No matter where you live in the world, your immune system is constantly fighting invasion. Everything around us - the air we breathe, the food we eat, the surfaces we touch, and even our genetics can all affect our immune system and the way we stand up to diseases.
If it seems like you’re always picking up colds and flu, or you have skin infections that won’t go away, it could be that your immune system isn’t functioning as well as it should. If you don’t give it a helping hand, it can become further depleted, leaving you vulnerable to pathogenic bacteria and harmful yeasts.
Boosting your immune system doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. There are a number of incredible natural supplements that have been scientifically proven to benefit the body’s defenses and help reduce your risk of getting ill.
Simply put, your immune system is how your body wards off harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi. A complex network of cells, organs, chemicals, and proteins work to neutralize and flush out foreign substances that invade the body. It also helps to build up a form of ‘memory’ so that your cells recognize pathogens that it has been exposed to before and can attack them more readily.
Your immune system cells originate in your bone marrow. They then circulate through the bloodstream and the lymphatic system to guard your peripheral tissues.
When you’re healthy, you don’t even have to think about your immune system. It just does its job and you get on with life. It’s only when you’re constantly battling coughs, colds and other infections that you realize how important your immune system is!
When you need to boost your immune system, these natural remedies are your best bet.
The term ‘probiotics’ refers to a colony of microorganisms that reside in your gut and provide numerous health benefits. They have an important and protective role in the body, particularly the immune system. In fact, these tiny microorganisms are essential for normal, healthy functioning.
Your gut bacteria are established early in life, not long after you’re born. The various species are then nourished by the breast milk you receive from your mother, which also contains probiotic bacteria.
The cells in your gastrointestinal tract are known as “Peyer’s patches”. They protect the mucous membranes of the small intestines against infection by releasing white blood cells (T-cells and B-cells). It’s the many different strains of gut flora that support the actions of these immune cells and help to prevent pathogens from entering your bloodstream.
That’s why it’s vital to have plenty of “good” bacteria in the gut. In fact, without the right balance of gut bacteria, your body cannot maintain good health.
As you grow and develop, your gut bacteria change. The health of your gut bacteria is influenced by everything you face in daily life – diet, age, gender, stress, your environment – and everything you touch or smell.
Scientists have now found that our gut bacteria are often linked to our overall health and wellbeing. Respiratory illnesses, food allergies, autoimmune disease, arthritis, chronic fatigue, skin disorders and even cancer can be a direct result of poor gut flora.
Taking probiotic supplements is one of the easiest and most effective ways to support the immune system. Studies have shown that probiotics benefit immunity by regulating the functions of systemic and mucosal immune cells and intestinal epithelial cells. Probiotics can provide therapeutic potential for diseases, including several immune response-related diseases, such as allergy, eczema, viral infection, and boosting vaccination responses. (1)
Worried about cold and flu season? Try our probiotics. We designed them using patented technology that gets 60% of the good bacteria to your gut (compared to only 4% in regular veggie capsules). And they’re full of immune-boosting probiotic strains.
Echinacea is a flowering plant that’s long been used to stimulate the immune system and improve overall wellbeing. Numerous studies have found that echinacea has powerful constituents that not only ward off pathogenic bacteria, but help prevent recurring infections.
One study showed that although echinacea helps to boost the immune system overall, it is most effective in protecting patients from recurrent infections. These preventive effects were even more significant when subjects used echinacea to prevent the common cold. (2)
Another study found that echinacea showed impressive immunomodulatory activities. When the results of several studies were reviewed (including a number of blind randomized trials), researchers concluded that echinacea is indeed beneficial for the immune system, particularly in stimulating natural defenses of the upper respiratory tract.
Echinacea is available as a tea, or as a supplement in tablets or capsules. It can also be taken as an herbal tincture, but the taste is quite hard to bear!
Colloidal silver products are often seen in alternative health stores, and many people claim that they have incredible health benefits. Although somewhat controversial due to the very small amount of scientific evidence behind it, colloidal silver is a potential immune system booster that is worth knowing about.
Colloidal silver is a solution containing tiny particles of silver suspended in liquid. These particles are so microscopic, they cannot be removed through a normal filtering process. In fact, they are referred to as “nanoparticles”, as their size is less than 100 nm in size and they cannot be seen by the naked eye.
This silver solution has actually been around for hundreds of years, long before modern antibiotics were developed. It was then used as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent to treat various infections and illnesses.
Studies published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that colloidal silver does in fact exhibit some antimicrobial activity. The study gave evidence that it was able to significantly inhibit the growth the bacteria grown under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, and that ionic colloidal silver could be used as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. It even found that it had a limited and specific spectrum of activity against fungi. (3)
Although one of the lesser-known immune-stimulating herbs, Astragalus root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for many centuries. Known in TCM as huang qi, astragalus is considered one of the most important immune tonic herbs.
