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There has never been a more important time than the present to give your immune function a boost.
Here are some key nutrients and how their function in the body is essential for optimal immune function. Increase your intake via your diet or look into supplementation if needed.
Key nutrients for boosting immune function
- Zinc (Zn) is an essential micronutrient known to play a central role in the immune system, involving multiple mechanisms, from skin membrane barrier integrity, to the regulation of lymphocytes, it is critical in generating both innate and acquired (humoral) antiviral responses. Found in red meat, seeds and shellfish so can be tricky to get enough if you don’t eat these foods often. Supplement around 15-40mg per day, and make sure you take any supplements with food, it can make you feel sick on an empty stomach.
- Selenium (Se) is an essential trace element having biological functions of importance for human health. Selenium is needed for the production of glutathione and is a potent antioxidant. It has been shown to block replication of viruses such as HIV, Herpes – 1 and influenza virus. As our soil is deficient most food sources lack in selenium. Try to eat 2-3 brazil nuts each day to boost intake or look into supplementing around 100mcg per day.
- Vitamin A is critical to a competent immune system. Vitamin A rich foods have been utilised to maximise immunity during cold and flu season throughout the world for centuries. Working with Vitamin D, it can help to increase infection resistance and activate immune cells such as B and T lymphocytes. Vitamin A is also needed to support healthy membrane function and integrity. Vitamin A rich foods include fruit and vegetables that are orange! Think carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato. Cod liver oil is a great, and safe, supplement to take to boost intake.
- Vitamin D - Almost all cells in the body have Vitamin D Receptors due to the importance of its hormone-like structure for mediating the proper functioning of the cell. Resting T and B lymphocytes do not have a Vitamin D receptor, but when activated, their expression of vitamin D receptors is induced, demonstrating the importance of sufficient vitamin D for regulating immune functions during the active stages of infection and inflammation. Supplementation of 1000IU/day is safe during winter if you don’t know your blood levels of vitamin D, it is also found naturally occurring in cod liver oil.
- Vitamin C - As an electron donor, vitamin C’s direct antioxidant effects protect cells from endogenous and exogenous reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Vitamin C is also involved in the regeneration of other antioxidants, such as vitamin E and glutathione, back to their active state. Vitamin C has antiviral activity and is essential for optimal immune function. Known to be found in citrus fruits so as long as you are eating a variety of colourful fruits and veggies you will be getting enough. Supplementation of 1000 – 3000 mg per day is a good option if feeling sick.
Other considerations include
- Take care of your gut health, 70% of your immune system is located here. Take probiotics, eat clean foods, and avoid unnecessary medications, refined sugar and alcohol.
- Also try to reduce your stress, possibly a difficult one in our current situation. Do your best to appreciate the simple things in life like family, friends and how lucky we are to live in NZ.
- Get outside and enjoy some fresh air, moderate exercise has been shown to support immunity but be careful to not over do it. Some research has shown the immune system may become compromised with too much high intensity or endurance exercise.