How to boost your immune system with the right vitamins and supplements
Have you ever wondered how the human body works and how it manages to defend itself from external threats? Our environment is full of infectious particles, bacteria, viruses, etc that all present potential health threats to the body. Have you also thought about how to boost your immune system?
How the immune system works
The body is made up of water, cells, tissues, and organs. It also includes minerals such as calcium, sodium, iron, magnesium, etc
As we continue to age, our cells and tissues are replaced as they wear out without us knowing it. In the same way, the body can heal itself when wounded. For example, when there is a cut on the body, the blood-clotting system works to seal the cut straight away and the immune system sends out special blood cells to help heal the wound. Ordinarily, the body is a complete firewall that works constantly to ward of intruders like bacteria and viruses that are not visible. The immune system understands what belongs to the body or what doesn’t belong to the body and it is able to rid the body of any such substance. The immune system offers innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity defends the body against intruders and adaptive immunity fights these intruders when the guard fails. Adaptive immunity remembers the virus and builds up its defense from it so it is important to constantly boost your immune system.
For example, the skin which is part of the immune system produces an acidic environment that helps stop bacteria from surviving. Most bacteria can survive in narrow pH ranges near neutral (pH7) and with the skin’s acidity level at pH 4-6, bacteria are unable to survive.
How to boost your immune system -Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Organs_of_the_Immune_System_by_AIDS.gov.jpg
Importance of the immune system
Like the immune system, the body is made up of different systems that come together to enable it to function properly. For example, the digestive system enables us to take in food and convert that into energy, the muscular system allows the body to move freely and the skeletal system operates as a support system for the body.
The immune system, on the other hand, plays an important role in the body by preventing and fighting infections. Other functions of the immune system include;
- – Fighting the body’s own cells that have changed due to illness
- – Neutralizing pathogens like bacteria and viruses that have entered the body
Normally, the immune system gets stronger as we age since we get exposed to more pathogens with time and we develop our immunity to these pathogens. For example, some diseases such as chickenpox affect us just once. The body develops a chickenpox antibody when first attacked and stores this antibody ready for use the next time the chickenpox arrives. Our natural immunity is an absolute genius!
Improve or Boost Your Immune System
As stated previously, the immune system is made up of various parts and for it to properly function, it is critical that all the parts of the system are healthy in order to boost your immune system.
Our lifestyle has a significant impact on the immune system. For example, smoking, diets, weight, alcohol, and sleep can affect the immune system. Eating a well-balanced diet is a good way of ensuring that the immune system functions properly. There is some correlation between malnourishment and vulnerability to infectious diseases. For example, it is recognized that people living in poverty who are malnourished are more prone to having infectious diseases. It is however not conclusive that the increased rate of disease is caused by malnutrition’s effect on the immune system.
How to boost your immune system – Sleeping woman
Sleep deprivation negatively affects the immune system. Lack of sleep disrupts the normal production of white blood cells which is a critical component of the immune system.
Regular workouts, adequate sleep and keeping a healthy weight are all important ways of strengthening the immune system. Working out regularly is important for staying healthy as it helps improve cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure and helps support body weight. All these do contribute towards good health and in turn, promote a stronger immune system which will boost your immune system.
How to boost your immune system – Source: https://www.jbsa.mil/News/News/Article/599402/honoring-the-fallen-als-creates-warrior-performance-workouts/
Boosting the immune system with vitamins and supplements
An effective immune system enhancer mainly works by revving up the body’s immunity directly as an antibiotic or antiviral. Some vitamins and supplements perform exactly this function and may help improve or boost your immune system.
Some vitamins and minerals that can improve the immune system include;
Vitamins are critical to life as they help contribute to our health by supporting the biochemical processes that occur in the body. Vitamin A is an oil-soluble vitamin which means it can be stored in the fatty tissues and liver for longer periods. Vitamin A deficiency is strongly associated with depressed immunity (Smith et al., 1987) and therefore a combination of deficiency and infectious disease is potentially fatal, especially among infants and children. Randomized trials in Sumatran (Tarwotjo et al., 1987) and Indian (Rahmathullah et al., 1990) preschool-age children showed that vitamin A supplementation decreased mortality due to infection by 96% and 54%, respectively. Some other properties of Vitamin A are
- – Help prevent night blindness
- – Enhances immunity
- – Formation of bones and teeth
- – Protects against infections of the kidneys, bladder and lungs.
- – It is known to work as an antioxidant that helps to protect the cells against cancer and other unwanted diseases.
- – Vitamin A is also known to guard against heart diseases and stroke. The body cannot utilize protein without Vitamin A.
Vitamin D which is a fat-soluble vitamin is important for the growth and development of normal teeth and bones. It also plays a critical role in protecting against muscle weakness and it is also involved in the regulation of the heartbeat. Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses and deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to infection. The beneficial effects of supplementing vitamin D deficient individuals with autoimmune disease may extend beyond the effects on bone and calcium homeostasis. The vitamin D that we get from supplements is not fully active meaning it requires some conversion before it is fully absorbed into the bloodstream in order to boost your immune system.
Vitamin E is also a fat-soluble vitamin with strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can be described as substances that are known to protect the cells in the body against the effects of free radicals. One of the key roles of Vitamin E is to prevent oxidation which is a chemical reaction that may cause illness or diseases.
Vitamin E consists of two groups of compounds that are tocopherols and tocotrienols. Alpha-tocopherol is the most active form in humans and d-alpha-tocopherol is the form found in food and natural supplements.
