Vitamin C For Immunity – How Vitamin C Supports The Immune System

By: Grace Valentine

how does vitamin c help your immune system

Image @jenskreuter

Everyone needs a healthy immune system. It’s your body’s natural defense against viruses and bacteria- germs- that cause infection. It protects against foreign bodies that can lead to cancer. And it’s involved in regulating every system in your body.

The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend your body against invaders, all with the potential to make you sick. Your immune system is crucial for your body to function properly and fight off unwanted illness. With Covid19 spiking again in many places, and our country beginning to open up, many are wondering how they can help boost their immune system. While we wait on a vaccine for Covid, it is important for you and your family to take steps to build your immune system and overall health. This includes taking Vitamin C for immunity.

Research has shown that eating citrus, dark leafy greens, berries, salmon, and sweet potatoes helps build up your immune system’s defenses. However, if you want to ensure your immune system is functioning optimally, filling the gaps of a healthy diet with vitamins is key.

Nutritionist often refer to vitamins as an insurance policy. They come into play when your diet is lacking.  But, at least right now, you aren’t using a continuous monitor to determine your daily deficiency.  Supplementing in appropriate doses will help you maintain optimal health without worrying if you’re getting enough.

What are best vitamins for immunity? The answer to that question is important now more than ever.  There are several vitamins to consider, and one of the best supplements in the immune boosting complex is vitamin C. As such, many experts recommend taking Vitamin C for immunity.

What’s the deal with Vitamin C for Immunity?

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin known for its role as an antioxidant and immune system support. It’s an essential micronutrient; your body cannot make Vitamin C, so it must come from foods you consume and supplements you take daily. Vitamin C is needed for growth and repair of tissues all over the body. It maintains healthy skin and promotes healthy aging.  Vitamin C also helps heal your wounds, repair and maintain healthy skeletal system, and prevents or delays the onset certain cancers and heart disease. Vitamin C is a necessary component of your daily routine.

Vitamin C in Foods

Many people know that citrus fruits, like oranges and orange juice, provide vitamin C. There are actually a variety of fruits and vegetables with varying amounts. A healthy diet will provide a robust intake of vitamin C.

  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwifruit
  • Papaya
  • Cantaloupe
  • Green and Red Bell Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Kale

These foods can be enjoyed raw or cooked, but it is important to know that fruits and vegetables lose or deactivate vitamin C when heated or stored for long periods of time. Consuming these foods on a daily basis is crucial to building and maintaining a healthy immune system. Unfortunately, many people do not get enough vitamin C in their diet. It is important to eat foods with vitamin C but supplementing your diet with vitamin C will ensure your immune system has an adequate supply. Vitamin C is water soluble, so toxicity is generally not a concern.  However, it’s still important the right dose for your specific needs to optimize your health.

Vitamin C is especially important for smokers, both current and past, due to its antioxidant properties. Smoking leads to a significant decrease in immune cells available to fight disease and maintain a steady healthy state.

Why Building your Immune System is so Important

A strong immune system can help shorten the length of symptoms and help your body prepare to fight off diseases. An appropriate immune response to respiratory infection is critical in the era of Covid19. The innate immune system plays a role in your ability to fight off inhaled pathogens. Pathogens that damage the cellular structure within the lining of the lungs weaken the downstream effects of the immune response.  Experts recommend Vitamin C for immunity because it acts as an antioxidant that prevents cell damage from happening, and in that way, allows more healthy immune cells to be present and overcome pathogens.

Vitamin C (and vitamin K) play key roles in blood clotting. This is of particular concern in systemic responses to the Covid19 virus.  Right now there is little evidence to support its effectiveness in reducing outcomes.

Vitamin C For Immunity – Does It Help?

Vitamin C is involved in modulating cytokine signaling.  These signals are critical for an appropriate immune response to infection and initiate cell deployment for virus and bacterial removal. 

Early stage response to viral and bacterial infections involves neutrophil deployment from the immune system.  Neutrophils infiltrate the infected tissue, engulfs the pathogen and removes it from the body. Vitamin C is found to be 50-100 times higher in neutrophils than circulating in the blood. The high levels of vitamin C in the immune cells seem to protect them from oxidative damage.  Without an adequate level, neutrophils would not be able to appropriately respond and remove infected tissue. 

 Vitamin C also promotes the growth and replication of T cells, and prevents T cell death. T cells, known as the soldiers of the immune system, directly kill invaders and support other immune cells in their response.  The combine effect is the killing (T cells) and removal (neutrophils) of threats.

