Immune Heroes - Supplements to help maintain immune function

As we approach winter again, more and more of us will want to make sure we're as fit and healthy as we can - and hopefully avoid coughs and colds along the way. To help you navigate some of the different supplements in our Immune Function range, we have listed 4 Supplement Super Heroes for the whole family.

These come from our recent podcast episode with Dr Nigel Plummer. We have summarised Nigel’s top 4 nutrients for the immune system and some of the reasons why. In the episode, Nigel also spoke at lengths about how the immune system works and other lifestyle factors that can impact our susceptibility to illness.

In order of effectiveness, the results may surprise you...

There are lots of reasons why, but the hard fact is that we are more likely to catch a cold or similar infection when it's cold (i.e. during winter). There are things we can do though to reduce the likelihood of us becoming ill.

The four immune heros

4. Vitamin C

Perhaps the most well-known nutrient when we think about coughs, colds, and immune function. It has long been known that extreme deficiency can cause scurvy, but what is maybe less well known is that vitamin C is required for collagen production. Collagen is one of the proteins responsible for maintaining the barriers to external pathogens. If the barrier is impaired, you increase your susceptibility to infectious pathogens.

There is also a vicious circle. Vitamin C is needed by our white blood cells. So, if we become ill, we deplete our own stores of vitamin C, and then become more susceptible to illness again. Vitamin C has not always been found to reduce or risk of becoming ill but has been shown to reduce how long we are ill for, as well as the severity of the symptoms that present. 100-200mg per day has been shown to be a reasonably prophylactic dose.

If you increase your vitamin C intake to 1000-2000 mg per day, studies have shown that this reduces the duration of symptoms by around 20%.

3. Zinc

Zinc is an essential trace mineral that supports our immune function and metabolism. It has quickly become an emerging player in the immuner market though due to some impressive results from research studies. 10mg per day has been shown to reduce the incidence of coughs and colds, although the evidence is not robust. However, if you begin to supplement with 20-30 mg of zinc at the onset of illness, this has been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms by 30%. So, you do not necessarily need to supplement every day, only when you begin to experience symptoms.

If you begin to supplement with 20-30 mg of zinc at the onset of illness, this has been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms by 30%.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D has almost become the “super vitamin” over the last few years. Beyond it’s well-known role in bone health, we now know that every cell within the body has a vitamin D receptor. So, it has become more and more established that vitamin D also plays a role in immune function, including the production and efficiency of our white blood cells.

Unlike vitamin C and zinc, which have better evidence that they reduce the duration and severity of illnesses but have limited effect on our susceptibility to getting ill in the first place, vitamin D has been shown to reduce our risk of becoming ill at all. This reduction in illness incidence has been shown to be around 15%.

During winter, 30-40% of UK adults are deficient or insufficient in vitamin D levels. Even during the summer, around 15% of us are still within this category - hence why the UK government recommends supplementation.

1. Probiotics

Our digestive tract is full of bacteria - it is one of the most dense populations of bacteria on the planet. This bugs can have huge effects on our health - from our mood, our digestive health, and, more relevantly, our immune function.

A true supplement superhero for the whole family. Using the Lab4 probiotics, there have been some large trials undertaken to examine the effects on coughs and colds in children (3-6 years old). With probiotic supplementation, it was found that there was a 50% reduction in the duration of illnesses, a 30% reduction in the incidence of illness, and 40% reduction in visits to the doctors.

While this is something that is not always seen with supplement studies, this study has recently been replicated - and the results were shown once more. In adults, a recent study using Lab4 probiotics found 30% reduction in the incidence of illness as well.

What’s remarkable about these results, is that these numbers are greater than those seen with all of the other nutrients mentioned. So perhaps we are beginning to see a new player in the immune health world for adults and children.

In adults, a recent study using Lab4 probiotics found 30% reduction in the incidence of illness

Immune Super Heroes - the what and when:

  • Vitamin C - Around 1000mg when symptoms set in
  • Zinc - 20-30mg at the onset of symptoms
  • Vitamin D - 1000-2000 IU per day, especially important during winter months
  • Probiotics - Choose a daily probiotic that has been shown to have benefits in research studies.