Maintaining a strong immune system is crucial to fighting the common cold and other sicknesses. Nutritionists recommend a well-rounded vitamin-rich diet to bolster the body’s defenses.
However, many need to get more of the right nutrients through their food choices. That’s where multivitamins come in. The supplements are available in tablet, capsule, gummy, and liquid forms and typically contain a blend of vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin A is essential for vision, immune function, and cell growth. It’s also key for building and maintaining strong bones. This fat-soluble vitamin is available from animal products (retinol, retinal, retinoic acid) and plant foods (beta-carotene). Multivitamins typically contain the recommended dietary allowance of this nutrient.
Research shows that a diet rich in beta-carotene, and a multivitamin containing Vitamin A and D, lowers your risk for developing osteoporosis. However, it’s important to note that a high intake of Vitamin A (more than 1.5 mg per day) may negatively impact your bone health, increasing your risk of fractures ).
In addition, there is some evidence that Vitamin A and beta-carotene may increase cancer risk in certain individuals. This is particularly true if you smoke or have inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease). For these reasons, getting your vitamins from whole foods is best.
Vitamin C gets lots of buzz for its immune-boosting powers and its ability to shorten the duration of a cold, but it does much more than that. Also known as l-ascorbic acid, the water-soluble nutrient supports the body’s cell-mediated immunity by stimulating the production of important white blood cells. These cells help to fight off pathogens by releasing molecules that bind to and destroy them.
Vitamin C also supports the activity of T-lymphocytes, another type of white blood cell that promotes the production of antibodies that bind to and neutralize foreign bacteria and viruses. The vitamin also enhances the production of nitrogen oxide by phagocytes, one of the mechanisms that help kill captured pathogens.
According to a recent study, taking this vitamin as a supplement could decrease the length and intensity of upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold. Fortunately, obtaining this vitamin through a well-balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources is simple.
Many people know that vitamin D is important for strong bones, but the fat-soluble nutrient does much more than that. It also supports immune function.
Vitamin D is a potent immunomodulator, and low levels have been linked with increased susceptibility to infection, including upper respiratory infections like the flu.
It stimulates innate immunity by binding to receptors on immune cells, including neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells. This causes them to produce peptides called cathelicidins and defensins, which have antimicrobial and immune-modulating properties.
It also inhibits B cell proliferation and suppresses T cell maturation, skewing them away from the pro-inflammatory Th1 phenotype and toward the anti-inflammatory Th2 phenotype. This keeps the immune system balanced and prevents us from overstimulating the body’s response.
The fat-soluble vitamin E plays a role in helping white blood cells fight infections. It also helps support T cells, which help identify infectious agents and the toxins they produce. Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds (especially sunflower and sesame), and leafy greens, as well as in avocado and kale.
Zinc is another important nutrient for immune health. It helps activate immune cells and promotes the growth of healthy cells, which helps prevent cancer and cellular damage. It is found in oysters, crab, lobster, and beef, as well as in chickpeas, cashews, and beans.
Finally, Selenium is a trace mineral that works as an antioxidant and helps your immune system respond to viral and bacterial infections by helping with cell-mediated immunity. It is also found in eggs, seafood, cruciferous vegetables, and berries. A nutrient deficiency can alter your immune response and lead to illness. Getting these nutrients through your diet or supplementation can keep you healthy and strong to combat infection.