During the global pandemic of Coronavirus, prevention is the best strategy as no treatment has yet been discovered specifically for Coronavirus. Maintaining adequate hygiene by taking precautions such as frequently washing hands and sterilizing all surfaces are preventive methods to alter your external environment. However, in order to truly protect yourself against COVID-19, it is important to secure your internal environment as well. How can one change their internal environment? Thanks to our immune system, we have an internal defense system strong enough to destroy most foreign pathogens.
However, using “pills” to boost the immune system is a flawed concept as our body maintains a critical balance between an appropriate immune response (to fight bacteria and viruses) and an exaggerated immune response (causing diabetes and other autoimmune diseases). To boost your immune system would mean to induce an over-exaggerated response that would be more harmful than beneficial.
Many pharmaceutical companies have come with products that claim to be immunity in a bottle, but is that even possible? In a way, it is. Our body has an innate and adaptive immune system, which can only function well in a healthy well-nourished body. A diet containing all the essential vitamins and minerals is crucial for proper functioning of the immune system.
In our current society, most people are either malnourished from poverty or are deficient in essential vitamins and minerals due to an unhealthy diet. Both categories have immune systems that are weaker than their well-nourished counterparts. Therefore, replenishing your body’s stores of vitamins and minerals is important to give your immune system a fighting chance. Below is a list of all the nutrients essential for a strong immune system.
The use of Vitamin C to reduce the symptomatic duration of colds is well known, however the exact mechanism by which it does this is unclear. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is distributed widely to all immune cells. During infections and stress, the serum levels of Vitamin C are rapidly depleted. Multiple research results report a reduction in overall disease duration and decreased illness severity. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and yellow vegetables.
Pyridoxine or Vitamin B6 is probably the most important vitamin of all as it is a cofactor in hundreds of biochemical reactions within the body. Vitamin B6 has been found to be particularly deficient in women on oral contraceptive pills. Supplementing Vitamin b6 may be essential in such cases. However, foods such as chicken, fish, liver and egg yolk are rich natural sources of Vitamin B6.
Similar to Vitamin C, Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant. Reduced levels of Vitamin E can even lead to hemolysis and anemia due to oxidative stress. Vitamin E can be found in nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts.
Also known as Retinol, Vitamin A is particularly important for your eyes, skin and overall growth. Apart from this, it is also a powerful antioxidant and can be easily obtained from foods such as carrots, pumpkin, and cantaloupes.
Folic acid supplementation is a must for all pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in their newborn. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and a healthy immune system. Deficiency can result in anemia which can worsen any disease or conditions.
Zinc is an important regulator of the immune system and prevents overwhelming inflammation from an uncontrolled exaggerated response. Deficiency of zinc in diet can result in dysfunctional immune system, poor wound healing, loss of taste and dermatitis. Zinc is found abundantly in meat and poultry.
Like Zinc, Selenium is a down regulator of an exaggerated immune response and guides the immune system to a more controlled and appropriate response against foreign invasion. Fish, broccoli, garlic, barley are some rich sources of selenium.