3 convincing ‘Immune boosting’ wellness hacks to stay away from!
Attempting to ‘boost’ your highly intelligent immune system may cause more harm than good! Unfortunately for us, the wellness industry has jumped on humanity’s biggest pain point at the moment and are pumping out ‘quick fixes’ to make us feel protected from illness.
Why you shouldn’t ‘boost’ your immune system!
You can visualise some unexpected components of your immune system – for example, your skin (physical barrier) and would need a microscope to view the millions of immune cells circulating your body 24/7.
Maintaining careful ‘balance’ within this system is the pinnacle of health – not the idea of ‘boosting’ – which the wellness industry would leave you to believe. If you were to ‘boost’ immunity (which would be rather tough), the result would be unpleasant and may look like an autoimmune disease.
1. Immune-boosting supplements
Apart from the fact that your immune system requires a whole host of different nutrients (A, B6, B12, C, Copper, D, folate, iron, selenium & zinc), there’s no better nourishment than real food. We know that the bioavailability of nutrients is much better when they are consumed within a ‘food matrix’ i.e. real food and supplementing should only be used to ‘top-up’ potential nutrient deficiencies.
What supplements should I be taking to support my immune system?
This is a gold standard supplement for health which we should all be taking daily, especially when exposure to sunshine is low (almost every day in England!). Interestingly, the amount you require depends on your genes! Identifying how much vitamin D you require The DNA Way™ can give you more personalised recommendations -general guidelines recommend 10mg per day however studies show that many require 25mg based on their genetic variant of the CYP2R1 and GC gene.
Vitamin C is extremely important to support immunity however deficiency is almost impossible when following a balanced diet – requirements range between 75-90mg per day and which can be met by a piece of or even a red pepper (200mg)!
There is evidence that supplementing vitamin C at the onset of a cold can improve symptoms and speed up recovery but it’s not recommended to supplement high doses continuously. Apart from potentially causing an upset stomach, high doses just aren’t necessary long term!
Low levels of zinc can cause a weakened immune system as it strengthens immune fighting cells, however, it’s available in foods most people consume daily such as poultry, cheese, whole grain bread, cereal nuts and seeds (especially pine nuts and pumpkin seeds!). Those at risk of a deficiency such as the elderly, children, and underlying health conditions may benefit with zinc supplementation during the winter to help prevent infection and there is some evidence that zinc lozenges can help speed up recovery of infection but long term supplementation can cause an upset stomach and copper imbalances within the body.
2. Immune boosting juices and smoothies
Yes, these all sound delicious and may have a slight placebo effect when you drink them but are they supporting your immune system or just a clever marketing hack when immunity is top priority right now? These drinks are usually packed full of plant goodness (in smoothies when the fibre still remains!) however don’t be fooled by the label! If your appetite isn’t great due to illness, smoothies can be great to supplement extra nutrients into your day however turning to these ‘immune specific’ drinks on a regular basis to support immunity just doesn’t add up if you are eating a variety of plant-based foods throughout your day! Supplementing this way is only helpful if you can’t get the nutrients with real food!
4. Immune boosting IV drips
Please don’t think that this is ever a good idea! Clinical Dietitians are highly trained to prescribe IV drips for individuals when they physically cannot meet their requirements through actual food (when their digestive tracts are impaired). IV drip’s that are offered (even in medical and wellness clinics) come with associated risks and you can end up with toxic levels of nutrients in your blood. Yes you heard that right – you can have too much of a good thing! Please stay away and if you suspect a nutrient deficiency, visit your doctor or Registered Dietitian and they can run bloods for you and prescribe supplements safely!