I don’t pay much, if any, attention to mainstream media. But from what I hear, it’s almost all negative. Over the last several months, with some diversion, the emphasis has largely been on the unprecedented (at least in my lifetime) pandemic associated with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
While our current landscape is far more doom and gloom than sunshine and rainbows, I have a feeling that in the not-too-distant future, we will be able to look back and identify more than a handful of unexpected positives that came out of an otherwise rotten situation.
For example, as reported by science journalist Bryn Nelson in the bmg, “Skies are bluer, fewer cars are crashing, crime is falling, and some other infectious diseases are fading from hospital emergency departments.” 1
As an advocate of preventive (as opposed to reactive) healthcare, people are, by and large, taking their health more seriously. They’re paying better attention to personal hygiene. And from the elders all the way down to the youngest kiddos, there’s never been, to my knowledge, more accessible information about germs and prevention. (Whether or not it’s all accurate is a different story for a different day.)
One of the most hopeful aspects that’s emerged from the rise in taking prevention measures more seriously is a greater understanding and appreciation for the immune system. Unmatched in complexity, the immune system is an intricate network of specialized tissues, organs, cells, and chemicals designed to protect YOU from toxins and pathogens.
Like virtually everything else in the body, it’s not about more, more, more—or more appropriately, boost, boost, boost—when it comes to supporting the immune system. Rather, a healthy, robust, and properly functioning immune system is one that’s balanced and maintained within a normal, healthy state.
Having said that, there’s no shortage of people turning to key immune-support supplements. And for good reason: Certain nutrients (some of which are required) can help support a healthy immune defense system. With the pandemic being top of mind for many people, it’s no wonder that several so-called immunity-boosting supplements are selling out.
4 Immunity-Boosting Supplements That Are Selling Out Fast
Echinacea ranks as the #2 best-selling mainstream herb. According to a 2018 HerbalGram report, sales grew to $110 million in 2018. 2 Of course, those numbers are likely even higher given the current circumstances. For example, according to IRI, a market research firm that tracks supplement sales and major retailers (like Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS, for instance), sales of Echinacea jumped 221% in April 2020 compared to the same time period last year.
And there’s good reason why folks perennially turn to Echinacea. It’s an herb traditionally used for cold and flu relief. Echinacea may benefit immune function in a number of ways: 3–6
- Supporting normal activity of white blood cells and natural killer (NK) cells.
- Enhancing leukocyte and granulocyte counts.
- Promoting the activity of neutrophils, monocytes, and eosinophils.
- Promoting the ability of other immune cells to respond to foreign invaders.
- Stimulating macrophages and antibody production.
- Supporting a healthy inflammatory response and cytokine balance.
- Promoting healthy and resilient mucus membranes.
- Competing with pathogens by blocking viral receptors on cell surfaces.
However, what most people don’t know is that there are different types of Echinacea. Despite the fact that these different types are biochemically distinct and have varying degrees of effectiveness, all versions of these immunity-boosting supplements can be labeled generally as Echinacea.
But, not all types of Echinacea are created equal. Among the three species, Echinacea purpurea (also known as purple coneflower), which is native to North America and has been used for centuries to support the body’s natural defense system, is supported by the most robust body of scientific evidence.
In fact, this ancient botanical has been the subject of more than 300 scientific studies, which support its application in promoting a healthy immune response. For example, research shows that Echinacea purpurea may decrease symptom severity of upper respiratory tract infections (such as the common cold) and may decrease the number of colds when taken preventively. 5,7
There is much less convincing evidence when it comes to other commonly used species, such as Echinacea pallida and Echinacea angustifolia. The bottom line is that Echinacea purpurea appears to be the most effective species.
Then there’s the problem with “fairy dusting” where brands just add a small, ineffective amount of Echinacea to their formulas. Take, for example, one of the most popular immune-support formulas. This formula provides Echinacea as the last of eight ingredients in a “proprietary blend.” Altogether, the amount of the proprietary blend is 350 mg. Considering that the ingredients are listed in order by weight, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that the amount of Echinacea could probably sit on the head of a pin.
There’s still one more big problem. Many supplements containing Echinacea do not contain the labeled species. Even worse, many don’t contain the amount of Echinacea stated on the label. For instance, a study published in the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine found that only about HALF of dozens of Echinacea supplements tested actually contained the amount and type of Echinacea listed. 8 Only seven percent of the products tested met proper labeling requirements, and ten percent of the samples tested contained NO measurable Echinacea whatsoever.
