“I started taking food supplements during lockdown but are they the right ones? I have no specific health issues that I’m aware of, but I do want to make sure my immune system is in good shape. I’m 40 years old. Any advice would be much appreciated.”
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, answers:
This is a good question and one I’ve been asked many times during the last few months. Unfortunately, with the wealth of information available in the press and on social media, it’s easy to get confused. And there are, of course, so many to choose from.
As you say, it’s important to keep the immune system strong especially at the moment, so I suggest you take some key immune-boosting nutrients. Top of the list is vitamin D. While it’s often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because it’s made on skin in the presence of sunshine, Public Health England are continuing to recommend supplementation for everyone.
We know from the wealth of research available that vitamin D is a key player in the immune system, protecting the body against viruses. It’s also needed for good mood, blood sugar balance and healthy bones and teeth. It’s not readily available in foods so make sure you’re taking a supplement with a minimum of 10 micrograms daily but 25 to 50 micrograms is even better.
Other immune-boosting vitamins
Other key immune boosters include Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium and zinc. It’s actually best to take a good quality multivitamin and mineral formulation that has all these nutrients carefully balanced for you, and at meaningful levels, rather than thinking about taking them individually. The body needs 45 nutrients daily (including water) so a comprehensive formulation will help provide these key nutrients and plug any nutritional gaps you may have.
The essential omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in overall health and because their richest source is oily fish, people are often deficient as many don’t like fish or eat enough in the diet. Again, they are best supplemented as they’re too important to be missed. There are also vegetarian forms of omega-3s if required.
Lastly, a number of herbs also help protect the body from viruses and infection. Echinacea, for example, increases production of white blood cells, so is a great option. Additionally, ashwagandha is known as an adaptogenic herb as it helps support the body through stressful situations as well as protecting the immune system.
If you have no other specific health issues, these supplements will provide you with a great range of support alongside eating a varied and colourful diet packed full of fruits and vegetables.