These are the Top 8 Immune Boosters for Teenagers
Keeping the immune system strong is an ever present concern and it is amplified during the teenage years. The stress of a busy school schedule and test prep, a changing body that needs different nutrition than a child’s body, and a lack of sleep can all wreak havoc on the body’s defenses.
When these challenges are paired with the struggle of getting your teen to eat a healthy and well balanced meal instead of sweet and salty snacks, the detrimental effect on the immune system is amplified. Read on to find out what immune boosters for teenagers might help support a developing body so your teen can focus on all of the things they need to do instead of being sick.
#8 – Vitamin C
Vitamin C tops just about every list for boosting immunity in teenagers and adults for a few reasons. First of all, it is important to note that vitamin C deficiency is the 4th leading nutrient deficiency in the United States. (1)
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant—reducing oxidative stress on cells. In fact, researchers believe that its antioxidant properties are directly involved with the immune system concluding “Vitamin C is a free-radical scavenger that can scavenge superoxide and peroxyl radicals, hydrogen peroxide, hypochlorous acid, and oxidant air pollutants. Overall, vitamin C appears to exert a multitude of beneficial effects on cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.” (1)
According to the same researchers, there are various ways that vitamin C helps the immune system. It stimulates the movement of white blood cells (neutrophils), which are the body’s first line of defense, to the site of infection as well as has microbe-killing properties. It also seems to protect host tissue from “excessive damage” due to its antioxidant effects. They recommend an intake of 100-200mg of vitamin C daily for maintenance, with higher doses, 1,000mg, during an active infection.
Vitamin C and the common cold have been the subject of several studies. Seemingly, there is little evidence that you won’t get a cold if you take vitamin C supplements, but there does seem to be a reduction in the days of active infection and the severity of cold symptoms. (2) The effect varies from study to study but researchers suspect that the benefit derives from the antioxidant properties of vitamin C. During an infection, oxidizing compounds are released from cells and by neutralising these oxidants, inflammation may be reduced. (2)
#7 – Vitamin D
The presence of vitamin D on a list of immune boosters for teenagers may surprise you—it is often associated with bone health—but it also plays a role in immune response.
In addition to being used unknowingly to treat tuberculosis in the days where patients were sent to sanatoriums to receive sunlight therapy, cod liver oil is rich in vitamin D and has been used as a folk treatment for infections. This is one case at least where folk wisdom has been shown to have some validity. In a double blind placebo study, researchers found that a “therapeutic dose of vitamin D showed that vitamin D administration resulted in a statistically significant (42%) decrease in the incidence of influenza infection.” (3)
Usually made by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight, a vitamin D deficiency is relatively common in the United States, with estimates of around 40 percent of the general population being deficient. A deficiency is often seen in people who wear sunscreen or spend a significant amount of time indoors. It is somewhat rare in food. The best sources being oily fish, red meat, liver, and egg yolks, vegans are left with the options of fortified foods or supplements. (3)
#6 – Zinc
Zinc is a very important mineral, not least for its role in the immune system. In addition to its role in developing normal immune cells (including neutrophils) it is a powerful antioxidant. One study found zinc supplementation in normal healthy subjects lowered the amount of oxidative-stress byproducts released into blood. (4) The study concluded “The ability of zinc to function as an anti-oxidant and stabilize membranes suggests that it has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes.” (4)
Essential for almost all processes in the body, a zinc deficiency most affects the immune system. Although it is not fully understood why, researchers suspect there are many functions of zinc that make it so essential for immune response. (5)
#5 – Elderberry
A study aimed at gauging the effectiveness of elderberry extract in treating the flu concluded its effectiveness in multiple ways—including blocking viral glycoproteins, the molecules that allow viruses to get into the body’s cells. (6)
#4 – Garlic
Long used as a traditional medicine, garlic is being studied for its anti-inflammatory properties. In animal models, there is “sufficient scientific evidence on the beneficial effects of garlic as therapy under different pathological conditions” due to its “direct stimulation of immune cells” (7). The same researchers note the effect needs to be more extensively studied in humans before any concrete conclusion can be drawn.
#3 – Oregano Leaf
Rich in antioxidants, oregano and other herbs belonging to the lamiaceae family are also known anti-inflammatories and antimicrobials. (8) Although it’s not fully understood how it works, the prevailing assumption is that oregano decreases cytokines, which cause inflammation. In addition, researchers in a study found that dietary intake of the herbs oregano and sage helped improve the function of the immune system. (8)
#2 – Selenium
Selenium plays a major role in reducing chronic inflammation and the immune response. (9)
#1 – Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important immune boosters for teenagers available. Unfortunately, it’s also often the least available with coursework consuming so much of a teens waking life.
It is recommended that teenagers get between 9-10 hours a night to support both their immune systems and their increasingly growing bodies.
If your teenager doesn’t get enough dietary intake of these immune boosters, you may want to consider supplements. Life Vitality Immune Authority contains all of these ingredients as well as others, including olive leaf, which may play a role in moderating immune response (10) and magnesium which is being studied for its role in the immune system (11).
The most important thing to remember is that adequate nutrition and sleep are the keys to a healthy body, at any age.
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