The immune system helps fight off infections. With a global coronavirus pandemic taking hold, which vitamins and minerals can help protect you from the virus?
The Cancer Research Institute explains there are two branches of the immune system: the innate immune system and adaptive immune system
Innate immune system – also known as the nonspecific immune system
The innate immune system defends against common pathogens (bacteria, virus, or other disease-causing microorganism).
Adaptive immune system
The adaptive immune system targets specific pathogens, in a particular way, because it has encountered that pathogen before.
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Health brand Holland & Barrett list four vitamins and minerals that are “known to support your immune system”.
The first one is vitamin A, which is thought to help develop a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies.
The Cancer Research Institute elaborates: “Antibodies are proteins that bind to specific markers – known as antigens – on harmful invaders, such as germs, viruses, or tumor cells.”
It adds that antibodies mark harmful cells so that other immune system cells know which cells to attack and destroy.
Great sources of vitamin A include eggs, dark green leafy vegetables – such as kale, spinach, cabbage and watercress – and cod liver oil.
Holland & Barrett also note that vitamin C “helps to support cellular functions needed by the immune system”.
You can increase your levels of vitamin C in the body by eating oranges, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, green and red peppers.
The health store also recommends vitamin D, as “this will help to keep your immune system strong, with the ability to fight off infections quickly”.
At present, the UK government is predicting that the outbreak of coronavirus – COVID-19 – may reach its peak during late springtime.
With self-isolation on the cards, though, gaining enough vitamin D from sunlight might be a struggle.
This is why vitamin D supplements can become very handy indeed.
One mineral Holland & Barrett state helps the immune system is zinc.
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It states: “[Zinc] contributes to the normal function of the immune system.”
The mineral can be found in seafood, red meat, chickpeas, eggs, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, but do make sure you don’t go over the recommended daily allowance of 25mg.
Support your immune system by making sure you get enough vitamins A, C, D and the mineral zinc in your diet – and all are available in supplement form.
There are six cells of the immune system the Cancer Research Institute identify: B cells, CD4 helper T cells, CD8 killer T cells, dendritic cells, macrophages and regulatory T cells.
“B cells” release antibodies to defend against harmful pathogens.
“CD4 helper T cells” send “help” signals to direct “CD8 killer T cells” to destroy virus-infected cells in the body.
“Dendritic cells” digest foreign cells and present their proteins on their surfaces, alerting other immune cells to what that pathogen looks like. “Macrophages” do a similar thing.
“Regulatory T cells” provides checks and balances to make sure the immune system doesn’t overreact.
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