Confused about whether you actually need to boost your immunity? Here’s a quick lowdown.
“Eat more fruits, drink this tea and take this pill to boost immunity” is the mantra many of our mums live by. You’ve probably heard it whispered, nagged and repeated over and over to you. Fruits, supplements and even Chinese medicine are all considered immune boosters.
But why are people obsessed with immune levels? Well, for starters, having a healthy immune system reduces your susceptibility to common viruses and infections.
But before we go into whether immunity boosters are worth the hype, we should know how our immune system actually works. Our innate immunity (from birth) adapts to and learns of the various viruses and bacteria that can harm us as we grow. This then transforms into something called adaptive immunity.
Your immune system is your body’s natural defence against antigens (foreign substances), which cause bacterial and viral infections. White blood cells play a big role in the system, and they are responsible for sensing, remembering and attacking these antigens.
There is no scientific evidence on how an over-the-counter immune booster increases white blood cell growth. However, immune boosters are recommended for those who are more susceptible to the common flu and bacterial infections, simply because they contain vitamins and nutrients that boost your overall health.
Vitamin C and D are supplements that positively impact your system when taken in appropriate amounts. The latter is an effective way to decrease inflammation – over time, this enhances the response of your immune system. However, there are also other factors, like lifestyle choices and chronic illnesses, that affect your immune system.
How long you need to take these supplements to see results
There is no miracle pill and for the vitamins to do their job, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Ensure that you keep your body moving and take junk food in moderation. You can’t expect the supplements to work if you pair them with a daily routine of bubble tea or fast food.
In a medical research trial by Harvard Medical School, athletes and army troops that engaged in heavy exercise in extreme conditions appeared to have their risk of getting a cold cut in half when they took 200mg of vitamin C every day. However, for the group with sedentary lifestyles, the supplement did not improve their immunity against the common cold.
Now, there’s no need to turn vegan or go on an extreme diet just to be healthier, but bear in mind that a diet of processed foods is harmful to your immune system. Consuming only one type of food, or worse, mainly processed foods, will result in an unbalanced diet. Well-rounded diets that consist of mainly whole foods, fruits and vegetables are often recommended by nutritionists as they boost different aspects of your health.
So, do you need supplements?
Whole foods cannot be substituted for supplements. That’s because they provide additional nutrients such as fibre and micronutrients. Supplements, on the other hand, provide a small dosage of concentrated vitamins or minerals.
If you’re someone who regularly consumes natural proteins, fruits and vegetables, the short answer is you’ll likely not need supplements to boost your immune system.
A version of this article first appeared on www.herworld.com.