Your immune system is crucial for your overall health and well-being, working behind the scenes to protect your body from harmful substances, germs, and cellular changes that threaten illness. When it operates smoothly, the immune system often goes unnoticed, but any weakness or inability to combat aggressive pathogens can quickly lead to illness. Without our immune system, our bodies would be defenseless against external invaders and internal anomalies.
A strong immune system not only helps ward off infections, illnesses, and viruses but also plays a crucial role in our mental and physical well-being, ensuring a better chance of staying healthy even during seasonal challenges. In this article, we'll explore ways to support this vital system, focusing on dietary choices and the role of essential vitamins in immunity.
The Bottom Line
- The Role Vitamins Play in Your Immune System - A look at the different parts of your immune system and the essential vitamins that aid it.
- What Vitamins Are Good for Immune System Maintenance? - A comprehensive list of the vitamins necessary to take care of your body.
- Why Immune System Maintenance Is Key - Taking care of your immune system may help prevent future illnesses.
- How Super Greens Could Help - Learn about how integrating a quality super greens powder into your everyday life could help you get vital nutrients.
The Role Vitamins Play in Your Immune System
Your body's immune system consists of various elements, ranging from its cellular components to the intricate chemical processes that these cells use in their battle against pathogens such as viruses and bacteria.
Essential vitamins play a crucial role in fostering an enhanced immune response. When your immune system is well-nourished with the necessary resources, it functions more effectively, reducing the likelihood of illness and alleviating the symptoms of certain ailments.
While obtaining most of these immune-supporting nutrients from whole foods is the best course of action, achieving a balanced intake of every essential vitamin can sometimes be challenging, even with a diverse and healthy diet.
What Vitamins Are Good for Immune System Maintenance?
There are several vitamins, minerals, and many other essential nutrients that can help your immune system function optimally. Here are our top 10 picks for immunity care:
1. Vitamin C
Origin: Citrus fruits, bell peppers, dark leafy greens
Superpower: Antioxidant, immune cell function
Vitamin C is one of the most common vitamins that aid in immune system health. It's a potent antioxidant that helps immune cells protect the body from pathogens and the damage caused by oxidative stress.
According to one study, vitamin C has the potential to shorten the duration of colds, particularly in children. While no vitamin can make the immune system invincible, vitamin C can help the body fight infections, reduce the severity of illnesses, and encourage cellular death by clearing out old cells so new cells can replace them.
2. Vitamin D
Origin: Fish, eggs, dairy, sunlight
Superpower: Decreases inflammation and supports white blood cells
Vitamin D emitted by the sun is essential for regulating immune function and activating immune cells. Vitamin D aids in the defense against infections and illnesses by supporting white blood cells, which respond to immune compromises.
Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce inflammation and help protect against illnesses, such as the flu and other respiratory tract infections and viruses. Overall, vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins to include in your diet to improve immune function.
3. Vitamin E
Origin: Nuts, spinach, seeds
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body's cells from oxidative damage, reduces free radicals, and promotes the optimal function of the immune system's T-cells. It can also aid in managing inflammation.
However, it's important to note that excessive vitamin E intake can be harmful to your health. Striking the right balance can help your immune system. Generally, it's advisable to obtain vitamin E from whole foods rather than relying on supplements.
4. B vitamins (especially B6)
Origin: Chicken, salmon, green vegetables
Superpower: Support for enzyme functionality
B vitamins are the eight water-soluble vitamins that aid the body in various functions, including energy production, nerve function, and DNA synthesis. Vitamins B6, B9 (folate), and B12 are especially useful in helping to reduce the risk of some serious illnesses. Vitamins B6 and B12 particularly benefit the immune system, supporting infection-fighting agents such as T-cells.
Vitamins B9 (folate) and B12 also aid in producing red blood cells and DNA synthesis, both of which are necessary for optimal immune function. Many adults are deficient in B vitamins, so making sure you get enough can help protect your immune system.
Origin: Whole grains, dairy, meat, and nuts
Superpower: Immune cell development and communication
Zinc is a mineral with numerous advantages, including supporting immune function, healing wounds, and aiding cell growth. Zinc aids in the development and maintenance of immune cells, which protect the body from infections and illnesses. Zinc also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help protect the body from external toxins.
According to one study, zinc-rich diets are more likely to protect against respiratory infections. Millions of adults, particularly older adults, are zinc deficient, so getting enough zinc in your diet is critical for optimal immune function.
Origin: Fruit of the Sambucus plant
Superpower: Antiviral, anti-inflammatory
Elderberry, or Sambucus nigra, is a dark purple fruit with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. For centuries, cultures have used the fruit to ease respiratory infections like colds and flus. Elderberry also contains anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties that may protect against pathogens and help fight off infections, making it an excellent addition to your diet. Elderberry syrup is often used as a cold remedy, and it helps lower the swelling in mucus membranes.
It's important to note that some people should take extra precautions when eating elderberries and consult with a doctor. Elderberry can cause nausea or vomiting when consumed raw, so ensure it's fully cooked before eating.
Origin: Meat, fish, beans, and wheat
Superpower: Cell protection, DNA production
Selenium is a mineral essential for immune function and overall health. Even a small amount of selenium plays a crucial role in DNA production and cell protection against infections and oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Additionally, selenium may contribute to thyroid regulation, metabolism, and energy levels.
