Flu and cold season in the United States typically peaks between December and February. During this time, it is common to see many people turning to vitamin and mineral supplements as a means of boosting their immune system.
“While there is no evidence that supplements, such as vitamin C, zinc, or elderberry, can necessarily prevent illness or disease, they can improve symptoms of acute illnesses,” said Nicole Frey, DO, a resident doctor at McLaren Greater Lansing Family Medicine. “The daily recommended amount of zinc is 8 milligrams for adult women and 11 milligrams for adult men. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C is 75 milligrams in adult women and 90 milligrams in adult men. These can be found naturally in a balanced diet or in a daily multivitamin.”
While additional supplements are not a cure-all for preventing diseases, adhering to a well-balanced diet that meets your nutritional needs can significantly boost your immune system.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutritional needs should be met primarily from nutrient-dense foods. The core elements that make up a healthy dietary pattern include vegetables of all types, fruits, grains, dairy, protein foods, and oils. One simple rule to follow is to add color to your meals, by incorporating fruits and vegetables from every color of the rainbow. It is also important to drink plenty of water and get adequate sleep.
“In addition to a healthy lifestyle, you should wash your hands often with soap and water, making sure to clean between fingers and backs of hands. You can also get your flu and COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself and stop the spread of diseases,” said Dr. Frey. “As the temperature drops, people spend more time indoors together, which leads to increased transmission of germs and more illness, especially upper respiratory infections.”
Ultimately, your immune system is a part of your overall health, and as you continue with a healthy lifestyle, your immune system will naturally be more robust to combat illnesses. Consult with your primary care provider if you have questions or concerns about whether nutritional supplements are necessary for your health.
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