Boosting immunity is one of the most sought out topic currently. Microorganisms, stress, pollution, chemical toxins attacks our body every now and then, our body in return resist these attacks from our well developed immune system network.
To make our body’s immune system strong enough, our mother nature has provided us with many good foods to boost immunity. Though healthy food can provide many essential nutrients required, but in many instances body is not able to properly utilize these nutrients because of any underlying disease, age etc. In such conditions combining a multivitamin supplement with or without natural herbs can help in compensating the loss of essential nutrients required to boost immunity.
While choosing any supplement its safety, efficacy and purity should be always kept first in the mind. Next is the composition of supplements, which shall contain at least these essential vitamins, minerals and herbs.
Important Vitamins for Immunity
Vitamin C is necessary for proper immune function and resistance to infections. Apart from being a potent antioxidant, Vitamin C acts as a co-factor with various Biosynthetic enzymes that plays a role in modulating immunity. Vitamin C stimulates the production and function of immune cells, useful to prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections.
During infections, the demand for Vitamin C in the body rises and must be compensated with vitamin C rich dietary sources or supplements.
Dietary sources: Citrus fruits, red pepper, grapes, kiwi fruit, strawberries, cherry, Tomato, broccoli etc
RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances): 65 mg to 90 mg from teenager to adults, with an amount upto 120 mg during lactation
Retinoic Acid is mostly responsible for carrying out immunity related functions of Vitamin A. Vitamin A not only helps in maintaining integrity of mucosal cells against infections, but also plays an important role in immune cells functioning.
Dietary Sources: Liver, fish oil, dairy products, egg are good source of preformed vitamin A and green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, carrots, broccoli are good source of provitamin A
RDA: 700 mcg to 900 mcg from teenager to adults, with an amount upto 1300 mcg during lactation.
Vitamin D helps in normalizing immune system and the deficiency of Vitamin D can increase the incidence of autoimmune disease in which your immune system wrongly attacks your body parts by considering it as foreign substance.
Vitamin D protects cell and tissue from inflammatory damage and also helps in triggering many important antimicrobial pathways in innate immune system. Low Vitamin D levels can increase the susceptibility to influenza and HIV infections also.
Dietary Sources: Though we have very limited food choices containing Vitamin D, Fishes like Salmon, Tuna and fish liver oils are a good source of Vitamin D. Beef liver, egg yolk and cheese can also provide considerable amount of vitamin D.
RDA: 600 IU from teenager to adults
Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and plays an important role in maintaining integrity of the cell membranes by protecting it from damage caused by free radicals. It is found to enhance the activity of some immune cells and also protect their function
Dietary Sources: Wheat germ oil, Sunflower seeds and oil, Safflower oil, Roasted almonds, Hazelnut are good sources of Vitamin E with a considerable amount found in green leafy vegetables also. Safflower and sunflower oils are high in α-tocopherol
RDA: 15 mg from teenager to adults, with an amount up to 19 mg during lactation
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B6, B12 and Folic acid are crucial in maintaining immunity with their influence in proliferation, differentiation, activation and other functions of immune cells.
Dietary Sources: Green leafy vegetables (except vitamin B12), animal products like fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Beef liver and starchy vegetables (for Vitamin B6 particularly). Spinach, liver, asparagus, and rice are among the foods with high folic acid levels.
RDA: Vitamin B6: 1.3 mg from teenager to adults, with an amount up to 2.0 mg during lactation
Folic acid: 400 mcg from teenager to adults, with an amount up to 600 mcg during pregnancy
Vitamin B12: 2.4mcg from teenager to adults, with an amount up to 2.6mcg during lactation
Important Minerals for Immunity
It is the main constituents of selenoproteins which protects from infections and are cellular antioxidants. Deficiency of selenium can increase the virulence factor of viruses. Selenium increase the production of Interferon’s which helps in defending body from virus.
Dietary Sources: Brazil nuts, seafoods, and organ meats contains good amount of selenium, besides it substantial amount of selenium is found in muscle meats, cereals and other grains, and dairy products.
RDA: 55 mcg from teenager to adults, with an amount up to 70 mcg during lactation.
Zinc plays an extremely important role in many enzymatic processes which are needed for production and proper functioning of immune cells and its deficiency can adversely affect the proliferation and maturation of some immune cells. Zinc can help in reducing the duration of common cold.
Dietary Source: Oysters, red meat and poultry are good non vegetarian food sources, and nuts and beans are considerable vegetarian food sources.
RDA: 11 mg from teenager to adults, with an amount up to 13 mg during lactation.
Iron is an important constituent of hemoglobin, which in turn helps in transporting oxygen in the body. The pro oxidant effect of iron helps in improved Intracellular microbial killing. In Children’s Iron show beneficial effects on Respiratory tract infection.
Dietary Source: Oysters, Beef liver, beans and vegetable (particularly spinach) are good food sources supplying iron.
RDA: 8-11 mg for males 15-18 mg for females from teenager to adults, with an amount up to 27 mg during pregnancy
Besides these trace elements like copper and magnesium can also further increase the immune beneficial effect of your supplements
The preparations from the three main Echinacea species namely: Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea can reduce the duration and/or the severity of the symptoms of common cold and upper respiratory tract infections as a supportive treatment.
The studies showing the evidence for Echinacea effects are inconsistent since most studies have used different Echinacea preparations, which are further influenced by many other geographical factors, still majority of studies show the non specific immunomodulatory action of Echinacea.
Though the side effects report of Echinacea is controversial, some studies have reported serious side effects including abdominal pain, dyspnea, nausea, pruritus, rash, erythema, and urticaria.
Besides it some herbs like Ginger, Garlic and Turmeric are useful and easily available herbs which can boost immunity
Conclusion: Immunity is an important aspect of our healthy living and cannot be ignored. Though we have enough sources and ways to enhance and strengthen our immunity naturally, but we can rely on supplements as well in conditions when we are unable to build immunity from natural sources. Choosing a right supplement containing required vitamins, minerals and herbs in required amount is the most crucial steps. Any underlying disease must be considered before choosing any supplement and it is equally important to consult any physician before taking any supplements.
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