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Boost your immune system with Vitamins and Minerals

health real life Apr 05, 2020

How can we boost our immune system and immune function with vitamins and minerals?

There are actually a number of easily available nutrients that help our immune system working better.
We will also address how loss of sense of smell fits into the immune system picture.

In this video I’d like to focus on just four of them. The four nutrients are:
Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Folate and B12, and Zinc.

But let’s begin with a brief look at the immune system itself and why nutrients are important.

The immune system is spread all over our body.
We have some organs, tissues and cells.
Organs such as the liver and spleen are more densely involved in the immune system. We also have tissues, often referred to as ‘glands’ and their associated network of tubes - the lymphatic system.
Further, there are the white blood cells that can actively roam through our blood vessels and other tissues. [1]  
I like to use the analogy of comparing the white blood cells to pac-man. They literally have the ability to move around and chomp up substances, including viruses and bacteria, that are recognized as not belonging into our body. In reality there is less chomping going on, but the effect of destroying what they eat is the same.

For the immune system to function adequately, our body needs to produce different substances, many of them proteins. With the help of enzymes, production of anything can go from super slow to super fast.
The nutrients we’re talking about here are quite important for enzyme activity and protein production. [2]
Maybe surprisingly, nutritional deficiencies are quite common and leave our immune system unable to respond to invading pathogens properly.

Vitamin C - has broad influences across all aspects of the immune systems and immune responses. It helps keep barriers intact, from keeping skin, membranes and intestinal linings, to killing off microbes. Vitamin C is important for regulating how we respond to inflammation and it can prevent and treat respiratory infections.
On the flip-side, infection and inflammation lower Vitamin C in the body, increasing requirements further. [3]
Humans, different from other animals and plants, cannot produce Vitamin C any more and need to get it from heir food.

Vitamin B6 - Vitamin B6 is important for protein building. Low B6 means our immune cells can’t be build properly, and that impairs our immune function. Of course building healthy cells isn’t only for the immune system and the need for good B6 levels shows up in many conditions. [4]

Folate & B12 - B12 is usually thought about in relation to anaemia. It’s equally important for making sufficient pac man cells which can then run around gobbling up bacteria and viruses. [1] Cell replication in general depends on these nutrients.

Zinc - Pretty much all aspects of immunity require good zinc levels. And almost 50% of older people and a large proportion of the rest of the population have low zinc levels. [5]   
Zinc is necessary for hundreds of enzyme functions and a deficiency leads to increased inflammation in the body. It is a mineral that for example reduces the symptoms and duration of respiratory system infections. [6]
Even mild zinc deficiencies make us more susceptible to infections and at the same time increase healing times.

Now we’re getting to the part about loss of sense of smell.
Loss of smell is a symptom of zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency in turn means reduced immune function, which leaves us vulnerable to the current virus. [7], [8]

Vitamin D is of course another vitamin for our immune system. In the previous video we already looked at how our body can make this vitamin when our skin is exposed to sunlight.
If you missed this video, the link is included again below.

My suggestion would be to spend a minute online to look up the extensive food lists to find which foods are available near you and are to your taste to include in your diet for improving these immune boosting nutrients.

The nutrients listed here are not an exhaustive list. Taken by themselves, they do not guarantee eternal health. But, they are important and deficiency leads to problems. Ideally we get sufficient quantities of these nutrients from our food. Taking tablets and pills is definitely not a substitute. The need for taking pills hints at an underlying need you might like to figure out.

The next video will look at the role of rest and sleep for our immune system.

[1] Immunity In Depth

[2] The Role of Vitamins and Minerals on the Immune System

[3] Vitamin C and Immune Function

[4] Vitamin B6 supplementation increases immune responses in critically ill patients

[5] Zinc deficiency linked to immune system response, particularly in older adults

[6] Zinc deficiency enhanced inflammatory response by increasing immune cell activation and inducing IL6 promoter demethylation

[7] Zinc and Taste Disturbances in Older Adults: A Review of the Literature.

[8] Smell and Taste Disorders: A Primary Care Approach


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