What Vitamins and Supplements Are Good For Immune System Function

What Vitamins and Supplements Are Good For Immune System Function

by Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian
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What Vitamins And Supplements Are Good For Immune System Function? 7 Best Vitamins for Immune System Support

It’s easy to forget how important your health is until you get sick. And by the time you reach that point, there are rarely quick fixes. That’s why you must focus on supporting your immune system now—not tomorrow.

Fortifying your health takes time and effort. You must exercise, get plenty of sleep, and most importantly, eat healthy. In that regard, your diet plays a central role in supporting your immune system, since it’s the optimal way to get vitamins, minerals, and nutrients the body needs to function at full capacity. 

Knowing this, what vitamins are good for the immune system? And which foods contain them? If you don’t know what foods support your immune system, this blog post is here to help. 

If you are looking for immune support tips, you have come to the right place. Today, we’ll review the best vitamins for immune system support.  

What Is the Immune System? 

Before we can answer what vitamins help the immune system, it’s important to first know what it is and how it works. Otherwise, you won’t know why those vitamin supplements have a positive effect. 

Put simply, the immune system plays a vital role in protecting your body. If your organs were a castle, the immune system would be the walls and ramparts surrounding and fortifying the inhabitants as well as the knights and soldiers patrolling every inch of your stronghold. The immune system is made up of various organs, cells, and proteins that work together to safeguard your body from harmful invaders, such as germs,  bacteria and viruses,. 

When the immune system is functioning properly, you rarely pay it any mind. But when it fails—because it's weak and unable to fight off germs—you get ill. According to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare, the immune system serves three primary purposes: 

  1. To fight off and kill disease-causing germs (pathogens) like bacteria, viruses, or parasites
  2. To identify and neutralize harmful substances from the environment
  3. To fight disease-causing changes in cells that can potentially develop into cancer

Technically, the immune system can be broken down into two interweaving subsystems, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.

The Innate Immune System

This is the system you’re born with. Also known as the rapid response system or the non-specific system, it’s active from birth. 

The innate immune system provides a generalized line of defense against potentially harmful external germs and substances—hence, non-specific—that enter through the digestive system, airways or skin. When it recognizes an outside invader, it immediately enters active-defense mode, sending cells known as phagocytes, which “eat” and destroy the germs. The goal of this is to kill the germ or microbe before it can cause harm. 

The Adaptive Immune System 

Also known as the acquired immune system, it fortifies the innate system by producing antibodies that protect your body from specific threats. After the body has been exposed to a disease, B lymphocytes develop the antibodies. And the next time the immune system is exposed to that same external force, it will identify and then fight it off more quickly and efficiently. As John Hopkins Medicine Center notes:1 

It can take several days for antibodies to develop. But after the first exposure, the immune system will recognize the invader and defend against it. The acquired immune system changes throughout your child's life. Immunizations train your child's immune system to make antibodies to protect him or her from harmful diseases.

How Probiotic Supplements Help  

So, why should you take probiotics exactly? Probiotics are “good bacteria” that can be taken as a supplement, yogurt, or food to help support the immune system. According to a peer-reviewed scientific article on probiotics and immune health::   

Studies regarding the biological consequences of probiotics in host immunity suggested that they regulate the functions of systemic and mucosal immune cells and intestinal epithelial cells. Thus, probiotics showed therapeutic potential for diseases, including several immune response-related diseases, such as allergy, eczema, viral infection, and potentiating vaccination responses.

At Bio-K+®, we use science-based formulae that can be used in your healthy lifestyle to help fortify digestive health, gut microbiota balance, and support a healthy immune system function. Our dietary supplement products come in one of two forms: 

  • Bio-K+ Original Line – Probiotic drinks and capsules that contain live microorganisms and good bacteria to support gut health, promote a healthy diet, and strengthen your immune system.  

Each probiotic dietary supplement features three different probiotic strains: Lactobacillus acidophilus CL1285®, Lactobacillus casei LBC80R® and Lactobacillus rhamnosus CLR2®; and each strain synergizes to ensure that the probiotic bacteria alive and effective. 

For that extra immune support, try our Extra Drinkable Vegan Probiotic with Wellmune® --a scientifically supported active ingredient used to promote immune health.† 

What Vitamins Are Good for Your Immune System?

Now that we’ve covered immune system function and probiotics, let’s discuss the seven best micronutrients and vitamins for the immune system: 

#1 Iron

Iron is a micronutrient that helps your body transport oxygen to the cells, which is critical for the immune system to operate. According to Soyano: “The role of iron in immunity is necessary for immune cells proliferation and maturation, particularly lymphocytes, associated with the generation of a specific response to infection.”   

