Health Benefits Of Taking Vitamin E – Does It Help The Immune System?

By: Catherine Payne

health benefits of vitamin e

Image @christine_siracusa

Selfcare is top of mind for us all these days. Most have us take or have taken vitamins at some point in our life. For many Americans, they are a part of a daily selfcare routine.

Vitamins are a useful method to fill the gaps in diet and promote health and wellness.  They’re a great way to take care of your body and lead a flourishing life. Without a nutrition background, it can be difficult to sift through the marketing noise to find the right one for you.  Let’s face it-it’s even tough for some healthcare practitioners- when it comes to navigating what vitamin is best. Our recent reality has made finding the best vitamins for immunity top of mind for almost everyone.  Knowing what vitamins are good for immunity is important, however, in order to prime your body to fight off cold, flu, and now, COVID19.

Amidst the current health crisis and during cold months when sicknesses soar, boosting the immune system is always a good idea. Vitamins and minerals solicit different health benefits and it is hard to know what vitamins are good for immunity. However, the best vitamins for immunity will ward off disease through strengthening physical barriers such as skin and mucous, bolstering cellular immunity, stimulating immune response, and helping to produce antibodies. While there are many vitamins and minerals involved in whole body system processes that improve immunity, including zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, the role of vitamin E is often presented with conflicting evidence. However, it’s a critical nutrient to include in your immune protocol. 

What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is one of thirteen essential vitamins for the human body and there are many health benefits of taking Vitamin E. It is obtained through foods or vitamins, as your body cannot produce it.  Vitamin E is fat-soluble, meaning that the body absorbs it through the gut with fat and stores it in fatty tissues to be used as needed. Vitamin E is successfully used by the body after it is absorbed by the small intestine and is transported to the liver. The liver transforms vitamin E into alpha-tocopherol, the usable form of vitamin E with positive health benefits. Optimal levels of vitamin E can prevent free radical damage and stop the process of free radical formation.

The Health Benefits of Taking Vitamin E

There are several health benefits of taking Vitamin E. Vitamin E works as an antioxidant, decreases the risk of blood clots, and stimulates immune response to improve resistance to infections. It is a treatment for various degenerative diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, skin health and neurological diseases. Premature babies benefit from vitamin E because it prevents risk of vision-related disease.

Vitamin E: Role as Antioxidant

Antioxidants obliterate free radicals, which are solo-standing molecules that scavenge throughout the body, attach where they don’t belong and damage healthy cells and lead to cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Free radicals cause artery-clogging, contribute to cancer cell growth, and impair the vision. Environmental exposure such as cigarette smoke, pollution, and ultraviolet rays from the sun expose the body to free radicals. Free radicals also naturally form in the body as a reaction to oxygen, forming reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are unstable molecules that form when the body converts food to energy. A buildup of ROS can damage DNA, RNA, and causes cell death. Antioxidants stop the production of ROS and therefore protect the body from harmful molecules that naturally form. Vitamin E- an antioxidant- is one of the best vitamins for immunity because it helps the body fight off harmful molecules and disease development.

Vitamin E: Role in Blood Clots

The role of vitamin E in blood clotting is particularly important now given the new findings in coronavirus patients.  A randomized controlled trial from the Women’s Health Study analyzed the effect of vitamin E supplementation in 40,000 women over 10 years.  Women who took vitamin E supplements had lower risk of developing blood clots. This effect was not demonstrated across all populations. Evidence supports precision nutrition as an effective means to individualize vitamin E intake to optimize outcomes.

Vitamin E: Role in Immunity

Another one of the many health The role of vitamin E in immunity has been studied at length in T cells, which play a critical role in immune response. In a healthy immune system, T cells are deployed rapidly to fight and eliminate viruses. When the immune system is weakened, T cell immune response is impaired and viruses continue to replicate throughout the body.  Vitamin E is the key that unlocks your immune system’s ability to generate an increased number of T cells and deploy them to fight disease.  Research has shown the beneficial effects of vitamin E’s immune-enhancing properties, particularly in those populations that have the greatest decline in immune function. Vitamin E boosts and equips the immune system and gives the body antioxidants. 

Vitamin E: Role in Skin Health 

Vitamin E is the most abundant antioxidant found in human skin. Reduction in intake may lead to disrupted skin function.  The primary role of vitamin E on skin is to prevent free radical damange.  Topical application of vitamin E oil strengthens and fortifies the skin, with immune building capabilities above the surface as well as below. The oil moisturizes the skin, heals wounds, may help prevents skin cancer, reduces itchy skin, prevents and treats scars and wrinkles, protects against sunburn, and strengthens nails.

Vitamin E: Role in Neurological Disease

The role of vitamin E in neurological conditions is still unclear.  There is some evidence that vitamin E is associated with small increases in cognitive function and reduced risk of Alzheimers and dementia, particularly in combination with vitamin C.  A large prospective study of 1 million people over 16 years demonstrated that those who took vitamin E supplements had a lower risk of death from ALS.  Though this is promising research, little is known about the mechanism to make a definitive recommendation on the effects of vitamin E in neurological disease.

Do I Have a Vitamin E Deficiency?

Vitamin E is present in a variety of foods and is fat soluble.  When you consume it, you store what you don’t use. Vitamin E deficiency is rare in those who have a well balanced diet. Those who consume a low fat diet may be deficient without intentional vitamin intake.  There are several conditions and lifestyle factors that may lead to deficiency without appropriate intervention.  Premature babies and people with fat-malabsorption disorders are at the highest risk for deficiencies. Those who are immune compromised or have an autoimmune disease, may develop a vitamin E deficiency.  Precision nutrition is a helpful strategy in determining who might be at risk and understanding their individual needs.

Groups at Risk of Vitamin E Deficiency

  • Premature infants
  • Individuals over 55
  • Fat-malabsorption disorders
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol use
  • Liver disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Crohn’s disease

By eating a healthy diet, most adults will receive their daily intake of vitamin E. However, deficiency can lead to decreased immunity, which is ever present on our minds now.  In tandem with immune consequences, long term deficiency of vitamin E can lead to serious health issues can result. 

Symptoms of Vitamin E Deficiency

  • Nerve damage
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Hardened arteries
  • Loss of feeling in arms or legs
  • Loss of body movement control
  • Cancer

Speak with your doctor to determine if you are deficient in vitamin E. Vitamin E is one of several vitamins to improve immunity and when taken together promotes a whole body system approach to optimize care.

Vitamin E Dosage

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin E for women is 15mg a day, according to the National Institute of Health.

How Do I Get Enough Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is one of 13 critical vitamins that together promote whole body system health.  There are a lot of health benefits of taking Vitamin E, as it is particularly important in the immune pathway.  Most people with healthy dietary intake get adequate Vitamin E from their diet, but some may need to take it in vitamin form. A personalized vitamin strategy from a holistic health coach can help you match to the right vitamin and determine if vitamin E is necessary to include a plan created just for you. 

Foods with Vitamin E

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts/peanut butter
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Mangos
  • Wheat germ oil
  • Bell peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados

Vitamin Strategy: Food First then Fill the Gaps

There are a variety of foods that have vitamin E.  A balanced approach to intake will likely be adequate for most. Research from Harvard Medical School suggests that healthy Americans who do not have an underlying disease can get most of their vitamin E from their diet. In times when we are busy or our diets are not optimal and for those who have absorption issues, vitamin intake can help fill the gaps. A personalized approach to vitamin intake will help you know what vitamins are good for immunity and the specific ones that you need to optimize your health.

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