The philosophy of Greek Physician Hippocrates, that is “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, has stood the test of time. It recognizes the significance of a healthy diet and that the nutrients in food have healing and restoring properties, which are vital to support good health and prevent disease. This does not suggest that conventional medicines are not needed, but more precisely indicates the important role a healthy diet plays in one’s life and in disease prevention.
The immune system is the body’s natural defense against infections – in essence, it works to destroy foreign pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, which should not be in the body. It is a complex and sophisticated system that primarily consists of white blood cells (WBCs), antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, spleen, bone marrow, and thymus. In addition to everyday preventative measures such as regular handwashing with soap and avoiding contact with people who are sick, scientific research has shown that strengthening one’s immune system may also help in staying healthy and combating pathogens.
In this post, we will look at 5 micronutrients/foods that are supported by science to boost the immune system.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is well-known for its role in immune system health. It supports various cellular functions of both the innate (non-specific) and adaptive (specific) immune system and is a potent antioxidant, which protects against damage caused by oxidative stress.
In 1970, two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling published a book called “Vitamin C and the common cold” wherein he claimed that vitamin C may help alleviate as well as prevent the common cold. Although some disagree with this claim, there are many studies that coincide with it. For instance, a 2013 review looking at twenty-nine trials involving 11,306 participants found that regular supplementation of vitamin C with average doses of 1-2 grams per day reduced the duration of colds by 14% in children and 8% in adults. The review also found that regular vitamin C supplementation decreased the occurrence of the common cold by up to 50% in individuals experiencing high physical stress such as marathon runners and soldiers.
Along with the common cold, vitamin C also has an effect on acute lung infections. Studies have demonstrated that a high dose of vitamin C significantly improves symptoms associated with virus-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
The human body cannot produce vitamin C and therefore needs to acquire it from an outside source. Natural sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, parsley, and sweet yellow peppers. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for adults is 65 to 90 mg per day and the adult tolerable upper intake limit (i.e. the highest amount most adults can take safely) is 2000 mg per day.
ICs related to vitamin C can also be found on the IC Platform.
Zinc is an essential trace element that is needed for various functions in the body such as maintaining normal immune system function. Lack of zinc in the diet leading to zinc deficiency has been shown to impair the immune system and therefore increase the risk of infection and disease. Several reports have indicated that zinc supplementation may help treat and prevent many conditions such as pneumonia, acute lower respiratory tract infection (ALRI), and the common cold. One study illustrated that taking zinc supplements within 24 hours of the onset of a cold can reduce the severity and duration of the infection. With respect to ALRI, a recent clinical study showed that zinc supplementation benefited children affected by ALRI – after supplementation of 30 mg of zinc per day, there was a decrease in the number of days the children had the infection.
Natural sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, oysters, red meat, and poultry. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) quantities of zinc for adult males is 11 mg per day and for females (not pregnant or lactating) is 8 mg per day. The adult tolerable upper intake limit (i.e. the highest amount most adults can take safely) for zinc is 40 mg per day.
ICs related to zinc can also be found on the IC Platform.
Elderberry, in particular the sambucus nigra variety, is a small dark purple berry that has been used for many years by Native American and European herbalists for various health reasons such as boosting the immune system and combating infections including colds and flu. A 2001 study found that sambucol elderberry extract stimulates the immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. More recently, in 2019, a research group from the University of Sydney also confirmed that elderberry solution stimulated cells to release certain cytokines and consequently stimulate the immune system. The study additionally found that elderberries have antiviral properties, that is the phytochemical compounds found in elderberries can directly inhibit the entry and propagation of the influenza virus in human cells.
ICs containing elderberry can be found on the IC Platform.
Medicinal mushrooms have been traditionally used to prevent and treat various diseases (including cancer), balance and restore the immune system, as well as recharge the body. These mushrooms have been used since ancient times to support health in major civilizations including Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman. There are more than 270 species of mushrooms that are known to have specific immunotherapeutic properties and the most common medicinal mushrooms include Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, Maitake, Oyster, Reishi, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail. There are many healing compounds found in mushrooms, one is called psilocybin, which has been shown to help boost immune health by stimulating the production of T-cells as well as the production of natural killer (NK) cells, a type of white blood cell that is critical to the innate immune system and in early host defense against viruses. A 2014 study, involving 52 healthy adults, investigated whether consumption of Shiitake mushrooms could improve immune function. The participants were given 5 or 10 grams of whole, dried Shiitake mushrooms for 4 weeks. The findings of the study illustrated that regular consumption of Shiitake mushrooms improved immunity as observed through an increase in the number of both T-cells and NK cells. Those individuals that were taking 10 grams of Shiitake mushroom per day showed better results. In addition to Shiitake mushrooms, there is evidence that demonstrates that Cordyceps mushrooms also boosts NK activity – a 2019 clinical trial consisting of 79 healthy adult participants found that there was a significant increase (~38%) in the activity of NK cells for those who were treated with 1.68 grams of Cordyceps mycelium culture extract per day for 8 weeks.
ICs related to medicinal mushrooms can be found on the IC Platform.
Garlic is a plant which belongs to the Allium (onion) family and grows as a bulb underground. Traditionally garlic was used for medicinal purposes. Evidence suggests that many of the health benefits associated with garlic is due to its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. Some health benefits include strengthening the immune system and combating colds and flu. In one double-blind human study consisting of 146 participants, it was found that people taking a daily garlic supplement for 12 weeks had 63% fewer colds compared to those taking the placebo. Additionally, for those who did catch a cold, the average length of the cold symptoms was significantly reduced from 5 days for the placebo group to 1.5 days for the treatment group. Another clinical study found that adding aged garlic extract to ones daily diet may boost immune cell function, which may accordingly help reduce the severity of colds and flu.
ICs related to garlic can be found on the IC Platform.
In addition to the ICs mentioned in this post, there are other ICs available on the IC Platform to help strengthen the immune system for you to try anytime, anywhere.
Post created: Apr 03, 2020, by: Anton Sheikh-Fedorenko 857   3
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