2. Vitamin C
According to IRI, sales of vitamin C— commonly recognized as one of the top immunity-boosting supplements —soared 202% in April (compared to the same time period last year). Vitamin C is well known for its ability to support a healthy immune response. Since its discovery in the early 1900s, vitamin C has been widely used in the prevention and treatment of the common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections.
Vitamin C concentrations decline rapidly in the body during periods of stress. Thus, dietary intake of vitamin C is crucial during immune challenges. Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C also supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and protecting against environmental and cellular oxidative stress.
Vitamin C has been found to be helpful in supporting specific components of the immune system. This includes NK cell activity and lymphocyte function. Vitamin C also provides antioxidant support by protecting cells against reactive oxygen species that are generated during normal inflammatory response. 9
There’s compelling research that vitamin C can decrease the incidence of the common cold and the duration and intensity of symptoms. 10
According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, which analyzed the dietary habits of 10,698 American adults, researchers found that less than 50% of people are getting the bare-bones minimum of vitamin C through their diets. 11
No wonder the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020 specifically tabbed vitamin C as an “underconsumed nutrient.” And remember, that’s just the bottom-of-the-barrel amount needed to prevent deficiency. That’s not the optimal daily dose that may be necessary to promote a healthy immune system, which may be dozens of times higher.
3. Zinc Acetate
Like vitamin C, sales of zinc are through the roof, rising 168% in April (compared to the same time period last year), according to IRI. And for good reason.
After all, zinc is perhaps the best recognized “immuno-nutrient” as it’s involved in hundreds of metabolic processes, including the body’s immune responses. For example, zinc is a component of more than 300 enzymatic reactions, including those needed to optimize immune function. Maintaining optimal zinc levels also helps sustain helper T-cell lymphocyte function, NK cell activity, macrophage function, and antibody production.
Along those lines, suboptimal zinc intake (20 – 30% of Americans fall short of the bare-bones recommendation) decreases immune function, increasing the risk for infection. 12 Zinc is also antimicrobial, and it can help prevent the replication of viruses.13
While there are different forms of zinc, there is research showing that zinc acetate may be the most promising for supporting immune health. For instance, a meta-analysis found that zinc acetate was most effective for shortening the incidence, duration, and severity of the common cold. 14 Additional research has shown that zinc acetate results in a threefold increase in the rate of recovery from the common cold. That makes it an one of the absolute game changers when it comes to immunity-boosting supplements. 15
4. N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC)
Although not as widely recognized as the trio of supplements mentioned above, NAC has become a rising star in the category of immunity-boosting supplements due, in particular, to its antioxidant properties and unique capacity to help support liver detoxification and respiratory health.
NAC is a precursor to the amino acid L-cysteine, one of the three amino acids that comprises glutathione, which is known as the body’s master antioxidant and one of the major detoxification factors.
Research suggests that NAC is capable of enhancing immune function. What’s more, NAC is heavily researched for its role in optimizing lung health, as it helps maintain good pulmonary health due to its ability to support normal mucus levels in healthy sinus and respiratory systems. Along those lines, NAC is commonly used to help clear sinus and airway congestion caused by mucus overproduction. 16
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, NAC positively impacted levels of lymphocytes, white cells that are crucial to normal immune function. 17 NAC has also been shown to support healthy activity of other immune cells (neutrophils) and support a healthy balance of cytokines. 18
Based on the results of one study, researchers concluded that the capacity of NAC to strengthen immune defense may help contribute to good health and quality of life in postmenopausal women by decreasing the probability of immune system-related infections. Additionally, researchers hypothesize that NAC may be particularly helpful for supporting a healthy balance of inflammation in response to respiratory challenges. 19
Bringing It All Together
Of course, these are just four of the most popular immune-support supplements. They are joined on the list of top immunity-boosting supplements by the likes of mushroom extracts (such as chaga and reishi), cumin, elderberry, oil of oregano, melatonin, and vitamin D.
While you could go looking for these top four immune-support nutrients—Echinacea purpurea, vitamin C, zinc acetate, and NAC—à la carte, BioTRUST has saved you the time and expense with Ageless Immunity, an advanced immune-support formula designed to help optimize immune system health.