Vitamins That Boost Your Immune System
Vitamins are an important part of a healthy diet. They support several critical body functions and are as important as other macronutrients if not more. The immune system is our body’s natural defence against infection and illness. In such times of increased pollution, antibiotic-resistant superbugs and unhealthy lifestyle, maintaining good immune health is a challenge for all of us. Hence, here we talk about vitamins that boost your immune system naturally. Read on!
Vitamins enable our body to function properly at a biochemical level. They also have a very significant role in the proper function of our immune system. Let’s have a look at how vitamins boost your immune system!
Vitamin A (retinol) is important for the development and protection of the skin and the mucous membranes that represent the first line of defence against pathogens. It is also important for the immune system functioning. Retinoic acid, a compound derived from Vitamin A is needed for the activity of diverse immune cells, such as division and growth differentiation. Additionally, a lack of vitamin A can reduce the body’s ability to fight off infectious germs and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.
Some food sources rich in Vitamin A are kale, beef liver, eggs, carrots, broccoli, spinach etc.
B Complex Vitamins
Vitamins B2, B6, B12 and folic acid (vitamin B9) enhance the activity of immune cells such as T and B lymphocytes or macrophages (important cells of our immune system). A lack of vitamin B2 impairs the ability of macrophages to recognize and kill foreign substances, microbes, cancer cells and other harmful cells which attacks the body. On the other hand, Vitamin B6 aids in the production of antibodies and in cellular immune defence. Additionally, it has been useful in the treatment of inflammatory infections of the respiratory tract.
Vitamin B12 can also be useful for the treating DNA damage of mononuclear leukocytes (cells of the immune system). Folic acid regulates the blood concentration of homocysteine (amino acid), which in large amounts can damage cells and also induce chronic immune-dependent diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. A deficiency of folic acid can weaken the immune system by delaying the formation of antibodies or new immune cells.
Some Vitamin B rich food sources are:
- Dairy products p
- Soy milk
Antioxidant-rich Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the best natural immunity boosters. Foods rich in antioxidant vitamins like Vitamin C improve components of our immune system such as antimicrobial and natural killer cell (a white blood cell) activities. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that attack the cells in your body. Being an antioxidant, vitamin C scavenges free radicals which prevent cellular oxidative damage. Interestingly, it also shortens the duration of respiratory tract infections and common colds.
Some food sources rich in vitamin C are guava, peppers, oranges, papaya, strawberries, kiwi etc.
Vitamin D controls the functioning of our immune system as well as protects you against infectious diseases and inflammation. Many immune cells require vitamin D for their development and function. It also maintains the activity of macrophages and monocytes which helps to fight microorganisms in the body. Vitamin D deficiency can cause an elevated risk for various autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, type-1 diabetes and 40% higher risk of developing respiratory tract infections or influenza.
Some food sources rich in Vitamin D are:
- Fatty fish
- Milk and milk products
- Egg yolks
- Adequate exposure to sunlight
Vitamin E can protect lipids which are the building blocks of cell membranes against the attack by free radicals. It can stimulate your immune system health directly by acting on the mast cells (mastocytes) that produce allergic inflammatory reactions. It also plays a role in wound healing, by protecting against pathogens and allergies.
Vitamin E due to its antioxidant properties can limit the oxidation of lipoproteins and hence prevent the excessive production and activation of mast cells. It also reduces the formation of pro-inflammatory cytokines that are produced by macrophages (scavenger cells) and their precursor cells (monocytes). Additionally, Vitamin E acts directly on T cells (helper cells) and reduces inflammation.
Some food sources rich in vitamin E are:
- olive oil
Vitamin K has no direct correlation to our immune system health but it plays a significant role in our body. It helps in blood coagulation and also helps in maintaining bone metabolism and health.
Some food sources rich in vitamin K are kale, spinach, fermented dairy products, prunes and cabbage.
Therefore, to boost your immune system naturally, it is necessary that you lead a healthy lifestyle. In addition to diet, it is important that you exercise regularly, avoid smoking, limit alcohol intake and get adequate sleep. Pollution is at an all-time high in our country. Thus, maintaining our immune system health is of utmost importance. Apart from vitamins, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in food also boost our immune system naturally.