Fear can be instrumental in making us take a ton of decisions. For instance, the fear of COVID-19 has compelled us to distance socially, wear masks and whatnot. But amid all these fears that have surfaced due to this pandemic, a ton of online health platforms have witnessed a surge of immunity-related queries.
But let’s be honest, pandemic or not, shouldn’t we always keep our immunity boosted? Regardless of our immune levels, we can prepare our shields and fight this war against the virus by introducing some key essential nutrients in our routine.
Let’s glance over some of them –
Yep, you guessed it right! Right at the top, (at the risk of sounding mainstream 😉 )we have Vitamin C. It has become one of the most searched health products for immunity on the internet today. At times, our system may generate harmful by-products while battling infections. Vitamin C is a popular antioxidant which protects our cells against these by-products.
RDA ( Recommended Daily Allowance)
Vitamin C is water-soluble. That’s why it isn’t conserved in the body. As a result, toxicity is rare. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for Vitamin C is 40 mg/day.
You might say, “But it isn’t the orange season! How do we include Vitamin C in our diet?” Well, you can include Vitamin C in the form of a supplement and add them to the meals by including rich sources. These could be Amla, Guava, Sweet lime, Cashew Fruit (the richest), Broccoli, Pineapple, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Capsicum, Pumpkin(the underrated), Sweet potato and of course orange and lemon(that goes without saying!).
Fact: Vitamin C gets easily lost and destroyed by cutting and cooking. So eat fruits whole and always prefer sauteing your veggies.
Vitamin D is very helpful – in essence, it is a good indicator of your immune function. A low Vitamin D level is directly linked to reduced immune function. The novel coronavirus targets our lung tissues. Naturally, optimising our lung health becomes the top priority. Let’s dive a little deeper into the technicality. Most of the respiratory passageways are lined by cells. These cells form tight junctions to prevent viruses and bacteria attacks. That’s where our Superhero, Vitamin D comes in! It maintains the integrity of these cells – thus enhancing the defence system (3)(4).
A study carried out by The University of Western Australia, the Busselton Health Study and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital concludes that lung function improves with a higher vitamin D status (5). Another study suggests that, on the onset of viral infections, our lung cells convert inactive Vitamin D to the active form. This active Vitamin D helps produce a substance known as cathelicidin that initiates the killing of viruses and bad bacteria in our body (6).
The RDA for Vitamin D is 400 IU(10 µg).
The natural sources of Vitamin D are Fish – Salmon, Herring (Hilsa), Mackerel (Bangda), Sardines to name a few, Egg yolks, Milk products. Due to the lack of sufficient food sources, there are chances of a Vitamin D deficiency. But hey, humans have a solution to these problems! You can add Vitamin D in the form of a supplement in moderation. A word of caution: Excess Vitamin D supplements can cause toxicity, make sure you consult your doctor or nutritionist before consuming the supplement.
Zinc is a saviour. Why? Read on!
When viruses or bacteria invade our body, Zinc activates our immune cells. Sort of like a burglar alarm which goes off when a stranger breaks in. On initiation of the immune response, immune cells attack and destroy these microbes. Zinc keeps a check on these fighting responses to prevent the build-up of excess harmful substances. These substances may end up damaging our cells thereby putting our body under stress (7)(8).
In a study, when old people were supplemented with Zinc, a stable Zinc level was maintained in the body. Thus, the resistance to infection and an overall improvement in the immune system were also marked (9).
The RDA for Zinc is 12 mg/day
Natural food sources for Zinc include Oysters, Crabs, Lobster, Chicken, Tofu, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, Lentils, Yogurt, Whole grains and Mushrooms.
Word of Caution: Excess Zinc can interfere with Iron and Copper absorption. Take your Iron and supplements containing copper(check the ingredient list for your multivitamin) at a different time.
Selenium is a mineral that is needed in trace amounts and is indirectly related to immunity in the form of selenoproteins. These proteins contain Selenium in their structure in the form of Selenocysteine (Selenium + Amino acid). Selenoproteins are antioxidants that remove certain unstable compounds produced by the infection from the body (10).
A study was carried out where Beta carotene and/or selenium was supplemented to elderly people for six months. Selenium alone caused a 50% increase in WBC levels! These effects lasted for 2 months even after discontinuing supplements (11).
The RDA of selenium is 40 µg/day
The food sources to incorporate Selenium are nuts and seeds, fish, meat, dairy products, eggs, and mushrooms.
Yes, proteins, you read it right! Proteins are often thought only to be involved in muscle building and development. However, most of our body functions are dependent on protein. One of those is our immune system. It comprises different immune cells like antibodies, white blood cells, cytokines ( messengers) and phagocytes (scavengers) which are entirely dependent on proteins.
A 9-week study of a low protein diet on 12 elderly women was undertaken. It found that they adapted to the low protein diet with losses of body cell mass, muscle function, and immune response (12)(13).
The RDA is based on age, body composition, the intensity of exercise and individual nutrient requirements and medical condition. Standard RDA for an adult is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Egg whites, whey protein, seafood, milk and milk products, lean chicken, tofu, lentils and legumes
Flavonoids can either enhance or suppress the immune system depending on the type of infection and based on the amount of harm caused by by-products generated.
A review published in Advanced Nutrition on the effect of flavonoids supplementation on upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) and the immune system saw a decreased URTI incidence by 33% (14). Another study published in Advances In Nutrition demonstrated that flavonoids played an essential role in the immune system’s defences against respiratory tract infections (15).
There are almost 6000+ types of flavonoids and there are no specific daily intake recommendations for it.
Flavonoids can be found in Onions, Tea, Strawberries, Kale, Grapes, Brussels, Berries, Sprouts, Citrus fruit, and Parsley. Many spices are great sources of flavonoids along with a bunch of veggies and fruits
An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms inhabit every normal, healthy bowel, where they keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function. If these gut-dwelling bacteria become depleted, usually because of disease, stress, poor diet, or medications like antibiotics, health problems can result (16). Probiotics may support your immune system and inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria (17). They have been shown to promote the production of natural antibodies in the body. Immune cells like the IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells may be uplifted by probiotics (18)(19).
Study with older adults who consumed a blend of Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum or a placebo for three weeks each suggests that taking probiotic supplements, decreased inflammatory markers, increased anti-inflammatory markers. In addition to this, gut bacteria balances became more like the type seen in young, healthy people(20).
The recommended doses range from 1 billion to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU), the amount contained in a capsule or two, several days per week. You could also have higher strength for a few days per week. Always consult your doctor or Nutritionist before consumption.
A Healthy immune system is the key to preventing infection and disease. Healthy lifestyle, a good eating routine and getting enough sleep and exercise are the most important ways to flourish your immune system so that it works for you.
Research supports the use of supplements with certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and natural extracts that support immune system function and protect against infections.
However, note that some supplements can interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications and may not be appropriate for people with certain health conditions. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any supplements.
Checkout our Vitamin C complex tablets at a discounted rate here