Since practically forever, people have been searching for ways to boost their immune systems, whether through supplements or their diet. While researchers continue to investigate just how possible that really is, the lack of scientific evidence hasn’t stopped new products from emerging, often with creative delivery systems.
A recent one is wellness shots, or immunity shots, which claim to deliver immune-boosting nutrients via a gulp or two of liquid. To clear up any confusion, the name refers to a nonalcoholic version of the kind of shot you’d order at a bar, and not the kind of shot delivered via a needle. You can find immunity and wellness shots at juice bars and in grocery stores.
Drinking a round in the name of escaping cold and flu season unscathed sounds like it could be fun, but do wellness shots actually provide any of their touted benefits? Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Wellness Shots?
Wellness or immunity shots are small, 1 or 2 ounce beverages that contain a mix of fruit or vegetable juices, apple cider vinegar, and herbs or spices, some of which have been used in traditional medicine for years. You can order them fresh at juice bars or find them prepackaged in grocery stores, from brands like Vive Organic, Elixir, Kor Shots, and So Good So You. They typically cost anywhere from $3 to as much as $12 a pop.
Wellness shots have been gaining popularity as consumers look for more out of their beverages, with a focus on immune health, according to a fall 2022 beverage industry report. A small glass of juice seems a preferable way to get your vitamins than a pill or even a gummy, and is faster than making a smoothie.
“The ease of prep, fresh flavor, and bright color makes them aesthetically pleasing,” says Marisa Moore, RDN, a culinary and integrative dietitian in Atlanta. All those qualities make them ideal for social media posts, which could be how immunity shots gained popularity.
What Health Claims Do Immunity Shots Make?
Some juice shots claim to have ingredients that support or boost your immune system. Like other foods, immunity and wellness shots can be marketed using vague health claims because they are not individually subject to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although any health claims are supposed to have been reviewed and are allowed only on foods or dietary supplements backed by scientific research, it is often the case that marketing language is exaggerated.
One of the more common claims of these products is that they will “boost immunity” or “strengthen your immune system.” “They’re implying … that these things will help you not get sick, or help you get better faster if you are sick,” says Christine Byrne, RD, an eating disorder dietitian based in Raleigh, North Carolina. But the reality, she says, is that your immune system is much more complicated than that.
Adequate vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, and calories are important for overall immunity, research in the August 2019 issue of Nutrients found. And yes, Byrne says, some nutrients have a more direct impact on the growth and function of immune cells. “But getting mega-doses of those nutrients won’t supercharge your immunity, because your body only needs — and can only use — so much.” Mayo Clinic experts point out that nothing you eat is going to kick your immune system into a higher gear.
While research shows that diet will not prevent you from catching a cold, the flu, or COVID-19, there is some evidence that a wellness or immunity shot may help ease cold or flu symptoms if they contain certain nutrients. Both vitamin C and zinc supplements have been shown to shorten the duration of a cold, provided you were supplementing before you got sick. But the dosages of the nutrients that have been studied are not the same as what you’ll find in immunity shots, and studies typically use pills, not juice.
Some wellness shots purport to help with mental clarity, energy, or general “wellness” without defining what that means. But a balanced, varied diet will help your body maintain all aspects of its functions, and a juice shot is not going to be the make-or-break factor in whether your diet, or you, are healthy, Byrne says. “Diet plays an important role in immunity and overall health, but it’s not the end-all, be-all,” says Byrne. “There’s no food or diet out there that will prevent all sickness and disease, and there are so many other factors — many of which are out of an individual’s control — that play a role in your immunity and well-being.”
What Should You Look For in a Wellness Shot?
To determine if a juice shot is worth the hype, check the ingredients list, and focus on the first one listed, says Moore. “Because ingredients are listed by weight, know that the first ingredient is the bulk of the wellness shot,” she explains. “[But] unless you’re making it yourself, it may be difficult to determine just how much turmeric, for example, you’re getting and whether it’s enough to provide a benefit.”
The following ingredients have been well-researched, and may be a good addition to a wellness shot.
- Turmeric This bold yellow root has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which can help reduce stress, according to a study published in the February 2019 European Journal of Nutrition. It is important to note, however, that the study used supplements, and those same amounts may not be achievable in the volume of a juice shot. Turmeric has also been shown to reduce inflammation, and thus reduce the risk of some chronic diseases, in a study published in the May 2021 Journal of Clinical and Translational Research.
