Few periods in recent history have brought as much anxiety about immune health as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Inevitably, then, we are also seeing many claims and counterclaims about what steps we should all be taking to support or even boost our immunity.
Medical professionals widely agree that your immune system will be better-placed to fend off nasties – whether they are the recent coronavirus, or simply the common cold or flu – when you adopt a healthy all-round lifestyle.
Taking steps such as exercising regularly (no pun intended) and maintaining a healthy weight, it’s well worth swotting up on the vitamins that have an especially good reputation for supporting immune health. Below are some of the ones you should be particularly looking to take:
The immune benefits of vitamin C are talked about a lot, and for good reason. We’ve recently written more comprehensively about how vitamin C supports immune health. But in summary, it is a potent antioxidant and essential micronutrient that acts as a co-factor, helping the immune system to catalyse enzyme reactions for both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
It’s easy to underrate vitamin C’s value given that it is only when one is deficient in this vitamin that the indications of this might show, in the form of increased infections.
Vitamin D plays a key role it plays in many bodily processes, such as the building and maintenance of strong bones. But it is also thought that almost half of the global population does not get enough vitamin D, which is far from ideal even during non-pandemic times.
Vitamin D has been found to play a part in regulating both the innate and adaptive immune systems, while vitamin D deficiency is linked to heightened susceptibility to infection.
At a time when you’ll probably be spending a lot more hours and days indoors, you’ll want to be sure that you are getting enough of this ‘sunshine’ vitamin.
Recent research has indicated that this powerful antioxidant can help to mitigate the stress caused to immune cells by the likes of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, air pollution, drinking alcohol and smoking. So, now might be a great time to stock up on foods rich in vitamin E such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds.
This vitamin plays a key role in supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system. Studies in humans and animals have shown that not having enough of it could impact both humoral and cell-meditated immune responses, with antibody production potentially indirectly impaired.
That’s all the more reason to up your intake of green vegetables, chickpeas, chicken and cold-water fish such as tuna and salmon, which all have high levels of vitamin B6.
Vitamin A is involved in the immune system’s development, and is key to the regulation of cellular and humoral immune responses. It has also been shown to have a therapeutic effect in the treatment of various infectious diseases.
You can get this vitamin in foods that are high in the colourful compounds known as carotenoids, including carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and pumpkin.
Ensure an adequate intake of all the vitamins detailed above, and your immune system is likely to be in a stronger position to protect you against whatever is thrown at it – not merely COVID-19.