What Foods Support The Immune System
Fruits and vegetables can help to support the normal functioning of the immune system, thanks to their vitamin content.
Citrus fruits such as grapefruits and oranges are high in vitamin C, and broccoli is packed full of vitamins and minerals, as well as containing vitamins A, C and E, fibre and antioxidants.
Diet And Your Immune System
Like any fighting force, the immune system army marches on its stomach. Healthy immune system warriors need good, regular nourishment. Scientists have long recognized that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. For example, researchers don’t know whether any particular dietary factors, such as processed foods or high simple sugar intake, will have adversely affect immune function. There are still relatively few studies of the effects of nutrition on the immune system of humans.
There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies for example, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E alter immune responses in animals, as measured in the test tube. However, the impact of these immune system changes on the health of animals is less clear, and the effect of similar deficiencies on the human immune response has yet to be assessed.
So, what can you do? If you suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs maybe, for instance, you don’t like vegetables taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may bring other health benefits, beyond any possibly beneficial effects on the immune system. Taking megadoses of a single vitamin does not. More is not necessarily better.
Vitamin D And Protective Immunity
Vitamin D has been used to treat infections such as tuberculosis before the advent of effective antibiotics. Tuberculosis patients were sent to sanatoriums where treatment included exposure to sunlight which was thought to directly kill the tuberculosis. Cod liver oil, a rich source of vitamin D has also been employed as a treatment for tuberculosis as well as for general increased protection from infections.
Results of studies looking at potential benefits of administering vitamin D to decrease infection have not been consistent, most likely secondary to a number of methodologic concerns. One recent well-designed prospective, double blind placebo study using an objective outcome, nasopharyngeal swab culture , and a therapeutic dose of vitamin D showed that vitamin D administration resulted in a statistically significant decrease in the incidence of influenza infection.
The beneficial effects of vitamin D on protective immunity are due in part to its effects on the innate immune system. It is known that macrophages recognize lipopolysacharide LPS, a surrogate for bacterial infection, through toll like receptors . Engagement of TLRs leads to a cascade of events that produce peptides with potent bacterialcidal activity such as cathelocidin and beta defensin 4. These peptides colocalize within phagosomes with injested bacteria where they disrupt bacterial cell membranes and have potent anti-microbacterial activity .
Don’t Miss: Does Vitamin D Make You Tired
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
What Supplements Should I Take For Coronavirus
- The recent COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak causes a variety of telltale signs and symptoms, ranging from fever and dry cough, to more extreme symptoms requiring immediate medical help such as difficulty breathing and confusion.
- We do not currently have any antiviral medications that specifically cure or treat COVID-19, so treatment will usually involve managing symptoms with supportive treatments.
- COVID-19vaccines are now available in order to help protect you from becoming infected with the virus.
- If you have relatively mild COVID-19 symptoms and dont have any other medical conditions that would put you at high risk for developing complications of COVID-19 , these vitamins and supplements might help strengthen your immune system to fight coronavirus.
- It is important to note that no vitamin or supplement can cure COVID-19, nor is there solid evidence any non-FDA-approved vitamin or supplement has any effect on COVID-19. Immune supporting effects of supplements and vitamins in the context of the coronavirus is theoretical.
- Vitamins and supplements may interact with one another in your system and with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Notify your doctor about all the drugs and supplements you are taking, and do not start a vitamin regimen without consulting your physician.
Read Also: Does Vitamin D Help With Constipation
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.
Too Much Of A Good Thing: Overdoing Vitamin D
It’s important to not overdo vitamin D supplements since taking unsafe amounts of it can have negative effects on your health, like kidney problems, kidney stones, or hypercalcemia, a toxic condition where there is too much calcium in the blood. Generally, taking more than 4,000 IU per day is considered too much.