- Ginger Compounds in this spicy root have the potential to reduce inflammation, according to a study published in October 2022 in Molecules, though more research is needed. Ginger also was found to aid digestion and reduce nausea in a systematic review published in the November 2018 Food Science & Nutrition.
- Oregano oil Essential oils from the herb oregano have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, research has shown. In addition to a slightly bitter taste, however, other research has found that oregano oil may act as a diuretic and can cause stomach upset in some people. Some people are allergic to it, and it should not be consumed by anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Vitamin C Participants in one study who consumed 0.2 grams (g) per day or more of this antioxidant (sometimes listed as ascorbic acid on labels) shortened the severity and duration of colds. Researchers concluded that the right amount is fairly easy to get from diet alone. Ingredients that are high in vitamin C include kiwi, strawberries, and orange or grapefruit juice.
- Zinc Zinc lozenges are one of the few natural remedies for which there’s evidence they prevent and shorten the common cold, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in November 2021 in BMJ Open. Zinc can have some unpleasant side effects and medication interactions, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), so talk to your doctor before taking it.
What Are the Potential Side Effects or Risks of Wellness Shots?
While fruits, vegetables, and herbs can all be part of a healthy diet, you shouldn’t rely on juice alone for your nutritional needs, Moore says. “Wellness shots are not miracle workers. Assuming that one shot is all you need to be well or that it’s a magic bullet would be a mistake. Good health requires a number of regular practices and nutrients best found in a balanced diet.
“Avoid products that claim to cure an ailment or disease or that show other red flags in their marketing or labeling,” advises Moore. “In reality, they are not all created equal. There can be differences in ingredient variety, quantity, and quality that can impact effectiveness.”
As with supplements, some ingredients interfere with medications. A shot high in grapefruit juice, for example, can make hormonal birth control less effective, per the FDA. And Moore notes that wellness shots may contain unpasteurized juice, which should be avoided by pregnant people, young children, and anyone with a compromised immune system, per FoodSafety.gov. If you fall into one of those categories, talk to your doctor before incorporating a wellness shot into your routine.
Wellness shots may have an unanticipated side effect: “Some have apple cider vinegar, and that is something I would be wary of, not because of anything with your immunity, but because it can really wreak havoc on your teeth,” says Byrne. The acidity of the vinegar may damage your enamel, as some research indicates.
Bottom Line: Should You Take a Wellness Shot?
If you’re an already-healthy adult, there’s not much harm that can come from incorporating a shot of juice and herbs or spices into your routine. But there’s no proof that a wellness shot will improve your overall health or wellness. These shots may have ingredients that can be beneficial, but because of their small size, you may not get enough of them to make a difference. A well-balanced diet rich in fruits and veggies will take you a lot farther toward your overall health goals.
Similarly, when it comes to immunity, the best forms of prevention include regularly washing your hands and getting the annual flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine, proven ways to reduce your risk of getting these illnesses, and making them less severe if you do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nutritious food, stress reduction, exercise, and enough sleep will help you stay healthy, so that if you do get sick, your body will be in good shape to fight the illness.
“Wellness shots aren’t really worth it for the cost,” says Byrne. “They’re incredibly expensive for what they are: basically some fruit juice and spices mixed together. So you could just make a fruit-and-vegetable juice at home. Orange juice is the one I recommend — it’s so accessible and inexpensive. You don’t need to be using acai and other expensive ‘wellness’ stuff.”
If you’re eating a varied diet and don’t have other health issues, you likely don’t need expensive supplements or juice shots. And if you’re lacking in certain nutrients and want to supplement, you’re probably better off getting an inexpensive, third-party tested multivitamin, which will contain a far wider array of vitamins and minerals than a juice shot, Byrne adds. Still, if you want to give a wellness shot a try, start by making your own.
How to Make a Wellness Shot
The biggest benefit of juice shots is the nutrients you get from the fresh fruits and vegetables in them. So if you want to incorporate juice shots into your routine, making them fresh at home is a cost-effective way to do so. “You can definitely make them at home if you have a good juicer, which saves money and cuts down on single-use plastic,” says Robin Foroutan, RDN, an integrative dietitian and a faculty member at the Integrative & Functional Nutrition Academy in Garden City, New York. If you don’t have a juicer, Foroutan says you can put the ingredients into a blender and strain them through cheesecloth. You can enjoy immunity shots straight or added to a mug of hot water like a tea.
News Source: https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/can-wellness-shots-boost-immunity-or-are-they-just-juice/