- Increased vitamin D intake can lower your risk of catching respiratory infections and reduce cold symptoms, making supplementation a potentially effective piece of your flu prevention plan.
- Some natural remedies that may be useful at preventing or reducing cold symptoms include echinacea, elderberries, and ginseng.
- While there is no magical pill to prevent colds, flu, or COVID-19, simply fueling your body with a ready supply of immune boosting nutrients via a multivitamin can prepare you to fight off infections with ease this winter.
3 Vitamins For Flu Season You Must Always Have
As you gear up for winter this year, you might want to consider stocking up on some vitamins for cold and flu prevention. Though you should always aim to get as many nutrients from your regular diet as you can, it can’t hurt to have a little extra support in your corner throughout the peak of cold season, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Multivitamins and other supplements can be a great source of added nutrition and provide peace of mind to the whole family.
In this article, we will discuss some of the best vitamins for flu season as well as some natural supplements that may help reduce the severity of common colds. Stay tuned to learn about what you can do to fight back against sickness and stay as healthy as possible this winter. For more information about winter wellness or multivitamins in general, check out some of our other resources here!
Vitamin D For Colds And Flu Dosage
You most likely know vitamin D as the sunshine vitamin, an essential nutrient produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is typically recommended alongside calcium as a support for healthy bone development, as it has the ability to help calcium absorb more efficiently. However, this sunshine vitamin may also be able to both protect against and alleviate the common cold.
Those who experience a vitamin D deficiency may be at an increased risk for the common cold and other acute respiratory infections. One study performed in 2017 found that regularly supplementing deficient individuals with vitamin D on a daily or weekly basis greatly reduced their risk of respiratory infection, with the most deficient individuals cutting their risk in half (1). Supplementation may also lessen the severity of common cold symptoms for those already affected by illness. A 2021 study found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the duration of a cold (measured in days) by up to 36% and the severity of the peak symptoms by 15% (2).
Often referred to as flu season, winter is one of the highest risk periods for developing cold and flu symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s also a time for increased vitamin D deficiency, as the duration of the day shortens and people are able to spend less time outside in the sunlight. Supplementing with vitamin D or eating vitamin D fortified foods can be a great way to protect yourself against the common cold this season. Your vitamin D for colds and flu dosage may depend on how much vitamin D you already produce or consume regularly. Daily intake should not exceed 4,000 IU (international units), but dosage recommendations can range anywhere from 600 to 2,000 IU per day (3). Talk to your doctor to find out how much vitamin D to take daily when it comes to your unique situation. And, for more information about taking vitamin D in winter, check out our other article here!
Natural Supplements For The Flu
If you’re wondering how to prevent the flu naturally, your best bet is really to try to keep your body as healthy as possible. However, there are some natural supplements for the flu that may help lower your risk of contracting the illness or reduce the severity of your symptoms. Let’s browse a few of these natural remedies (4).
- Echinacea. Although most likely unable to prevent colds or flu, echinacea may be a viable way to reduce symptom severity and duration by anywhere from 10% to 30%. Remember to speak with your doctor before trying this remedy, however, as those who have allergies to certain flowers may experience negative side effects.
- Elderberry. Packed with antioxidants, elderberries may have the ability to boost your immune system, helping prevent the spread of viruses in your body. Some elderberry formulations may even reduce the duration of flu symptoms by up to 56%.
- Ginseng. Similar to elderberries, ginseng likely works by boosting the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. Some ginseng formulations may even be able to increase the effectiveness of the flu vaccine or lower your risk of contracting the flu when taken regularly during flu season.
Vitamins For Cold Season
There are no guaranteed supplements to prevent colds and flu, but preparing your body with a well-balanced diet full of nutrients can certainly help prepare you to fight off infections. Though all nutrients are essential to the body in their own ways, some vitamins and minerals may be slightly more important when it comes to lowering the risk of contracting illnesses. Let’s take a quick look at some of the best vitamins for flu season.
- Vitamin C. Unfortunately, the idea that vitamin C can prevent colds entirely is not exactly true. However, taking vitamin C during winter is essential because it gives power to your immune system. When your immune system is fortified with a ready supply of vitamin C, your body can fight off infections faster, reducing the length and severity of cold symptoms.
- Vitamin E. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E can increase your immune response, landing it a spot among the best vitamins for cold season. Some studies have found that it may be effective in preventing the common cold and other respiratory infections, especially for elderly individuals (5).
