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Can I boost my immune system by taking extra vitamin supplements?

Can I boost my immune system by taking extra vitamin supplements?

Can supplements help boost your immune system? safefood nutritionist, Marian O'Reilly, has some advice.

By now, we have all heard lots of health advice about Covid-19 and nutrition is no exception. Naturally, we want to give ourselves the best chance to stay healthy and strong against this virus and the key activities that can protect us are physical distancing, good coughing habits and regular handwashing.

One question we are regularly asked is can taking certain vitamins or food supplements help boost our immune system? While we’d love to say there is a simple answer here, the reality unfortunately, is no. The best way to boost your immunity is to eat a healthy diet, be as active as possible and get enough sleep. 

Vitamin C and Zinc

The reason for confusion about supplements is that some vitamins or minerals are commonly associated with immunity - vitamin C and zinc being the most well known.

There has been plenty of research on Vitamin C and the common cold (also caused by a virus). The findings show that taking regular vitamin C supplements – at 200mg/d (the same as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day) - doesn’t prevent you from getting a cold, but it appears to reduce the duration and severity of common cold symptoms by about one day. There are also similar findings with zinc.

Anecdotally, there have been stories of some pharmacies running out of vitamin pills and food supplements because people want to boost their immune system. Don’t panic if you feel that you missed out. If you do have a cupboard full of vitamins and minerals, stick to the recommended dose and make sure you’re not taking the same nutrient in more than one supplement or you could exceed the safe dose. 

The best ways to boost your immune system

You can give your immune system a health boost by focusing on what foods are on your plate, sleeping well, being as active as you can and minding your mental health. It is well-known that stress impacts our immune system and for many of us right now, avoiding stress is difficult.

It can also help manage your stress by getting your news and information from credible sources like the HSE, Public Health Agency and safefood.

So be kind to yourself, stay safe and try to remember that we are all in this together, no matter how apart we need to be.


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