How healthy is your immune system? When was the last time that you were seriously ill? Do you regularly suffer from colds and sore throats or do you possess an inhuman ability to fight off pesky seasonal bugs?
These are all loaded questions, as our immune systems are determined by much more than genetics alone. Referring to the phrase “you are what you eat”, diet is essential if you hope to keep your natural defences as sharp as a razor. Let’s therefore take a look at some of the most important as well as the benefits associated with each.
This is arguably the most well-known vitamin due to its powerful antioxidant properties. Numerous studies have shown that vitamin C can help to boost the immune system while decreasing your chances of developing an infection. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, regular doses of vitamin C may also reduce the severity of conditions such as chronic arthritis.
Vitamin D is another powerful tool within your arsenal. Interestingly enough, the body is not able to produce this nutrient without exposure to the sun. This is why it might be a good idea to take vitamin D supplements during the more inclement times of the year. Vitamin D is associated with several anti-inflammatory benefits and it may even be able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The good news is that there is plenty of vitamin D in foods such as milk, yoghurt and fatty fish.
Zinc is a mineral and while it is normally taken in relatively small doses, its effects upon the immune system are quite potent. For example, did you know that zinc may be able to protect some cells of your body from becoming infected by viruses and bacteria? Furthermore, this mineral supports healthy cellular growth and it helps to keep your immune system strong. Some foods high in zinc include red meat, poultry, salmon, whole grains and leafy green vegetables. There are also topical zinc creams that can be used to help surface wounds such as scrapes and cuts heal faster.
Arginine and Citrulline
These two lesser-known substances are extremely important; particularly if you follow a strict exercise routine. Both arginine and citrulline are amino amino acids which help your body to synthesise a substance known as nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is known as a vasodilator, as it allows your blood vessels to expand. The theory here is that areas of the body which are able to receive more nutrients via the bloodstream will be healthier.
However, some recent studies seem to indicate that these two amino acids (and the nitric oxide that they produce) may be able to inhibit the replication cycles of acute respiratory conditions, namely the recent COVID-19 outbreak. While more research needs to be performed, the fact of the matter is that arginine and citrulline are potent immune-boosting substances.
We should also point out that some of the most powerful immune-related supplements come in the form of herbs which have been used for thousands of years. The main benefit here is that we are already well aware of how they work and their associated benefits. Elderberry is a perfect example.
Elderberry comes in nearly 30 varieties of species and yet, its effects are generally the same regardless of the exact variety. Interestingly enough, this plant was being used as far back as 400 BCE by the Greeks to treat various ailments. Not only is elderberry lacked full of powerful antioxidants, but its anti.-inflammatory properties are well documented. It is a mild pain reliever and may also aid in digestions. Many individuals choose to take elderberry immediately prior to the normal flu season in order to bolster their immunity.
Health food stores are always stocked full of echinacea, and for good reason. This herb offers a host of immunological benefits. Extracts of this herb have been used for decades to fight off colds and some evidence seems to suggest that echinacea is useful at increasing white blood cell counts. White blood cells are some of the primary biological mechanisms which help your body to fight off an infection.
Now that we have taken at some of the most potent nutrients which can help to boost your immune system, the main question involves how much should be taken of each. This is when a bit of personalisation will come into play. Variables such as your age, your overall health and if you are taking any other supplements will often play a role. This is why it is a good idea to speak with a dietician or nutritionist in order to determine the best dosages. Either way, there is no doubt that you will be amazed at the benefits from a long-term point of view.
Next generation personal trainer and co-founder of Trion