Our immune system helps sustain our overall health and wellbeing. While there are several ways to help ensure a well-functioning immune system, making sure that we provide our bodies with nutrients that support our healthy immune system is also really important. Read on to discover which nutrients provide immune system support, each nutrient’s role in your immune system, and the foods and/or immune supplements that deliver these nutrients.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that includes active Vitamin A (or retinol) as well as carotenoids, which are precursors that are converted to active Vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is the most common of these carotenoids. Vitamin A has been recognized for its importance in the immune system. Vitamin A also helps support cellular processes in the immune system. Good food sources of Vitamin A and its precursor, beta-carotene, include:
Dark green leafy vegetables
Deep orange fruits and vegetables
National survey data shows that 45% of Americans are not consuming enough Vitamin A from their diet alone. Vitamin A is commonly found in multivitamin supplements, such as Nature Made® Multi + Omega-3 gummies, which provide ingredients to help fill potential nutrient gaps in your diet.†
Many Americans are not consuming enough Vitamin C through their diet alone (about 46%), making it a common nutrient gap in the US. If you do not consume the fruits and vegetables above, consider Vitamin C supplements, such as Nature Made® Vitamin C Gummies to help meet your daily Vitamin C nutrient needs.†
3. Vitamin D
This essential fat-soluble vitamin, studied primarily for its role in bone health, has also been studied extensively for its importance in immune system health. Vitamin D receptors are located in almost all immune system cells, where Vitamin D regulates and enhances the immune response and is involved in immune cell function.†
Vitamin D is found in only a few foods, including fatty fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, and Vitamin-D fortified milk. Sunlight is also a source of Vitamin D, however many people do not meet the minimum requirement of sun exposure (without sunscreen) of 5-30 minutes a day/two times a week. Some people have a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency, including those with darker skin pigmentation, the elderly, obese individuals, and those living in areas with limited sunlight. Consequently, national surveys show that 95% of Americans are not consuming enough Vitamin D from their diet alone, and approximately 1/3 of the US population, including children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly, are Vitamin D deficient.[3,7] Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine your Vitamin D status. A Vitamin D supplement is an easy way to help ensure you are receiving adequate amounts of this important nutrient. Try Nature Made® Vitamin D3 Adult Gummies.†
When choosing immune system support supplements, consider Vitamin E to help support immune cell function. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble essential nutrient that has antioxidant properties to help ward off damage from oxidation in the body. Vitamin E may help neutralize free radicals and help protect healthy cells. Good food sources of Vitamin E include:†
Vitamin E is another common nutrient gap in the US, with nearly 84% of Americans not meeting their needs through diet alone. A supplement such as Nature Made® Vitamin E 400 IU d-Alpha softgels may help meet your Vitamin E nutrient needs.†
Zinc is an essential part of hundreds of different processes throughout the body, including the immune system, which is why it is a key nutrient for immune system health. The immune system relies on Zinc for normal development and function of immune cells. Zinc is also required for certain antioxidant enzymes and helps to protect cells from susceptibility to oxidative damage. Zinc can be found in shellfish such as oysters and crab, as well as some animal sources like beef, pork and turkey. If you do not regularly consume these foods, consider taking a Zinc supplement for immune support, like Nature Made® Zinc Gummies or Nature Made® Super C Immune Complex with Zinc Tablets.†
Additional Ways You Can Support Your Immune Function†
Remember that you can help support your immune system with healthy lifestyle habits and proper immune supplements. Here are some additional tips to incorporate into your daily life to stay healthy.†
Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables - Eating a nutrient rich diet on a regular basis helps you consume the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best.
Drink plenty of water- Your healthy diet should also be accompanied by drinking plenty of water daily.
Quit smoking- Smoking is associated with many negative health effects, so you’ll want to quit to support a healthy immune system and your overall health.
Get enough sleep – Getting adequate sleep on a regular basis (at least 7 hours per night for adults) can support your immune system function and overall wellbeing.
Exercise regularly- Exercise contributes to your overall health and wellbeing, which is important to maintaining a well-functioning immune system.
Wash your hands- Simple good hygiene habits like washing your hands before you eat can go a long way in protecting your body.
The Bottom Line
Help your body out by practicing good habits that can support your immune health. Supplements with ingredients that support immune health can be a good choice if you’re looking to support your immune system. Talk with your healthcare provider about which supplements are best for you.†
Learn More About Vitamins for Immune System Health:
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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Edfeldt K, Liu PT, Chun R, et al. T-cell cytokines differentially control human monocyte antimicrobial responses by regulating vitamin D metabolism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010;107(52):22593-22598. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21149724/
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Marko MG, Ahmed T, Bunnell SC, et al. Age-associated decline in effective immune synapse formation of CD4(+) T cells is reversed by vitamin E supplementation. J Immunol. 2007;178(3):1443-1449
Prasad AS. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Mol Med. 2008;14(5-6):353-357. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/.
Prasad AS. Clinical, immunological, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant roles of zinc. Exp Gerontol. 2008;43(5):370-377. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18054190/
Nieman DC, Wentz LM. The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defense system. J Sport Health Sci. 2019;8(3):201-217. doi:10.1016/j.jshs.2018.09.009. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31193280/.
Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.