Can daily vitamins properly nourish the body
Can you strengthen your immune system?
With we're in the middle of one of the biggest pandemics of our lives, taking care of our health has never been more important. While we all hear a lot about how to contain the spread of COVID-19, little is said about how we can support our immune system should we or someone we love contract the virus.
So let's get started and find out more about how we can strengthen our immune systems and our bodies, and how best to fight off an infection.
How does our immune system work?
Our immune system is built in such a way that it supports the body in defending itself against diseases such as bacteria or viruses. It consists of hundreds of different biochemical processes and protects the body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that could make you sick.
In short, there are two main components of the immune system: the natural response and the adaptive response. The natural response is our first defense reaction. It responds to an intruder by trying to remove it from the body, which can make us feverish or sniffy.
The adaptive response is the more specific response that can provide long-term protection against diseases such as measles by using memory cells to kill certain pathogens. It in turn consists of hundreds of reactions, all of which are interdependent.
Can you strengthen your immune system?
When you think about how complicated the immune system really is, it's hard to believe that a single food or a small change in behavior could affect the way it works as a whole.
In fact, we can't just "boost" the immune system - it's not about doing something now and doing it tomorrow. Therefore, none of the following tips are any quick fix. They should all be considered alongside a long-term, healthy diet and lifestyle.
How can you support the immune system?
However, there are ways to ensure that the immune system has what it needs to function optimally. Making sure you are not deficient in certain vitamins and minerals is a good place to start. Here are the key players to watch out for ...
Vitamin A plays an important role in protecting and maintaining our epithelial tissue and mucous tissue - our body's first defense reaction against the penetration of pathogens. In other words, it helps keep skin cells, airways and intestines healthy .
One possibility is to encourage the formation of slime. This improves the immune response in lung tissue by helping the body clear inhaled particles of pathogens from the lungs, reducing the risk of respiratory infections .
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin A helps reduce the levels of inflammatory molecules that could weaken the immune system's response. Vitamin A also plays an essential role within immune cells such as B and T cells and helps in the formation of antibodies that neutralize the pathogens that enter our body when a virus infection occurs .
Preformed vitamin A (retinol) is only found in animal products. However, beta-carotene, which is found in various foods, can be converted into vitamin A (see below for sources). In order for beta-carotene to be converted into vitamin A as efficiently as possible, it is best to consume it with a source of fat, since it is a fat-soluble vitamin (the same applies to vitamin D) .
Recommended daily intake: Take 700-900 mcg of real vitamin A (retinol), do not exceed the upper daily limit of 3,000 mcg. For beta-carotene, aim for 6-15 mg daily (no upper limit).
Food sources: yellow and orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, bell peppers, mangoes. Others are kale, dandelion greens, cabbage and chard.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that has been used for decades to support a healthy immune system. As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps protect the body from oxidative stress - the process by which harmful free radicals circulate in the body and affect our immune system.
Vitamin C also plays a key role in killing viruses and preventing pathogens from multiplying. In fact, most of the cells within the immune system rely on vitamin C to function properly, the most important of which are phagocytes and T cells.
Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory infections, including the common cold  .
Retrospective vitamin C studies have shown so much promise that COVID-19 patients in China were given high doses intravenously in a clinical study. While the results of this study won't be available until September 2020, it could prove to be a promising, natural treatment that will help patients with coronavirus recover from symptoms faster.
Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, the body does not store it. It is therefore important that it be taken on a daily basis. Fortunately, vitamin C is found in large quantities in a wide range of fruits and vegetables.
Recommended daily intake: aim for a minimum of 200 mg daily from food.
Food sources: Kiwi, peppers, oranges, citrus fruits, grapefruit, broccoli.
Widely known for its role in tooth and bone health, vitamin D is actually one of the most important vitamins when it comes to helping the immune system fight infections. So much so that most doctors and nutritionists recommend supplementation during this COVID-19 outbreak to protect against the virus.
Also known as the sun vitamin, vitamin D is naturally produced when our bodies are exposed to sunlight. The correlation between high levels of vitamin D in summer and lower rates of colds and flu describes why it is referred to as a seasonal factor in the medical world. This also gives hope that the fatal cases of COVID-19 will decrease as we near the warmer months.
