Vitamins and Foods to Boost the Immune System
The best vitamins and food to boost the immune system
Don’t forget to take your vitamins! There’s a reason this friendly reminder is so closely related to staying healthy. Your body needs certain nutrients to function optimally. But good nutrition is not just about popping a pill or chewing it. Eating the right foods that are packed with immune boosters can help you thrive.
What is the role of nutrition in immunity?
Research shows that when the body has optimal nutrition, it initiates an effective response against pathogens and is more successful in fighting any underlying chronic inflammation.
“The gut is one of the largest reservoirs of our immune system, and poor nutrition can simply reduce its function,” says Dr. Fenster. The inner turmoil caused by eating low-nutrition foods can become a vicious cycle. When the immune system is “activated” in the face of potential threats (for example, a cold or virus), there is a greater demand for energy and an adequate supply of nutrients is needed to fight an active infection. Without those nutrients, your body doesn’t have the reserves to help you heal faster.
“Adequate and proper nutrition is required for the optimal functioning of the body’s cells, and this includes cellular immune health,” says David Friedman, a clinical nutritionist based in North Carolina. When the body is exposed to pathogenic microbes, the best defense is a healthy diet and nutrition.
In fact, in areas of the world where people suffer from malnutrition, compared to developed countries, immune system function is impaired and illness and hospitalizations are higher.
In short, if you want to stay healthy, pay attention to what goes on your plate.
What causes a weak immune system?
A weak immune system may be caused by the following environmental and behavioral factors:
• air pollution
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Inappropriate feeding
• Lack of sleep
• Chronic stress
Aging may also be associated with a weakened immune system, as the body produces fewer immune cells that are used to fight infections. In addition, aging may be associated with certain micronutrient deficiencies that can weaken the immune system.
Other causes of a weakened immune system may include autoimmune disorders (such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes) or immunodeficiency disorders (including some cancers), which can impair a person’s ability to fight infections.
What is a vitamin supplement?
Vitamin supplements—sometimes known as dietary supplements—contain a variety of ingredients that help people get the nutrients they need in recommended amounts. Ingredients often include vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and sometimes herbs. Vitamin supplements can provide a wide range of benefits, including helping to prevent disease and prevent nutrient deficiencies.
Talk to your doctor before starting a new vitamin supplement, especially if you are taking blood-clotting medications, as some supplements may interfere with the medication’s effectiveness.
The best vitamins to strengthen the immune system
Include these vitamins in your daily diet.
When it comes to health and safety, one of the first vitamins most people think of is vitamin C. This water-soluble vitamin is known for its ability to ward off illness and can help shorten the duration of a cold after contracting it. This vitamin is a strong antioxidant and can fight radicals that prevent or delay some cancers, heart diseases and aging. Vitamin C supplementation can also help prevent and treat respiratory infections.
Get vitamin C from food: Oranges are packed with this nutrient, tropical fruits like kiwi, guava, papaya, and lychee, and non-citrus fruits like plums, cherries, strawberries, currants, and persimmons. According to Dr. Fenster, vegetables that are good sources of vitamin C include cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli, as well as spinach, bell peppers, chili peppers, and kale. Rosemary, parsley, and thyme also provide ample doses of vitamin C.
Vitamin A can help the body fight infections, especially the respiratory kind. This vitamin is known as an anti-inflammatory vitamin due to its role in the development and strengthening of the immune system. Since the body does not make vitamin A on its own, it must be obtained from the foods you eat or from supplements.
Get vitamin A from food: Foods rich in vitamin A include natural cheeses (not processed cheese like American cheese slices), dairy products like yogurt, eggs, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, anchovies, and herring. .
Research shows that vitamin D can protect us against colds and flu, both of which are more common in the colder months. Studies have also shown that more than 80 percent of COVID-19 patients are vitamin D deficient. We get 90% of the vitamin D we need from sun exposure. During the winter, however, we avoid outdoor activities, and even when we are outside, we put on extra clothes, Friedman says. So unless you live on a tropical island, you’ll probably have to eat your vitamin D in the winter.
