‘Immunity’ is the latest buzz word. From the time this novel virus has made its way into our lives, everyone is concerned about their immune system. People are discussing this healthcare jargon as if it were a newly introduced health agenda. It has always been of prime importance when it comes to leading a disease-free life.
But do they really know the actual meaning of the term ‘Immunity?’. Ok, so let us break this to you.
Immunity is the ability of our body to protect itself and provide resistance from infectious and toxic threats.
How does our body develop this ability? With the help of a functioning immune system, the body produces specific antibodies to fight against the external invaders. Antibodies are proteins which bind to the foreign materials and counteract their actions.
At large,the immune system is composed of special organs, cells and chemicals that fight infection. The main parts of the immune system are: white blood cells (WBCs), antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and the bone marrow.
Operation of each and every organ system of our body is dependent on a continuous supply of nutrients (vitamins and minerals), either through food or supplementation.
Here are 5 important vitamins and minerals required for smooth working of the immune system,
- Good quality protein
Amino acids are building blocks of proteins and all the essential amino acids should be ensured from the foods we eat because the body cannot synthesize them. These essential amino acids work by producing and activating the antibodies and helps in fighting off infections (1). Good quality clean protein in the form of free range animal meat (‘Clean protein’- free range animals raised without injected hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals), unpasteurized, locally procured dairy products (milk, curd) provide all the essential amino acids.
- Vitamin D
Also known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin, it is considered as the most important immunonutrient. Vitamin D has been used (unknowingly) to treat infections before the advent of effective antibiotics. So much so that Cod liver oil, a rich source of vitamin D has also been employed as a treatment for tuberculosis as well as for general increased protection from infections (2). Owing to the current situations of being locked down at our places, making it difficult to get our daily quota of vitamin D via sunlight exposure, deficiency of this utterly important immunity-building nutrient ought to occur. So tribe, make sure you take your daily doses of Vitamin D.
- B-complex vitamins
Vitamin B-complex is a group of nutrients belonging to the B family. Of this family, Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, Folate, B12 are the ones significantly. In general, B-complex vitamins function by energizing the body, regulating biological responses, making new red blood cells, transporting oxygen throughout the body, reducing the risk of anemia, thereby imparting the immune system adequate strength and operating optimally against attackers.
Production and activity of the different immune cells are affected by the availability of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is associated with impaired function of the different immune responses which affect the immune status of your body (3).
Moreover, one of the most important roles of Mg is assisting the conversion of Vitamin D to its active form, therefore contributing to improved immunity.
Zinc is known to play a central role in the immune system, and zinc-deficient people experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating immune responses such as neutrophils and natural killer cells(4).
These nutrients hold great promise in improving the immune status of our body and preventing infectious viral/bacterial diseases. However, a healthy immune system doesn’t happen by accident. Everyday dietary habits directly affect how protected the body is and it is dependent on a balance of all minerals and vitamins.