A list of key nutrients that strengthen the immune system.
The immune system is a collection of natural defences which protect the body from infections and diseases. These defences help our bodies to detect and destroy invaders like viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, toxins and other foreign particles that can damage your health. Viruses, in particular, tend to infect people with weaker immune systems such as the elderly, those with nutrient deficiencies, stress or underlying health problems.
In this article, we will highlight a list of key nutrients that are needed to strengthen the immune system and share some tips on how to get these into your diet.
1. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the most important nutrient for fighting infections and strengthening the immune system. It is one of the most well-known anti-viral agents and helps to lower the risk of certain types of lung Infections. Vitamin C can speed up the time it takes for the body to heal from an infection or cold by speeding up T-Cells. T-Cells are killer white blood cells that act as soldiers in the bloodstream, hunting and killing pathogens. This nutrient also stimulates the body to make interferon, which destroys infected cells in the body and cause nearby cells to raise their defences. The best natural sources of Vitamin C are sauerkraut, bell peppers, broccoli and strawberries. Eating a mixture of these and leafy green vegetables daily will make your body less susceptible to infections.
2. Vitamin D to boost the immune system: Vitamin D is a natural nutrient that our body makes when the skin comes into contact with sunshine. It is extremely important as it helps to modulate and control the entire immune system in the body, by keeping a perfect balance. Vitamin D also supports the thymus gland which trains and grows more killer T-Cells so that they can better find, target and destroy pathogens. Over 1 billion people are deficient in this which can lead to a weaker immunity towards viruses, bacteria and other foreign microorganisms. In order to boost your levels of this, you can take Vitamin D3 as a supplement of 400iu per day. It also found in small amounts in Cod Liver Oil, Salmon and Sardines.
3. Vitamin E: Vitamin E is another fat-soluble nutrient which is a powerful antioxidant. This can help to protect healthy cells from damage and boosts the immune system to fight invading bacteria and viruses. Vitamin E regulates different types of immune cells in the body including dendritic cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, T-Cells and B-Cells. The best natural sources of Vitamin E are sunflower seeds, almonds, Swiss chard and Avocados.
4. Vitamin A: This nutrient is important in strengthening the mucosal cells in the sinuses and respiratory cells. Consuming foods rich in the active form of Vitamin A helps your body to make your physical outer defences stronger to prevent pathogens from invading the body from outside. The active form of Vitamin A is called retinol and is a fat-soluble nutrient found in beef liver, cod liver oil, egg yolks and butter.
5. Zinc to boost the immune system: Zinc is one of the most important trace minerals which is used in over 200 enzyme reactions in the body. Some of these enzyme reactions break down proteins in viruses and bacteria so that they are less able to spread. Additionally, it helps to increase T-Cells when you are already infected. The best natural sources of zinc are oysters, beef and pumpkin seeds.
6. Selenium: Selenium is another important trace mineral or micronutrient that lowers the risk of becoming infected by certain RNA viruses. It helps different enzymes in the body to produce antioxidants to lower chronic inflammation. This naturally reduces oxidative stress on the body which therefore boosts your immune response to infection and disease. The best natural sources of selenium are Brazil Nuts, Tuna, Salmon and Eggs.
As you can see there are many key nutrients that are involved with the immune system and protecting the body from infection. We recommend eating a mixture of the foods mentioned today to help raise your defences, especially with age, during winter or an epidemic. A lack of sleep can also weaken the immune system so it’s important to get enough quality sleep each night. Getting plenty of fresh air and exercise can help you to achieve this.