You may well have heard of the immune system, but do you really know what it is, why it is so important and how best to support it?
Here, we cast a light on the best ways to ensure you can support your immune system, to help you to stay fighting fit!
What Is The Immune System?
Put simply, the immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to help keep us healthy. Day to day you probably will not think too much about your immune system but this vital network attacks germs and other harmful substances.
By ensuring you do your utmost to support your immune system, means there is a greater chance of maintaining your usual day today health and wellness.
How to Support Your Immune System
Your diet, supplementation and lifestyle choices can all play a role in supporting your immune system.
There are several vitamins that can help. These include vitamin A, B6, B12, C and D as well as minerals including selenium, zinc and copper. These can be found in various foods, as well as in supplements.
Exercise is also important for immune health, as is getting plenty of good quality sleep, staying at a healthy weight and quitting smoking.
Vitamins to Support Your Immune System
There are an abundance of vitamins that can help support your immune system to work at its optimal level.
Vitamin D is one such vitamin that contributes to a healthy immune system however it is tricky to get your daily recommendation of vitamin D through diet alone. Often dubbed the ‘sunshine vitamin’; we get most if not all of our vitamin D from sunlight.
It is in fact vitamin D3 specifically that is needed. Vitamin D3 is made when our skin is exposed to sunlight and is absorbed and used far more easily than the other type of vitamin D; vitamin D2.
Other vitamins that can help support your immune system include vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin A contributes to the normal function of the immune system with the NHS recommending that men aged 19 to 64 get 700µg a day and women get 600µg a day.
However, as vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored by the body, so it isn’t necessary to have every day.
When it comes to vitamin C, it does not just contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system for adults and children, but it also contributes to the normal function of the immune system during and after intense physical exercise.
Plus, vitamin C contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress and free radical damage. When we are exposed to sunlight, cigarette smoke, and pollution (to name a few), free radicals are produced in excess.
Next up are B vitamins. There are eight B vitamins in total, however it is vitamins B6, B12 and B9 (folic acid) that should be considered to support the immune system. B vitamins are water soluble, which means our body does not store them, so we must get an adequate amount each and every day, either through food and/or supplementation.
Whilst vitamin B12 can be obtained through food, it is mostly found in animal products, so anyone following a vegan diet may struggle to meet their daily intake. This is where a supplement can come in useful such as Vitabiotics Ultra Vitamin B Complex. It provides all the eight essential B vitamins, with 50µg of B12.
Vitamin B6, also known as Pyridoxine, does not just support our immune system, it also supports the functioning of our nervous system as well as contributing to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue.
Minerals To Support Your Immune System
Zinc, copper, and selenium are all minerals that contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system.
With zinc, men aged 19 to 64 years need 9.5mg a day whereas women need a little less with 7mg a day.
All three of these minerals can be obtained through food however supplementation can help safeguard your intake, should you feel that you are not getting enough from your diet.
See below for the foods and supplements that contain these essential vitamins and minerals.
Food For A Healthy Immune System
What you eat can play a huge part in ensuring your immune system stays healthy and does its job properly. As all the vitamins and minerals that help support your immune system are found within a vast array of different foods, it is important to enjoy a varied diet.
Vitamin D is one vitamin which is difficult to obtain through diet alone, as it comes primarily from time spent in sunlight. In the UK, an average diet provides just 3-4µg of vitamin D per day and only a little more if oily fish is consumed, so a supplement is advised.
If you do want to improve your vitamin D status through diet, try eating oily fish and fish oil, liver, egg yolks, fortified plant milks and cereals, and fortified mushrooms.
To ensure adequate intakes of vitamin C, eat plenty of fruits (particularly citrus fruits and kiwi fruit) and green vegetables. However, the amounts of vitamin C present in certain foods may vary depending on the cooking process. Some vitamin C is lost when boiling for example.
Also known as retinol, include cheese, oily fish, milk, yogurt, eggs, fortified low fat spreads as well as liver and liver products such as liver pate. A word of note though: avoid liver and liver foods if you are pregnant.
To ensure adequate levels of vitamin B12, include meat, fish, and dairy products in your day-to-day diet. Vitamin B6 foods include salmon, chicken, potatoes, avocados, carrots, pork, peanuts, and oats.
As for the minerals that help support your immune system, copper can be found in shellfish, nuts, and offal; selenium can be obtained from meat, fish, eggs and Brazil nuts; zinc is found in shellfish, bread, cereals products such as wheatgerm, and dairy products including cheese.
Exercise To Support The Immune System
Keeping active is important for many things, including the health of our immune system. However excessive exercise, as well as inactivity itself, can actually have detrimental effects on our immune system health. So, getting the right balance is key.
Other Ways To Support Your Immune System
The NHS also highlight the importance of good sleep in ensuring a healthy immune system. We are likely all aware of the impact that bad sleep has on not just our mood and productivity, but prolonged bad or lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your immune system.
Try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night if you can.
Our Immunace range helps your nutritional habits by providing comprehensive all round support with key ingredients.