February 18th 2021
Immune supplements to buy now to get healthier for winter during the Covid 2nd wave
November 6th 2020 / 0 comment
Why one top doctor says we should all start taking immune-boosting supplements now. These are the capsules gummies and liquids our experts recommend
With flu season on the horizon and the second wave of Covid well and truly upon us, it's more important than ever to support our immune system this winter. Supplements can play a key role in supporting our natural defences and we've become more aware of how vital they can be in recent months. "There was a lot in the news about research into vitamin D and its role in Covid," says Dr Sophie Shotter, founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic who went back into the NHS to work on Covid wards, during which time she says she took many immune-supporting supplements. "Having a vitamin D deficiency doubles your risk of ending up in intensive care or dying of Covid," she says, advising that we should all be taking a high dose of vitamin D, at least 3000iu, in the winter. Her preferred method of via an oral spray for better absorption. Try Better You D-Lux 3000, £7.95.
Right now, there is a raft of new immune-supporting tablets and tinctures available to meet demand. "The first time around with Covid, there was not much [in the way of supplements] available that was immunity-based, but people cottoned on to it in time for round two," she says.
"Supplementation is a useful habit to form," she adds, "and you may vary them depending on what your body needs but we are about to come into winter where naturally our immune system is a bit weaker anyway and with Covid resurging, anything we can do to support our immune system, so that’s exercising, keeping an eye on our diet, supplementing as well as all the other things we do to be Covid cautious."
But be aware that supplements take time to work, she cautions. So now is the time to start. "They are not going to work overnight, if you suddenly panic in a month's time, if things are looking even worse on the news and want to start taking supplements, supplements will still have a benefit but it will almost be a little bit late. If you start now your body will be a little bit prepared for the worsening second wave."
GP and founder of supplements brand Zenii, Dr Johanna Ward adds: “Your immune system relies on a good intake of micronutrients to remain resilient and robust. A well-formulated immune supplement will help support the immense work that the immune system does each and every day in the name of health.”
What to look for in immune-boosting supplements
There is a whole host of ingredients to look for in supplements to help with your immune system. Dr Johanna points out: “A good immune supplement should offer the key immune supporting vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc and magnesium as well as some gut supporting probiotics. I also seek out beneficial herbal ingredients such as turmeric, cayenne, garlic and mushroom that show a lot of emerging evidence for supporting immune function and white cell defence.”
Dr Sophie also recommends looking for a complex with vitamin D, zinc and vitamin C, as well as probiotics to support the gut "because the gut plays such a huge role in immunity" and adaptogens, the plant compounds such as ashwagandha and schizandra and medicinal mushrooms that help regulate put stress response. Stress too can impair our immune function. She particularly recommends the ayurvedic herb andrographis paniculata "it’s a great ingredient that has studies behind it to show its effect on the immune system. In Scandinavia they recommend it ahead of echinacea," she says. "It's credited with halting the Spanish flu pandemic in India in the 1920s." She has yet to find it in an immune blend so takes it as a separate capsule. Try Pukka Herbs Organic Andrographis Supplement £6.35.
She also looks for beta-glucans (found in the supplement Lyma, below) for immune support as they activate the immune cells known as macrophages.
Healthspan’s Medical Director Dr Sarah Brewer adds that vitamin B12 is also an important player in immune function, meanwhile while pharmacist Shabir Daya of Victoria Health recommends looking for the following ingredients in a good immune supplement.
"I am a great advocate of this herb for its safety and efficacy in helping to keep the immune system at its peak," says Shabir of the adaptogen. "Astragalus works to increase white blood cell counts, which is vital to detect infection-causing bacteria and viruses. The role of white blood cells is to destroy these and defend the body against infection."
"Rich in several beneficial nutrients such as vitamins C and B, as well as flavonoids, numerous studies indicate that elderberry extracts help reduce the duration of infections from an average of six days to 48 hours. This may be due to their ability to inhibit viral replication," says Shabir.
Not just good sprinkled on top of pizza, Shabir rates oregano as one of the most potent antibacterial and antiviral compounds. "It also has other beneficial properties including helping to alleviate catarrh and help suppress coughs," he says.
The active compound in olive leaf oleuropein has powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties helping to inhibit a variety of organisms, according to Shabir. Additionally, olive leaf may help reduce a fever.
"Garlic offers numerous benefits to the body including enhanced circulation, protection against insect bites and helping to lower cholesterol," Shabir explains. "Garlic also possesses powerful antimicrobial and antiviral properties."
"Propolis is a bee resin and has a broad spectrum of activity against bacteria," Shabir says. "It is also the richest source of caffeic acid and apigenin, two very important compounds that have been known to aid the immune response. Propolis helps to ensure the immune system responds quickly and efficiently."
Maitake and shitake mushrooms
"Mushrooms contain powerful compounds called beta-glucans," explains Shabir. "These compounds have been scientifically studied and found to activate the immune system through a variety of mechanisms, one of which is to bind to white blood cells activating their ability to scavenge for invading organisms."
Probiotics - lactobacillus and bifidobacterium
These friendly bacteria have a powerful beneficial effect on restoring optimal gut health and aid the production of antibodies, according to Shabir. More than 80 per cent of our immunity is derived from these friendly bacteria. Dr Sophie agrees that in the current climate eveyone should be taking a probiotic.
