5 Nutrients You Need for Optimal Immune System Function
Your immune system is a vital defense system. It protects you in a world that is filled with pathogens like viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. But an immune defense isn’t only about avoiding pathogens. It’s necessary for cellular health, wound healing, healthy aging, and more.
The information will help to explore how you can support an efficient and balanced immune system with essential micronutrients. The best time to support healthy immunity is when everything is functioning optimally.
Immune System Basics
Many people think of the immune system
as a shield that only comes into play during times of crisis. But a healthy immune system is never “off.”
It is working every day to maintain balance throughout the body. To do this, it relies on a steady stream of nutrients from a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.*
Even if you eat a healthy diet, certain factors can increase the nutrients required to support healthy immune cells.
These can include: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)*Poor sleep quality or quantity
High intake of processed foods
Low intake of essential nutrients
Lack of dietary probiotics (fermented foods)
Lack of enzymes
Your immune system is a network of intricate cell responses. Cytokines are released when a pathogen is detected. Specialized types of white blood cells, like B cells and T cells, make antibodies to respond to specific threats. The immune response is not reactionary in a haphazard way. It has an entire strategy behind it. But to put its plan into action, it needs tools to build cells, make antibodies, and keep the system running (6)*.
The following five nutrients contribute to a robust, balanced healthy immune system. Foods and dietary supplements can provide nutritional support. While many only consider immunity during cold weather months, your immune system isn’t a seasonal system. It is active every day, all year long.
1. Vitamin D3
One of the most-researched nutrients, vitamin D3 is a prohormone nutrient that can be synthesized in the body after adequate sun exposure. However, this process relies on cholesterol conversions, and is highly dependent on factors such as the directness of the UVB rays, the person’s skin tone, the length of exposure, the time of year, and how much skin was directly exposed. Across the world, vitamin D deficiency remains a global public health issue. (7)*
While some people can effectively generate enough essential vitamin D from sun exposure, for many, it is not a comprehensive solution. There are also limited food sources for vitamin D3. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, cod liver oil, and sun-dried Shiitake mushrooms are some of the few quality sources (8)*.
Your body needs vitamin D for: (9, 10)*
Strong bones and teeth
Calcium absorption in the digestive tract
Healthy immune reactivity
2. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient with many health benefits. It can be made in the body by converting carotenoids like beta-carotene into the active form, but foods can also contain retinoids, like the retinol form of vitamin A, which is more bioactive (11)*.
You may often hear vitamin A associated with healthy vision and eyes. But it is also essential for a healthy immune system. Vitamin A has powerful antioxidant properties that protect cells from free radicals. It is necessary for healthy cell growth, mucus membranes, and reproductive health (12, 13, 14)*.
Because vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient, the body can store it. Consuming too much over long periods of time can cause toxicity risks. Intakes of more than 3 mg per day should not be done without guidance from a healthcare provider, dietitian, or nutritionist (15).
3. Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids
Vitamin C is a popular immune support supplement. Bioflavonoids are compounds that work with the antioxidant properties of vitamin C, increasing antioxidant activity, improving vitamin C absorption, and encouraging optimal immune function.
Other benefits of vitamin C include: (16, 17, 18, 19)*
Healthy veins and capillaries
Mast cell balance
Modulated inflammatory responses
Vitamin C can be found in many food sources, like bell peppers and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit. Vitamin C supplements can also adequately support vitamin C needs. Supplementing Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids provides an additional targeted approach to immune system function and balance.
Zinc is a mineral that is required for cellular metabolism, immune system function, skin health, and reproductive wellness. It also supports a healthy nervous system and is required for protein synthesis and wound healing. Zinc acts as one of the body’s powerful antioxidant defense nutrients and keeps oxidative processes balanced. (20)*
Zinc can be found in many foods. Some of the most abundant sources are Brazil nuts, red meat, cereals, oysters, pumpkin seeds, and lentils. (21)
Many zinc supplements can be hard to digest, with side effects like indigestion or nausea. They can also be available as lozenges that are filled with added sugars and other undesired ingredients. Zinc Citrate is a gentler form of zinc that is more easily tolerated and can be absorbed better in the digestive tract. (22)*
5. Omega-3s with SPMs
Omega-3 are essential fatty acids that must be consumed from dietary or supplement sources. The body cannot make them on its own, yet they are necessary for healthy inflammatory processes, immune system function, heart health, and more. (23)*
For vegans or people who are allergic to seafood, consuming omega-3s from dietary or supplement sources can be challenging. Vital Nutrients developed the first of-its-kind vegan omega-3 supplement that contains no fish, but provides specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs). Also known as resolvins, SPMs are now thought to be a major reason why fish oil is so effective at modulating inflammatory processes in the body. (24)^*
Ultra Pure® Vegan Omega SPM+ provides the active benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, sourced from vegan algal oil. Because of the SPMs, this vegan fish oil formulation provides up to 5X more activity than traditional fish oil supplements.^ Whether you are vegan, have a seafood allergy, or simply want an easier-to-take and bioactive omega-3 supplement, Ultra Pure® Vegan Omega SPM+ is an essential part of healthy immune system support.
Your immune system is an advanced, intricate network that defends your body every day and in every phase of your life. With some intentional nutritional support, you can nourish a healthy immune system that is ready for anything. While many assume that a daily multivitamin is adequate for optimal nutrient intake, there are many reasons to take a more individualized approach. These five nutrients center the immune system, which also provides a foundation for total body wellness
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3. Current Opinion in Food Science. (2022). PMID: 34976746
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14. Nutrients. (2019). PMID: 30909386
15. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. (2022). Vitamin A Fact Sheet.
16. Antioxidants and Redox Signaling. (2013). PMID: 23581713
17. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. (2013). PMID: 24426232
18. Medical Sciences. (2022). PMID: 35736349
19. Nutrients. (2017). PMID: 29099763
20. American Family Physician. (2010). PMID: 20141096
21. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. (2022). Zinc Fact Sheet.
22. National Library of Medicine. (2022). NBK547698
23. National Library of Medicine. (2022). NBK564314
24. Nature Reviews: Immunology. (2016). PMID: 26688348
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
^The DHA- and DPA-specific specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) in Ultra Pure® Vegan Omega SPM+ offer up to 5X greater biological activity compared to traditional omega-3 supplements*
Blog and Supplement Information: Vital Nutrients
Posted by: Dr. Robert Macchione