We’re approaching the heart of cold and flu season. Your immune system needs more support than ever before. As a medical doctor, I understand why it’s important to provide your immune system with the immune health vitamins and minerals it needs for optimal support during this time of year.
Think of your immune system as the army inside your body. When this army is strong and supported by a healthy gut, it has the tools to fight off attacks. However, when your immune system is weak it is vulnerable to these attacks. I’m going to tell you about the essential immune health vitamins and minerals you need to support your army, and my No. 1 tool to ensure you’re giving your immune system optimal support. Before I do, let’s quickly review your immune system and how it works.
What is Your Immune System
Your immune system is a network of cells, organs, and tissues that work harmoniously to fight off infections and disease.1 When bacteria or a virus enter a healthy body, your immune system sends out antibodies to defend against foreign invaders. There are two parts to your immune system: The innate and the adaptive systems.
Innate Immune System
This is your frontline defender against germs entering the body. It consists of your skin and immune system cells and proteins. Your innate immune system responds the same way to all germs and foreign substances. For example, when bacteria enters the body and is detected, your innate immune system quickly attacks and destroys it.
Your innate immune system is what triggers an inflammatory response. Its cells release substances to the area that make the blood vessels wider, which causes the area to swell and heat up to protect other cells in your body.
Adaptive Immune System
The adaptive immune system is your second line of defense. It takes over when your innate immune system is unable to destroy foreign invaders. While your innate immune system is programmed at birth, your adaptive immune system actively learns. It keeps a database of every germ it has defeated so it knows to destroy it again in the future. However, before it can defend your body against a germ, it has to learn about the germ to make sure it’s not a healthy cell. That means it’s slower to respond, however it’s much more accurate.
Your adaptive immune system is made up of T-cells, B-Cells, and antibodies in the blood, such as white blood cells.
When your immune system is working optimally, acute inflammation is a critical weapon that protects you against severe and immediate stressors. In order to function optimally, it needs support from immune health vitamins and minerals.
The 8 Immune Health Vitamins & Minerals Everyone Needs
Supporting your immune system is really quite simple. The best way to support your immune response is to supply your body with all the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients it needs. Here are the 8 essential vitamins and minerals needed to support immune health.
Vitamin C is a free radical scavenger that plays a vital role in supporting a healthy immune system response. In fact, it is critical for the development, growth, and repair of all your body’s tissues. The daily recommended value of vitamin C is 65 to 90 mg.2 However, there’s a difference between the recommended amount and the amount you need for optimal health. I recommend you get up to 500 mg of this immune health vitamin to support your immune system
Eating enough vitamin C-rich foods is a great way to support your immune system as flu season approaches. However, It can be difficult for the body to absorb all of the vitamin C we consume each day. That’s why I personally formulated Liposomal Vitamin C. It contains 1,000 mg of vitamin C bound to fatty acids for max absorption. It yields a 135% higher absorption rate than traditional vitamin C supplements and is a product I stand behind and personally consume each and every day.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble immune health vitamin that is found naturally in food. Your body also has the ability to create its own vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. Because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, your body uses what it needs and stores the excess amounts in fat cells instead of removing it through your urine the way it does with water-soluble vitamins such as B vitamins.
If you’re finding yourself under the weather too often, that may be a sign that your vitamin D levels are suboptimal. Vitamin D deficiency is very common and one of the most Vitamin D works hand-in-hand with your body to modulate immune activity. Think of vitamin D as a light switch in your body, turning on or off genes and processes that your body needs for a healthy immune system.
Getting enough of this immune health vitamin can be challenging because you can only get it from sunlight and your diet. If you live in a cold climate, then you likely are vitamin D deficient. The other issue is that many foods that contain vitamin D are inflammatory or toxic, such as canned tuna, dairy products, and grains.
Wild-caught salmon is one of the most vitamin-D-rich foods available, yet it only contains 570 IUs of vitamin D per 3 ounces. That would mean you could eat 6 ounces of salmon for every meal and still not reach the optimal level of 5,000 IUs per day.
I recommend everyone take a high-quality Vitamin D3 supplement to ensure they are getting enough of this immune health vitamin.
3. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is an essential immune health vitamin that supports vision, promotes cell growth and development, and facilitates an immune system response.3 This immune health vitamin also supports the maintenance of your body’s natural defenses such as the mucus barriers in your eyes, lungs, and gut that trap bacteria and viruses.4
Since vitamin A is essential for cell growth and development, it also facilitates the production of white blood cells. These cells capture and clear bacteria from your bloodstream.
There are two types of vitamin A. The first is known as preformed vitamin A and is found in beef, poultry, and fish. The second type is known as provitamin A, and is found in fruits and veggies, and other plant based products.5 Beta-carotene is the type of provitamin A found in supplements and some foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apricots, and cantaloupe.
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an essential nutrient to support healthy hair, skin, and nails as well as promote a healthy immune system response. Vitamin E is considered an antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage. Vitamin E naturally occurs in fruits and veggies such as leafy green vegetables, pumpkin, safflower oil, mangos, and avocados.
