, and the global dependence on technology. In uncertain times of environmental stress, supporting the natural immune system of the body is more important than ever.
It is possible to recharge the immune system with some of the most advanced immune-supporting botanicals. These five ingredients are well-researched immune support agents that supply comprehensive immune system support.
Here are some of the best 21st century immune support agents:
1. Nucleotides: The Repair Master
Nucleotides are the basic building blocks of every cell in the body. In fact, it takes 6 billion nucleotides to build one single cell. During times of good health, our bodies store these nucleotides for future use. After infection, surgery, or trauma, the body then uses these stores to help repair our cells. During times of extreme stress, these nucleotide stores can be exhausted quickly, leaving the body to struggle to keep up with its cellular repair. Supporting the body with supplemental nucleotides can help promote healthy protein synthesis, energy production, and immune system health. Cells can use these fresh nucleotides to support a healthy immune system response.
2. Garlic: Stinky but Awesome
Garlic is a delicious addition to most meals, but this herb also has a sterling reputation throughout history for use in natural healing. When raw garlic is crushed, chopped, chewed, or otherwise broken down, the compound alliinase is naturally released. This alliinase enzyme then helps convert alliin to allicin, which is an incredible immune compound that magnificently supports the immune system.
Allicin is the stellar compound that gives garlic extract its incredible, broad-spectrum immune support. This compound supplies antioxidants and can even help reduce inflammation. Consuming a high-quality garlic supplement may be an excellent way to help ward off a pesky illness.
3. Vitamin C: Get Natural Source or Forget It
One of the most well-known immune support agents, vitamin C (from natural sources) supplies substantial antioxidant support to the body. This critical vitamin helps to manage a healthy inflammatory response and facilitates neurotransmitter formation. Only natural vitamin C contains a wide array of phytonutrients including tannins, flavonoids, and polyphenolic compounds that provide antioxidant support to the body.
Consuming vitamin C can boost blood antioxidant levels, help the body fight free radicals, and support cellular health and wellness. Studies have even shown that supplementation with vitamin C may be able to shorten the length of respiratory and systemic infections.5
But buyer beware! The type you want is truly natural-source, full-spectrum vitamin C concentrate from potent plants, such as amla, a highly revered nutritional Ayurvedic fruit - not the “dead,” chemicalized ascorbic acid powder so sadly common in supplements.
4. Zinc: Needed in Small but Essential Amounts
A lesser-known support agent, zinc, plays a significant role in the immune system, helping to elicit the most favorable immune response. A zinc deficiency can cause immune dysfunction and an interruption to innate and adaptive immunity. Zinc facilitates communication with ligands in the body. These ligands bind to immune cells and play a key role in complex cell signaling. It is estimated that about one-third of the world’s population is zinc deficient and that about 16% of lower respiratory infections can be attributed to a zinc deficiency.
Zinc is a critical micronutrient, but many supplements on the market are formulated using poor sources of zinc such as zinc oxide or zinc carbonate. Due to their minimal ionic charge, these forms are poorly absorbed in the body. When supplementing with zinc, look for a formula that provides a superior zinc form such as zinc sulfate heptahydrate, a hydrated form of zinc sulfate which is easy to absorb.
5. Fermented Mushrooms: Treasured Ancient Immune Powerhouses
Special types of mushrooms have been a treasured part of Eastern diets for centuries. These almost mystical fungi have been shown to support immune function by providing the robust compound, beta-glucans. These special mushrooms, such as reishi and coriolus, also promote the activation of the immune system. They are packed with elegant polysaccharides that have been proven to promote immune system health and overall wellness. Studies have shown that a combination of maitake, shitake, and/or reishi mushrooms significantly improved immune system function by increasing natural killer cell activity.1,2
One of the best ways to consume mushrooms is by consuming a fermented mushroom powder in supplement form. By fermenting the mushrooms, it boosts their natural immune compounds, making these beneficial compounds more easily digestible. Releasing their nutritional payload through fermentation breaks down the chitin in the mushroom (usually difficult to digest) as well as providing postbiotic metabolites to further support immune health.
6. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): A Famous Amino Acid
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a semi-essential amino acid that is found in many high protein foods, including sunflower seeds and legumes. It is considered semi-essential because the body can make it from other amino acids if they are available. Amino acids can help to support healthy respiration and reproductive health as well as support the health of your brain. Additionally, NAC is crucial to make and replenish glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants in the body which can help neutralize free radicals and prevent cell and tissue damage.
Glutathione is essential for immune health, naturally restoring natural killer cells.3 NAC can help support healthy glutathione levels and, in immune-compromised situations such as the flu, NAC may hamper the ability of a virus to replicate. This powerful amino acid plays many roles in human health.
7. Bromelain: The Immune-Supporting Gift from Pineapples
Digestive enzymes are not typically associated with immune support, but bromelain cannot be overlooked. Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme derived from the pineapple plant. Pineapple has been used as a part of traditional folk medicine since ancient times and bromelain has, more recently, become famous for its digestive and nutritional benefits.
Bromelain is widely recognized for its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects in addition to supporting healthy circulation.4 This amazing enzyme can help stimulate a healthy immune system by releasing immune-boosting compounds.
The Bottom Line
Today is a great day to start boosting and protecting the health of your own immune system. Adopting a comprehensive nutritional program that includes immune-supporting botanical agents such as fermented mushrooms is a fantastic way to support your immune system.
- Vetvicka V, Vetvickova J. Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts. Ann Transl Med. 2014;2(2):14. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2014.01.05
- Mallard B, Leach DN, Wohlmuth H, Tiralongo J. Synergistic immuno-modulatory activity in human macrophages of a medicinal mushroom formulation consisting of Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake. PLoS One. 2019;14(11):e0224740. Published 2019 Nov 7. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0224740
- Geiler J;Michaelis M;Naczk P;Leutz A;Langer K;Doerr HW;Cinatl J; “N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) Inhibits Virus Replication and Expression of Pro-Inflammatory Molecules in A549 Cells Infected With Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Influenza A Virus.” Biochemical Pharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19732754/.
- Rathnavelu, Vidhya, et al. “Potential Role of Bromelain in Clinical and Therapeutic Applications.” Biomedical Reports, D.A. Spandidos, Sept. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4998156/.