The Immune System Basics
The main purpose of your immune system is to protect your body from viruses and bacteria.
Without it, they would have free reign and you would be constantly falling ill.
Your immune system works by recognising the difference between your bodys cells and alien cells, allowing it to destroy any that could be potentially harmful.
This usually works well but can cause problems if your immune system wrongly classifies some of your own cells and attacks them instead.
The Importance Of Balance
Instead of concentrating on boosting the immune system, a more useful approach might be to think about balance, as a healthy immune system is one that sits in balance.
We can think about the immune system as a scale running from underactive to overactive. We know that an immune system that is not functioning properly is a bad thing for example it plays an important role in HIV and Malaria. But at the other extreme, an overactive immune system can start targeting our own cells.
In extreme cases, this causes autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. But an overly vigorous immune response can also cause inflammation which can be thought of as collateral damage, or friendly fire, from the war between the immune system and invading pathogens.
Serious illnesses and deaths caused by infections are often due to damage that comes from an over-vigorous immune response.
Support Your Immune Function With Good Nutrition
One of the most valuable things you have is your health. As a dietitian, I have received numerous queries about recommended foods, supplements and diet patterns to boost immune function. While it is true that nutrition plays a large role in immune function, diet recommendations for the prevention of acute illnesses, like COVID-19 and other viruses, don’t look a whole lot different than general guidelines for healthy eating.
I’ll start by saying that the concept of boosting the immune system through diet is flawed, as boosting refers to something that is stimulated above the normal level. A good diet cannot boost the immune system, but it’s important to maintain a functional immune system by avoiding immunodeficiency due to malnutrition or micronutrient deficiencies.
It’s important to note that no single food or nutrient will prevent illness. Also, the immune system is incredibly complex and influenced by a variety of other factors, including stress level, age, sleep and other medical conditions.
A few key micronutrients have been identified as critical for the growth and function of immune cells, including:
Need a multivitamin or mineral supplement?
A general multivitamin or mineral supplement providing no more than 100% of your recommended daily allowance can be used and is generally safe for many people. Your health care provider may recommend further supplementation based on your lab values or medical status.
GRILLED COD WITH CRISPY CITRUS SALADServing: 2
Read Also: How Much Zinc Is In One A Day Vitamins
Dont Let Yourself Freeze
Mom was right: Youre more likely to catch an infection if youespecially your extremitiesare cold. In one study, 90 people kept their feet in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes and the same number put their feet in an empty container for a similar length of time. Five days later, 20 per cent of people with chilled feet had developed colds compared with 9 per cent of those whose feet stayed warm. Having cold extremities seems to reduce the supply of white blood cells, the immune systems first line of defense against invaders.
Vitamin D And Immune Health
Research shows that vitamin D plays an important role in immune function, and a deficiency in it is shown to increase your susceptibility to infection. “Some studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is even associated with greater risk of self-reported upper respiratory tract infections,” Tolentino says. Further, “low serum levels of calcidiol are also associated with higher susceptibility to infections like tuberculosis, influenza, and viral infections of the upper respiratory tract,” Tolentino says.
One of the main functions of vitamin D is to help activate T cells, aka the “killer cells” in the body. T cells actually detect and destroy foreign pathogens — like viruses. “That makes vitamin D especially crucial for maintaining a functioning immune system that’s capable of fighting back foreign pathogens,” Tolentino says.
It’s important to know that although the coronavirus does affect the respiratory system, researchers and doctors know little about how vitamin D affects your risk of catching COVID-19 at this time. The best ways to reduce your risk of being infected with the coronavirus is to follow CDC and WHO guidelines, what your local officials say and to take care of your health as much as you can overall. Vitamin D is known to help the immune system, which is promising for protecting you from many different types of illness.
Exposing your skin to the sun is one way to get vitamin D.
Also Check: Is Eliquis A Vitamin K Antagonist
Try Supplements To Boost Immune System Function
By combining immune system support supplements with lifestyle changes, you can help promote immunity. Although no supplement on its own is ever100 percent effective, the following supplements have shown promising results in scientific studies as supporters of multiple aspects of immune function:
- Elderberry. Elderberries are natural sources of antioxidants. In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that elderberry may help the immune system fight off viruses and colds more quickly.
- Vitamin C. This essential vitamin acts as an antioxidant and is required for immune function. One large study found that taking vitamin C helped to shorten the length of colds.
- Zinc. The immune system uses this essential mineral to heal wounds and respond to threats. Studies have revealed that zinc supplements may help to reduce the length of colds.
- Vitamin D. This essential vitamin acts more like a pro-hormone and, among its other well-known benefits, directly stimulates the function of immune cells. Plus, the sunshine vitamin tends to be more deficient in fall and winter, so its important to boost levels.