This is why it’s important to talk to your doctor before you take a supplement, and also ask for a test. If you think you get a decent amount of sun, eat foods with vitamin D regularly, and your levels are healthy, your doctor will likely say you don’t need any extra.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
Also Check: How Much Is 1000 Mg Of Vitamin C
Cut Back On Hand Sanitizer
Yes, hand sanitizer is known for killing germs that cause illness. But studies have shown that only hand sanitizers with 60 to 95 percent alcohol are effective at killing germs. Those with lower alcohol concentrations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control states, may cause germs to become resistant to the sanitizing agent. Plus, hand sanitizers are less effective at bacterial removal compared to regular soap and water.
Tip to remember: Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. In circumstances when you cant wash your hands, opt for hand sanitizer. Just dont swap the antibacterial for soap.
Sunlight Exposure And Vitamin D
Vitamin D is associated with the sun for a reason — your body can produce its own vitamin D when you expose your skin to the sun for a period of time. About 15 minutes of sun exposure per day is what many experts say is sufficient to make vitamin D. This means you want to have a good amount of skin uncovered by clothing or sunscreen since those things inhibit Vitamin D production, according to Tolentino.
How much sun you should get is also a bit complicated. “UVB radiation from the sun triggers vitamin D synthesis in our bodies, but there are a lot of factors to consider here,” says Tolentino
She continues, “Where you live , sunscreen usage and coverage and the amount of melanin in your skin can all impact vitamin D absorption. That makes it really difficult to provide generalized guidelines for the appropriate amount of sun exposure. What may be a sufficient or healthy amount of time in the sun with no sun protection for one person might not be advisable for another person.”
You body can easily absorb a liquid vitamin D or tincture since you can take the drops under your tongue.
Also Check: What Should Vitamin D Levels Be
Watch: How Your Immune System Helps Fight Viruses
We spoke to Philip Calder, professor of nutritional immunology at the University of Southampton and president of the Nutrition Society.
Its important to try and eat as well as possible. This means limiting your intake of free sugars, salt and saturated fat, plus every day eating:
- a variety of fruit and vegetables each day at least five portions
- starchy carbohydrates, choosing wholegrain and higher fibre versions as much as possible
- protein-rich foods, including beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat
- dairy or fortified dairy alternatives.
These foods should give you all the nutrients you need to keep your immune system functioning well.
How To Get Enough Vitamin D
Our bodies create vitamin D when we soak up UV rays from the sun. Unfortunately, there are very few food sources of vitamin D, and most people don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun to meet their needs, especially in the winter. Vitamin D deficiency is very common among breastfed infants, older adults, people with limited sun exposure, people with dark skin , people with fat malabsorption, and people who have a BMI greater than 30 or who have undergone gastric bypass surgery.
If you have access to regular sunlight, the recommendation is to get 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure 3 to 4 days per week. Exposure in the morning or late afternoon provides a good source of vitamin D and is less damaging to the skin.
If you fall into one of the categories of people at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency or if you’ve been diagnosed with a deficiency, you’re a good candidate for a supplement. Vitamin D is among the very few nutrients that we recommend getting from supplements, especially if you don’t get much sun exposure. Most adults need 15 mcg or 600 IUs daily, although some experts recommend more than that.
You May Like: What’s The Best Time To Take Vitamin C
Build Your Daily Pack
To ensure youre getting enough vitamin D, make sure youre getting regular exposure to sunlight or eating foods rich in vitamin D like fish, eggs, dairy, or fortified foods. If you think you may not be getting the necessary levels, you can fill the gap by taking vitamin D in tablet form. Just make sure to look for vitamin D3, rather than D2. A 2012 study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indicates that vitamin D3 is more effective at raising the blood levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D3 has become more popular in pill form, but many foods are still fortified with vitamin D2.
Ways To Boost Your Immune System & Stop Sickness In Its Tracks
Do you realize how astounding your immune system is? Its your bodys natural shield against flu, colds, strep throat, fever and other sicknesses. No matter what time of year it is, your body can be susceptible to germs and bacteria that make you sick. And no one wants to be sick.
