Boosting any system in the body could be counter-productive – we should be aiming for the immune system to function normally, not in overdrive. So taking mega doses of any immune-supporting supplements is a false economy and with some nutrients such as selenium or zinc, high doses could be potentially harmful. Excessive vitamin C is unnecessary and can give you side effects such as diarrhoea, which can in fact potentially have a negative impact on your immunity.
The best way to get your full range of nutrients is to eat real food, the way nature intended. There are undoubtedly active substances found naturally in food that we’re yet to discover and no pill can mimic the unique combination of micronutrients and therapeutic phytochemicals you find in plants. Further, the amount of health-giving nutrients are in the best proportions when they’re present in food and you’re less likely to be going above safe levels of intake. We should ideally aim to get our full range of immune-supporting nutrients from a wide variety of foods including whole grains, pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as dairy foods, fish and lean meats if you eat them.
Supplements can be extremely useful in situations where people are vulnerable and potentially at risk of not being able to get all their nutrients from food. Examples include people who may have a low appetite (such as housebound elderly), pregnant women who need to take 400mcg of folic acid up until the 12th week of pregnancy to help prevent neural tube defects, vegans who aren’t managing to meet their nutrient needs with Nutrient Bridges, and people who may have health issues that compromise their immunity. In these cases, taking a supplement shouldn’t make you feel guilty as they can improve your health and well-being.
Speak to a registered dietitian or fully registered nutritionist if you would like your diet assessed for immune function nutrients and don’t be tempted to get your advice from a non-qualified blogger or influencer.