Note: Each week, family physician Regina Chinsio-Kwong, DO from Mission Heritage Medical Group in Laguna Niguel will offer insight on a different vitamin—why you need it, how to incorporate it into your diet and how it affects your health. If you are considering taking any kind of supplement, consult with a medical professional first.
WHAT IT DOES: Our immune system works hard to keep us healthy, but there are times (like cold and flu season) where it can't shut down all the germs trying to get a foothold in your body. Immune support supplements aim to keep the body's immune system in top shape through various blends of herbs such as astragalus, echinacea, ginseng, licorice root, cat's claw and a variety of mushrooms. These supplements can also contain vitamins (such as vitamins C and D) and minerals (zinc).
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE: Dosages depend on factors that include the ingredients in the supplement (different herbs, vitamins and minerals have different recommended allowances) and the manufacturer's listed recommendations.
HOW TO INCLUDE IT IN YOUR DIET: Again, supplement intake should be guided by the label instructions, as well as a doctor's advice. Everyone should try to get nutrients from foods before considering herbal immune support. Optimal dietary intake for immune support is at least eight servings of non-starchy vegetables a day and two servings of fruit per day.
HEALTH IMPACT: Everyone's immune system responds differently (and everyone's immune system can change with age), so it's difficult for scientific research to determine whether immune support supplements work. There are also potential health impacts, depending on the supplement. For instance, astragalus can negatively affect auto-immune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, while echinacea can cause skin conditions such as rashes and hives, irregular heartbeat and stomach problems, or interact with other medications. It is important to review any possible supplement use with a doctor.
RECOMMENDED SUPPLEMENT BRANDS:
Integrative Therapeutics, Metagenics, Orthomolecular, Pure Encapsulations, Thorne Research
* Given current issues with herbal product quality and labeling issues, it is strongly recommended to use brands that are NSF verified, USP certified products, or brands where third party testing is performed.
Read more from the Value of Vitamin Series about probiotics, B complex, B12 and multivitamins.