Benefits of Vitamin C for Kids

Immunity is all parents are thinking about as the school year approaches.  How do we best protect our kids?  Do we keep them in a bubble or let them out?  At some point, even if we want to keep them wrapped up forever, they will have to emerge. Germs will always be around, but arming them with masks, hand sanitizer and vitamins will help if and when they are exposed to all the things kids spread.

Vitamin C is a necessary component of your child’s daily vitamin regimen. As part of our normal selfcare routine, it helps repair red blood cells, build strong bones and tissues, and promotes appropriate growth. Adequate levels of vitamin C ensures appropriate healing for those bruises and scrapes. And we all know that falling is like a rite of passage for kids; we all took our turn with scraped knees and elbows. And then there’s the seasonal cold and flu, an exposure we know they will have as school starts back. While it doesn’t prevent them from getting it, it helps them fight the infection when they do get sick.

Research has shown that multivitamin intake during periods of growth is essential for optimal outcomes.  Intake of vitamin C and other vitamins during those critical development years can have life-long benefits on their immune system. Making sure children have a well-rounded diet can be challenging, so developing a vitamin routine that includes the best vitamins for immunity is necessary.

Immunity Across the LifeSpan

From birth through the first few years of life, immune development is critical.  A vaccine regimen is implemented as a strategy to prepare your body for known infectious diseases.  Your innate immune response is protective for other foreign viruses and bacteria.  With appropriate nutrition, your system matures and is effective for most of your 20s and 30s.  After you move beyond child-bearing age, your physiological needs change.  Yet, most people do not always change their nutrient intake appropriately.  Inappropriate intake, both deficiency and overconsumption, leads to inappropriate whole system function.

The primary function of immune cells is recognition and elimination of a foreign body. However, prolonged inadequate support for the immune system leads to dysregulated signaling and response. The immune cells either don’t receive a timely signal and are slow to respond or it receives the wrong signal and the cells begin to attack your own tissues.  In this way, it’s like a computer short circuiting.  Eventually the system shuts down.

Older adults are much more susceptible to significant negative outcomes in states of disease. This is critically important right now, with older individuals being at greater risk for a serious acute response to Covid19. An appropriate strategy to arm your immune system as you age is as appropriate as the vaccine strategy deployed in the earliest years of life.  But, every individual’s needs are different and requires a thoughtfully designed approach. Personalized vitamins, including vitamin C for immunity, are critical during this life stage to protect against, not only Covid19, but seasonal flu and cold, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and cancer.

A Primer on Immune Vitamins

There are 30 essential vitamins and minerals, all interdependent for whole system health.  These 30 micronutrients are considered essential because your body cannot produce them.  You must get them from another source- diet, sunlight and vitamins.

Immune Boosting Nutrients

All of these micronutrients work together in whole system support, but they differ in what role they play to benefit your body.

Vitamin A is involved in innate immunity.  It provides the first line of defense against germs and bacteria through protective barriers. It is involved in strengthening skin integrity and in the development of immune cells that capture germs. In this way, it is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties in the immune chain response.

Vitamin B, in particular B6 and B12, plays a supportive role in immune reactions.  It’s involved in nerve signaling, DNA and RNA productions and antibody synthesis.

Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant and key immune booster.  In fact, deficiency has been associated with an increased likelihood of getting sick.  It’s responsible for stimulating the production of white blood cells, which helps get rid of illnesses once and for all. While it won’t prevent you from getting sick, research has shown that it does help reduce the length of sickness.

Vitamin D has many important regulatory roles in the body.  In immunity, it tempers the inflammatory properties of some white blood cells and boost production in microbe-fighting proteins.

Vitamin E enhances immune response by slowing down the processes that damage cells and make you sick. It modulates T cells and other immune cells to improve the likelihood of fighting off viruses and bacteria in the body.  Deficiency is associated with an increased likelihood of illness.

Folic Acid (B9) is most widely thought of in relation to pregnancy, but you need folic acid every day for optimal health. It works as an antioxidant and helps to support the growth and activity of immune cells and antibodies.

Magnesium is an essential mineral that assists more than 300 enzymes carry out necessary reactions across the entire body system.

Selenium is a trace mineral.  The body only needs a small amount of selenium for optimal health.  It has antioxidant properties that protects against cell damage and reduces inflammation during an immune response.

Zinc is the key that unlocks the immune response, so all other micronutrients and enzymes can do their job. It supports the growth and normal function of immune cells and even a small deficiency can slow immune response. It plays a critical role in wound healing and reduces inflammation.  Keep in mind that large doses can disrupt absorption of iron, so a personalized approach to intake is important.

The trick to optimizing your immune response is understanding your specific needs.  If you get too much, it isn’t necessarily better.  However, you need enough to have an appropriate immune response.

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