Are you looking to support your immune function, for your overall wellbeing? Take a look below at the nutrients which are catching health scientist’s attention.
The wonder of immune function
We now know that the immune system is a complex, interwoven network of biochemical reactions, including the release of histamine, sending water to tissues to bathe and soothe, and all kinds of reactions that makes the body a place that biological invaders find it difficult to survive. Our bodies are incredibly clever, engulfing and biochemical destroying unwanted invaders and then wonderfully fine-tuning body systems to bring it back to a balanced state.
Every single one of these processes relies on the nutritional input. This means that the food choices that we make and the ability of our bodies to digest food and use it efficiently is important for health. And science is showing just how important this is.
Vitamin C is very well-known as an antioxidant nutrient, helping the body to manage the potentially harmful effects of excess ‘free radicals’ (these are highly reactive chemicals that the body must ‘quench’ in order to maintain a healthy state). Studies have shown that vitamin C can help to reduce the duration of the common cold when taken in high intakes of around 2000mg daily. A practitioner will be able to advise you what level is suitable for you.
Vitamin E is needed to help with production of natural killer cells – those that seek out and destroy unwanted invaders. It also helps the production of B-cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria.
Over the past three months, vitamin D has emerged as a real vitamin super star, with real interest in the impact that vitamin D deficiency has on how effectively people can manage infection. It might be useful for you to speak with your G.P or a health practitioner about whether your vitamin D levels might be low. Don’t forget, supplementation is now recommended for everyone, at 10 micrograms daily. Find out more in our Vitamin D mini-feature “Vitamin D: for every body”
Studies have shown that low intakes of zinc results in reduced immune function, compromising systems which engulf unwanted particles, which activate killer T cells, and affecting many sy protective inflammatory reactions. Studies have shown that increased zinc intake increases the ability of the immune system to fight infection (it builds resistance to infection).
With selenium, the picture is similar, with studies showing that adequate intakes are essential for ‘all arms’ of the immune system. Studies show that supplementation can improve the immune response. Seek advice from a practitioner about what the optimal level would be for you, and in the meantime, you can self-supplement up to 200microgrammes daily.
Live bacterial cultures: Research trials on friendly bacteria products show that they do have an effect on immune health. Studies on live bacterial cultures have shown that various bacterial strains can increase immune cell’s ability to engulf and destroy foreign invaders within the gut as well as positively influence the activity of immune-modulating helper and killer T-cells around the body.
Essential Fatty Acids: We know that essential fats are important for the integrity of every body cell, so it’s hardly surprising that studies have been conducted to see what effect they have on immune function. Omega 3 fats are known to increase the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that engulf bacteria and many other inflammatory processes in the body.