Protect Your Health with Immune-Boosting Nutrition

Wardha Hussain Rizvi Jan 13 2015
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In today’s world where so many contagious disease prevail – Ebola, AIDS, influenza, dengue and so many more – people prefer going out their way to prevent these diseases. This is an indication that people are aware of the mortality rate of these diseases. Everyone wants protection from disorders. This necessity has led researchers to develop different vaccines, which can be used as precaution, medicine for cures, different lab tests and examination for diagnosis.

In short there is a constant race between humans and disease. Even though prevention techniques like vaccination, are very effective, what more we can do to win this race without going out of our way? Well, we can fix our nutrition. We can adapt our meals into such a diet which makes our immune system strong to battle the infectious agents thrown towards it. Researchers want people to modulate their diet and play their role in preventing spread of disease that weaken the immune system by attacking at its cells.

Vitamin A

This is a fat soluble vitamin known to play a crucial role in maintaining strong immunity. It improves immune cells function, therefore causing resistance to infections and pathogens. It plays a role in primary protection which is through mucus membranes and skin. When given to children in third world countries who suffer from malnutrition, it was observed to protect them from measles and a fall was seen in the death rate due to the disease.

Ten sources of vitamin A are:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Squash
  • Lettuce
  • Dried apricots

Carotenoids and beta carotene

Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, therefore it’s called a “vitamin A precursor”. Other than that there are more than 600 known carotenoids that are supposed to prevent many cancers.

Sources of beta carotene are the same as vitamin A – but additionally includes peas, broccoli and sweet red peppers.

Vitamin B

All of the B vitamins working together are known as ‘B complex’. Vitamin B6 is extremely important for white blood cells (immune cells) as its deficiency causes a decreased size of the thymus gland – an immune system organ which can lead to less responsive white blood cells. Its deficiency is more common in females who are indulged in unhealthy dieting and weight loss programs. Additionally, folic acid and vitamin B12 are also crucial for white blood cells growth and development. Patients who suffer from AIDS who were lacking vitamin B6 and B12 were seen to be effected more by the disease and deteriorating health.

Sources vitamin B:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Fish (tuna)
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • bananas

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another vitamin known to boost the immune system. This vitamin is essentially known for being used during a white blood cell combat against an infectious agent. Vitamin C levels fall rapidly in the body during an infection. Under stress, extra sources or supplements of vitamin C are needed to keep it in store as the human body does not have the capability of synthesizing vitamin C on its own.

Sources of vitamin C:

  • guava
  • red peppers
  • kiwi
  • oranges
  • grape fruit

Vitamin E

Studies have shown a decrease in infections in elderly volunteers who consume foods or supplements with vitamin E. Its deficiency makes people prone to infections. Note however, that an over-dose of vitamin E can actually suppress the immune system.

Sources of vitamin E:

  • tofu (light, silken)
  • spinach
  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • avocado
  • shellfish
  • olive oil

Iron

Just like vitamin E, iron has a double effect too. Where its deficiency paralyzes the immune system, excessive iron proves to be damaging to immune system.

Sources of iron:

  • oysters
  • beef
  • pumpkin seeds
  • cashew
  • hazelnuts
  • lentils

Zinc

Zinc is essential for prime defense. Zinc can restore depleting immunity. Nowadays, it being added to water. However, excessive zinc can be immunosuppressive just like iron and vitamin E.

Sources of zinc:

  • oysters
  • beef
  • wheat
  • spinach
  • cashews
  • chocolate
  • mushrooms
Wardha Hussain Rizvi

Wardha Hussain Rizvi:

Wardha is currently a student of M.B.B.S second year in Ziauddin University and aspires to be the best dermatologist in Pakistan. Due to her dissatisfaction with the current health industry she is doing her bit in creating health awareness by freelance writing for HTV, Pakistan's most effective health platform.