Health has taken over center stage this year and the famous line “in sickness and in health” could really be the slogan for 2020 thus far. With the COVID-19 craze that mixed with “normal” cold and flu season that progressed into “allergy season” consumers were on the lookout for a shield to protect and boost their immune systems. Many turned to Vitamin C packets and various supplements as a main part of their defense, thinking that COVID along with other sickness would not reach them if they boosted their immune system enough. However, can the powders and pills really make a difference? And are they worth your money? In this article, I will debunk some common myths about “boosting” your immune system while shedding light on what science-based best practice is. \nVitamin C Pills or Powders \nAccording to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Vitamin C is essential for growth and repair of tissue all over your body. It also is an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals which may help prevent or delay certain diseases. However, there is no evidence that it can completely prevent you from getting any sort of sickness (eatright). In addition, vitamin C is found in so many foods that it is not necessary for people to take Vitamin C supplements unless a doctor advises it (Cleveland Clinic). Food sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, green and red bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kiwifruit. Enjoy these foods raw or cooked, but it’s important to note that fruits and vegetables lose vitamin C when heated or stored for long periods of time (eatright).\nElderberry \n According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are a few small studies that have suggested that those with cold/flu symptoms taking elderberry supplements may shorten their sickness by a few days. However, no research has shown that it can prevent illness such as COVID-19, flu or even a common cold. In addition, not all elderberry supplements are the same so it is hard to determine what might work and what does not. Many elderberry supplements have a combination of antioxidant blends that include Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E along with the elderberry. It may not hurt you to take these supplements, but eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can provide you with the same antioxidant benefits (Cleveland Clinic).\nImmune System Pill/ Powder Blends\nSimilar to what has been stated above, “immunity blends” do not really offer any benefit. According to Harvard Medical School Publication, there is no evidence that immune system supplements help ward off any diseases. In addition, the immune system is already effective at limiting the ability of bacteria, viruses, and parasites to cause infection. (Harvard Health). Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables can provide your body with what it needs to help you stay healthy.
Although now you may have a better understanding that you do not need to whip out the big bucks for various supplements, you are not out of luck. There are still things you can do to help your immune system, except they do not come in bottles or packets and most require a bit of effort. These are the “tips and tricks” to not only help keep a strong immune system but live an overall healthy lifestyle (Harvard Health).
- Don’t smoke.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Try to minimize stress.
Unfortunately, as most things go, there is no “quick fix” for boosting your immune system. However, following the tips and tricks for a strong immune system and healthier life could save you from various health headaches (literally) down the road