- Yeast beta-glucans. These substances derived from yeast activate the immune system in the digestive tract. Since 70% or more of the immune system is located in the digestive tract, these molecules help increase immune vigilance and detection capabilities.
How Does Vitamin C Boost Your Immunity And Improve Your Health
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that assists in the formation and maintenance of bones, blood vessels, and skin while strengthening your immunity. This nutrient is found naturally in several foods, especially in fruits and vegetables. Additionally, vitamin C supplements are also available.
As one could expect, COVID-19 has forced people to focus more on protecting themselves from illnesses and infections by strengthening their immunity. This article reviews the impact vitamin C has on your immunity and health.
Vitamin C An Essential Nutrient
Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid is a water-soluble nutrient and antioxidant that can neutralize unstable compounds and help prevent or reverse cellular damage in our bodies. It is also involved in various biochemical processes related to immune health.
Major benefits of Vitamin C include:
The Impact of Vitamin C on Immunity
Vitamin C is a critical micronutrient. It contributes to your immune defense system by supporting multiple cellular functions of your bodys adaptive immune systems. Being an antioxidant, it can also fight free radicals in the body, thereby decreasing inflammation and boosting immunity. It can keep your skin healthy and enable it to act as a barrier against toxic compounds entering your body.
Read Also: Does Vitamin C Help With Immune System
Eat Foods With Certain Nutrients
Being malnourished is one way to hurt your immune system. It needs lots of nutrients and vitamins to be as strong as possible. Make sure your diet includes moderate amounts of the following vitamins:
- Vitamin E
Tip to remember: In a broader scope, having a well-rounded diet filled with fruits and vegetables is always a good route to take to strengthen your immune system.
Maintain A Healthy Diet
As with most things in your body, a healthy diet is key to a strong immune system. This means making sure you eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.
In addition to providing your immune system the energy it needs, a healthy diet can help ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts of the micronutrients that play a role in maintaining your immune system, including:
- Vitamin B6, found in chicken, salmon, tuna, bananas, green vegetables and potatoes
- Vitamin C, found in citrus fruit, including oranges and strawberries, as well as tomatoes, broccoli and spinach
- Vitamin E, found in almonds, sunflower and safflower oil, sunflower seeds, peanut butter and spinach
Since experts believe that your body absorbs vitamins more efficiently from dietary sources, rather than supplements, the best way to support your immune system is to eat a well-balanced diet.
Also Check: Do Prenatal Vitamins Replace Multivitamins
Do Vitamins Play A Role In Immunity
The novel coronavirus is sweeping the world, and as a result, everyone is searching for ways to protect themselves and their loved ones. Many people have been buying supplements and vitamins, particularly so-called âimmune-boostingâ supplements, to try and stay healthy.â
Vitamins play a central role in helping our immune systems protect against infection and fight disease. Vitamins A, C, E, and B6 all support healthy, normal immune responses to pathogens like viruses, as do minerals like folic acid, zinc, selenium, iron, and copper.
Deficiencies of these nutrients can leave us more susceptible to infections or less able to shake off illness.
So, should we all be taking supplements to make sure weâre getting enough of these vital vitamins to keep our immune systems working properly? â
Itâs important to note that people with medically diagnosed vitamin deficiencies can benefit from appropriate supplements prescribed by a registered professional such as a physician or registered dietitian. â
For example, the CDC currently recommends vitamin D for breast-fed babies, and for children under 2 if they donât eat many vitamin D-rich foods.
As for most of the rest of the population? Unfortunately, vitamin supplements arenât the easy immunity solution that they might seem. â
How To Choose A Supplement
The FDA licenses various supplements. However, some of them are not held to the same safety standards as pharmaceuticals. Therefore, if you wish to take a vitamin C supplement, you should ensure that its a high-quality one bought from reliable sources. You should also have a clear idea about the dosage and choose supplements that have been tested by reputable companies. It is best to consult your doctor before you opt for a vitamin C or a multivitamin supplement.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient that keeps the immune system functioning properly. Most adults need 90 mg of vitamin C per day. To get enough of it in your diet, ensure you eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. Fruits rich in vitamin C include cantaloupe, orange, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits, kiwis, mangos, papayas, pineapples, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, certain peppers. spinach, tomatoes, and potatoes are some vegetables rich in vitamin C.
If you are suffering from vitamin C deficiency or need advice on increasing your immunity, visit the 8-2-8 Urgent Care walk-in clinic in Oceanside, CA. Our medical team will provide an effective solution to ensure an adequate vitamin C intake and strengthen your immunity.
