4 Supplements You Shouldn’t Take for Immune Health, According to Dietitians

Let’s face it; We’ve all been duped, at least at one point, into buying an expensive supplement that we thought would cure all of our ailments. You’ve probably found yourself checking the supplement aisle at the first sign of the sniffles.

However, the problem with supplements is that the FDA doesn’t regulate them before they hit the shelves, and technically, anyone can fill capsules with almost anything and sell them. Scary right? Of course, not all supplements are harmful, as many companies go the extra mile to ensure their products are safe for their consumers with accurate labeling and third-party testing.

However, supplements should not replace a balanced diet. They should be used as their name suggests as a supplement on a healthy diet (eg, in cases where you don’t get enough from your diet). Eating a balanced diet will provide you with the necessary vitamins and minerals to support a strong immune system.

In this article, you’ll learn which four supplements you should avoid and which foods you should start eating more of when it comes to supporting your immune health.

Why Your Immune Health Matters

Our body’s immune system is equipped to recognize and fight off potentially harmful invaders. Think of your immune system as your body’s inner superhero. If our immune system is healthy, it’s easier to fight off viruses, bacteria or anything else that tries to make us sick, explains Chelsea LeBlanc, RDN, LD, a Nashville, TN- based dietitian and owner of Chelsea LeBlanc Nutrition.

However, if that inner superhero is compromised, it may not be able to offer protection. Your immune system plays a role in more areas than you may realize beyond just protecting you from getting things like colds, flu and viruses, explains Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, media dietitian and creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table. A healthy immune system can also help you recover faster from illness and reduce inflammation. It’s also believed that your immune system plays a role in longevity and disease prevention, he says.

Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, dealing with stress and exercising regularly are the main ways you can help support your immune health, which brings us to four supplements you shouldn’t take for in immune health.

The 4 Supplements You Shouldn’t Take for Immune Health

Oil of Oregano

If you’ve ever gotten an immunity shot at your local juice store, you might be surprised to see oil of oregano listed as an ingredient. Yes, that’s oregano, the one we all sprinkle on pizza and pasta. Oregano oil is extracted from its leaves and is available in liquid and capsule form. According to a 2020 article published in the Metabolites, oregano oil has been used medicinally for years to treat countless ailments. It is also used as a natural food preservative due to its antioxidant and anti-microbial properties, according to a 2019 article in International Journal of Nutrition.

However, human trials are lacking on whether it is truly effective in supporting health. A 2020 meta-analysis published in Phytotherapy Research Major review animal studies have shown oregano oil to effectively reduce several inflammatory markers. However, other research, such as a 2020 in Journal of Virology, did not show an effect against influenza. Stick to sprinkling dried or fresh herbs on your food instead of taking a supplement.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver is a liquid of tiny silver particles, considered a cure-all for infections and wounds. However, health experts and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) warn against falling for its claims. Kristen Carli, MS, RD, owner of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness, states, There are many false claims about the health benefits of taking colloidal silver, particularly its antimicrobial properties. There is insufficient evidence to support these claims.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that colloidal silver is not safe and has not been proven effective or used for preventive measures. Carli added, I would caution anyone against taking colloidal silver because it can be harmful in high doses and can interact negatively with many medications.


One of the most popular ingredients you may find in cold and flu products is echinacea. Echinacea is available in almost any form – syrup, powder, throat lozenge, tea bag, capsule and gummy which makes it tempting to add one of these products to your shopping cart when your immune system could use a boost.

Echinacea comes from a plant and is valued for its infection-fighting powers, according to the NCCIH. However, Taub-Dix explained, Some people rely on echinacea, but studies have shown mixed results on whether it is reliable. Additionally, echinacea may interfere with certain health conditions such as autoimmune disorders.

A 2019 meta-analysis of 29 studies published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine no significant benefit was found when echinacea was used to prevent or treat upper respiratory infections. So, this is another skip and save from using your hard-earned dollars.

Before exercising

Moderate-to-intense exercise can help improve the function of your immune system. However, if you’re tempted to take a pre-workout-like booster before heading out the door, LeBlanc advises using it sparingly at the end of the day. “Many of them contain caffeine, which can fuel your workout, but too much can affect your sleep, leaving you restless and awake at bedtime.

LeBlanc further explained, Quality sleep is important for immune health. It allows your body to rest, repair and fight disease. Most adults need 7-9 hours a night, so if you have trouble sleeping when taking a pre-workout supplement, look for caffeine-free. Lack of sleep can disrupt the immune system and can increase your risk for not only infections but also metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Healthy Eating Tips for Your Immune Health

So, instead of taking a fistful of pills when you feel an illness coming over you, focus on loading up on foods that boast nutrients. LeBlanc says, Nutrient-rich foods, such as those high in vitamins C and D, zinc and antioxidants, serve as frontline defenders and help your body fight disease. Vitamin C is found in oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, bell peppers and broccoli. Vitamin D is found in foods such as salmon, egg yolks, yogurt and fortified milk. And lentils, chickpeas, yogurt and cashews are good sources of zinc.

Taub-Dix chimes in, You can never go wrong with adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Fruits and vegetables are full of immune-supporting nutrients and can also be considered a main entree, not just a side. To get your veggie fill, try our Sheet-Pan Ratatouille, Veggistrone or Eat-the-Rainbow Chopped Salad recipes. Smoothies also make a great way to load up on both vegetables and fruits, like our Mango & Kale Smoothie, which includes kale, mango and banana. Or start embracing fruit for its natural sweetness and try these healthy dessert alternatives, packed with immune-supporting nutrients: Pineapple Nice Cream, Baked Peaches, or Brown Sugar Broiled Grapefruit.

Whats key is not waiting until you have a cold or feel run down to start adding these foods or any supplements to your diet. Making it a habit to have these foods regularly feature in your daily diet will help you get and stay stronger year-round, adds Taub-Dix.

The Bottom Line

While it’s tempting to stock up on immune-boosting supplements, especially during cold and flu season, remember to focus on including nutrient-dense foods in your diet and avoid overusing supplements. Additionally, it’s important to be careful when choosing supplements, and you should make sure to choose a reliable brand and check with your medical provider before consuming them. Filling up on enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and protein will give you all the immune-boosting vitamins and minerals you need.

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