Get vitamin D from food: Oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel – red meat, liver and egg yolks are excellent sources of vitamin D. But since it is not easy to get enough vitamin D in winter, taking supplements is often recommended.
B vitamins generally refer to a group of eight vitamins (including riboflavin and niacin), but when it comes to immunity, vitamin B6 should be the focus. Vitamin B6, called pyridoxine, is responsible for keeping the immune system strong, helping to produce white blood cells and T cells (which regulate the immune response), and helping to transport oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to a decrease in the antibodies needed to prevent infection.
Get vitamin B6 from food: Pork and poultry provide plenty of vitamin B6. Tuna and salmon are also good options. Plant sources include peanuts, soybeans, chickpeas, leafy greens, oats, and bananas.
Zinc is a micronutrient that can help the immune system fight against invading viruses and bacteria. “Zinc is a very popular cold remedy, and extensive research supports its effectiveness,” Friedman says. In fact, the results show that taking zinc immediately after the onset of cold symptoms can significantly reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. Studies have also pointed to the effectiveness of zinc supplementation in neutralizing COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.
Get zinc from food: While zinc is common in shellfish, crab, beef, chickpeas, cashews, and beans, it can be a good idea to take a supplement in capsule or pill form when you’re sick. The recommended daily intake of zinc is 8 milligrams for women and 11 milligrams for men, says Friedman.
This little-known antioxidant is essential for the function of almost all arms of the immune system. People who are deficient in this rare element may have less protection against bacteria, viruses and even cancer. On the other hand, studies show that increased blood selenium levels are associated with increased immune response to influenza.
Get selenium from food: Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium, but you can also get healthy doses of this nutrient from tuna, halibut, ham, turkey, and cottage cheese.
Advantages and disadvantages of using vitamins to strengthen the immune system
If you’re considering adding a supplement to your health regimen, consider the following pros and cons of using vitamins to boost your immune system.
• The presence of sufficient amounts of certain vitamins in the body (such as vitamin D) may reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections or influenza.
• Some vitamins may reduce oxidative stress (imbalance of oxidants and antioxidants) and inflammation during illness.
• Regular intake of certain vitamins may shorten the duration of illness and reduce the symptoms of certain infections such as the common cold.
• May only be beneficial for people with certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies
• High consumption of certain vitamins may cause side effects such as headache and nausea
• High intake of some vitamins may interfere with some medications
How many vitamins can you take at one time?
Supplements should only be taken as directed on the bottle or as recommended by your healthcare provider. If you are interested in taking multiple supplements at the same time, talk to a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who understands your needs and health condition to determine the right nutrients and amounts for you.
Can you take vitamin supplements every day?
Ideally, the vitamins and nutrients your body needs come from your diet. If you decide to take vitamin supplements, consult with your nutritionist to make sure you are taking the right supplements and in the correct doses.
What to look for in a multivitamin that strengthens the immune system?
When shopping for immune-boosting multivitamins, be sure to read product labels to make sure the supplements contain nutrients such as vitamins C, A, D, B6, zinc, and selenium in the ingredients list. Additionally, make sure a product has been third-party tested for quality and performance. Organizations that provide quality testing include the USP Pharmacopeia (USP) and NSF International.
How to strengthen your immune system naturally?
In addition to a healthy diet and vitamin supplements, several other lifestyle factors can help boost the immune system. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are helpful tactics, as are getting enough sleep, minimizing stress, following recommended vaccinations, maintaining good hygiene, moderating alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking.
How to choose the best vitamins to strengthen your immune system?
The best vitamins for your immune system depend on factors such as your diet and personal health history. In general, immune boosting supplements contain vitamins C, A, D, B6, zinc, and selenium. Consult your nutritionist to determine which supplement is best for your needs.
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