Key nutrients to improving your Immune resilience

The world has changed dramatically  in the last few month and life as we know it has been replaced with social distancing, increased hygiene measures and fear and anxiety. People with certain cancers and those who have received or are receiving treatments for cancer are at an increased risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus.

While much work is going on behind the scenes to develop a vaccine, we do not as yet have a proven treatment BUT that does not mean we are defenceless against the virus.

Not surprisingly there has been a lot of focus on supporting our immune health recently.  We are created with an innate (the non-specific ‘first line of defence’ part of the immune system) and an adaptive immune system (the more antigen specific part of the immune system) which protects us and is a complex and intricate system of engineering, responding to threats in a precise and coordinated way. A robust immune system which includes the following nutrients can reduce our vulnerabilities against disease.

Vitamin C

There has been a lot of talk about Vitamin C in relation to COVID-19, with some countries, like China, trialling high doses to improve the prognosis of COVID-19 infected pneumonia. Vitamin C has demonstrated  well-established anti-viral action for decades. From its early use to combat polio during the 1940s, to its central role in an anti-virus protocol published in 1980. It is a powerful antioxidant, has anti-inflammatory properties and supports the body’s ability to fight infection. Foods rich in Vitamin C include kiwi fruit, berries, tomatoes, citrus fruit and bell peppers.

Vitamin D

It is not enough to have a 10 day summer holiday and feel you have topped up your vitamin D levels for another year. You need to replenish your stores more regularly. Sitting outdoors in the sunshine each day for a short while, without sun lotion,  will help to top up your vitamin D level , if you are not able to do this then you might want to consider a Vitamin D supplement.

Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, eggs and mushrooms are all sources of vitamin D, however no dietary source comes close to the vitamin D levels made naturally from sun exposure.

Zinc

Zinc contributes to the normal function of the immune system and is an important mineral for over 100 biological processes in the body,  even a mild to moderate deficiency can have a negative impact on the immune system’s ability to deal with infection. It is also an essential nutrient for rapidly dividing cells, especially during infections. Zinc can be found in meat, chickpeas and lentils, pumpkin and sesame seeds. 

Selenium

Is important for both the innate and adaptive immunity. It is an essential nutrient for the production of glutathione which helps to lower oxidative stress in the body, thereby reducing inflammation  and enhancing immunity. Good food sources can be found in brazil nuts, oats, sunflower seeds, fish, and chicken.

Beta Glucans

These are excellent immune modulators, helping to  fend off unwanted pathogens.  Mushrooms are an excellent source (oyster and shiitake), but most commonly it is supplemented to achieve therapeutic levels.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A supports the immune cells in our body and helps to regulate some genes involved in immune function. It is found in the diet in two forms: beta-carotene (found in red, yellow and orange plant foods) and retinol, or ‘active vitamin A’ (found in high fat animal foods such as eggs, butter, liver and full fat dairy products). Beta-carotene needs to be converted in the body before it can be used, which is why retinol is often referred to as ‘active vitamin A’. 

Food provides much more than comfort or fuel, it is a critical component of your immune system. Start eating well today, it is never too late to begin strengthening your immune health.