A strong immune system is the first defense against illness. It’s crucial to support your immune health, especially when pregnant or TTC. In this article, we’ll discuss what vitamins support immune function and how many of them you might already be taking.
By fertility expert and OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton
If there’s anything we’ve learned from living through a pandemic, it’s how to prevent the transmission of (some) illnesses. Wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, and keep your distance from others, to name a few. Fortunately, our bodies already have a system in place to keep us healthy—our immune systems. Let’s talk about how immune defense works and what supplements you should take to support it.
What’s immune defense anyway?
The immune defense is the body's way of fighting off bacteria, toxins, viruses, and other unknown substances. Picture a little army that fights off abnormal or unwanted substances that have entered or tried to enter the body.
Our immune systems have three lines of defense for keeping us healthy:
- Physical/chemical barriers: This includes nose hairs, eyelashes, sweat, and mucous.
- Innate immunity: This is nonspecific immunity; to put it simply, we have “good” cells that surround and breakdown pathogens (viruses & bacteria) before they get the chance to attack.
- Acquired immunity: Acquired immunity occurs when your body has already encountered a pathogen and knows how to appropriately respond. This is a great example of how vaccines work! You introduce a tiny deactivated part of a virus to the body so if there’s an encounter with the real thing later on, you don’t get sick.
What supplements are good for immune support?
Research shows that some vitamins have a stronger effect on the immune system.
- Vitamin A and vitamin D, for example, have shown great potential for regulating immune response, as well as preventing and/or treating inflammation and autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is a condition where the body attacks its own healthy cells.
- Zinc and folate help the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body needs these nutrients to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells.
- Vitamin C is a common over-the-counter remedy for colds, and there’s a good reason for it. Vitamins C, E, and selenium all have antioxidant properties that help fight off illness and support biochemical reactions in the body.
Can a prenatal vitamin help with immune support?
Prenatal vitamins are a must during pregnancy, but can they also support immune health? The short answer is yes!
A good prenatal multivitamin is nutrient packed, and fortunately, a lot of the vitamins and minerals needed to support a healthy pregnancy are also key to building up your immune response. Natalist’s Prenatal for her contains zinc, vitamins A, C, D, and E, folate, selenium, and eleven other vital nutrients that can support overall health and immune defense.
Should you take other immune-defense supplements along with your prenatal vitamins?
One of the key nutrients for supporting immune and reproductive health, vitamin D, is also a vitamin that around half of Americans are deficient in (an even higher rate of deficiency was found in adult African-Americans). Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection. Most experts agree vitamin D supplements are safe in dosages up to 4,000 IU per day during pregnancy or lactation. When taken with our Prenatal Multi (which contains 800 IU of D3), one Natalist Vitamin D3 gummy a day would give you a total of 1,800 IU of vitamin D3. When taken with Prenatal for her (which contains 2,000 IU of D3), one gummy a day would give you a total of 3,000 IU of vitamin D3.
It’s possible to reach a toxic level of vitamins and minerals, and while this is pretty hard to do, it’s important that you stay within healthy limits. Make sure you stay below the tolerable upper intake level (UL) if you do decide to take other supplements.
- The body’s immune system has three levels of defense that prevent pathogens and other unknown substances from entering and spreading in the body.
- Many vitamins and minerals such as zinc, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin D play crucial roles in the immune system as well as for reproductive health.
- The Natalist Prenatal for her multivitamin contains many of the nutrients needed to support a healthy immune system.
- While hard to do, it is possible to consume too many vitamins or minerals. Make sure to research the upper intake level of any vitamins you choose to add on to your prenatal routine.