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 Should You Use Dietary Supplements For Infectious & Immune Health
Dietary supplements can help make sure you meet the daily requirement of key vitamins and minerals to support a healthy and effective immune system. You should always speak with a physician before taking a dietary supplement. For most dietary supplements, its generally recommended to take 1 to 2 capsules, tablets, or chews a day.
Some supplements for immune support suggest taking the supplement more frequently during the onset of illness to provide the immune system with more immediate support. For example, taking a supplement rich in zinc can help boost the immune system response, especially in immunocompromised people such as the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.
Stress And Immune Function
Modern medicine has come to appreciate the closely linked relationship of mind and body. A wide variety of maladies, including stomach upset, hives, and even heart disease, are linked to the effects of emotional stress. Despite the challenges, scientists are actively studying the relationship between stress and immune function.
For one thing, stress is difficult to define. What may appear to be a stressful situation for one person is not for another. When people are exposed to situations they regard as stressful, it is difficult for them to measure how much stress they feel, and difficult for the scientist to know if a person’s subjective impression of the amount of stress is accurate. The scientist can only measure things that may reflect stress, such as the number of times the heart beats each minute, but such measures also may reflect other factors.
Most scientists studying the relationship of stress and immune function, however, do not study a sudden, short-lived stressor rather, they try to study more constant and frequent stressors known as chronic stress, such as that caused by relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, or sustained challenges to perform well at one’s work. Some scientists are investigating whether ongoing stress takes a toll on the immune system.
Despite these inevitable difficulties in measuring the relationship of stress to immunity, scientists are making progress.
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What Is The Immune System
The immune system is made up of a number of different organs, cells and proteins within the body, which all work together to protect the body from invasion from bacteria and viruses.
There are two different parts that make up the immune system. The innate immune system is the one which you are born with, and the adaptive immune system is the one which you develop as you are exposed to microbes.
These two parts work together to protect you from infections and viruses.
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Vitamin D And Autoimmune Disease
There is increasing epidemiologic evidence linking vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis , rheumatoid arthritis , diabetes mellitus , inflammatory bowel disease and systemic lupus erythematosus (reviewed in reference. Reports of low serum vitamin D predicting development of autoimmune disease in the future have been published for MS, autoimmune DM and RA. There is also data linking decreased in utero exposure to vitamin D and islet cell autoimmunity. Lower in utero exposure assessed by a lower maternal intake of vitamin D during pregnancy in women whose prospective child was at risk of developing autoimmune DM is associated with a statistically increased risk of the child developing pancreatic autoimmunity.
Vitamin D has also been shown to facilitate progression of existing autoimmune disease. In one study, 161 patients with an early undifferentiated connective tissue disease were followed for a mean of over 2 years. Most patients did not progress and remained in an undifferentiated state. Thirty-five patients went on to develop a defined rheumatologic diagnosis including RA, SLE, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, and Sjogrens Disease while 126 did not progress. Baseline characteristics of the two groups were similar. Importantly, the mean vitamin D level was significantly lower in the group that progressed to a definitive disease.
Reap The Health Benefits Of B Vitamins
Good nutrition is tied to good health, as well as to the prevention and treatment of many conditions. Getting the recommended amounts of vitamins each day is an important part of the nutrition equation, and B vitamins are essential for preventive care. Abundant in green vegetables, whole or enriched grains, dairy, and meats, B vitamins help promote a healthy metabolism and are also linked to a reduced risk of stroke, research shows.
Take vitamin B12, for example. According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin, plays a significant role in nerve function, the formation of red blood cells, and the production of DNA. While most people get plenty of vitamin B12 benefits in a varied, balanced diet, if you are on a vegan or vegetarian diet, you are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Also, elderly adults and people with GI disorders lack adequate B12.
- Weakened immune system
Its been known that some people with B vitamin deficiencies experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Folate is in the forefront of mood management. Findings show that many people with depression have lower levels of folate in the blood. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, peanuts, and other legumes, and citrus fruits. The Food and Drug Administration began requiring manufacturers to add folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, cornmeal, pasta, rice, and other grain products in 1998.
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Effects Of Antioxidant Vitamins On Immunity
It has been known for more than 30 years that some vitamins with antioxidant properties, including vitamin A, vitamin B6 , vitamin C and particularly vitamin E, have protective effects on animal models of atherosclerosis and ischaemia-reperfusion injury . Vitamin E collectively refers to eight related compounds , of which -tocopherol has the greatest bioavailability and is the best characterized. Vitamin E decreases the release of reactive oxygen species by monocytes and the expression of CD11b and very late antigen 4 , thereby decreasing monocyte adhesion to the endothelium. Vitamin E also blocks the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including IL-1, IL-6, TNF and the chemokine IL-8, by monocytes and macrophages,. Moreover, vitamin E prevents the upregulation of the adhesion molecules vascular cell-adhesion molecule 1 and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 on the endothelium induced by oxidized low-density lipo protein and IL-1, as well as the upregulation of E-selectin and some chemokines. Reactive oxygen species activate the nuclear factor-B pathway, which initiates many pro-inflammatory events. Therefore, the therapeutic antioxidant effect of these vitamins could be explained, at least in part, by their capacity to decrease NF-B activation.
