Crushing Allergy Season

Winter has finally come and gone. Frigid temperatures and snow are but a distant memory, and we welcome the warm weather and blooming flowers of spring with open arms.

But while we tend to embrace spring with joy, our immune systems may not be as keen. With blossoming flowers comes pollen and a host of other allergy triggers.

An allergic reaction is caused by a foreign invader, or antigen, entering your body to cause harm. Your immune system acts as your first line of defense. It recognizes the antigen and releases a host of “soldiers,” including antibodies, to attack the antigens and protect you from harm.

Fortunately, there are supplements you can take to help boost your immune system and better defend your body from the all-too-familiar symptoms of allergy season. Here are a few of our favorites.

Multivitamins

When your diet is lacking important micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), a daily multivitamin can help fill the gaps. Research has shown that many people are deficient in major micronutrients that are essential to preserving general health and wellness.

Two of the most important micronutrients for immune health are vitamin C and vitamin D. Both are included in our Whole Food Complex Multivitamins for men and women.

Vitamin C supports immune health by acting as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help to stabilize free radicals — reactive oxygen species that are unstable in the body. Free radicals yearn to achieve stability by attacking cell membranes and DNA. Vitamin C can donate components to stabilize free radicals, helping to preserve the structural integrity of our cells, which supports our immunity.

Vitamin D is a unique micronutrient in the sense that it acts as a hormone and can bind to receptors on our DNA. This has vast implications for vitamin D function — particularly for its role in modulating immune responses. Vitamin D is essentially able to “turn on” important genes and processes that strengthen your innate immune system.

Probiotics

They say that you are what you eat. In the case of probiotics, we are what’s in our gut! Probiotics, also known as the gut flora or microbiota, are the trillions of live bacteria that colonize our gastrointestinal tract.

Bacterial cells actually outnumber human cells in the body by a factor of 1.3:1. As of 2016, the most recent estimate for a 20 to 30-year-old, 155 lb, 5’6” male was 39 trillion bacterial cells compared to 30 trillion human cells.

The amazing world of the microbiota represents the final frontier of nutrition science research. We are still discovering the full health implications of these small yet mighty bacterial colonies. While probiotics have traditionally been used for gastrointestinal health, the discovery of the gut-brain axis has expanded probiotic research to include other areas of health as well — including immune health.

It’s estimated that 80% of your body’s immune activity takes place in the gut. Those friendly gut bacteria are thought to play an important role in keeping pathogenic organisms from invading your body. Specific strains such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG have been found to modulate immune function and even decrease inflammatory markers.

When taking a probiotic supplement, it can be tricky to choose the “best one.” Generally speaking, you want a probiotic supplement that has a broad spectrum of strains in order to ensure that you are covering your entire gastrointestinal tract. Research has also suggested that at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFUs) are needed to be beneficial.

There are also technological advances that can help the bacteria survive the acidic environment of the stomach while traveling through the gastrointestinal tract. Our Daily Care Time-Release Probiotics are made with this kind of technology, helping to ensure that your probiotics make it into your gut alive. Our Daily Care formula contains 10 billion CFU and 30 probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.

Micronutrients and probiotics are two kinds of functional ingredients that can help support the body’s immune function. While they work in different ways, they may work best together as a pair to support your immune system from all sides.

Sam Kramer, MS, RD, LDN, CISSN

Sam is a Registered Dietician specializing in sports nutrition, who enjoys educating people about nutrition and exercise science. He has formulated and developed nutritional supplements for Vitacost and Kroger brands as well as for NatureWise.