Now that cold and flu season is officially upon us, it’s time to see what we can do to prevent knocking ourselves out of commission for too long, or even better-not at all.
Vitamin-E is an important antioxidant and immune booster that doesn’t get as much attention as vitamin-C, yet it’s still very important to a healthy immune system. Vitamin-E stimulates the production of natural killer cells. These cells seek out and destroy germs and cancer cells. Vitamin-E enhances the production of B-cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria.
Vitamin-E supplementation may reverse some of the decline in immune response commonly seen in aging. Vitamin-E has been implicated in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. In the Harvard School of Public Health study of 87,000 nurses, Vitamin-E supplementation was shown to cut the risk of heart attacks by fifty percent.
It’s not difficult to get 30 to 60 milligrams of Vitamin-E needed every day from a diet rich in seeds, vegetable oils, and grains, but it’s difficult for most people to consume more than 60 milligrams a day consistently through diet alone. Supplements may be necessary to get enough vitamin-E to boost your immune system.
In order to do that you need 100 to 400 milligrams per day, depending on your general lifestyle. People who don’t exercise, who smoke, and who consume high amounts of alcoholic beverages will need the higher dosage. Those with a more moderate lifestyle can get by with lower levels of supplementation.
Carotenoids are another important consideration, as beta carotene increases the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells, and helper T-cells, as well as being a powerful antioxidant that mops up excess free radicals that accelerate aging. Like the other ‘major’ antioxidants, vitamins-C and E, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by interfering with how the fats and cholesterol in the bloodstream oxidize to form arterial plaques. Studies have shown that beta carotene can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially strokes and heart attacks, giving scientific credence to the belief that a carrot, not an apple, a day can keep the heart surgeon away.
Beta carotene also protects against cancer by stimulating the immune cells called macrophages to produce tumor necrosis factor, which kills cancer cells. It has also been shown that beta carotene supplements can increase the production of T-cell lymphocytes and natural killer cells, and can enhance the ability of the natural killer cells to attack cancer cells.
Beta carotene is the most familiar carotenoid, but it is only one member of a large family. Researchers believe that it is not just beta carotene that produces all these positive effects, but all of the carotenoids working together. This is why getting carotenoids in food may be more cancer-protective than taking beta carotene supplements.
The body converts beta carotene to vitamin-A, which itself has anti-cancer properties and immune-boosting functions.Too much vitamin-A can be toxic to the body however, so it’s better to get extra beta carotene from foods, and allow the body to regulate how much of this precursor is converted to the immune-fighting vitamin-A. It’s highly unlikely that a person could take in enough beta carotene to produce a toxic amount of vitamin-A, because when the body has enough vitamin-A, it stops making it.
There is also a group of phytonutrients called bioflavonoids, that aids the immune system by protecting the cells of the body against environmental pollutants. Bioflavonoids protect the cell membranes against the pollutants trying to attach to them. Along the membrane of each cell there are microscopic receptor sites. Pollutants, toxins, or germs can attach and gradually eat their way into the membrane of the cell. When bioflavonoids fill the receptor sites there is no room for toxins to enter.
Bioflavonoids also reduce the cholesterol’s ability to form plaques in arteries and lessen the formation of microscopic clots inside arteries. Arterial plaque can lead to heart attack and stroke. Studies have shown that people who eat more bioflavonoids have less cardiovascular disease. A diet that contains a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, at least six servings per day, will help you get the bioflavonoids needed to help your immune system work in top form.
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