Immune System Boosters – I
How to boost your immune system- Part I
Immunity Boosters and health
Food and Nutrition is critical to maintain and establish good functional immune system health. Hence, the role of nutrients on immunity warrants a more detailed study. Macronutrients i.e. adequate amounts of protein and calories are necessary to make the body’s defense mechanisms strong. Protein energy malnutrition occurs when the body’s defense system weakens in these conditions — long periods of starvation, anorexia and other similar self imposed strict diet regimes, chronic profound disease states such as AIDS and cancer. A weak defense system means that the white blood cells (policemen of the body) and crucial immune system proteins get depleted. This makes the body an easy target for illnesses.
Nutrition research applies the role of micronutrients, that is, vitamins, minerals and related cofactors as immune system enhancers. Studying immune response to nutrition supplements has become a reality.
Role of Micronutrients in Immunity
Also read Immune Boosters – Part II
Vitamin A: The retinol form of fat-soluble vitamin A is important for immune functions. When malnourished kids were given vitamin A in developing countries, it proved to protect against measles and reduce death rate against this viral infection. Vitamin A improves function of white blood cells, resistance from carcinogens and infection. Vitamin A also helps to maintain the mucous membrane and skin, thus improving defense to infection.
Beta carotene and other carotenoid compounds: Beta carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A. Yet, beta carotene itself has unique immune building properties which are missing in Vitamin A. Beta carotene has powerful antioxidant properties. There are hundreds of other carotenoids like lycopene and zeanxanthin found in nature, which have cancer prevention properties.
B-vitamins: B6, B12
B vitamin deficiency is a major factor associated with rapid disease progression in cancer and AIDS patients, particularly of Vitamin B6 and B12. Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to a decrease in white blood cell response and shrink the thymus which is a critical immune system organ. Frequent dieting and improper eating habits like eating too much sugar and refined foods is seen in young women and teenage girls. They are most prone to vitamin B6 deficiency. Vitamin B12 promotes cell division, multiplication and growth. White blood cells cannot mature and multiply in the absence of B12 or insufficient B12.
Folic acid is a key mineral for developing and maintaining immune system functions.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a powerful antioxidant and immune booster, an antiviral and anticancer nutrient. The white blood cells utilize vitamin C to fight microbes, infections and inflammation; during which levels of vitamin C are depleted. Animals; except for guinea pigs have the necessary enzyme to synthesize vitamin C in their liver. But humans lack this vitamin C synthesizing enzyme. During high stress situations, our requirement for vitamin C increases.