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Life Armor: Best Immune Supplements Guide

Like many of us, you’ve probably been thinking about your immune system lately and wondering things like: What is the immune system anyway? How can I boost it? Are there vitamins, minerals and herbs that can help? Read on to find answers to these questions and more.

What is the Immune System? Your Shield for Good Health

Consisting of a complex network of cells, tissues and organs, your immune system acts like a shield to thwart harmful pathogens from attacking your body.  To cause trouble, these infectious agents must cross the lining of your skin or mucous membranes of your digestive, respiratory, urinary or reproductive tracts in order to wreak havoc.

The immune system includes white blood cells and organs in the lymph system. When working properly, your immune system can tell which cells are yours and which are foreign, then works to kill them. 

Common Causes that Weaken the Immune System

  • Lack of sunshine
  • Imbalance of gut flora
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor diet
  • Certain medications and illnesses
  • Alcohol
  • Improper hygiene (not washing hands)
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Stress

Does Stress Affect the Immune System?

The short answer is YES! When your body’s stressed, your immune system’s ability to fight is reduced, leaving you vulnerable. Additionally, when stressed your body produces the hormone cortisol. That’s okay for short term stress, but with long term stress your body gets used to having high levels of cortisol, which can lead to ongoing physical and mental health issues.

Top 5 Superb Herbs for Immune Support

Elderberry

Elderberry’s gone mainstream, making it harder to find, but definitely worth the effort. It offers unmatched potential for both its antioxidant and immune support due to its generous concentration of anthocyanins (the source of its deep purple color) and other beneficial flavonoids. Also known as sambucus, elderberry’s been used for thousands of years and has been studied extensively for its ability to shorten duration of certain symptoms. This tasty, tart berry is often used to flavor syrups and jams and is frequently found in liquid extract form. 

Astragalus

Astragalus is considered to be a therapeutic herb called an adaptogen. Adaptogens help your body to combat and manage physical and emotional stress, fight fatigue, and provide intense immune support.  Originally grown in Asia and used in Chinese medicine for centuries, astragalus has recently become popular for its high content of saponins, a class of compounds believed to have a positive effect on the immune system.

Echinacea

The world’s best known and most studied herb, echinacea (Echinacea purpurea and angustifolia)  was originally used by the indigenous people of America for respiratory issues. Also known as coneflower, echinacea quickly became popular around the world during the early 19th century. Studies indicate that echinacea is most beneficial at supporting a healthy immune response at the onset, so it’s most effective when you’re just starting to feel out of sorts, rather than when you’ve got a full-blown case. It works to stimulate the immune system and can help reduce duration and severity. Often available in capsule or liquid form.

Olive Leaf

Lesser-known than some of the immune-boosting powerhouses listed above, olive leaf (Olea europaea) deserves some time in the spotlight due to its active constituent oleuropein. Oleuropein is thought to be the reason why olive trees are so hardy and can live 1,000 years. While olive leaf has been used for centuries, within the last 30 years its immune benefits have been extensively studied. Olive leaf contains a natural arsenal of protective polyphenols and is a top pick for keeping your immune system strong.

Oregano Oil

It has flavored foods for centuries, but oregano oil has had an equally long history for supporting immune health too.  It supplies antioxidants and phytochemicals including carvacrol, thymol and terpinene to help bolster your body’s natural defenses. Oregano oil has traditionally been popular for respiratory health, specifically to loosen breathing and soothe lungs.

Vitamins to Support Immune System

Vitamin A

A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin A is best known for its ability to promote healthy eyes and skin, but it supports immune health as well. It plays a role in the production of white blood cells that help to maintain your body’s natural defenses.

Vitamin C

Well known for its ability to help shore up your natural defenses and as a powerful anti-aging antioxidant, Vitamin C is the classic go-to vitamin for immune health. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D receptors are found in your immune cells. Recent research suggests Vitamin D may boost the natural immune function and help ensure the immune system stays balanced. Low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of respiratory issues, lung function and overall susceptibility to immune-related issues.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble compounds that include eight antioxidants, which fight free radicals, and four tocopherals. Many studies suggest Vitamin E promotes immune response, especially for mature adults.

Minerals for Maintaining Defenses

Zinc

This trace element is important for the healthy development of tissues throughout your body and is involved in numerous bodily processes. It supports your immune system, healthy digestion, vision, prostate and more.  As you may recall from science, your body does not produce trace elements. They are derived from the earth and must be consumed, typically from meat sources. That’s why vegetarians need to be especially careful about getting the necessary amount.

Selenium

Selenium helps your body use its own antioxidants effectively and protects your heart and cardiovascular system against free radical damage. It also plays a role in the immune system by easing the oxidative stress on your body.  

Gutsy Backup: Probiotics for Immune Support!

Scientific studies show that over 50% of your immune system is in your intestines. There is increasing evidence that probiotics and acidophilus can help boost your immunity by building good bacteria.

Tips for a Strong Immune System, Naturally

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep hands off your face
  • Relax
  • Quit smoking
  • Get proper sleep
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Stay up to date on vaccines
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

With these nutrients and tips, you’ll be well on your way to a strong immune system for life.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Individual results may vary.

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