The human immune system works tirelessly to fight off invading pathogens like bacteria, toxins and viruses. To protect yourself from infection and disease, you must keep your immune system healthy, which can be achieved by eating nutrient-rich foods, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. These healthy habits all promote a healthy immune function, which is crucial for protecting yourself from diseases like the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Several studies have also found that taking vitamin supplements “can improve immune response and potentially protect against illness.”
While supplements are beneficial, you must keep in mind that no supplement can totally prevent diseases. In the case of the current coronavirus pandemic, a balanced diet, supplements, proper hygiene, and social distancing all work together to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Detailed below are the scientifically proven health benefits of certain vitamins and why you should take them for immune health.
Vitamin C is one of the most popular supplements taken to prevent infections and support immune health. it is essential for the function of different immune cells. It also enhances the ability of cells to fight infections.
Additionally, vitamin C is crucial for cellular death that helps keep the immune system healthy. Cellular death, despite the name, is important because the process clears out old cells and replaces them with new, healthy ones.
Lastly, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps prevent damage caused by oxidative stress.
The accumulation of reactive molecules called free radicals cause oxidative stress, which can harm your immune function. Oxidative stress is also associated with many health problems.
Supplementing with vitamin C can also help reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold.
To determine the benefits of vitamin C against a cold, researchers conducted a large review of 29 studies in 11,306 volunteers. The results showed that regularly taking vitamin C at an average dose of 1 to 2 g every day can reduce the duration of colds by eight percent in adults and 14 percent in children.
Research has also shown that high-dose intravenous vitamin C treatment can help improve symptoms in patients with severe infections such as sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) caused by viral infections.
These studies show that taking vitamin C can support a healthy immune system, particularly in people who don’t get enough of the vitamin through their diet.
The upper limit for vitamin C is 2,000 mg while daily doses of supplements can range from 250 to 1,000 mg.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient with key roles in overall wellness and the proper functioning of the immune system.
Vitamin D improves the pathogen-fighting effects of monocytes and macrophages, or white blood cells, which are a crucial part of your immune defense. The vitamin also minimizes inflammation, which promotes a healthy immune response.
Vitamin D deficiency can have negative side effects on your immune function. Low vitamin D levels can increase your risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections, like influenza and allergic asthma.
According to a 2019 review of randomized control studies in 11,321 participants, taking vitamin D supplements can help lower your risk of developing respiratory infections, particularly if you are deficient in the vitamin.
The review also showed that the vitamin can lower infection risk in people who have adequate vitamin D levels, implying an overall protective effect with regular supplementation.
Depending on blood levels, you’ll need at least 1,000 and 4,000 IU (international units) of supplemental vitamin D daily. However, individuals with more serious deficiencies may need higher doses.
The mineral zinc is often added to supplements and other products that promote immune health since it has a key role in immune function. Additionally, the mineral is important for immune cell development and communication. Zinc also plays a crucial role in the body’s inflammatory response.
Zinc deficiency is common in older adults, and at least 30 percent of older adults are considered deficient in zinc.
Zinc deficiency will hinder your immune system’s ability to function properly, and can make you susceptible to infection and health problems like pneumonia.
In a 2019 study, researchers observed 64 hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRIs). The young volunteers were given 30 mg of zinc daily and tests revealed that zinc helped decrease the total duration of infection.
Zinc supplementation also decreased the duration of the hospital stay of the participants by two days, unlike the children in the placebo group.
Taking zinc supplements can also help reduce the duration of the common cold.
The average, healthy adult can safely take zinc long-term. The daily dose should be under 40 mg of elemental zinc. Note that taking too much zinc can interfere with copper absorption, which can increase your infection risk.
Taking supplements can help support the health of your immune system. Practice healthy lifestyle habits like eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly to keep your body healthy and help lower your risk of contracting infections like the coronavirus.