Do you remember when your grandma or mom gave you chicken soup as a child when you were sick? There is a good reason for that! Chicken and beef bone broths contain gelatin and collagen, two superstars for supporting a healthy mucosal lining, proper digestion, and intestinal function.
Your gut health and immune system are allies in the fight against foreign invaders. You cannot have a healthy immune system without a healthy gut. After all, nearly 80% of your body’s immune system lives in your gut.
Your intestinal wall is made up of microscopic folds or “villi,” which are actually built of collagen. When I see a patient with a leaky gut, I use supplementation to increase the production of collagen-produced amino acids. These little compounds literally “seal the leak” in your intestinal lining by promoting tissue growth and cellular health, which helps support your immune system.
To gain the full benefits of collagen, I highly recommend supplementing your diet with plenty of this important protein. There are collagen-rich foods such as spinach, kale, tomatoes, beets, fish, and bone broth.
This immune health mineral supports the production of white blood cells, which as I discussed earlier are essential to your immune system. Zinc also plays an important role in your thyroid health by supporting the enzyme needed to convert T4 to T3. This immune health mineral is also necessary to trigger your hypothalamus’ thyroid hormone receptors, meaning that without enough zinc, your hypothalamus can’t accurately gauge thyroid hormone levels to increase production when levels are low.
Fruits and veggies continuing high levels of zinc include mushrooms, lentils, hemp seeds, and most nuts. If you are on the autoimmune protocol diet, these foods should be avoided. However, I will tell you how you can still get this essential nutrient later on.
Selenium is an immune health nutrient that supports your immune system’s response to infection. It’s a mineral from proteins called selenoproteins. Some of these proteins, called glutathione peroxidases, are free radical scavengers that protect your body’s immune cells from damage caused by oxidative stress. This immune health mineral also plays a role in facilitating an immune system response by promoting the growth of white blood cells.
Most people who are deficient in selenium don’t know it.6 Common symptoms of a selenium deficiency include hair loss, regular infections, brain fog, and fatigue. Due to modern farming practices that depletes the nutrients in our soil, foods that grow from the ground are low in selenium.
Turkey, chicken, beef liver and eggs are foods that are rich in selenium, however you will not get enough from these foods to support your immune system. Don’t worry, I will tell you how you can get optimal amounts of this immune health mineral without having to eat these foods for every meal.
Iron is an immune health mineral your body needs for many functions. For example, iron binds with hemoglobin in your red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Iron also helps provide oxygen to your muscles.7 This immune health mineral is also critical in fighting free radicals; without enough of it, you are more prone to infections and may feel weak because you can’t process the energy within your body.
Iron deficiency, also called anemia, can be characterized by tiredness, difficulty maintaining body temperature, and decreased immune function. Iron-rich fruits and veggies include all dark green vegetables, prunes, and raisins.
If you want to test your nutrient levels at home, I recommend using a home micronutrient test fromLetsGetChecked. You can choose between the essential vitamin test, which tests the levels of vitamin D, B12, and E, a mineral test, or the full micronutrient test, which tests for the vitamins I mentioned and copper, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. The results are available online so you can share them with your functional medicine doctor.
Now that you know the 8 essential immune health vitamins and minerals, I’m going to tell you how you can get all of them and my best tools to support your immune system.
Supplements to Support Your Immune System
The first supplement I recommend everyone take is The Myers Way® Multivitamin. Not only does it support your immune system, it also supports your thyroid health, heart health, and bone health.
My specially formulated multivitamin is designed to build the ultimate foundation for optimal health. It contains optimal amounts of immune health vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium.
Essential Immune Health Vitamins & Gut Health Nutrients
For overall support for your immune system and gut health, I recommend ImmunIG™.
ImmunIG™ is the complete package when it comes to support for your gut health and immune system.
With optimal levels of immune health vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and A, ImmunIG™ boosts your antioxidant levels. These antioxidants — alongside chelated zinc and a proprietary blend of herbs — provide your body extra support at the cellular level to respond to immune challenges and oxidative stress. healthy gut repair mechanisms to promote a healthy gut barrier. ImmunIG™ also offers concentrated immunoglobulins to support a healthy immune system response.
Immunoglobulins are special proteins created by your immune system. Your white blood cells create these glycoproteins to bind to all kinds of antigens. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, even inflammatory proteins from the foods we eat may all be bound by immunoglobulins in order to be destroyed or carried out of the body through the bowel.
- Immune System: An Overview. Cleveland Clinic. 2021.
- Immune System: FAQs. Larissa Hirsch, MD. Nemours Kids Health. 2019.
- Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. Zhiyi Huang, et al. Journal of Clinical Medicine vol. 7. 2018.
- 6 Health Benefits of Vitamin A, Backed by Science. Helen West, RD. Healthline. 2018.
- Vitamin A Facts. National Institutes of Health. 2021.
- Immunity Nutrients At-A-Glance: Selenium. Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute. 2020.
- Comparative efficacy of a hydroxyapatite and a fluoride toothpaste for prevention and remineralization of dental caries in children. Helen West, RD. BDJ Open 5. 2019.