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Are You Getting Enough Trace Minerals For Immune Support?

By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.

Beyond zinc, we often don’t think of minerals as acting as immune supplements. Yet, trace minerals like selenium and copper play a critical role in immunity. That’s why combining ionic trace minerals with other effective immune boosters gives your body additional immune support. In this article, I’ll discuss what vitamins are good for your immune system and which trace minerals and botanicals boost their effectiveness.

Zinc and Immune System Health

Zinc is famous for its immune-boosting abilities. When it comes to immunity, it’s one of the most well-researched trace minerals. Even a mild zinc deficiency can weaken immune health. This is concerning, given that an estimated 4 million people in the United States have a subacute deficiency.1 Low zinc levels are linked to a decline in the function of T-cells, which are important in immunity.2 Zinc is important for the growth and function of cells critical for immune support, including natural killer cells. It also maintains the skin/mucosal barrier, which is the first line of immune defense.3 Plus, it supports healthy antibody production.2,3  

Most, but not all, studies show that zinc defends the immune system. A randomized study investigated the effect of 15 mg/day oral zinc sulfate or a placebo for seven months in 200 healthy children.4 The dose was increased to 15 mg twice per day at the beginning of a cold. The zinc group experienced significantly fewer colds compared to the placebo group. The zinc group also had fewer missed school days.

Other studies have looked at the use of zinc lozenges for upper respiratory health. One placebo-controlled trial included 65 people who took either a placebo or a loading dose of either two zinc gluconate lozenges totaling 46 mg zinc and then23 mg zinc (one lozenge) every two waking hours until symptoms had gone away for six hours.5 After a week, 86% of people taking zinc had no symptoms compared to only 46% of subjects taking a placebo.    

In another study, 48 adults used zinc acetate lozenges with 12.8 mg zinc per lozenge every two to three hours whileawake.6 Compared to placebo, zinc was associated with a shorter duration of cold symptoms (4.5 vs. 8.1 days). Another trial of 134 school children studied the effects of 13.3 mg zinc as one zinc gluconate lozenge per day.7 When the children caught colds, they were given four zinc gluconate lozenges (53.2 mg zinc) per day until they felt better. In this seventh month trial, when taking zinc, colds lasted only6.9 days (plus or minus 3.1 days) compared to 9 days (plus or minus 3.5 days)in controls.

Elderberry Plus Zinc

Using elderberry together with zinc does double duty in supporting immune health. Elderberry maintains lung health and keeps the immune system strong. For example, researchers investigated the use of elderberry extract in a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of 312 economy class passengers travelling from Australia to an overseas location.8 Passengers using the elderberry extract had better upper respiratory health compared to the placebo group.

Zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin C

Combining zinc with vitamin D and vitamin C is one of the most powerful actions you can take to keep your immune system healthy. This trio of immune boosters are each well studied for their role in immune defense. Vitamin D plays a critical role in immune support. We make vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Yet, because we spend a lot of time indoors and because we slather our skin with sunscreen when outside, many people are deficient in this immune vitamin. Of course, in the winter, it’s even worse.  

To find out whether vitamin D can support immune health, researchers looked at 25randomized, controlled trials of 11,321 people.9 The researchers concluded that vitamin D supplementation enhanced respiratory tract health, especially in people deficient in vitamin D. Keeping vitamin D levels in an optimal range is also associated with better immune function, supporting a healthy inflammatory response, and maintaining lung health.10-12  

Vitamin C is one of the most well-researched immune booster supplements available. It entered the spotlight when Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling wrote about it in his 1970bestselling book Vitamin C and the Common Cold. Since then many studies have supported vitamin’s role in immune support. In a review of the medical literature known as a meta-analysis, researchers looked at 29 controlled trials that studied the use of 200 mg/day or more vitamin C for the common cold.13 Altogether, the studies included 11,077 people. In this review, vitamin C reduced the duration and severity of colds, but did not decrease the incidence. However, in six of the studies included in the analysis, subjects were under a great deal of physical stress from exercise training in cold climates. In these studies, the incidence of the common cold was cut in half in subjects taking vitamin C.14

Acerola Cherry

Acerola cherry is a great source of vitamin C. In fact, it has more vitamin C than oranges or strawberries. For that reason, it’s an ideal plant-based source of a vitamin known for its immune support.