- Vitamin B6. One of the 8 nutrients making up the group of B complex vitamins, vitamin B6 has many roles within the body, one of which being its necessity to the immune system in producing antibodies and fighting off infections (6). B vitamins in general also act as excellent vitamins for winter fatigue, as they often provide a boost of energy that can even be a replacement for coffee.
Supplements To Boost Immune System
Since your immune system is the part of your body that does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to preventing or fighting off illnesses, you should strive to make sure it always has a sizable stock of the nutrients it needs to run at its highest capacity. Though you can obtain plenty of nutrients from your diet, supplements may be helpful in maintaining a steady stream of nutrients that might not appear as often in your regular diet. Here are some of the best supplements to boost immune system health this winter.
- Zinc. Alongside vitamin C, zinc is one of the most essential nutrients for promoting the health of your immune system. Supporting both subsets of your immune system, zinc helps immune cells develop and communicate with one another while also playing a key part in wound healing.
- Iron. Though it’s most known for its effect on blood cells and the transportation of oxygen throughout the body, iron also plays a key part in immune responses. It is necessary for immune cells to both multiply and mature properly (7).
- Selenium. Another powerful antioxidant, selenium boosts your body’s immune system by reducing inflammation and the damage caused by free radicals. Selenium deficiency may lead to inadequate immune responses or even immune suppression (8).
Vitamins To Take For COVID
Just like any other infection, there are no magical supplements that can prevent or cure COVID. However, some vitamins and minerals may be able to ease symptoms throughout the duration of the illness. Keep in mind that every case is unique, and you should always talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement, especially when sick or affected by any other pre-existing health conditions.
The best vitamins to take for COVID are going to be very similar to those we listed in the previous sections for boosting immunity and fighting back against the cold season. However, one convenient way to supply your body with all these nutrients at once is to regularly take a multivitamin. Multivitamins typically contain your daily recommended amounts of all the essential nutrients your body needs, including B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and more. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and formulations. Your usual diet, your lifestyle, and your health needs will work together to dictate which type of multivitamin is right for you. Taking a multivitamin regularly may help your body prepare for illnesses like COVID and fight them off more efficiently.
Taking Multivitamins When Sick
For many people, it may seem like a good call to up your dosage of vitamins after contracting a cold or other types of illness. However, increasing your dosage, especially past the amount recommended by your physician or the supplement brand themselves, can be dangerous. Having too much of a good thing applies to nutrients as well, although overdosing is highly uncommon. You should always talk to your doctor before taking multivitamins when sick to make sure you’re doing what’s best for your body.
If you are looking into the best vitamins to take when sick and you have clearance from your physician, you may want to consider either a multivitamin or immune boosting vitamins. Multivitamins provide a more comprehensive support for your body while immune boosting supplements will target and support your immune response specifically. Either way, be sure to supply your body with plenty of water and fluids throughout the duration of your illness and try to get as much sleep as possible to heal up quickly.
- McGreevey, Sue and Mike Morrison. “Study Confirms Vitamin D Protects Against Colds and Flu.” The Harvard Gazette, 15 February 2017, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/02/study-confirms-vitamin-d-protects-against-cold-and-flu.
- Harrison, Sophie E. et al. “Influence of Vitamin D Supplementation By Simulated Sunlight or Oral D3 On Respiratory Infection During Military Training.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, July 2021, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33481482.
- Aubrey, Allison. “A Bit More Vitamin D Might Help Prevent Colds And Flu.” NPR, 16 February 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/02/16/515428944/a-bit-more-vitamin-d-might-reduce-winter-colds-and-flu.
- Griffin, R. Morgan. “Natural Cold and Flu Remedies.” WebMD, 29 December 2010, https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/colds-flu-immune-system.
- Hitti, Miranda. “Vitamin E May Prevent Common Cold.” WebMD, 17 August 2004, https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20040817/vitamin-e-may-prevent-common-cold.
- Minnor, McCall. “5 Vitamins That Fight the Flu—and the Foods That Contain Them.” AAPTIV, 2022, https://aaptiv.com/magazine/flu-season.
- Soyano, A. and M. Gómez. “Role of iron in immunity and its relation with infections.” Archivos Latinamericanos de Nutricion, September 1999, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10971835.
- “Selenium – An Effective Weapon of the Immune System.” EHA, 2022, https://www.lifelinediag.eu/en/selenium-an-effective-weapon-of-the-immune-system.
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