Nutrient deficiencies are a common cause of compromised immunity. These problems occur in the malnourished, who don’t consume enough food, and the overweight, whose food choices are poor in essential nutrients.
Long-term balanced nutrition is the foundation of a healthy immune system. Supplements can never compensate for a poor diet because our bodies absorb more nutrients through food.
This article explains which nutrients are essential for a healthy immune system, lists foods that contain them, and provides tips on improving other lifestyle factors that weaken our natural defenses against disease.
No single nutrient can boost our immunity on its own. To maintain our health, we need to consume regularly a combination of nutrients that support our immune system.
The ten vitamins and minerals listed below are the nutrients we must primarily consume through food. Doctors recommend supplements to people with low levels of vitamins and minerals because of pregnancy, old age, or other health reasons.
Vitamin C is well-known for its antioxidant and immunity-enhancing properties. It stimulates the production of white blood cells and collagen, reduces inflammation, and fights free radicals.
Many fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of vitamin C, including:
Note: Check out our guide on how to reduce inflammation and discover more foods with anti-inflammatory properties.
All B vitamins play a critical role in building the immune system. Among these vitamins, B6 stands out as it supports biochemical reactions in the body and is involved in creating red blood cells, whose function is to carry oxygen to the organs. Vitamin B6 also supports the production of white blood cells and T cells, which are directly responsible for fighting pathogens.
Vitamin B6 is abundant in these foods:
Note: IV therapy for skin glow includes a combination of Vitamin C, B, and zinc for an immunity boost and glowing skin.
The synthetic form of vitamin B9 is called folic acid. Vitamin B9 or folate is essential for the formation of our genetic material and the production of healthy blood cells.
Pregnant women and those planning pregnancy need to take supplemental B9 because they can’t ingest enough of this vitamin through food. This nutrient is essential in helping the baby’s spinal cord develop and it prevents certain birth defects.
In some countries, including the US, folic acid is added to certain foods because people absorb it better than natural B9. Folic acid is added to:
B9 occurs naturally in some fruits, vegetables, and meats, including:
Vitamin E is known for its strong antioxidant and immunity-boosting properties. It supports the growth of T cells and helps cell membranes ward off pathogens. By reducing cell damage, vitamin E also helps your hair and skin stay healthy and radiant. For that reason, it is often added to beauty products such as vitamin C + E complex.
Foods rich in vitamin E include:
Vitamin A is another powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient. It protects the stomach, intestines, respiratory system, mucous membranes in the mouth and nose, and skin from damage caused by free radicals. It is also essential for maintaining eye health.
These foods contain high levels of vitamin A:
Scientists are still learning about the effects of vitamin D in supporting the immune system. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties have a significant role in fighting pathogens, and consequently, vitamin D deficiency increases the chance of infections.
The best source of vitamin D is direct sunlight. Food sources of vitamin D include:
Zinc is a mineral known for supporting the production of new immune cells. Its anti-inflammatory properties help prevent damage from free radicals, and it helps the healing of wounds.
Food sources of zinc are:
Iron is a mineral that regulates several immune functions, including the proliferation of lymphocytes – cells that produce antibodies to fight viruses and bacteria. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide, particularly affecting women and pre-school children.
Foods high in iron include:
Selenium is a mineral with potent antioxidant properties. It helps support the immune system by reducing inflammatory reactions in the body and preventing cell damage. Selenium is critical for maintaining optimal metabolism and thyroid function.
Selenium-rich foods include:
The role of copper in supporting the immune system has not been studied sufficiently, but it is known that copper deficiency leads to lower levels of blood cells and susceptibility to infections. Copper is present in all body tissues, and it is involved in the production of collagen and the absorption of iron.
Foods that are high in copper include:
The best way to build and sustain a healthy immune system is by consuming food rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other immunity-enhancing nutrients. However, immunity is a complex system and its health also depends on other lifestyle factors.
Here are some tips for strengthening your immune system:
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Being underweight or overweight usually leads to nutrient deficiencies that result in a dysfunctional immune system. Weight gain and obesity also pose a series of health risks such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other issues that weaken the immune system.
2. Get enough sleep
Studies confirm that a lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to viruses and prolong recovery time after illness. During sleep, the immune system produces the proteins and antibodies necessary to fight infections. Consequently, sleep deprivation reduces their production.
3. Try to minimize stress
The stress hormone cortisol reduces lymphocytes, white blood cells that fight viruses and bacteria. Chronic stress leads to anxiety, depression, and inflammation, which weaken the immune system over time.
4. Perform annual medical checkups
Sometimes we feel fine and are unaware of underlying inflammatory processes, hormonal imbalance, and other health issues until we visit the doctor. These conditions need addressing before they compromise our immune response. Regular checkups help keep the immune system working optimally and prevent diseases.
5. Use nutrient supplements if necessary
If you have a hormonal disbalance, thyroid gland issues, nutrient deficiencies, or other conditions that weaken your immune response, your doctor may recommend using supplements. Don’t take supplements without consultation with a medical professional as high doses of some nutrients cause health problems.
Note: Hormonal imbalance may disrupt body processes, including gaining and losing weight. Your attempts to lose weight may be futile due to it. Book a medical weight loss consultation and the Vibrant Vitality Clinic staff will prepare a personalized regime, including hormonal therapy.
6. Consider IV therapy for boosting your immunity
IV therapy is an effective way to get the necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to boost energy and support the immune system. Because essential nutrients are administered directly to the cells, bypassing the digestive system, they are absorbed faster and more effectively than when ingested through food. Vibrant Vitality Clinic offers Myers’ cocktail, an IV therapy designed to improve immunity and restore energy.
Immunity is a highly complex system and scientists are still learning how it works. However, we know that balanced nutrition plays a fundamental role in maintaining both physical and mental health. The best thing we can do to fortify our body’s defense system is to maintain a varied and nutrient-rich diet.
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