Iron from animal products, known as heme iron, is the most easily absorbed. Foods that contain it include: 

  • Red meat
  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Turkey
  • Milk

#2 Vitamin C 

Vitamin C helps stimulate antibody production. It also promotes white blood cell growth, function, and movement. All of this can help fight off infection. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries are all rich in vitamin C. But they aren’t the only source. Other foods that contain it include: 

  • Spinach
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Bell peppers
  • Kale
  • Tangerines

Your body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C. Therefore, it’s important that you make sure that you’re getting a healthy dose of it each day through your diet. 

#3 Vitamin B6 

Vitamin B6 plays an essential role in the production of white blood cells and T cells—both of which help regulate immune responses. According to studies on it, Vitamin B6 is: 

An intriguing micronutrient that mediates numerous metabolic processes in vivo including amino acid metabolism, gluconeogenesis, lipid metabolism, and nervous system development and functioning. Vitamin B6 has been implicated in the regulation of immune responses that are associated with a wide range of diseases, including inflammation and various cancers.  

Foods that are rich in vitamin B6 include: 

  • Chicken
  • Salmon 
  • Tuna
  • Green vegetables
  • Chickpeas

#4 Vitamin E 

Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help combat potential infections. According to Cleveland Medical Clinic, it contributes to nearly 200 biochemical reactions within the body and plays a vital role in immune system functions. It’s often found in fatty plant foods like: 

  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oils
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds and oils 

#5 Vitamin A 

Vitamin A protects you from infections by fortifying the skin and tissues in your mouth, stomach, intestines, and respiratory system. This vitamin is great for immune support for a number of different reasons. It typically can be found in animal foods or plant carotenoids. Common foods include: 

  • Oily fish
  • Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt)
  • Eggs
  • Carrots
  • Apricots
  • Bell peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Butternut squash

#6 Folate

Folate is a natural form of folic acid, which is often added to foods because it has health benefits, particularly relating to the immune system. According to Harvard Health: 

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin that occurs naturally in some foods, including vegetables, fruits, and dried beans and peas — and is essential for health. Folate is vital for the production and maintenance of our bodies' cells, especially during rapid periods of growth, such as pregnancy and infancy.

Foods that are high in folate or folic acid include: 

  • Legumes
  • Asparagus
  • Eggs
  • Leafy greens
  • Beets
  • Citrus fruits
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli

#7 Zinc 

Zinc plays a critical role in the healing of injuries and in strengthening immune response. It has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Zinc homeostasis is essential in immunological reactions like inflammatory responses and oxidative stress responses. As a result, there are several chronic diseases found in elderly populations that are linked to zinc deficiency.  

Foods that are high in zinc include:

  • Red meats
  • Shellfish
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains
  • Dark chocolate

Steps Toward a Healthy Immune System

To support and boost your immune system, you must be proactive. It takes a full-fledged effort to ensure that you’re doing everything possible to improve your health. Activities include: 

  • Eating a balanced diet that contains all of the nutrients and vitamins above
  • Taking probiotic supplements on a regular basis 
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation, if not avoiding it entirely
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night
  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Learning to manage stress  

Bio-K+® – Supporting Immune Function

The immune system is as complex as it is incredible. The collaboration of organs, cells, and proteins fortifies your body, allowing you to fight off potentially dangerous microbes. 

And while you have some natural immune response, it’s important that you bolster it—namely, with vitamins and supplements. 

If you're looking to support your immune health through an immune support supplement, probiotics may be a great place to start. That’s where Bio-K+ can make the difference. Check out immunity extra drinkable to get started. Our precisely formulated probiotics were made to support a healthy lifestyle and your immune system.  

Fortifying your health has never been easier. 

Sources 

The immune system. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/the-immune-system.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2016, September 21). How does the immune system work? Nih.gov; Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/

Yan, F., & Polk, D. B. (2011). Probiotics and immune health. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 27(6), 496–501. https://doi.org/10.1097/mog.0b013e32834baa4d

Soyano, A., & Gómez, M. (1999). [Role of iron in immunity and its relation with infections]. Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutricion, 49(3 Suppl 2), 40S46S. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10971835/

Qian, B., Shen, S., Zhang, J., & Jing, P. (2017). Effects of Vitamin B6 Deficiency on the Composition and Functional Potential of T Cell Populations. Journal of Immunology Research, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2197975

Wellness Team. (2015, January 15). 8 Vitamins & Minerals You Need for a Healthy Immune System. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic; Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/eat-these-foods-to-boost-your-immune-system/

Ask the doctor: Does folic acid improve immunity? (2011, February 1). Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/does-folic-acid-improve-immunity

Wessels, Maywald, & Rink, L. (2017). Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function. Nutrients, 9(12), 1286. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9121286


Jef L’Ecuyer
About the author
Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian
After her nutrition training at McGill University, Jef specialized in gastrointestinal health with a special interest in the microbiota and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. With Bio-K+, she continues on this path by making the world of probiotics more accessible to all.
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