How This Helps

In the times that we are living in, everyone needs to have a healthy immune system to fight off against infectious diseases such as the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. There are many vitamins that are known to help boost our immune system. Research has also found that there are many immune system booster vitamins that can improve the body's immune response, thus improving the body's defense system and protecting against diseases. 

However, before taking any vitamins for the immune system, it is essential to note that some vitamin supplements may interact with other over-the-counter or prescription medications you are taking. Some are also not appropriate for people with underlying health conditions. This is why you should not begin taking any immune-boosting vitamins before consulting your doctor first.

Vitamins role in boosting the immune response

Vitamins perform various functions in our body and including boosting the immune response towards pathogens. Immunity provides protection to our body by skin, cellular response, and humoral immune reaction. The amount and quality of vitamins promote systematic immune processes within the body by regulating T-lymphocytes, cytokines, and antibodies formation. Vitamins A, C, and E mainly help in boosting the skin epithelium barrier function. Except for vitamin C, all of the vitamins are meant to be essential for antibody production. The majority of the vitamins in our body are applied to make a cell-mediated response to the production of T-lymphocytes and cytokines. Supplementing the diet with vitamins in specifically chosen and appropriate amounts regularly can support the body's natural defense mechanism by improving the immune response.

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Immune system booster vitamins

Here are some beneficial vitamins for your immune system.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that the body is unable to produce naturally. Vitamin C plays a vital role in boosting your immune system and is considered to be one of the best vitamins for the immune system. 

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is well known for its immunity-boosting properties. 

Being a potent antioxidant, vitamin C is able to strengthen the body's defenses by supporting various cellular functioning of the immune system. Vitamin C has an essential role in protecting cells from damage by free radicals.[1] When there is a buildup of free radicals in the body, they can start creating a state known as oxidative stress, which is known to be an underlying cause of many chronic diseases.[2]

Vitamin C is responsible for strengthening the epithelial barrier function against microbes and also enhances the oxidant activity of the skin, thus protecting the body against environmental oxidative stress.[3] Vitamin C's antioxidant properties also promote healthy aging and also helps delay the onset of cancers and heart disease. 

Vitamin C also helps heal wounds and even repairs and maintains healthy bones, skin, cartilage, and teeth.[4] 

Some research has also shown that though vitamin C cannot prevent you from catching a common cold, high doses of vitamin C help reduce the length of your cold symptoms by almost one and a half days in many people.[5, 6]

Vitamin C is also known to increase the production of white blood cells in the body, especially lymphocytes and phagocytes. These two kinds of white blood cells protect your body from infection.[7] Vitamin C also boosts the functioning of these white blood cells, while also protecting them from damage caused by free radicals.

It is possible to get healthy doses of vitamin C from food as well as supplements. Some foods that are loaded in vitamin C include:

All citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and tangerines

• Broccoli

• Cantaloupe

Papaya

• Red, green, or yellow bell pepper 

• Sweet potato

Strawberries

• Tomatoes

• Kiwi

Kale

Remember not to start taking any supplements of immune-boosting vitamins without consulting your doctor. 

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also one of the best vitamins for the immune system. It is a fat-soluble essential micronutrient that is necessary for your health and the proper functioning of the immune system.[8]

Vitamin D is known to be one of the crucial immune-boosting vitamins since it helps enhance the body's pathogen fighting abilities. It does so by stimulating the fighting effects of the white blood cells in the body, which is an integral component of the immune system. Vitamin D also lowers inflammation within the body. This also helps increase the body's immune system response.[9] 

A recent review of several randomized control studies found that participants who were supplemented with vitamin D had a dramatically reduced risk of developing respiratory infections as compared to people who had a deficiency of vitamin D.[10]

Worldwide, deficiency of vitamin D is a common problem since vitamin D is found in very few foods. Lack of vitamin D may have an adverse impact on your immune function, and low levels of vitamin D are also linked with a significantly higher risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections, such as allergic asthma, influenza, and pneumonia.[11]

Some studies have also found that supplementation of vitamin D helps improve the body's response to antiviral therapies in people with infections such as HIV and hepatitis C.[12]

You can either take vitamin D supplements or else load up on foods rich in vitamin D, such as:

• Salmon

• Sardines

• Herring

• Canned tuna

• Cod liver oil

• Mushrooms

• Egg yolk

• Fortified foods such as orange juice, milk, cereals, and oatmeal

3. Vitamin B6

There are many B group vitamins that are known as immune-boosting vitamins. Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is one of the eight vitamins that make up the B complex vitamin group. Even though this vitamin was discovered many years ago, but research is still ongoing to discover the many health benefits of this vitamin. 