Cansupplements Help Your Immunity
While vitamins andsupplements can help fill in the gaps in your diet, the best way to load up onessential nutrients is to get them straight from food.
Your body absorbs and usesvitamins and nutrients better when they come from a dietarysource. When its a vitamin or supplement, its often questionablehow much youre actually getting. Because supplements are regulated asfoods, not as drugs, the Food and Drug Administration doesnt evaluate thequality of supplements or assess their effects on the body.
Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions. And the effects of many supplements havent been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups.
Its especially important to avoid taking vitamin E supplements. Not only is there little clinical research showing that vitamin E supplements benefit your health, but they may also be harmful in some situations.
For these reasons, expertssay its best to get vitamins through food rather than supplements.
Talk with yourhealthcare provider if youre thinking about taking dietary supplements,Zumpano says.
Best Vitamin C Dosage For The Immune System
According to Dr. Wilson, getting 500 to 2000 mg of daily vitamin C is sufficient for basic support. However, when you’re facing an immune system challenge, your needs for vitamin C may increase, and you may need to provide your body with higher doses of vitamin C to support immune health and function.
You May Like: What Does Vitamin D Do To You
What Can You Do To Boost Your Immune System
The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. For now, there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function.
But that doesn’t mean the effects of lifestyle on the immune system aren’t intriguing and shouldn’t be studied. Researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors on the immune response, both in animals and in humans. In the meantime, general healthy-living strategies make sense since they likely help immune function and they come with other proven health benefits.
Immunity in action. A healthy immune system can defeat invading pathogens as shown above, where two bacteria that cause gonorrhea are no match for the large phagocyte, called a neutrophil, that engulfs and kills them .
How To Support The Immune System With Supplements
For the immune system to hit peak performance, it needs good, regular nourishment.
So, its understandable that eating a diet lacking in essential nutrients is connected with a higher risk of getting some health conditions.
If your diet isnt providing you with the micronutrients you need, supplements, such as multivitamins, offer additional support to your immune system.
Handpicked content:How to choose the best multivitamin for you
This also applies to probiotics and prebiotics. Is your gut getting sufficient supplies of these nutrients from your diet?
If not, adding a probiotic or prebiotic supplement can help to bolster your gut microbiome. This offers extra benefits to your immunity too.
Also Check: Does Vitamin B Keep Mosquitoes Away
Improve Immunity With Herbs And Supplements
Walk into a store, and you will find bottles of pills and herbal preparations that claim to “support immunity” or otherwise boost the health of your immune system. Although some preparations have been found to alter some components of immune function, thus far there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where you are better protected against infection and disease. Demonstrating whether an herb or any substance, for that matter can enhance immunity is, as yet, a highly complicated matter. Scientists don’t know, for example, whether an herb that seems to raise the levels of antibodies in the blood is actually doing anything beneficial for overall immunity.
The Five Top Vitamins To Boost Your Immune System
Here you can find the 4 vitamins that boost your immune system. Not only should you take them when youre sick, but also before getting ill. This way, your body will be strong and your defenses will avoid possible contagious diseases.
Don’t Miss: Do Lipotropic Vitamin B12 Injections Work
Can Vitamin Supplements Boost Immunity Against Coronavirus Which Vitamins Can I Take To Avoid Or Fight Covid
We all know that vitamins and minerals are vital for our immune systems. But which vitamins should you take to boost your immunity against the novel coronavirus? Is there any evidence that these supplements work? And even if they don’t, what’s the harm?
Supplements To Support Immune Health
With so many supplements claiming to boost your immune system, it can be hard to know whats going to actually work for you. Dont settle for just any supplementmake what you opt for ones that have evidence to back up the claims. Here are supplements with science to support their role in immune health.
Can You Really Boost Your Immune System
Jun 01, 2020Cedars-Sinai Staff
The idea of boosting your immune system is appealing, but is it even possible to build up your immune system so that you rarely get sick?
Dr. Suzanne Cassel, an immunologist at Cedars-Sinai, says that the concept of boosting your immune system is inaccurate. There’s also widely held confusion about how your immune system functions and how your body is designed to combat diseases and infections.
“You actually don’t want your immune system to be stronger, you want it to be balanced.”
Helpful Ways To Strengthen Your Immune System And Fight Off Disease
How can you improve your immune system? On the whole, your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against disease-causing microorganisms. But sometimes it fails: A germ invades successfully and makes you sick. Is it possible to intervene in this process and boost your immune system? What if you improve your diet? Take certain vitamins or herbal preparations? Make other lifestyle changes in the hope of producing a near-perfect immune response?
You May Like: Is Vitamin D Good For Your Prostate