Most vitamins and herbals are sold as “food supplements” to augment nutrition and promote wellness. The more recent term nutriceutical is a blend of the words nutrient and pharmaceutical. Nutriceuticals are also food derivatives, but sold for their medical properties to treat various problems. Often there are research studies supporting their use treating a target problem. They are regulated as “dietary supplements” and not as “medications.” Since they are not regulated by the FDA, there is concern that what is on the label is what you are getting. Reputable companies have their products independently tested. (Buy from a company that you trust.)
While there are many ways that nutrition can benefit us, one area that food supplements and nutriceuticals are especially helpful is immune support. The infection model of disease often focuses on the virulence of “the bug” — which might be a bacteria or virus. While you might need a medication or nutriceutical to fight the infection, very little is said about the strength of the immune system.
We know certain things will run our systems down and make us more prone to illness — unmanaged stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, and other lifestyle choices can weaken the immune system. Along with lifestyle improvements, boosting the immune system with nutritional support can be highly effective treatment — especially for infections like the common cold, for which there is no medication.
I often recommend echinacea, vitamin C and zinc supplements during an viral illness or during the prodrome when you “feel like you are coming down with something.” Many companies even sell combination products under the label of “immune support.” As cold and flu season approaches, keep your immune system healthy.