While further research is needed, one animal study suggests that selenium may support antiviral defense and protect against influenza strains. These findings suggest that selenium could potentially assist the immune system's ability to fend off specific illnesses.
Origin: Flowering plant
Superpower: Protection from colds and the flu
Echinacea is a flowering plant that has a long history as a dietary supplement. It can be used to aid with a variety of ailments, including colds and flus, and is often used in throat sprays to reduce sore throat symptoms. Echinacea has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and may help the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells and activating immune responses.
Echinacea can be prepared as a tea or found in capsule form, and it can be an effective way to support the immune system. While more research is required, one study discovered that it can help reduce the potential for respiratory virus infections.
Origin: Resin from tree buds
Superpower: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant
Bees gather propolis, which is a resin-like substance, from tree buds to shield their hives from viruses and bacteria. While more human research is needed, preliminary evidence suggests that propolis may also support the human immune system and protect against viruses.
Propolis has been used for centuries for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It’s another nutrient that can help reduce the duration of upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold.
Origin: Flowering plant
Andrographis, an Asian herb, is known for its natural recovery benefits, particularly in cases of fever and respiratory infections. This herb, with its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, has a history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. It contains terpenoid compounds that enhance the immune system's ability to combat viruses, such as influenza A.
In addition to its immune-related qualities, andrographis may provide pain relief and support healthy liver function. Traditionally used as a fever reducer and painkiller, it can also potentially reduce the duration of a cold when combined with Siberian ginseng. These properties contribute to overall immune system optimization.
Why Immune System Maintenance Is Key
Many people never think about their immune systems until they get sick. But as soon as you feel a tickle in your throat, you rush to drink a glass of orange juice or take a vitamin C supplement.
While these “emergency” measures can sometimes reduce the length and severity of an illness, it’s much better to keep your immune system in tip-top shape at all times. In fact, one study showed that it is much less costly (in terms of physiological resources) to maintain the immune system compared to the energy cost of mounting a strong immune response.
So, what are the best ways to maintain your immune system? Getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of water are two things that can keep your immune system in peak condition.
Numerous studies show a strong link between nutrition and immune health. Worldwide, the most common cause of immunodeficiency is malnutrition. On the other hand, a diet that provides enough nutrients for optimal cell health and functionality can significantly improve the immune system’s response.
An immune-focused diet includes ingredients with key vitamins (e.g., vitamins C and D), nutrients (e.g., iron, selenium), fiber (e.g., leafy greens), probiotics (e.g., yogurt), and prebiotics (e.g., garlic, seaweed). With a healthy diet, you can get most of these nutrients every day. However, you might not be able to get optimal amounts, which is why it can be helpful to supplement your diet.
Why Try Super Greens
When it’s difficult to get all the essential vitamins and minerals through diet alone, consider supplementing with a greens powder. Live it Up’s blend is made with organic vegetables and formulated to provide you with optimal amounts of key nutrients derived from real, whole ingredients, including:
- Barley grass: This plant provides a host of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants that may support the immune system and help fight short-term infections.
- Spirulina powder: This type of algae provides vitamin C and multiple B vitamins, along with other micronutrients that are key for immune system support.
- Chlorella powder: Another alga that provides lots of B and C vitamins along with iron and folic acid that may help support digestion and a strong immune system.
- Ginger root: With vitamins C and B complex, iron, and antioxidants, ginger can help encourage positive inflammatory responses in the immune system and aid in gut health balance.
Featuring these helpful ingredients, plus powerful superfoods and other leafy greens, Super Greens is vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, and all-natural, without any fillers or synthetic additives. This greens powder has a refreshing taste that makes it easy to help give your body the support and nutrition it needs, such as zinc and vitamins C, D, and B. Just add a scoop to your favorite beverage and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
It can take a while to optimize your diet for immune support. Learn more about giving your immune system daily support with key nutrients.
Does your immune system protect you from COVID-19?
Your immune system’s job is to protect your body from infections, but it doesn’t always know the correct “fighting technique” for every pathogen or virus. You may experience COVID-19 symptoms while your body is fighting the virus.
What are ways to strengthen your immune system to prevent COVID-19?
Consuming the right vitamins and nutrients, getting enough sleep, reducing your stress levels, staying hydrated, and ensuring you're vaccinated against COVID-19 are all important ways to support your immune system. The vaccine works by introducing a small piece of viral messenger RNA, prompting your body to produce the necessary proteins that trigger a strong immune response and the creation of antibodies, strengthening your defense against infection.
Is vitamin D beneficial against infections?
Yes! While vitamin D is usually associated with skeletal health, researchers have also found that it helps the immune system respond to initial and recurring viral infections.
What are the best vitamins for kids to boost their immune system?
Kids benefit from the same nutrients as adults: vitamins C and D and zinc. Multivitamin supplements that include other nutrients can also help children who don’t get enough nutrition from their diet.
What are the best vitamins to take when sick?
When you're sick, it's best to focus on proper nutrition rather than just taking vitamins. Still, vitamins C, D, and zinc can help support the immune system in fighting off illness. However, It's best to consult with a doctor to determine the best way to heal.