That doesnt mean, however, that you should sit back and wait for the inevitable. Be proactive. By naturally boosting your immune system now, you can avoid a nasty illness this year.
Just follow these tips:
Read Also: How Much Vitamin C For A Dog With Cancer
The Science Behind Vitamin A And Immunity
Vitamin A strengthens both the innate and adaptive immune systems of the body. The innate immune response protects the skin, eyes, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and reproductive organs. The adaptive immune system produces antibodies that attack foreign invaders . Carotenoids are also powerful antioxidants that help the body fight inflammation. Like most nutrients for immune health, the best way to get your vitamin A is from food, rather than supplements.
Vitamin A supplementation is especially prone to causing toxicity, and over-supplementation can actually weaken the immune system. The good news? Food sources of vitamin A are safe and effective for meeting your daily needs. Plus, they’re colorful and delicious!
What Can Happen If You Are Deficient In Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiencies can mean your immune system is more vulnerable, but there are some other important conditions to know about too.
“Severe vitamin D deficiency can lead to a condition called rickets in children, and osteomalacia in adults. Osteomalacia is the softening and weakening of bones, and symptoms include joint and bone pain, muscle weakness, difficulty walking and bones that are easily fractured,” Tolentino says.
Another connection that scientists are researching is the link between mood disorders and vitamin D deficiency. Many studies have looked at depression risk specifically, like this one that found a link between vitamin D deficiency and risk for depression in older adults. In another study, adults with depression were given vitamin D supplementation and it did help improve symptoms in many of them.
Also Check: How Much Vitamin D Do Kids Need
Healthy Ways To Strengthen Your Immune System
Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system working properly. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as these:
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Try to minimize stress.
- Keep current with all recommended vaccines. Vaccines prime your immune system to fight off infections before they take hold in your body.
Effects On Adaptive Immune
Vitamin A metabolites can also affect some aspects of the adaptive immune response . Retinoic acid enhances cytotoxicity and T-cell proliferation, the latter probably mediated, at least in part, by enhancing IL-2 secretion and signalling in T cells. Consistent with an in vivo role for vitamin A in T-cell function, vitamin A-deficient mice have defects in TH-cell activity. A possible mechanism for this observation is that in the setting of vitamin A deficiency, retinoic acid does not compete with 1,252VD3 for their common nuclear binding partner RXR and, therefore, the inhibitory effects of 1,252VD3 on T-cell function are not offset by retinoic acid.
Effects of vitamin A metabolites on gut mucosal immunity
Retinoic acid can inhibit B-cell proliferation,, although it has also been found to enhance B-cell activation under some conditions,. In addition, retinoic acid inhibits B-cell apoptosis. These effects are mediated through binding of vitamin A metabolites to RAR receptors.
Recommended Reading: Should You Take Vitamin D In The Summer
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 .
Light And Social Smoking Carry Cardiovascular Risks
Light smoking isn’t as bad as heavy smoking, but it still harms the heart and body. If you quit smoking completely, your health will benefit.
I’m not really a smoker. I only smoke a few cigarettes a day, or when I go out on the weekend.” This thought process is common among light smokers. However, if you think you are doing your heart and lungs a favor by smoking only “a little,” think again.
Light or intermittent smoking may be safer for you than heavy smoking, but they still cause plenty of harm. Quitting smoking completely is the best action for your help.Public health campaigns have reduced the number of American adults who smoke. Along with that decline has come an increase in the number of light and now-and-then smokers.
Experts long believed that smokers used light or intermittent smoking as a bridge to quitting smoking completely. But it’s becoming clear that more and more smokers continue this pattern indefinitely almost one-quarter of all smokers today fall into these categories.
Light smokers and intermittent smokers often fly under the radar of doctors and others in a position to help them quit smoking completely. When asked “Are you a smoker?” or “Do you smoke?” they often answer “No.”
You May Like: What Kind Of Vitamins Should Women Take