Ionic Trace Minerals and Immunity

Your immune system can’t work properly unless your body is nourished with specific trace minerals. These include selenium, copper, and zinc. Low levels of these trace minerals can impact aspects of immune health like antibody function, cell-mediated immunity, and activity of natural killer cells.3,15

Selenium is an especially interesting trace mineral. It not only supports immune health in the body—according to animal research, it can also tamper with the genetics of viral invaders to make them weaker.16 Selenium is important for healthy antibody production and healthy immune defenses.17

Another trace element, copper is important for immune defense and immune support.18 It enhances the activity of important immune cells like T-cells and natural killer cells.15 The body needs copper to make enzymes that support the immune system.19 In addition, people are more likely to survive immune system challenges when their copper levels are balanced.19

Unfortunately, in our modern world, many people are deficient in immune-boosting trace minerals. Our soils used to contain many trace minerals. However, now they’ve been washed into the oceans. That’s why you might not be getting enough of these nourishing minerals from diet alone.

The Best Immune Supplements Include Minerals

The most effective immune boosters contain not only vitamins like C and D and botanicals like elderberry or acerola cherry, but also ionic trace minerals. Ionic trace minerals bond readily with water, so they’re easily absorbed in the body. These type of nutrients come from bodies of water that are rich in minerals, like the Great Salt Lake.

Trace Minerals Research provides three immune support supplements that also contain these ionic trace minerals. Immunity Gummies contain vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc plus acerola cherry. They’re a great-tasting alternative to capsules, for anyone who doesn’t like to swallow pills. Plus, the ingredients are delivered directly to the throat and can have a soothing effect.  Elderberry Immunity Powder contains black elderberry, zinc, and vitamin C. It’s great-tasting, flavored with lemon, strawberry, blueberry, and vanilla. Like all the immune formulas, it also contains an ionic trace minerals complex.

The end result? Nourishing your immune system helps it stay healthy and thrive.  

References:

1.         Walsh CT, Sandstead HH, Prasad AS, Newberne PM, Fraker PJ. Zinc: health effects and research priorities for the 1990s. Environ Health Perspect. 1994;102 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):5-46.

2.         Kruse-Jarres JD. The significance of zinc for humoral and cellular immunity. J Trace Elem Electrolytes Health Dis. 1989;3(1):1-8.

3.         Maggini S, Wintergerst ES, Beveridge S, Hornig DH. Selected vitamins and trace elements support immune function by strengthening epithelial barriers and cellular and humoral immune responses. Br J Nutr. 2007;98 Suppl 1:S29-35.

4.         Kurugöl Z, Akilli M, Bayram N, Koturoglu G. The prophylactic and therapeutic effectiveness of zinc sulphate on common cold in children. Acta Paediatr. 2006;95(10):1175-1181.

5.         Eby GA. Zinc lozenges: cold cure or candy? Solution chemistry determinations. Biosci Rep. 2004;24(1):23-39.

6.         Prasad AS, Fitzgerald JT, Bao B, Beck FW, Chandrasekar PH. Duration of symptoms and plasma cytokine levels in patients with the common cold treated with zinc acetate. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2000;133(4):245-252.

7.         McElroy BH, Miller SP. Effectiveness of zinc gluconate glycine lozenges (Cold-Eeze) against the common cold in school-aged subjects: are trospective chart review. Am J Ther. 2002;9(6):472-475.

8.         Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RA. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):182.

9.         Martineau AR, Jolliffe DA, Hooper RL, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. Bmj. 2017;356:i6583.

10.       Maghbooli Z, Sahraian MA, Ebrahimi M, et al. Vitamin D sufficiency, a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D at least 30 ng/mL reduced risk for adverse clinical outcomes in patients with COVID-19 infection. PLoS One. 2020;15(9):e0239799.

11.       Ye K, Tang F, Liao X, et al. Does Serum Vitamin D Level AffectCOVID-19 Infection and Its Severity?-A Case-Control Study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2020:1-8.

12.       Musavi H, Abazari O, Barartabar Z, et al. The benefits of Vitamin D in the COVID-19 pandemic: biochemical and immunological mechanisms. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2020:1-9.

13.       Douglas RM, Hemila H, D'Souza R, Chalker EB, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004(4):Cd000980.

14.       Hemilä H. Vitamin C supplementation and respiratory infections: a systematic review. Mil Med.2004;169(11):920-925.

15.       Beck M. Trace Minerals, Immune Function, and Viral Evolution. Military Strategies for Sustainment of Nutrition and Immune Function in the Field: The National Academies Press;1999.

16.       Beck MA, Shi Q, Morris VC, Levander OA. Rapid genomic evolution of a non-virulent coxsackievirus B3 in selenium-deficient mice results in selection of identical virulent isolates. Nat Med. 1995;1(5):433-436.

17.       Chandra S, Chandra RK. Nutrition, immune response, and outcome. Prog Food Nutr Sci. 1986;10(1-2):1-65.

18.       Blakley BR, Hamilton DL. The effect of copper deficiency on the immune response in mice. Drug Nutr Interact. 1987;5(2):103-111.

19.       Hackler J, Heller RA, Sun Q, et al. Relation of Serum Copper Status to Survival in COVID-19. Nutrients.2021;13(6).

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