Your immune system is like an army on high alert. It’s constantly on the lookout for the enemy so it can destroy it before it has a chance to make you sick. Sometimes the immune system can be weakened by disease or by a medical treatment. In cases like these, can vitamins help boost the immune system? If not, what can you do to give it a helping hand?
While it is true that certain vitamins play an important role in keeping your immune system running properly, it’s better to eat a balanced diet than to take vitamin supplements, since foods provide additional nutrients that are essential to your health.
Vitamin supplements can be useful when a disease, e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, causes a vitamin deficiency or when your dietary intake is insufficient over a long period. Your doctor or pharmacist can help determine your specific needs.
Natural products: a better choice?
There isn’t enough scientific data to assess the efficacy of natural products on the immune system. What’s more, people with compromised immune systems are generally excluded from such studies, which means where data is available, it does not apply to people with immunodeficiency.
Remember, “natural” is not necessarily synonymous with “safe.” Before taking a natural product, consult your doctor or pharmacist, because for people with weakened immune systems, the risks often outweigh the benefits.
Protect yourself against germs
When your body’s personal army goes MIA, it is important to take steps to prevent germs (the enemy) from entering your body. Here are a few tips:
- Wash your hands regularly with soapy water (after using the washroom and before and after handling food, especially raw meat).
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Get all the immunizations your doctor recommends.
- Eat right and eat enough. If you have no appetite, meal replacements can be an option to replace a complete meal or as a snack. If need be, talk to a dietician.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Be as physically active as you can. Being active, even if only a little, is good for your immune system and for your overall health.
- If you smoke, it’s time to quit! If you have friends or family who smoke, ask them to avoid smoking in your presence, even outdoors.
If you have questions or need advice on how to keep germs at bay, ask your pharmacist. They’re there to help!