An important note
No supplement will cure or prevent disease.
With the 2019 COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important to understand that no supplement, diet, or other lifestyle modification other than physical distancing, also known as social distancing, and proper hygiene practices can protect you from COVID-19.
Currently, no research supports the use of any supplement to protect against COVID-19 specifically.
Your immune system consists of a complex collection of cells, processes, and chemicals that constantly defends your body against invading pathogens, including viruses, toxins, and bacteria (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
Keeping your immune system healthy year-round is key to preventing infection and disease.
Making healthy lifestyle choices by consuming nutritious foods and getting enough sleep and exercise are the most important ways to bolster your immune system.
In addition, research has shown that supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances can help improve immune response and potentially protect against illness.
However, note that some supplements can interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Some may not be appropriate for people with certain health conditions. Be sure to talk with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.
Here are 15 supplements that are known for their immune-boosting potential.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient essential to the health and functioning of your immune system.
Vitamin D enhances the pathogen-fighting effects of monocytes and macrophages — white blood cells that are important parts of your immune defense — and decreases inflammation, which helps promote immune response (3Trusted Source).
Many people are deficient in this important vitamin, which may negatively affect immune function. In fact, low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections, including influenza and allergic asthma (4Trusted Source).
Some studies show that supplementing with vitamin D may improve immune response. In fact, recent research suggests that taking this vitamin may protect against respiratory tract infections.
In a 2019 review of randomized control studies in 11,321 people, supplementing with vitamin D significantly decreased the risk of respiratory infections in people deficient in this vitamin and lowered infection risk in those with adequate vitamin D levels (5Trusted Source).
This suggests an overall protective effect.
Other studies note that vitamin D supplements may improve response to antiviral treatments in people with certain infections, including hepatitis C and HIV (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Depending on blood levels, anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D per day is sufficient for most people, though those with more serious deficiencies often require much higher doses (4Trusted Source).
Vitamin D has been highly researched in connection with COVID-19 because of its effect on the immune system. Studies have shown that Vitamin D can expedite healing and stall inflammation in the respiratory system (9Trusted Source).
In a recent rapid review study, it was concluded that more research is needed to recommend Vitamin D supplementation for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 (10).
However, many professionals within the health and science community argue that supplementing with Vitamin D is generally safe and could possibly help protect individuals from the virus (11Trusted Source).
Vitamin D is essential for immune function. Healthy levels of this vitamin may help lower your risk for respiratory infections.
Supplements 101: Vitamin D
Supplements 101: Vitamin Dhttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.470.1_en.html#goog_2019468333Volume 90%
Zinc is a mineral that’s commonly added to supplements and other healthcare products like lozenges that are meant to boost your immune system. This is because zinc is essential for immune system function.
Zinc is needed for immune cell development and communication and plays an important role in inflammatory response. Zinc also specifically protects tissue barriers in the body and help prevent foreign pathogens from entering (12Trusted Source).
A deficiency in this nutrient significantly affects your immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease, including pneumonia (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
According to research, 16% of all deep respiratory infections worldwide have been found to be due to zinc deficiency (15Trusted Source).
Zinc deficiency affects around 2 billion people worldwide and is very common in older adults. In fact, up to 30% of older adults are considered deficient in this nutrient (16Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, many individuals in the United States have marginal zinc deficiency related to intake or absorption. Older individuals are generally at an increased risk (18Trusted Source).
What’s more, supplementing with zinc may be beneficial for those who are already sick.
In a 2019 study in 64 hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRIs), taking 30 mg of zinc per day decreased the total duration of infection and the duration of the hospital stay by an average of 2 days, compared with a placebo group (21Trusted Source).
Excessive doses may interfere with copper absorption, which could increase your infection risk.Read More