Vitamin B6 is known to be significant to the body's metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. It is also necessary for the manufacturing of neurotransmitters and red blood cells.[13]

It is essential to get vitamin B6 either from food sources or supplements as the body does not produce it naturally. 

Vitamin B6 is necessary for maintaining your overall health and also for the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases.[14] Studies have discovered that a deficiency in vitamin B6 can cause a decrease in the production of antibodies in the body that are required to fight off infections.[15] Research has also shown that vitamin B6 deficiency can decrease the body's natural production of white blood cells, especially T cells. T cells play the role of regulating the immune response of the body, helping the immune system respond appropriately to any threat. 

Furthermore, vitamin B6 also helps the body manufacture a protein known as interleukin-2, which is responsible for directing the actions of the white blood cells.[16]

It has also been observed that people who have autoimmune disorders have increased the destruction of vitamin B6. This means that such people have an increased need for this vitamin to remain healthy. It is possible to get vitamin B6 either from supplements or foods such as bananas, potatoes, salmon, tuna, chickpeas, turkey, etc.

See: How to boost your immune system against COVID-19

Summary

All these immune system booster vitamins play a significant role in improving your health. While they are all available in supplement forms, it is always better to first try to meet your daily requirement for that vitamin through fresh produce. If you want to take a supplement instead, then it is always advisable first to consult your doctor, especially if suffering from a chronic health condition.

See: Boost your immune system with Ayurveda

References

1. Alessio, H.M., Goldfarb, A.H., and Cao, G., 1997. Exercise-induced oxidative stress before & after vitamin C supplementation. International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism, 7(1), pp.1-9.

2. Pham-Huy, L.A., He, H. and Pham-Huy, C., 2008. Free radicals, antioxidants in disease and health. International Journal of biomedical science: IJBS, 4(2), p.89.

3. Carr, A.C., and Maggini, S., 2017. Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients, 9(11), p.1211.

4. Hall, S.L., and Greendale, G.A., 1998. The relation of dietary vitamin C intake to bone mineral density: results from the PEPI study. Calcified tissue international, 63(3), pp.183-189.

5. Pauling, L., 1971. Vitamin C and the common cold. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 105(5), p.448.

6. Hemilä, H. and Chalker, E., 2013. Vitamin C for preventing & treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1).

7. Huijskens, M.J., Walczak, M., Koller, N., Briedé, J.J., Senden‐Gijsbers, B.L., Schnijderberg, M.C., Bos, G.M. and Germeraad, W.T., 2014. Technical Advance: Ascorbic acid induces development of double‐positive T cells from human hematopoietic stem cells in the absence of stromal cells. Journal of leukocyte biology, 96(6), pp.1165-1175.

8. Aranow, C., 2011. Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of investigative medicine, 59(6), pp.881-886.

9. Medrano, M., Carrillo-Cruz, E., Montero, I. and Perez-Simon, J.A., 2018. Vitamin D: effect on haematopoiesis and immune system and clinical applications. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(9), p.2663.

10. Martineau, A.R., Jolliffe, D.A., Hooper, R.L., Greenberg, L., Aloia, J.F., Bergman, P., Dubnov-Raz, G., Esposito, S., Ganmaa, D., Ginde, A.A. and Goodall, E.C., 2017. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: a systematic review & meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ, 356, p.i6583.

11. Prietl, B., Treiber, G., Pieber, T.R. and Amrein, K., 2013. Vitamin D and immune function. Nutrients, 5(7), pp.2502-2521.

12. Bitetto, D., Fabris, C., Pipan, C., Fumolo, E., Fornasiere, E.,Cussigh, A., Bignulin, S., Cmet, S., Fontanini, E., Falleti, E. and Martinella, R., 2011. Vitamin D supplementation improves response to antiviral treatment for recurrent hepatitis C. Transplant International, 24(1), pp.43-50.

13. Dakshinamurti, K. ed., 1990. Vitamin B6 (Vol. 585). New York (N.Y.): New York Academy of Sciences.

14. Hellmann, H., and Mooney, S., 2010. Vitamin B6: a molecule for human health?. Molecules, 15(1), pp.442-459.

15. Qian, B., Shen, S., Zhang, J., and Jing, P., 2017. Effects of vitamin B6 deficiency on the composition and functional potential of T cell populations. Journal of immunology research, 2017.

16. Meydani, S.N., Ribaya-Mercado, J.D., Russell, R.M., Sahyoun, N., Morrow, F.D., and Gershoff, S.N., 1991. Vitamin B− 6 deficiency impairs interleukin production and lymphocyte proliferation in elderly adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 53(5), pp.1275-1280.

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