As we all know, weather changes coming in the autumn and lasting through the winter are not very favourable, both for our mood and for health. It’s not difficult to get flu and colds, and a deteriorated health condition does not make it easier on a busy schedule of activities and chores, not to mention more serious diseases, where we additionally bear the costs associated with medicines. Prophylaxis is the best solution as always. Appropriate supplementation in this period will help us protect ourselves against diseases, or help in suppressing possible disease symptoms before they develop. We can distinguish many effective substances that increase immunity, and we will try to distinguish those that demonstrate extremely effective action.
One of the most popular supplements, as well as the first recommended for the treatment of routine diseases. And there are solid grounds to include vitamin C for supplementation, both prophylactic and already during the disease. Doses of 1-2 g shortened the length of the common cold period by 8-14%, and a reduction in its severity was also observed. The effect was even more pronounced in the case of exposure to extreme exercise, where the risk of catching cold fell by half!
A word about "left-handedness"
The last "boom" for vitamin C has caused a lot of confusion about which vitamin C is the best. The most pronounced statement here is "left-handed vitamin C". And here are a few reservations.
The fact is that ascorbic acid is biologically active mainly in the L form. However, immediately after this fact, there are many misunderstandings that should be explained.
First, there is a common belief that the abbreviation L placed before the acid name indicates that it’s left-handed. This is not true. L is a prefix that indicates the type of ascorbic acid form (there are two forms - L and D, differing in chemical structure, but having the same composition - the phenomenon of isomerism).
Secondly, L-ascorbic acid (the form which we pay attention to) is actually dextrorotatory (in a simplified way, the "steeriness" indicates which side of the compound twists the beam of light), and the form of the compound itself does not define the right or left of steeriness.
Thirdly – and perhaps the most importantly - legal issues. If we buy vitamin C, it must be L-ascorbic acid or a derivative of it. This is legal regulation.
Herb that’s been used successfully in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s distinguished by an exceptional, very beneficial content of isoflavones (compounds that increase the immune response of the body). Astragalus itself also has confirmed immunostimulatory activity. Studies indicate that compounds found in the herb increase the production of immune cells, while preventing the formation of inflammation, which could occur with a naturally occurring reaction of this type of organism.
It’s one of the key micronutrients requiring supplementation from external sources. Mainly determines the right amount of cells responsible for the immune response of the body. In the case of the most common colds, zinc significantly reduces their severity and duration, and prophylactically, in continuous supplementation for one year, showed even more than 50% effectiveness in reducing the risk of general infections.
How many times have you heard about the miracle of onion juice or garlic in matters of health prevention? Have you ever wondered about the magic behind this phenomenon?
The effect of the above-mentioned products is, among others, allicin; a substance created while cutting or crushing onions or garlic, which, however, is degraded during culinary treatments.
The use of a relatively high dose of allicin during a cold has phenomenal effects. During the study, the frequency of common cold dropped by as much as 64% in the study group, as well as shortened the cold by 70%, if it did occur. It can therefore be said with certainty that it’s worth including preparations containing allicin in anti-cold supplementation.
N-acetylcysteine has recently been a triumph in assisting liver regeneration. Is it also good for improving immunity? Research indicates that it does indeed.
NAC is a precursor to glutathione, which is one of the most important antioxidants in the body, crucial in maintaining the immune system in check. It also helps remove mucus from the upper respiratory tract (it makes the mucus getting excess in the time of colds or flu becomes less sticky). Getting rid of mucus not only improves comfort (is there someone who likes to have a stuffed nose?), But also allows you to quickly get rid of harmful microorganisms from the body, which reduces the intensity of infection.
More specifically, the soft-flattening (Annona muricata), used in traditional medicine in regions of South America and Africa. Since relatively recent, it’s gained attention in the context of supporting the body's immunity in constant supplementation.
The studies found the influence of graviola on the improved immune response of the body, mainly by intensively increasing the activation of specific immunity cells (macrophages), and intensification of signalling in the context of the stimulus response.
It also acts as an antioxidant, eliminating the unfavourable activity of free radicals in the body. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, reducing the pain that may occur during the infection.
Black walnut (Juglans Nigra) is another ingredient often used in traditional medicine, mainly due to the high content of bioactive components, such as flavonoids, polyphenols and quinones, which have multi-functional health effects on the body.
Research indicates its intense antifungal properties and it was in the context of treatment of such diseases that people started using it. This is especially important in the case of developing candidiasis.
Black walnut shows great support in diseases related to the digestive system, not only fungal, but also bacterial. In case of any stomach poisoning, the use of black walnut will be a good choice.
During supplementation to improve immunity it’s a very often neglected product, which is unfortunately a very big mistake. When using medicine, or even more antibiotics, the appropriate choice of probiotics can greatly increase comfort (especially in the field of gastric revulsions), and accelerate rehabilitation associated with the renewal of beneficial intestinal microflora, which also partially disappears during antibiotic therapy.
Of course, apart from the antibiotic support itself, probiotics in themselves support immunity, mainly affecting the increase in activation of genes associated with antiviral defence, and stimulating the immune response of the body.
Of particular interest in the context of improving health will be L-137 strain of Lactobacillus plantarum (found e.g. in Swanson Immuno-LP20 or Jarrow Immune PF). It’s a strain particularly studied in this field, and according to research shows very promising immunostimulatory properties, especially in the case of people strongly exposed to stress. It has a profound effect on the activity of natural immune cells of the body and their increased amount, and in the context of diseases, this effect apparently was characterized by the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections (i.e. those with which we struggle most often).
The best choice?
There aren’t any specifics. Each of the above products has a positive effect on the immune system in a slightly different way, and one particular favourite cannot be identified here.
If we had to, nevertheless, point out specific guidelines:
Vitamin C - continuous supplementation. There is practically no situation in which vitamin C will not support the body's immunity.
Astragalus - it works best when supplementing for pain relief due to inflammation during the disease.
Zinc - continuous supplementation and increased supplemental dose during the disease period. It exhibits an outstanding preventive action.
Allicin - will always work on the first symptoms of infection. It will be the better choice for people trying to keep closer to natural substances.
NAC - will work again at the first symptoms of the disease, especially in case of upper respiratory tract infection and excessive irritation.
Graviola - will be useful for people looking for new solutions in the matter of supporting immunity, both prophylactic and intervention, especially if we want to stick to the most natural solutions
Black Walnut - the best for infections associated with the digestive system; stomach flu or candidiasis.
Probiotics - continuous supplementation. Recommended especially for genetic problems with intestinal microflora or during antibiotic therapy.
How to boost immunity - summary
In summary, never take health for granted, and the supplements described above will certainly help in its maintenance, especially in a very unfavourable period of weather fluctuations.