Are immune-booster supplements a myth? Note these points

Excessive doses of certain supplements can cause adverse health consequences. Representational image. Photo: Chaay_Tee / Shutterstock

People generally believe that taking certain vitamin supplements, some types of food, or engaging in certain activities can `boost’ the immune system and ward off illness. However, the idea of boosting immunity is a myth. This is because the immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that function together to defend the body against foreign bodies such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Immunity against them cannot be strengthened easily.

There are several factors that can affect the immune system's ability to function, including genetics, age, underlying health conditions, and factors such as stress and insomnia. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that certain food or food supplements can significantly enhance the immune system's performance.

While some nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc, are important for immune function, consuming excessive amounts of these nutrients through supplements or food sources does not enhance the immune system's ability to prevent infection. In fact, taking excessive doses of certain supplements can have negative health consequences, such as digestive issues or kidney damage. 

Additionally, many products marketed as immune boosters, such as herbal remedies and homeopathic remedies, have not been scientifically proven to have any significant effect on the immune functions of the human body. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings against several products marketed in the guise of immune boosters, citing false claims and posing potential health risks.

Rather than focusing on boosting the immune system, it is more important to maintain a healthy lifestyle that supports immune function. This includes getting enough sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, managing stress, and eating a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources.

It is also important to practice good hygiene habits, such as washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, and staying home when you are feeling sick. These practices help reduce the spread of illness and prevent infections from taking hold in the first place.

However, in some cases, medical interventions such as vaccines and medications may be necessary to help support immune function. Vaccines work by exposing the immune system to a harmless form of a virus or bacteria, allowing it to develop immunity without causing illness. Medications such as antibiotics can also help to ward off infections when the immune system is unable to do so on its own.

Therefore, one has to be extremely cautious about taking immunity boosters because following the wrong advice may worsen one’s health and wellness further. With health advices pouring in from all sides, it is better to follow scientific advices rather than remain over-advised.

(Information courtesy: Dr Amit P Jose, Pulmonologist Consultant at Lourdes Hospitals, Kochi)

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