Vitamins and Minerals to Support the Immune System

Posted on December 6, 2021

Vitamins and Minerals to support the Immune System

It is that time of year, where everyone around us is coughing, sneezing or coming down with something. Here are the key vitamins to make sure you are topped up with to support your immune function.

Vitamin A – Beta-carotene, the natural red-orange pigment that we see in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, such as carrots. It is converted as needed to vitamin A (retinol) by an enzyme in the intestine and is stored in the liver. Vitamin A contributes to the normal function of the immune system and contributes to the maintenance of normal mucous membranes. Mucous membranes line many tracts and structures of the body, including the mouth, nose, eyelids, lungs, stomach, and intestines. They act as a barrier to prevent the entry of foreign pathogens. Vitamin A as retinol should be avoided during pregnancy.

Vitamin C – Most commonly known to help support the immune system but it should be taken well in advance of the winter months to reduce the duration of colds and flu. It may not necessarily prevent it, but it would reduce the duration. It is obtained from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as oranges, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, blackcurrants, and brussels sprouts. Storage and cooking techniques can affect the amount of vitamin C we absorb in the body, which is why it is recommended to use cooking methods which require little water, such as steaming. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and is not stored in the body for long which is why we should top it up regularly or look at time release supplements. Vitamin C contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress, the normal function of the immune system, the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, and increases iron absorption.

Vitamin D3 – a fat-soluble vitamin which is mainly obtained from exposure to sunlight. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun reach receptors on the skin to manufacture vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). This can be difficult to obtain during the winter months, as even if it is sunny the suns wavelength is different. It can also be obtained in small amounts from food sources including oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, dark leafy vegetables, and fortified foods. The NHS recommends that everyone including children over 1 years old should take a vitamin D supplement of 10µg. Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system, maintains healthy bones, teeth, and muscle function.

Selenium – is a mineral and an antioxidant which helps protect cells from oxidative stress. It also contributes to the normal function of the immune system and to the maintenance of normal hair and nails. The recommended intake of selenium is 55µg, this can be obtained from dietary food sources including meat, fish, nuts, and eggs.

Zinc – is considered an essential mineral as the body does not produce it or store it, so it has to be obtained daily from food sources such as meat, shellfish, cheese, bread, cereal products or in supplement form. It contributes to the normal function of the immune system and protects cells from oxidative stress.