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vitamins

Which vitamins support your immune system?

I’m lucky enough to have two parents in their 70s. My Dad, in particular, is part of the at risk group for coronavirus, as he used to smoke 40+ a day for 40+ years and my Mum was exposed to all of that second-hand smoke. Right now no-one in my immediate family is taking an immunosuppressant which would increase their risk of picking up any cold or virus going. So which vitamins and minerals support your immune system?

This is how we’re staying as healthy as possible. In addition to the common sense steps recommended by the WHO (not THE WHO) https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses we’re taking the following vitamins. While ordinarily I’d recommend a food first approach, I’m using these vitamins as back-up in case of a lack of access to fresh food.

Vitamin A: Supports cell growth, it acts as an antioxidant and is critical in maintaining the structure of mucosal cells (like those which line your respiratory and GI tracts). A lack of this vitamin results in poor night vision, keratosis pilaris aka ‘chicken skin’ that appears on the back of arms, dry skin, dry eyes, eczema, psoriasis, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease and infertility. 

Best food source: Liver (from cows, sheep, chickens, geese, turkeys or fish) followed by egg yolks, it’s a fat soluble compound so requires fat to be absorbed.

Note: Taking Vitamin A along with Vitamins D and K2 significantly reduces the potential risk of vitamin A toxicity.

Vitamin D: Increases intestinal absorption of calcium and is a known immune modulator. If your levels of Vitamin D are outside of the optimal range then your immunity can be compromised which increases your risk of infections. You can find this vitamin in food, sun and supplements. I like the dminder app which calculates how much Vitamin D you’re being exposed to depending on your skin type, location and clothes. This article by Chris Kresser will give you more info on Vitamin D https://chriskresser.com/vitamin-d-the-new-super-nutrient/.

Best food source: Cod liver oil, fish, shellfish, grass-fed meat.

Vitamin K2: Works in synergy with Vitamins A and D. It may prevent toxicity from these other two fat-soluble vitamins.

Best food source: Natto (Japanese fermented soy product), Gouda, Brie, Poultry liver

Vitamin C: Probably the best known vitamin for supporting the immune system. It’s an antioxidant and a cofactor for many enzymatic reactions like producing collagen and neurotransmitters. It’s not stored in the body so we have to obtain it from our diet or supplements as we can’t produce it ourselves. A deficiency results in poor wound healing and fatigue. Good levels of Vitamin C reduces all causes mortality risk. That said, there’s some controversial evidence that large doses of this vitamin can block the actions of anticoagulant drugs. I prefer to take liposomal Vitamin C, but given the cost of purchasing this form I’m choosing to alternate with other types.

Best food source: Red peppers, citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, grapefruit.

Vitamin E: Another fat soluble vitamin that’s needed to maintain proper immune function. Are you seeing a theme here?

Best food source: Avocados, olives, nuts and seeds.

Zinc: This mineral is necessary for both the development and function of immune cells. It functions as a cofactor for over 300 enzymes and chemical reactions. Like Vitamin C it can’t be stored in the body and so you need to make sure that you’re consuming it regularly or supplementing. Zinc is a cofactor that helps to convert Vitamin A to its active form.

Best food source: Oysters, red meat, cheese, crab, turkey.

While I would always prefer to obtain these vitamins from food which increases their bio-availability, I’m trying to cover my bases by having them on hand in case of drastic measures such as isolation. You can see that the majority of best food sources come from animal products, so veggies and vegans should be ready to start supplementation. These vitamins and minerals are necessary to support your immune system.