There is no getting away from it….autumn is here! With this comes an increased susceptibility to all manner of colds and weird infections. More time indoors, artificial ventilation, reduced sunlight all play their part. Nutrition isn’t going to be an all encompassing guarantee to be free of all bugs all winter long, but it can play a huge role in building your resistance. Below are some key nutrients that can support your immunity during the colder months:
Zinc is a vital mineral for immunity. Whilst the evidence base for vitamin C affecting the common cold is mixed, the evidence for zinc reducing the duration of a cold is very strong. Zinc is used by our white blood cells to code genes that control the way in which our white blood cells interact with pathogens that they encounter. Essentially it increases their efficacy when faced with an invader. Zinc is found in foods such as shellfish, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
Although its evidence is not as strong as zinc in terms of treating infections, we know vitamin C plays a physiological role in immunity, which makes it important in our view. Vitamin C is used by white blood cells to help destroy pathogens and/or infected cells. Vitamin C also increases white cell motility, assisting better migration to the site of infection and helping to decrease the duration of a cold or infection. The best food sources are peppers, spinach and raw greens, kiwi fruit, and of course citrus.
The primary source of vitamin D for humans is the sun. Vitamin D was once thought to just be vital for skeletal health; however, its roles are vast and ever growing. There are vitamin D receptors on the surfaces of many immune cells, showing that it binds and instigates changes. It reduces inflammation and increases the production of antimicrobial proteins. Food sources are few and far between, but the best are full fat dairy products, eggs, and oily fish.
These are amazing specialised sugars that exist in certain foods that can have wondrous effects upon immunity. They have been shown to increase the production of white blood cells (our immune system’s army), and their response to pathogens or damaged cells. Just a small amount of these compounds daily can really give the immune system a bit of a kick. The best food sources of these are mushrooms like shiitake, and maitake (if you can find them in the UK), and also goji berries.
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