Research has confirmed that catching a cold or an infection may actually be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency and as Dr Sophie points out, a deficiency doubles your risk of ending up in intensive care or dying of Covid. “Most of us should supplement all year round especially if we have an indoor job and BAME people in particular. Look for between 3- 6,000iu per day more than people think, more than the recommended daily intake of 400iu or 10mcg," she says.
Although a deficiency in any essential nutrient can compromise immunity, zinc is considered to be the most important of all nutrients according to Shabir. "It is vital for the thymus gland, the primary gland of immunity, and is required for white blood cell production.
"Vitamin C supplementation is equally important as it has been shown to boost white blood cell counts, antibody production and help the immune response and also antagonises viruses by inhibiting an enzyme that helps them to spread through body tissues."
The best immune-boosting supplements
Healthspan Immunovit Mushroom Complex, £13.95 for 60 tablets
Healthspan's soon-to-launch Immunovit range of five vegan immune-supporting supplements includes this one, which is rich in adaptogenic mushrooms from three mushroom species with specific nutritional profiles: reishi, maitake, and shiitake. Red reishi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over two thousand years to promote wellness and longevity, while maitake and shiitake have immune-enhancing effects. Vitamin B12 has also been added as a proven immune health nutrient that provides benefits for the nervous system and energy levels.
In creating this day and night duo, The Organic Pharmacy combined vitamins proven to help with the immune system, specifically the respiratory system. The day supplement contains vitamins A, D and C which all contribute to a properly functioning immune system. Vitamin A specifically helps the body fight off illness and infections, vitamin C protects cells and aids their function and vitamin D contributes to reducing tiredness and fatigue as well as being essential for the overall health of bones and muscles.
The night supplement supports the body's ability to relax and helps the quality of sleep. “Seeing that the second arm of the immune system is a proper night's sleep, it is important that it doesn't get neglected,” says Margo Marrone, founder of The Organic Pharmacy. “infection-fighting antibody production is enhanced by deep relaxation and adequate amounts of rest. This mixture of magnesium and herbs reduces anxiety and allows the body to recover through a deep night's sleep.”
A. Vogel Immune Support, £12.50 for 30 one-a-day tablets
This vegan supplement includes zinc, vitamin C from acerola and nasturtium extract and vitamin D. Research shows that zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D contribute to the normal function of the immune system and these tablets may also help reduce tiredness and fatigue during spells of sickness.
Immune Defence by Zenii, £45 for 60 capsules
This blend is Dr Sophie's pick and it was created by Dr Johanna Ward after her own experience of falling seriously ill with Covid 19 in March and suffering the after-effects for many months. Jo wanted to create a high-performance food supplement that blends immune-supporting vitamins, minerals, herbs and probiotics to help overtaxed or exhausted immune systems to help create maximum resilience.
The tablets are packed with vitamins, minerals, probiotics and natural immune-boosting herbs and compounds; as well as the more obvious ingredients such as zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C, they are fortified with probiotic lactobacillus acidophilus, the powerful antioxidant selenium as well as herbs such as turmeric, rishi mushroom, aged garlic, ginger and cayenne.
Victoria Health Daily Immunity, £26 for 60 capsules
These vegetarian capsules contain a powerhouse of ingredients to support immunity including the adaptogenic herb astragalus, known to enhance white blood cells which are vital for immunity, lactobacillus and bifidobacteria which produce immune-enhancing compounds in the gut, vitamin D3 and C and zinc.
Chapter one Immunity Gummies, £15 for 60 gummies
Recommended by pharmacist Shabir Daya as a good option for children, these gummies include a blend of immune-boosting nutrients such as vitamin c, zinc and black elderberry which not only gives the flavour but is also rich in antioxidants to boost the immune system.
Sambucol Extra Defense Liquid, £12.50 for 120ml
Supercharged with immune-boosting black elderberry, the liquid is fortified with vitamin C and zinc to create a great tasting berry flavoured powerful liquid to help fight off winter viruses. Many people we know swear by this, and you couldn't get it for love nor money when lockdown began. As a liquid, it's easy to take if you don't like tablets, and there is a children's version Sambucol Kids too both in liquid and gummies.
Lyma, £149 per month
Possibly the glossiest looking supplement to grace our desks, vegan supplement Lyma has vegan vitamin D3 derived from algae to support the immune system and improve cardiovascular health as well as beta-glucans which support immune cell function and an immune compound called Wellmune. The upgraded formula which came out earlier this year formula also includes saffron to alleviate anxiety, ashwagandha to restore mental and hormonal balance, cognizin to sharpen the mind and cynatine, for skin and hair.
Equi London Original Formula, £50 for a 30-day supply
These trendy looking tablets support your immune system with a combination of selenium, zine, vitamin C and D: They have 312 per cent of your daily nutrient reference value of vitamin C, 200 per cent of your vitamin D and 200 per cent of your recommended zinc dosage to contribute to the normal function of the immune system.
Vitabiotics Immunace Extra, £7.72 for 30 tablets
28 nutrients come together in these tablets which are an updated take on Vitabiotics’ immune-supporting Immunace supplement. This new iteration includes vitamins D, C and E along with zinc and selenium.