How can I boost my immune system?
A healthy lifestyle and varied diet containing lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. However, including a supplement or herbal remedy in your daily routine may be beneficial to give your immune system some extra support!
A.Vogel has several immune-supporting products, such as:
2. Echinaforce Echinacea
3. Immune Support.
Read on to find out more about the supportive effect these products can have for the immune system.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient when it comes to contributing to normal function of the immune system. Due to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C contributes to the functioning of the immune system, as well as aiding the wound-healing process.
Numerous studies have shown vitamin C to be beneficial for the immune system. In research, it has been shown on several occasions to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold.1
In one study, participants were given a tomato juice rich in lycopene (another antioxidant which helps to prevent against cell damage) and vitamin C. Results found that, after consuming the tomato juice, markers of inflammation (associated with infection and disease) amongst participants went down, and the level of antioxidants went up.2
Vitamin C is also thought to be helpful in reducing fever. Consumption of fruits that are rich in vitamin C is thought to help people recover more quickly from a fever, as well as reducing the 'hot flush' feeling that occurs when the body reaches a high temperature.3 Whilst high temperatures are useful at the initial stage of an infection, a persistent high temperature is uncomfortable and dehydrating.
As well as contributing to normal function of the immune system, vitamin C helps to protect cells from the oxidative (chemical) stresses we face daily, helping us to feel less tired. It also helps the normal formation of collagen which is important for the functioning of our blood vessels, bones, joint cartilage, gums, skin and teeth.
As humans cannot make or store vitamin C, obtaining it through the diet is a necessity. With the average Western diet often containing less than the recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, people can fall short of the required daily intake of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is water soluble and very sensitive to oxidative processes such as exposure to light, air and heat. Cooking, processing and storing food can destroy much of its vitamin C content. This may leave people in need of a daily dietary supplement.
Our Nature-C tablets contain a combination of extracts from a wide variety of fruits, all of which are rich in naturally-occurring vitamin C which is easily recognised and absorbed by the body. This is in contrast to synthetically made vitamin C supplements which the body struggles to recognise and absorb.
Nature-C also promotes the absorption of iron in the body, and is a source of bioflavonoids, hesperidin and rutin. All of these have powerful antioxidant properties which is beneficial for the immune system.
2. Echinaforce (Echinacea drops)
Echinaforce is a herbal remedy which has been traditionally used for the symptomatic relief of colds, influenza type infections and similar upper respiratory tract conditions. By supporting the immune system, Echinacea helps to maintain the body's resistance to these infections.
Echinacea is a plant native to America but is now cultivated extensively in Europe. Up to 10 species of Echinacea have been identified, but only three (E. purpurea, E. angustifolia and E. pallida) are used medicinally. Echinacea purpurea has been most widely researched and it is this species that we use here at A.Vogel.
Our Echinacea is produced using extracts of freshly harvested, organically grown Echinacea purpurea herb and root. The benefit of using freshly harvested herbs has been demonstrated in research – the extracts used to make Echinaforce Echinacea drops and tablets, which are produced from fresh plants, contain almost 3 times more active substances compared with those obtained from equivalent amounts of dried herb.4
Echinacea has been shown in numerous studies to be effective in relieving symptoms of colds and flu. In 2004, Goel et al published a trial that demonstrated the efficiency of Echinacea purpurea extract in the treatment of colds and flu, when it is used as soon as a cold starts. At 7 days, 95% of the subjects using Echinacea were free of symptoms compared with only 63% in the placebo group.5
In 2005, Goel published another trial showing that volunteers taking Echinacea purpurea extract at the onset of a cold had a greater decrease in their daily symptom score than a placebo group.6 Both studies by Goel involved ethanolic extracts of Echinacea purpurea extract produced from freshly harvested plant material, as in our Echinaforce drops.
In 2006, a Cochrane Report reviewed 16 controlled clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of several different Echinacea preparations for treating the symptoms of common colds. They concluded that some preparations based on Echinacea purpurea (including the aerial parts) might be effective for shortening the duration or decreasing the severity of cold symptoms in adults if taken after the onset of those symptoms.7
3. Immune Support
Immune Support provides vitamin C sourced from acerola cherries, which contains up to 100 times the amount of vitamin C found in lemons or oranges!
As previously described, vitamin C is extremely supportive of immune function, and that found in acerola is readily absorbed and used by the body.
Immune Support also contains Nasturtium extract. This ingredient contains glucosinolates which have an affinity for the lungs, and is also a very rich source of vitamin C.
As well as containing the antioxidant properties of vitamin C, Immune Support provides two other key immune-supporting nutrients: zinc and vitamin D.
Zinc contributes to normal function of the immune system A deficiency in zinc may lead to a weakened immune system.
Zinc supplements are known to play a role in reducing oxidative stress (which can increase the risk of illness and infection). One review of several studies found that 80-92mg per day of zinc may reduce the length of the common cold by up to 33%.8 In addition, zinc supplements have been found to reduce the risk of infections and promote immune function in older adults.9
Zinc also plays a critical role in wound healing and is commonly used in hospitals to treat burns, certain ulcers and other skin injuries.10 This is because zinc is required for collagen synthesis and the body's inflammatory response, as well as immune function, all of which are crucial for wound healing.
Another key nutrient in Immune Support is vitamin D. Vitamin D has a role to play in various bodily systems, including the immune system which it helps to support function normally. As vitamin D deficiency is a fairly common occurrence across all population groups, this could be a contributing factor in regular bouts of sickness, colds and flu.
Biologically active forms of vitamin D contain calcitriol which acts as a cytokine, a chemical produced by infected cells to help mobilise immune cells into fighting the infection. Low levels of vitamin D are, therefore, associated with lower levels of cytokine activity. This means that, when the body is under attack from pathogens and viruses, it is less able to call on the help of immune cells.
Vitamin D can sometimes be hard to come by in the winter months when we don't get sufficient access to sun light – a key source of vitamin D. At this time colds and flu can be more abundant so it is especially important to ensure you get enough vitamin D, either through your diet or a gentle supplement.
Support your immune system further!
There are many additional ways you can look after your immune function, including:
- Ensuring your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, specifically those containing vitamin C, such as oranges, strawberries, red and green peppers and broccoli, and beta-carotene (vitamin A), such as red peppers, carrots, spinach, and yellow fruits such as apricots and mango – these nutrients help keep your respiratory tract healthy and strong so that it is able to fight infections
- Ensuring you include sources of zinc in your diet, such as meat, shellfish, cheese, bread, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and fortified cereals – zinc helps to keep the immune system functioning normally and is essential for wound healing
- Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight – obesity can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the gut and increase inflammation in the body, both of which can leave you more vulnerable to illness or infection
- Getting plenty of sleep and minimising stress
- Drinking alcohol in moderation only
- Quitting smoking.
4 Tobler M et al: Characteristics of whole fresh plant extracts. Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur GanzheitMedizin, 1994
5 Goel et al. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2004, 29 (1): 75 – 83.)
6 Goel et al. Phytother Res. 2005 Aug; 19 (8): 689-94.
7 The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000530.pub2.