How does it all work? Studies are still exploring the exact mechanisms, but it has been found that immune cells contain vitamin D receptors that help regulate both natural and adapted immune responses, especially in respiratory infections .
In a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, it was found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the likelihood of a respiratory infection by about 42%. This study also found that daily supplementation had the greatest effect on cold and flu prevention, rather than larger doses taken just once or monthly. This means that regular, daily supplementation is recommended .
Although vitamin D plays such a crucial role within the immune system, it is actually one of the most common deficiency symptoms worldwide. The lack of sunlight in the northern hemisphere plays a major role in this, which is why health care experts recommend that you take vitamin D supplements from September to April.
Recommended daily intake: 1000-4000 IU should be enough to keep most people at optimal levels, or as recommended by your doctor.
It is recommended to combine vitamin D3 with vitamin K2 to improve absorption.
Swell: 10-15 minutes of skin exposure to the sun or a vitamin D3 supplement. Note that some people have difficulty converting vitamin D from sunlight. I would recommend testing your vitamin D levels to be sure.
Zinc is a key mineral in the production of enzymes that are essential for our immune system. It is also involved in the white blood cells' defense against infection. Because of this, people who are zinc deficient are more susceptible to the common cold, flu, and other viruses.
Zinc supplementation can be beneficial for those who are already ill. A 2019 study of 64 inpatient children, all of whom suffered from respiratory diseases, found that taking 30 mg of zinc per day shortened the overall duration of the infection and the length of hospital stay by an average of 2 days .
Recommended daily intake: 10-15 mg per day.
Food sources: Hemp seeds, tofu, whole grains, cashews, dark chocolate and chickpeas or a corresponding preparation.
Selenium is another powerful antioxidant that helps lower oxidative stress in the body, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity. Selenium has been shown to be indispensable for the immune system as it protects against various pathogens .
Recommended daily intake: 75 mcg daily for men and 60 mcg daily for women.
Food sources: Brazil nuts, brown rice, oat flakes, lentils, barley. Just one serving of Brazil nuts a few times a week provides the recommended amount of selenium.
Other ways to protect the immune system
Pay attention to intestinal health
The gut plays an important role in immune function - so much so that 75-80% of the body's immune cells are actually in the gut. This is also where micronutrients such as the vitamins and minerals mentioned above are broken down and absorbed by the body. It is therefore very important to make sure that our gut microbiome is healthy. This is best done through diet - more precisely, by consuming insoluble fiber or probiotic foods such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha or sauerkraut.
Another tasty and convenient way to consume probiotics is to consume a dietary supplement such as "THRIVE", which contains 10 billion probiotics per serving.
Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which can shut down the cells of the immune system, thereby impairing the immune response. It can become a vicious circle because the more stress you have, the weaker your immune system becomes, which in turn causes more stress.
It is best to try to make time for relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, or movement rather than turning on your phone and watching messages that cause even more anxiety. I would recommend that you do a 10-20 minute meditation and if you are new to meditating or not comfortable using an app like Headspace, Calm or a guided video on the internet - this will help to reduce your stress levels.
Sleep is hugely important in general, and even more important when it comes to fighting a virus. During sleep, the body makes cytokines - proteins that help fight infection and inflammation. Sleep is also the phase in which the body recovers from the day. One should always try to sleep about 7-8 hours a night. If you have trouble sleeping or lack of sleep, taking a nap during the day can help. A study by the Sleep Foundation found that taking two naps of no more than 30 minutes each - one in the morning and one in the afternoon - can help reduce stress and offset the negative effects of lack of sleep on the immune system.
Do some research, but stay positive!
Easier said than done, but there is a lot of scare tactics that can worsen our anxiety and create fear of the unknown. Instead, try to direct your energy towards positive things by taking the opportunity to spend time with family, learn new skills, or reflect on what is really important to you. Remember, it's only temporary, we're going to get through it all and come out stronger than ever.
Do you need more more health tips? Feel free to check out our Facebook group where we're currently hosting a number of live events covering everything from nutrition, meditation, to home training and productivity tips.
Thank you dear Vivo team,
The article is very well written and makes me realize again that I have definitely forgotten about selenium lately👍🏼
Your support is unbeatable in the fitness industry💪
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