Food high in vitamin E includes avocadoes, soyabean, sunflower, corn oils, meats, fish, fruit and leafy vegetables. Vitamin E is easily destroyed by heat and processed foods are a poor choice for obtaining vitamin E. Deep frying not only destroys vitamin E but also causes extra free radicals to be formed in the heated oil.
Some signs of Vitamin E deficiency include dry skin, lethargy, loss of balance, inability to concentrate and anemia.
It is ideal to take vitamin E supplements with food to allow for proper absorption. Natural vitamin E supplements are designated by a d as a d-alpha-tocopherol and synthetic vitamin E is designated with a dl as in dl-alpha-tocopherol.
As an immune system booster or enhancer, Vitamin E plays an important role in protecting the body against infectious diseases through its antioxidant activities.
In addition to vitamins, the body also makes use of minerals that required for the proper composition of body fluids, formation of blood and body, the maintenance of healthy nerve function, regulation of muscle tone, etc. Iron is one example of such minerals that are required by the body. It is the mineral that is found in the largest amounts in the blood. Iron’s primary function is the production of haemoglobin and myoglobin and the oxygenation of red blood cells. It is also critical for a healthy immune system and the production of energy.
Foods high in Iron includes eggs, fish, liver, meat, green leafy vegetables, avocadoes, soyabeans and cereals.
Like most supplements, Iron supplementation should be taken under proper recommendation. It is advisable not to take iron supplements with vitamin E and that you choose an organic form of iron such as ferrous gluconate or ferrous fumarate. Inorganic forms of iron such as ferrous sulfate can oxidise vitamin E.
Within the immune system, the body uses the free radical action of iron to attack some pathogens. It also helps the immune system by enhancing the ability of white blood cells to engulf and kill bacteria. Bacteria also require iron to fully function and the body can lower the blood iron levels during acute infections to avoid aiding the infectious bacteria.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is required for all life forms including plants and animals. Over 200 enzymes in the body require zinc to carry out their activities. These enzymes support the body in cell reproduction, maintain vision, enhance the immune system, support fertility, repair wounds, etc
It is estimated that about 15% of Americans complement their diet with zinc supplements. Adequate intake of zinc is needed to maintain a healthy concentration of vitamin E in the blood. Also, zinc helps with the absorption of vitamin A in the body. Zinc and iron supplements are not recommended to be taken together as they are known to interfere with each other’s activity.
Foods high in Zinc include fish, lamb, meats, mushrooms, sardines, and whole grains.
Some signs of zinc deficiency in the body include slow wound healing, loss of appetite, joint pain and acne.
Others that are known to boost the immune system are
Royal jelly is a thick, milky substance that is secreted from the pharyngeal glands of a special group of young nurse bees between their sixth and twelfth days of life. When honey and pollen are combined and refined within the young nurse bee, royal jelly is naturally created. It is known to contain high concentrations of the B vitamins which include B1, B2, B3, B4 etc. Royal jelly also contains Vitamins A, C, D, and E as well as amino acids, antibacterial and antibiotic components.
There is a long history of people using royal jelly for medicinal purposes. It is considered in helping maintain healthy cholesterol levels, may help with blood pressure, its antioxidant properties may help with healthy brain function and more importantly may help support a healthy immune system and also boost your immune system.
This plant is popular and has been used for centuries for various health-related problems. In addition to its medicinal properties, it is used as a spice mostly in the China and Indian regions. It is widely known for its antiemetic, anti-inflammatory and digestive properties. It is also considered to help with bloating, nausea and inflammatory conditions.
How to boost your immune system – Ginger
Elderberry is a flowering plant that belongs to the Adoxaceae family. It is native to Europe even though it is widely available in many other parts of the world.
Elderberry is known to be packed with nutrients such as vitamin c, dietary fibre, phenolic acids, and flavonols. These nutrients provide a good number of health benefits which include supporting healthy heart conditions, fighting harmful bacteria, may have some antidepressant properties and may help support a healthy immune system which may also boost your immune system. Due to its benefits, it has been considered in the treatment for constipation, joint pain, headaches, fever, stress and kidney problems.
How to boost your immune system – Elderberry (Source: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/543833)
These herbal supplements can be useful, cheaper and safer options for boosting or improving the immune system over synthetic medication. Obviously, these are not direct substitutes for prescriptive drugs but can complement conventional drugs in most cases.
Weak Immune System
The main sign of a weak immune system is the susceptibility to illnesses and infections. You are more prone to get regular infections if you have a weaker immune system than most people. Some common infections and conditions that affect people with weak immune systems include
- – Pneumonia
- – Meningitis
- – Bronchitis
- – Skin infections like eczema
- – Inflammation of internal organs
- – Digestive system issues like loss of appetite and diarrhoea
- – Fatigue or tiredness
- – Regular headaches
It is important we make deliberate efforts in ensuring that our immune system remains healthy. Early signs of some illnesses and symptoms are good indicators of how healthy our immune system may be. Vitamins and supplements alone may not be enough to boost your immune system. You need a good balance between a healthy lifestyle and taking supplements in order to boost your immune system.
How to boost your immune system – Immune system supplement
DISCLAIMER: THIS SHOULD BE USED FOR INFORMATION AND EDUCATION PURPOSES. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO TREAT, DIAGNOSE OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE. WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO MAKE YOUR OWN HEALTH CARE DECISIONS BASED ON RESEARCH AND ADVICE FROM A QUALIFIED HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL
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