Forget vitamins: Fauci’s 3 top tips to keep your immune system strong

Forget vitamins: Fauci’s 3 top tips to keep your immune system strong



Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci supplements his diet with two vitamins: C and D.
  • For the general public, he recommends getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding or alleviating stress as the three most potent ways to keep your immune system strong. 
  • “That is much more healthy living than giving yourself supplements of anything,” he said. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is, at this point in the pandemic, getting used to having his words twisted around into things he never really said.

“Always, always it’ll get taken out of context and misconstrued,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said during our recent lunchtime chat. “I’ve gotten used to living with that.”

Recently, the issue came up when he told the actress Jennifer Garner that he takes two supplements: vitamin D and vitamin C.

“If people want to take a gram or so of vitamin C, that would be fine,” he said at the time. 

Certain corners of the internet started touting his words as evidence that he knows something we don’t, as if he were hiding information about a silver bullet.

But he was not mandating the practice for the general public, nor was he suggesting popping vitamins is a surefire way to avoid getting sick. Rather, he said, he was just answering a question.

“I had made it very clear when people asked about what vitamins I take, and I try to explain it,” Fauci said.

If you ask him, Fauci will still say, without question, the best ways to control the pandemic are the measures he’s been recommending endlessly for months: good hand hygiene, mask-wearing, and social distancing.

For some people, adding a little extra vitamin D might make sense.

‘There is good evidence that if you have a low vitamin D level, you have more of a propensity to get infected’

Fauci Baseball

Rob Carr/Staff/Getty Images


“Sometimes people when they don’t get out in the sun a lot, they’re deficient in vitamin D — so my vitamin D level was generally low,” Fauci said. “I started taking vitamin D supplements, and now my vitamin D level is normal.”

We know from many scientific studies that being deficient in vitamin D can put you at greater risk of infection, and that finding has held true again during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is good evidence that if you have a low vitamin D level, that you have more of a propensity to get infected when there are infections around,” Fauci said. “Those data are pretty good data.”

In addition to reducing inflammation in the body, vitamin D also helps our bodies absorb calcium, keeping bones healthy and strong, so it’s good for people of all ages and colors to make sure they’re getting enough.

But that doesn’t mean everyone needs to run out and get a multivitamin. Most health experts agree those are virtually useless pills.

“When you talk about the multiple multivitamins and the herbs and the things that people do to so-called boost immunity, that really doesn’t boost immunity and may have a better placebo effect than anything else,” Fauci said. 

You can get the vitamin C you need from a cup of strawberries or raw green peppers 

panzanella salad

From_my_point_of_view/Getty Images

Vitamin C, like vitamin D, is another powerful nutrient. It helps our body absorb iron.

But the amount that Fauci suggests (1,000 milligrams) is a little high for most people — especially if you’re eating some fruits and veggies every day and not just having pizza for lunch.

Both the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health say a more moderate dose of about 100 mg of vitamin C a day should be sufficient for most people (though experts agree that anything under 2,000 milligrams won’t really hurt you.)

In other words, you can basically get what you need from a cup of strawberries, a few handfuls of raw green bell peppers, or 2 cups of cooked kale.

Some researchers in China have recently been testing if giving people high doses of vitamin C might help when they are fighting coronavirus infections, but the results aren’t conclusive yet. 

For most of us, eating a moderate amount of fresh produce and getting in the sun regularly are probably good enough. (But ask your doctor if you’re really worried about it.)

If you want to do more of the things that may help prevent infections before they start, scientifically speaking, then popping vitamins is not the way to go.

“If you really want to keep your immune system working optimally, there are things that you do that are normal things,” Fauci said.

Fauci’s top 3 immunity tips:

1. “Get a reasonable amount of sleep.”

For most of us, that’s seven to eight hours of pillow time a night. 

2. “Get a good diet.”

All those vitamin-rich fruits and veggies mentioned above will help.

Generally, leaning into to a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, fish, and some fruit, is a great place to start. 

3. “Try to avoid or alleviate severe stress, which we know can sometimes impact the immune system.”

Some of the best (and simplest) homegrown ways to counter stress include getting regular exercise, meditating, practicing deep breathing, relaxing into a hot bath, receiving a massage, listening to music, spending time alone, and hanging out with your favorite person or pooch. 

“That is much more healthy living than giving yourself supplements of anything,” Fauci said of his three tips. 

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Anthony Fauci
Public Health
Immune System

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