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Why Your Immune System Needs Vitamin C

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November 7, 2018 | Published by


While winter brings the apex of the cold and flu, there are other things this season brings that challenge your immune defenses. Chilly weather, poor dietary decisions, and added holiday stress can all hamper your immune system. Thankfully, fortifying your body with good quality vitamin C may just help you stay active during this hectic season.

Vitamin C is a highly effective antioxidant, and it protects the body’s cells against reactive oxygen species generated by immune cells to kill pathogens. That means vitamin C affects different components of innate and adaptive immunity. Your innate immune system is the first line of defense and includes physical barriers such as skin and chemicals in the blood. Adaptive immunity is your body’s learned defenses. Once an invader gets in the body it is processed and analyzed. The adaptive immune system then creates an army of immune cells programmed to attack that specific invader.

One example of vitamin C benefiting both innate and adaptive immunity is that it stimulates both the production and function of white blood cells, especially lymphocytes, phagocytes, and neutrophils. The main type of cell the vitamin stimulates seems to be neutrophils, which is responsible for attacking foreign bacteria and viruses, but lymphocytes and other phagocytes are also affected. Vitamin C also enhances the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, which potentially protects against environmental oxidative stress.

So, how do you take vitamin C to help with holiday stress and immune defenses? If you are stressed for an examination or work event, take more vitamin C.  If you are going through an emotional crisis or need to push yourself, take vitamin C.  If you have eaten food that is bad for you, take additional vitamin C.  If you do not make vitamin C available to your body through supplementation and diet, the adrenal hormonal cascade (the stress response system) cannot function as it should.

When your adrenal glands cannot make the additional adrenal hormones required to maintain you during stressful times, you will feel worse and recovery will take longer. Because there are so many other tissues in the body that also need increased vitamin C during any kind of stress, an adequate supply of it is vital to your body’s ability to respond properly.

Since humans do no produce their own vitamin C, it’s very important for us to seek external sources for such a crucial vitamin. Good food sources of vitamin C include colored vegetables and fruits such as green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, and oranges. The highest amounts of vitamin C tends to be found in sprouts (sunflower sprouts, alfalfa or clover sprouts, and all the sprouts of any seed or grain).  In most plants, the younger the plant, the more vitamin C it contains per milligram of plant material.

However, the amount of vitamin C available in foods is not sufficient to support the adrenals during stress or during the recovery phase. If you’re experiencing chronic stress or adrenal fatigue, it is essential that you take a high quality vitamin C supplement during the whole recovery period, and extra vitamin C when you start to become fatigued or ill.

While winter can be harsh on your body and stress levels, it doesn’t mean you have to come out of worse for the wear. Try adding vitamin C to your daily regimen. You may find this to be a year filled with good health and spirits for all the activities that come with the season. Remember: if you feel yourself starting to come down with something, start taking vitamin C at the first signs of distress. This not only aids your immune system in fighting the infection, but it also helps your adrenal glands to respond to the stressful situation in your body created by the infection.

Sources:

Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. PubMed.gov. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29099763

Ströhle A, Hahn A. Vitamin C and Immune Function. PubMed.gov. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19263912

Immunity. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/immunity


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