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Published on November 03, 2020

cup of echinacea tea

4 Tips for Immune-Boosting Supplements

The system in our body that keeps colds, flu and viruses — including COVID-19 — at bay can use all the help it can get. Boosts to our immunity can come from healthier habits. A good diet, with plenty of vegetables and fruits, most of which offer abundant anti-inflammatory compounds, is a starting foundation.

But you can enhance immunity with add-ins as well. Supplemental vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants come in many forms. What’s a good starting point?

“This season, it’s not unreasonable to want to add a supplement or two to a nutritious diet,” said physician Dawn Flickema, MD, Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine. “Herbs such as turmeric, with its active ingredient curcumin, have been studied, and proof shows it can boost immune function and reduce inflammation. But in most cases, you’ll need higher doses.” Flickema reminds us that the microbiome in our gut makes up about 70% of the system that fights off viruses and germs.

Drink What Is Good For You

Anti-inflammatory teas, such as elderberry and echinacea, are an easy way to boost immune function. “They’re a nice change-of-pace, outside of taking a capsule or pill to get supplemental nutrients,” said Flickema. “There’s a wide range of them, too, so it’s a great place to start.”

Vital Vitamin-Rich Supplements

If your diet doesn’t include foods rich in vitamins, especially C and D, work to improve it and in the meantime, supplement. “There are many multivitamins that are beneficial, but remember – you cannot depend solely on them and eat anything you want,” Flickema said. “There’s been a lot of focus on vitamin D and COVID-19, so adding a daily supplement that has 1,000-2,000 international units (IUs) each day is a good idea. We’re learning more about its role in immunity.”

Our skin produces vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight, which is harder to get in autumn and winter. There are some artificial light sources, ones often used to help people with seasonal affective disorder, that offer the same broad spectrum UV light that the skin needs.

Find Your Way to Fungi

Mushrooms – all digestible fungi, actually – contain pyrogallol and homogentistic acid, phytonutrients that were studied and shown to reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. “They really help us, and diets with additional mushroom content can provide strength to the system,” said Flickema. “Any kind is good. Shiitake and oyster mushrooms are highest in fiber, which is another important part of diet, while portobello and white mushrooms also contain notable levels of vitamin D. Mushrooms are a super food.”

Think Fermented First

The gut microbiome’s key role in immune function means it needs feeding – good bacteria in a number of fermented foods can do just that. From sauerkraut and kimchee to kombucha drinks, these choices help that mini-universe inside us thrive. “Probiotics are not the same thing, and the two are often confused,” Flickema said. “When the microbiome is doing well, the immune system is, too.”

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