With the coronavirus pandemic, "immunity-boosting" has emerged as a popular topic, appearing alongside numerous speculative cures, treatments, and prevention strategies. An analysis of Google trends, for example, shows that the phrases "immune boost" and "immune-boosting" saw a significant increase in February 2020, around the same time concerns around the virus intensified. The primary reason for this is that health has risen to the top of everyone's priority list, particularly in “immune health”. Sure enough the lockdowns didn’t help either. In the sense that it only meant people had more time in hand, and to shield against an unknown virus, google searches on vitamin C and zinc tablets followed the search with immunity boosters.
Let's take a closer look at what immunity boosting means and when it comes to living a healthier life, what food choices and vitamins do you need to incorporate? It is also essential to consider whether or not it is necessary to include an immunity booster supplement in your daily diet or is it a marketing gimmick?
What is Immunity Boosting?
When it comes to protecting the body against infectious agents, immunity is the first line of defense. The immune system is a complex system that is dispersed throughout the body and is highly active. And, in recent years, it has become a widely misused term that many people do not fully comprehend. For better or worse, there is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to your immune system. Because of this, what you eat has a significant impact on how well your body can protect itself from disease and combat disease when it occurs. Consequently, you must ensure that you consume various nutritious foods daily to avoid developing any immunity-related complications.
Let's take a look at the essential vitamins and minerals you need to consume daily to maintain or improve your immunity, as well as their primary food sources.
Vitamin C receives a great deal of attention when it comes to immunity, and for a good reason. This essential vitamin may aid in the prevention and treatment of colds, increases antioxidant activity in the body, and facilitates the absorption of other nutrients such as iron. In addition, evidence suggests that a high vitamin C intake is associated with a lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and certain neurological conditions. As an antioxidant itself, vitamin C also aids in the regeneration of other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, in the body, reducing the number of harmful free radicals that can worsen infections.
Food Sources - Spinach, Kale, Papaya, Strawberries, Oranges, Pineapples.
B Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B refers to a group of eight vitamins, including thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), potassium (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and cyanocobalamin (B12). It is important to note that each B vitamin plays a vital role in energizing and regulating the body's biological responses. For example, vitamin B6 is responsible for keeping your immune system strengthened by producing new red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body. Furthermore, vitamin B6 is essential for the production of white blood cells and T cells and the regulation of immune responses. Vitamin B6 also aids in producing the protein interleukin-2, which is responsible for directing white blood cell activity.
Food Sources - Avocados, Strawberry, Banana, Yoghurt, Milk, Fish.
The primary function of vitamin D is to assist your body in maintaining optimal blood levels of calcium and phosphorous. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be obtained through sun exposure and the foods you eat. Getting enough vitamin D can also help to protect you from catching a cold or other viruses. According to clinical studies published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, vitamin D supplementation significantly reduces the risk of developing respiratory tract infections in the winter months.
Food Sources - Salmon, Tuna, Milk, Cereals.
When it comes to immunity, zinc is a key trace mineral that plays a role in many different biological processes. It plays a role in both the innate and acquired responses to viral infection. Because of zinc's immunomodulatory and antiviral properties, it is an effective supportive treatment for COVID-19 patients in clinical trials. Furthermore, studies have shown that zinc supplementation can help to reduce COVID-19-related symptoms such as lower respiratory tract infection.
Food Sources - Lean meat, Beans, Yoghurt, Chickpeas
Vitamin A helps to strengthen the body's innate and adaptive immune systems, as well as its inflammatory response. Protective mechanisms of the innate immune response include protecting the skin and eyes, the respiratory tract, the digestive tract, and the reproductive organs. The adaptive immune system is responsible for producing antibodies that attack foreign invaders in the body (like the flu virus). In addition, antioxidants such as carotenoids (a type of vitamin A found in plant foods) are potent and can assist the body in fighting inflammation.
Food Sources - Carrots, Pumpkin, Green leafy veggies, Sweet Potatoes.
Iron, which aids in the delivery of oxygen to cells, is involved in various immune system functions. Among its many functions, it is critical for energy metabolism and oxygen transport, cognitive functions, and the formation of red blood cells. Iron is a crucial mineral in both primary and secondary immune responses, and it is essential for both. Non-specific immunity, which is your body's first line of defense against pathogens, is degraded when you have too little iron in your system. Therefore, a healthy iron intake is important for the proper functioning of your immune system.
Food Sources - Red meat, Chicken, Turkey, Oysters.
Selenium is a trace element that is essential for the health of your immune system. This antioxidant aids in the reduction of oxidative stress in the body, which in turn reduces inflammation and improves immunity. Increased selenium levels in the blood are associated with enhanced immune response.
Food Sources - Seafood, Chicken, Red meat, Cheese.
Do You Really Need an Immunity Booster Supplement?
Now, the question arises if you need an immunity booster supplement to boost your immunity. Again, the simple answer is absolutely not. These immunity booster supplements available in the market are not some magic pills that boost your immunity in a day and safeguard you against every other disease. This is just a marketing gimmick to sell their products and take advantage of people's fear.
The primary thing that you need to focus on is your diet. First, of course, you need to include the foods mentioned above in your daily diet and make sure that you are naturally getting enough vitamins and minerals. But it is not an ideal world, and we understand that it is difficult for some people to include various food items in their diet for several reasons.
In this case, your best bet could be adding a good multivitamin like Epicvita Maximult for both men and women that cover the RDA of all these vitamins and minerals. Having the recommended dosage of this multivitamin will help you to attain the daily recommended goals of necessary vitamins and minerals to live a healthy life.
Shakoor, H. (2021). Immune-boosting role of vitamins D, C, E, zinc, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids: Could they help against COVID-19? PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33308613/
Shankar, A. H. (1998, August). Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. PubMed.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9701160/
Soyano, A. (1999, September). [Role of iron in immunity and its relation with infections]. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10971835/