The best vitamins and minerals for the immune system include vitamins A, D, C, E, B6, B12, folate, zinc, iron, copper, selenium, and magnesium.
Every stage of the immune response depends upon the presence of specific vitamins and minerals. All the enzymatic processes in the body depend upon vitamins and minerals to function, including the immune system.
Micronutrients are a crucial part of the immune system, and the body needs optimal for optimal immune function. A deficiency in nutrients required by the immune system can predispose individuals to infections.
The immune system is an intelligent system that protects the body against infection and disease. It is divided into two major parts: innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is non-specific and immediate, while adaptive immunity requires time to develop specific antibodies to foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria.
While the immune system is vital for protecting the body from invading viruses and bacteria, it can also cause tissue damage during the fight against various pathogens. Immune support nutrients such as vitamin c help protect the body from inflammation due to immune activation.
The innate immune system is the first line of defense against pathogens and can cause excess inflammation and tissue damage as it is non-specific.
Acquired immunity is the second line of defense against pathogens that takes several days to weeks to develop and involves an antigen-specific immune response. The immune system makes immune cells that target specific pathogens that act quickly if it reencounters the same pathogen. When the immune system creates immune cells and memory to a particular virus or antigen, it responds faster and stronger as the specific antigen is remembered.
A healthy functioning and robust immune system of innate and acquired immunity are crucial for protecting the body from invading viruses and bacteria.
The immune system is always on guard, protecting you from foreign invaders. It is vital to provide vitamins and minerals for the immune system to keep the immune system strong and functioning at its best and protect you. Think of vitamins and minerals as tools required to make ammunition. If you don’t have the right tools or enough tools, you won’t make ammunition fast enough.
A depletion in nutrients required by the immune system can weaken a person’s immune response. Nutrients modulate the actions of the immune system and are necessary for proper immune function.
On the flip side, overconsumption of nutrient-depleted processed foods negatively impacts immune system function and increases susceptibility to infection. So yes, the type of food matters which it comes to supporting the immune system.
Avoid nutrient-depleted processed foods! Instead, eat a whole food diet that includes foods rich in the best vitamins and minerals for the immune system.
Micronutrient deficiencies are common in the population, especially the poor, elderly and obese. Much of the population does not meet the average requirement of nutrients required by the immune system.
Vitamins and minerals play vital roles in the immune response and development of acquired immunity. A deficiency in any of the nutrients involved in immune function can suppress the immune system.
Below is a list of the best vitamins and minerals for the immune system and some of their roles in proper immune function.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for maintaining the mucosal barriers of the innate immune system. A deficiency in vitamin A can increase susceptibility to eye infections, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal infections. Vitamin A also plays a vital role in the adaptive immune system.
Vitamin D – One of the best vitamins for the immune system and a healthy immune response
The active form of vitamin D, which is D3, regulates two essential antimicrobial proteins that directly kill pathogens. Vitamin D also promotes the development and function of regulatory T cells, which regulate autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with autoimmune diseases where the immune system misfires and attacks the body’s tissues instead of foreign pathogens.
An overactive immune system that creates inflammation or attacks its own tissues is highly damaging. An appropriate immune response is a healthy immune system. The role of vitamin D in modulating and promoting a healthy immune response is crucial for protecting the body.
Vitamin C – An essential vitamin for the imume system to protect against oxidative stess
When the immune system is activated and kills pathogens is creates a lot of inflammation and reactive oxygen species. Vitamin C is necessary for immune support and the body as it is a potent antioxidant that protects the body from reactive oxygen species.
Many immune cells accumulate high levels of vitamin C, which helps protect the immune cells from the free radicals that they release to kill pathogens. In the process of killing invading pathogens, immune cells can be damaged themselves (they are true warriors risking their own lives to protect you!) Taking vitamin C and eating foods high in vitamin C is something you can do to help protect your immune cells from free radical damage.
Vitamin C also decreases histamine levels, and thus symptoms of histamine intolerance such as allergies, itchy skin, and a runny nose.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects against the oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the cell membrane. Supplementing with vitamin E has been shown to enhance immunity in the elderly and decrease susceptibility to infections.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble B vitamin required to make amino acids which are the building blocks of protein, including cytokines and antibodies used by the immune system to fight pathogens. Antibodies are made from amino acids and require vitamins B6, B12, and folate.
Zinc – The best mineral for the immune system
Zinc is one of the best minerals for immune support as zinc is crucial for the development and function of immune cells that mediate both innate and adaptive immunity. Many older people have inadequate levels of zinc. Supplementing with 10-45 mg of zinc in healthy older people has improved immune system function. Zinc and selenium are needed to recycle oxidized glutathione in the body and thus bust the body’s internal antioxidant activity and capacity to neutralize free radicals.
Selenium is a crucial nutrient for a healthy immune response as selenium is a co-factor for the enzyme that recycles glutathione which breaks down damaging hydrogen peroxide into water. Immune cells release hydrogen peroxide to kill pathogens, a free radical that must be broken down into water to prevent further tissue damage. Excess hydrogen peroxide is so damaging and can cause grey hair!
Selenium can inhibit the progression of some viral infections, and a selenium deficiency can impair certain aspects of the immune system.
Iron is another essential mineral for immune function with a double edge sword. Iron is required by the body to mount an effective immune response to invading viruses and bacteria. On the flip side, iron is also used by many infectious pathogens for replication and survival.
Magnesium is a critically important mineral in the body as it is a co-factor for over 600 enzymes in the body and has roles in modulating inflammation and activating vitamin D. Low magnesium levels are associated with obesity, decreased immune cell activity, and higher levels of inflammation and oxidative stress.
Here is a list of the top vegan magnesium rich foods for weight loss. Obesity is also associated with decreased immune function which is why losing weight and reversing insulin resistance is essential for optimal immune function.
While many micronutrients are required for optimal immune function, the best vitamins and minerals for the immune system are vitamin D, C, and zinc. Shop the best supplements for immune support here.
A Review of Micronutrients and the Immune System–Working in Harmony to Reduce the Risk of Infection
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