My Top 10 Immune Boosting Supplements
Vitamin D 5,000 to 10,000 IU daily, is effective for prevention of flus, colds, cancer and approx. 200 different diseases
In January of 2013, Dr. Oz of TV fame gave Piers Morgan of CNN a flu shot right on air. A few days later, Piers developed a cough and hoarseness that could only be attributed to the shot he had recently received. Imagine that, getting flu symptoms from the flu shot. This is not as uncommon as one would think. In my practice, I have seen dozens of people who contracted the flu shortly after a flu shot or developed various other reactions shortly after the inoculation.
The latest and greatest gift from big pharma to boldly boost our immunity is the shingles vaccine. Just today, one of my long time 80-year- old patients who guinea pigged herself and received the shingles vaccine from her family doctor reported to me that she developed a severe flu-like illness which required emergency intravenous treatments just to save her life. Luckily, she survived the ordeal and wanted to know, like so many other victims of vaccine damage, what she could do naturally to prevent viral illnesses.
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The Science Behind Probiotics And Immunity
The Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species of probiotics are among the most well-researched microorganisms to date. These little guys are found in fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi.
Once inside the body, probiotics interact with receptors on the intestinal cells and modulate both the innate and adaptive immune responses. Probiotics also strengthen the lining of the gut, which protects the GI tract from harm by bad bugs. These good bacteria also boost immunity by decreasing inflammation in the body.
Probiotics are so powerful that they may even prevent and help treat some inflammatory bowel disorders, gastrointestinal infections and allergic responses. Just remember: the benefits of probiotics to the immune system depend on the specific strain, dose, route, and frequency of delivery.
May Lower Your Risk Of Certain Cancers
Cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow or divide in an uncontrolled way.
As vitamin A plays an important role in the growth and development of your cells, its influence on cancer risk and role in cancer prevention is of interest to scientists (
At the moment, the relationship between vitamin A levels in your body and cancer risk is still not fully understood.
Still, current evidence suggests that getting adequate vitamin A, especially from plants, is important for healthy cell division and may reduce your risk of some types of cancer .
Adequate vitamin A intake from whole plant foods may reduce your risk of certain cancers, including Hodgkins lymphoma, as well as cervical, lung and bladder cancer. However, the relationship between vitamin A and cancer is not fully understood.
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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.
Exercise: Good Or Bad For Immunity
Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. But does it help to boost your immune system naturally and keep it healthy? Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system.
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S To Help Support A Healthy Immune System
Your Money Might Be Better Spent On Something Else
During the winter months, you’ve likely seen ads for products that claim to give your immune system a boost to help you ward off colds and the flu. But can something in a bottle, whether a vitamin formulation or probiotic, really rev up your immune system to help you stay healthy?
“Unfortunately, the reality is that those kinds of products aren’t really offering you any benefit,” says Michael Starnbach, a professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School. “There’s no evidence that they help in fighting disease.”
To understand why, you need to know a little about how the immune system works. The very idea of boosting the immune system is flawed.
“The immune system is very finely tuned,” says Starnbach. There is a balance between an immune system that is effective at limiting the ability of bacteria, viruses, and parasites to cause infection, and a hyperactive immune system that can cause such problems as allergies, diabetes, and other types of autoinflammatory and autoimmune disorders.
“If there were a wholesale boost to the immune system, it could trigger autoimmunity and other problems,” he says.
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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.
Taking Too Much Vitamin A Can Be Risky
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which is stored in your body. This means that excess consumption can lead to toxic levels.
Hypervitaminosis A is caused by consuming too much preformed vitamin A through your diet or supplements containing the vitamin.
Symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, headaches, pain and even death.
Though it can be caused by excessive intake from the diet, this is rare compared to overconsumption from supplements and medications.
Additionally, eating a lot of provitamin A in its plant form doesnt carry the same risks, as its conversion to the active form in your body is regulated .
Eating high amounts of the active form of vitamin A from animal foods, medications or supplements can be toxic. Excessive consumption of provitamin A from plant foods is unlikely.
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Do Vitamin Or Herbal Supplements Help
A deficiency of single nutrients can alter the bodys immune response. Animal studies have found that deficiencies in zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, D, and E can alter immune responses. These nutrients help the immune system in several ways: working as an antioxidant to protect healthy cells, supporting growth and activity of immune cells, and producing antibodies. Epidemiological studies find that those who are poorly nourished are at greater risk of bacterial, viral, and other infections.
Spotlight on vitamin D
Eating a good quality diet, as depicted by the Healthy Eating Plate, can prevent deficiencies in these nutrients. However, there are certain populations and situations in which one cannot always eat a variety of nutritious foods, or who have increased nutrient needs. In these cases a vitamin and mineral supplement may help to fill nutritional gaps. Studies have shown that vitamin supplementation can improve immune responses in these groups. Low-income households, pregnant and lactating women, infants and toddlers, and the critically ill are examples of groups at risk.
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.
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