Immunity is not just a winter concern. As any parent of young or school-aged children can attest, all manner of infections can strike at any time of year. These usually pass from one family member to another, often disrupting daily life for everyone. Luckily there are a number of ways you can support your whole family’s immune systems all year round.
Key immune ingredients
When it comes to immunity, there are several hero ingredients you should look out for:
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Vitamin C plays an essential role in a wide range of processes throughout the body, but it’s mostly known for being an immune superstar. And rightly so. Vitamin C contributes to immune defences in a variety of ways. It stimulates the production and function of white blood cells (leukocytes), which help protect the body against infection; It enhances the germ-killing effects of neutrophils; It has antioxidant properties and can protect white blood cells from oxidative damage; It supports the epithelial (skin) barrier function against infection-causing pathogens and can assist with minor wound healing.1,2 If vitamin C intake is inadequate, it can impair immunity and increase susceptibility to illness.
Vitamin C supplements have been found to reduce the risk of mild upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold and minimise the duration and severity of symptoms.1 Vitamin C is great for the whole family, but may be particularly beneficial for kids, since they typically suffer from at least six colds a year.3 Look out for an easy chewable and low-acidity format.
Like vitamin C, zinc is an essential nutrient for the immune system and the two are often combined in immune supplements. Zinc is needed for the normal development and function of the white blood cells known as neutrophils and natural killer cells.4 It also functions as an antioxidant and supports the protective barrier of the skin. If you don’t get enough zinc, it can affect immune processes and decrease your ability to fight off illness-causing germs and bugs.4 Taking a zinc supplement regularly may be beneficial for the whole family.
Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata)
Andrographis is a herb traditionally used in Chinese medicine to support the body’s immune defences and reduce the symptoms and severity of mild upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold. Andrographis supplements may be suitable for the adults in the family to build immune resilience and provide natural relief for colds in any season.
Mostly known for its supportive role in bone health, vitamin D is also highly important for the immune system and being low in vitamin D may compromise immune function.5 Unfortunately, more than 1 in 3 Australians has insufficient vitamin D levels, making it an important supplement for a daily immune-supporting and whole-body routine.6
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
Echinacea is a herb used in supplements for immune health for its ability to help combat the symptoms of mild upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold and support immune function through its immune modulating and anti-inflammatory effects.7
Reishi and Shiitake mushrooms
Reishi and shiitake mushrooms are traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for their immune-influencing effects to help fight illness and assist with recovery. They may be beneficial for the grownups of the family to help boost immune defences.
Ethical nutrients have a unique range of vitamins that support the immune system, suitable for the whole family. Products you can take ongoing as part of a daily immune-supporting routine, products to take when you’ve fallen sick and feel run down, to reduce the severity of symptoms and assist with recovery and chewable formats that are suitable for kids to provide daily support for their immune system through winter and beyond.
- Carr A et al, 2017, ‘Vitamin C and immune function’, Nutrients, vol 9, no 11
- Higdon J, 2018, Vitamin C, Linus Pauling Institute, viewed 7 January 2023, <https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C>
- The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, 2022, ‘Viral Illnesses’, viewed 7 January 2023, <www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo>
- Shankar A, et al, 1998, ‘Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection’, Am J Clin Nutr, vol 68, no 2, pp447-463
- Aranow C, 2011, ‘Vitamin D and the immune system’, J Investig M, vol 59, no 6, pp881-886
- Healthdirect, 2022, Vitamin D deficiency, viewed 7 January 2023, <https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/vitamin-d-deficiency>
- Bone K, 2003, A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs, Elsevier Science, USA