Many factors can help keep your immune system strong and functioning properly, including eating a healthy diet, avoiding processed foods, getting enough sleep and exercise, staying current on recommended vaccines, and practicing good hygiene. Taking vitamin supplements, however, can also improve your immunity.
Vitamin C is known to help ward off sickness and shorten the duration of colds, while vitamin B6 helps maintain healthy white blood cells. And zinc may reduce the risk of infection.
The immune-boosting powers of vitamin C border on being legendary. Linus Pauling, a double Nobel laureate, promoted daily megadoses of the nutrient to prevent and fight disease.
A variety of white blood cells, including phagocytes, which encircle and trap pathogens, are produced and activated by vitamin C. Additionally, it helps the microbial killer hydrogen peroxide to be produced.
For tissue development and repair, including the formation of blood vessels, cartilage, and muscle, vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient. Additionally, it aids in the body’s ability to absorb specific fatty acids, iron, and the healing process. According to research, it could shorten and lessen the intensity of cold symptoms. Collagen, a necessary protein that creates skin, cartilage, and bone, is made by the body with the assistance of vitamin C.
While many people are seeking foods or vitamins that are believed to boost immunity, a well-balanced diet with various nutrients is the most effective way to support your immune system. Multivitamins help ensure you get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Vitamin D, sometimes known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is crucial for the health of your immune system. A deficiency is linked to increased susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections.
NIH recommends infants up to age one-year-old obtain 400 IU (10 mcg) daily of Vitamin D, and adults obtain 600 IU (20 mcg). Individuals with darker skin may need additional supplementation all year round.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant shown to modify immune cell function. It directly impacts membrane integrity, signal transduction, and cell division; and indirectly by affecting inflammatory mediators such as PGE2 and cytokines.
Animal and human intervention studies show that supplemental vitamin E enhances lymphocyte proliferation, delayed-type hypersensitivity responses, antibody production, natural killer (NK) cell activity, and interleukin-2 production. This immunomodulatory effect is attributed to vitamin E’s scavenging of reactive oxygen species and reduction of oxidative stress.
Vitamin E is found in green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. As with all nutrients, it is best obtained from a healthy diet rather than a supplement. Research has focused on a-tocopherol, but other tocopherol homologs such as b-, g-, and d-tocopherol also have significant immunomodulatory effects.
Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins that share a similar structure. It is a critical factor in the blood-clotting system and prevents bone deterioration. It also reduces the risk of vascular complications such as lung fibrosis, seen in severe COVID-19 patients.
In 1929, Henrik Dam discovered a substance in alfalfa seeds that prevented hemorrhaging and was later named vitamin K. He and Edward Doisy shared the 1943 Nobel Prize for their work.
Most adults don’t have a vitamin K deficiency, commonly affecting newborns and people with malabsorption issues (such as short-bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, or Celiac disease). The recommended dietary allowance, or AI, for vitamin K is 130 micrograms daily. The less common form of vitamin K, called menaquinone, ranges from 1 to 13 repeating units and is found in some animal foods, fermented products, and gut bacteria.
You may have heard zinc touted as an immunity superstar, and it does have some impressive immune-boosting powers. It’s one of the most abundant trace minerals in the body and a powerful infection fighter.
It helps reduce inflammation and has been linked to healthy bones, including reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Zinc also promotes wound healing. Studies show that people with slow-healing ulcers saw their wounds heal faster when given 50 mg of zinc daily.
Another study found that when taken in lozenge form, zinc can shorten the duration of a cold, and it also helps prevent pneumonia (which is responsible for 19% of all childhood deaths). Researchers discovered this happens because zinc stops a protein called IKKB from triggering excessive inflammation.