In Western medicine, astragalus is often used to restore and strengthen the immune system. It’s also known to improve cardiovascular function and boost vitality. It’s also used as an adaptogen, which means it helps the body to stand up to stress.
Research published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine concluded that astragalus can be used to treat and reduce the toxicity induced by drugs such as immunosuppressants and cancer chemotherapeutics. Other studies have found that astragalus extract has a beneficial effect on the immune system, and can protect the body from gastrointestinal inflammation and cancers.
It appears that astragalus promotes B-cell proliferation and antibody production, while also enhancing Cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Astragalus also acts as an antioxidant, increasing superoxide dismutase and decreasing lipid peroxide activity.
One of the most popular vitamins of all time, Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient and potent antioxidant. Vitamin C is crucial for proper immune function, contributing to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. (4)
Vitamin C has the ability to accumulate in phagocytic cells, such as neutrophils, where it can perform a number of important immune activities. It works to boost chemotaxis and phagocytosis, a major mechanism used to remove pathogens and cell debris. Vitamin C is also required to generate reactive oxygen species. Its most important role is in killing harmful microbes.
When it comes to lymphocytes, Vitamin C has been found to enhance differentiation and proliferation of B- and T-cells, which can significantly improve overall immune defenses.
Supplementation with vitamin C can help in both preventing and treating respiratory and systemic infections
Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, Vitamin D is extremely important for healthy immune system function. It works by both modulating both the innate and adaptive immune responses.
In fact, low levels of Vitamin D are often linked to increased autoimmunity as well as a higher susceptibility to infection.
Studies suggest that vitamin D help to maintain tolerance to potential immune triggers while also promoting protective immunity.
One study found that individuals with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to develop infections of the upper respiratory tract infection than those who had sufficient Vitamin D levels. This suggests that maintaining stable vitamin D levels could reduce your risk of coughs, colds and flu.
Not just a culinary herb! Oregano is a powerful antifungal and antimicrobial herb that has long been used to fight off pathogens and parasites. Oregano harbors important healing and immune-boosting properties that have been likened to pharmaceutical drugs.
A 2016 study reported that the active compounds in oregano essential oil that provide its antimicrobial activity are carvacrol and thymol. These and other compounds have been found to inhibit the growth of all bacteria, with the most significant reduction shown in both Listeria strains (L. monocytogenes and L. innocua). (5)
A number of scientific studies have also found that oregano oil harbors powerful antibacterial activity against a number of bacterial isolates and species, including B. laterosporus and S. saprophyticus.
Oregano extract can be taken as a supplement to boost the body’s defenses against opportunistic bacteria. It can also be applied topically to bacterial or fungal skin infections.
Garlic is one of the easiest and most readily-available medicines for boosting the immune system. Not only is it a delicious ingredient in many dishes, it has enormous health benefits for the entire body.
Garlic is rich in compounds that help the immune system fight bacteria, viruses and fungi. This is largely to do with the compound within garlic called allicin, which is released when garlic is crushed.
Allicin contains sulfur, and it’s the reason for garlic’s distinctive smell and taste. It’s also the reason for garlic’s incredible disease-fighting abilities.
It’s been found that allicin helps to stimulate the response of certain types of white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses, such as those which cause the common cold or flu.
Garlic has shown promise in reducing the risk of developing infections in the first place, as well as reducing the time you are sick. It can even minimize the severity of symptoms.
One study in particular found that when healthy volunteers took garlic supplements for three months, they showed a 63% lower risk of getting a cold. If they did catch a cold, the duration of their illness was 70% shorter than those who were not taking garlic. (6)
We often believe that the best way to fight an infection or virus is to take a bunch of prescription medicines from the doctor. While certain medications are indeed necessary in the case of severe infection or illness, they’re certainly not necessary for every little ailment!
In fact, taking antibiotics too regularly can lead to bacteria developing a resistance to the drug, which allows them to become even stronger. And your defenses become weaker!
Boosting your immune system with natural supplements doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, you can start by simply adding more garlic to your daily meals (be sure to cook it for less than five minutes to retain its nutritional properties).
You can increase your Vitamin D levels by going out in the sun for at least 25 minutes a day and allowing the light to touch your bare skin.
And most importantly, you can nourish the immune cells of your gastrointestinal tract – the most valuable ones of all – by supplementing with probiotics. Choose a high-quality probiotic supplement with multiple strains of colony-forming units (CFU).
You can also add fermented foods to your diet, such as kimchi, kefir and unsweetened yogurt. Remember, prevention is the best cure!