Top nutrients for optimal immune function
With the current state the world is in there has never been a better time to get your immune system on point. What many people don’t understand about nutrition is that the body needs certain micronutrients to effectively carry out daily bodily processes. The immune system like every other system in the body has nutrient requirements and nutrient cofactors (something necessary for these processes to take place).
What needs to be asked is are there any reasons or factors, internal or external that may be dampening a normal immune response? For example, smoking can cause an increase in nutrient requirements (B vitamins, vitamin C and others) to carry out daily processes compared to non-smokers. As well as the fact that smoking is a damaging the respiratory system which REALLY, really needs to be functioning at 100% at the moment to protect yourself from airborne pathogens. Excess sugar consumption can also impair the immune system, around 100g of sugar consumed, can temporarily impair vitamin C absorption as well as suppress the immune system for up to 6 hours. Maybe think twice about that glass of juice with your breakfast or the sugary drink with lunch… In terms of juice, it’s better to eat the whole fruit as there’s a lot more to benefit from in the rest of the fruit too (think fibre). Drinking too much alcohol can also suppress the immune system, as well as damage the gut barrier and the intestinal lining – making it harder for your body to absorb nutrients from your food.
"...around 100g of sugar consumed, can temporarily impair vitamin C absorption as well as suppress the immune system for up to 6 hours"
Having said this, the main nutrients you should take note of for immune function are;
- Vitamin C – improves immune function and strengthens resistance to infection. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in the body and is also rapidly depleted when we are stressed (media-induced panic anyone?). Vitamin C plays an important role in lymphocyte production, lymphocytes are the line of defence against bacterial and viral infections.
- Zinc – acts as an antioxidant and is also necessary for many white blood cell functions. Zinc is a cofactor for many processes the immune system needs to do each day too.
- Vitamin D – A lesser-known function of vitamin D is that it regulates/modulates immune function, without adequate vitamin D levels your immune system can’t do its job properly, end of story.
- Selenium – This one is really necessary for the body’s antioxidant system to run efficiently – this helps protect against oxidative stress, something we hear a lot about these days. Without antioxidants, the immune system can’t effectively protect your body from pathogens and viruses
- Medicinal mushrooms – no, not the magic ones. These are several types of mushrooms that regulate/modulate the immune system, reishi mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, cordyceps, turkey tail mushrooms. There’s a whole lot of really interesting new research that shows these mushrooms are REALLY effective at enhancing and supporting the immune system, increasing T-cell activation and natural killer (NK) cells among many, many other benefits.
These are just some of the nutrients you really want to increase in your diet at the moment. This combined with good hand hygiene, common sense, getting enough exercise, fresh air and sunlight are all pieces of the puzzle. If you want help putting these pieces together in a way that works for you as an individual, please don’t hesitate to book an appointment. We are now also doing online (skype/zoom) consults for those who sensibly want to keep their distance from other people.