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5 Natural Supplements to Boost Your Immune System

With the ever-increasing hustle and bustle of daily life, it's no surprise that more people are looking for ways to achieve balance, reduce stress, and strengthen immune system function. After all, when you're feeling run down and tired, your body has an increased risk of getting sick. Good eating habits, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise are all essential for good health, but it can be incredibly challenging to stay on track all the time. Plus, when you consider the countless environmental toxins and germs floating around every day (especially during cold and flu season), it becomes clear that your immune system could probably use a little help.

How The Immune System Works

Simply put, the immune system is your body's first line of defense against anything that can make you sick, be it the common cold, the flu, parasites, infectious diseases, and even cancer. This complex system of organs, tissues, and cells works together through a host of antibodies, white blood cells (T cells and B cells), chemicals, and proteins that attack and destroy anything that shouldn't be in your body. When all these moving parts are getting the nutrients they need through a healthy diet, proper rest, and healthy lifestyle choices (such as exercising, good hygiene, minimal drinking, not smoking, minimizing stress), things feel good. But when these factors are out of step, that's when immune function is compromised and your body is much more susceptible to all those pathogens (i.e. agents of illness).
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The Complexity of Immune Function

Because the immune system is not a single entity, it's hard to pinpoint one thing that can solve every issue. All the intricacies and nuances of immune response require balance and harmony among its various parts. While more studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of supplements to bolster overall immunity, there is also growing research that shows certain ingredients can alter aspects of immune function and thus improve immune support. Of course, always consult your health care provider before taking any new dietary supplements to ensure it's right for you.

5 Natural Immune Boosting Supplements

Benjamin Franklin famously said that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The old adage is as true today as it was back when the American Founding Father made that observation. To help give your body a fighting chance, here are some of the best natural immune-boosting supplements with numerous health benefits.
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1. Probiotics

Given that 70 to 80 percent of immune system cells are found in the gut, it's not surprising that research shows a healthy gut is directly linked to a healthy immune system.(1) Conversely, a gut that is out of balance can result in a weak immune system. Probiotics are the body's good bacteria that help absorb nutrients, reduce inflammation, and maintain proper digestive function. While you should get most of your probiotics from what you eat—fermented, nutrient-rich foods like yogurt, tempeh, kimchi—there is evidence that probiotic supplements can offer a host of beneficial effects that stave off gut dysbiosis. (2)
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2. Mushroom Extracts

More than just spongy fungi enjoyed for their chewy texture and earthy flavor, mushrooms are fast becoming a recognized superfood with many health benefits. Along with having high levels of anti-inflammatory properties, mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D (3) (which helps modulate immune response), prebiotics (4) (which promote gut health), and selenium, a powerful antioxidant that is crucial to immune function.(5) Mushroom varieties such as reishi, maitake, shiitake, lion's mane, and chaga are also rich in beta-glucans, which help immune cells combat cancerous tumors. (6) Mushroom supplements come in capsule form or as a powder that can be blended in a smoothie or added to other foods.
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3. Garlic

There's a reason this pungent bulb has been immortalized as a vampire killer—garlic is loaded with powerful antibacterial properties that have been used to fight infections for thousands of years. Fast forward to today and scientific studies reveal that garlic supplements can not only reduce the duration and frequency of the common cold, but they've also reduced the severity of cold and flu symptoms. (7,8) One reason for this is that garlic contains numerous compounds that have been shown to influence natural killer cells, which maintain immune health by destroy virus-infected cells.
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4. Zinc

If you've ever felt a cold coming on, chances are you've reached for a zinc lozenge or capsule. And you know what? It's a good idea. The body needs zinc to develop and activate T-cells to help the immune system fight off bad bacteria and viruses. In fact, a study done by Ohio State University revealed that zinc is a first-responder to infection—it helps shut down the harmful pathway and ensures the immune response does not spiral out of control. (9) Scientists say these findings might also help explain why taking zinc tablets at the first sign of a cold can help curb its severity and longevity.
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5. Pelargonium

While it doesn't have the same name recognition or popularity as vitamin C, echinacea, or zinc, when it comes to powerful immune boosters, pelargonium is definitely one to know—especially if you're dealing with respiratory infections such as acute bronchitis, sinusitis, or sore throat. (10) Also known as African geranium or umckaloabo, this potent herb is loaded with powerful antimicrobial and antiviral properties that aid cells of the immune system. Multiple studies show that pelargonium not only alleviates bronchitis and clears up excess mucus, but it can do so more effectively than prescribed antibiotics. (11, 12) You can find it as a liquid extract, syrup, or in capsules, tablets, and chewable supplements.
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Health Is Wealth

It might sound cliche, but health really is wealth. In fact, it's incalculable. You can't put a price on good health. Even though everyday life can be a challenge, taking control where you can by making healthy food choices, getting quality sleep, and taking care of your mind and body will help naturally boost your immune function and put you on the path to a healthier, happier life.
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