Having a healthy immune system has been top of mind for many of us in the last few years, and for good reason. Many of us have heard of, or tried, a trick or two to try and improve immune function, especially during cold and flu season, but few of us are sure if they really work. Vitamin C is certainly a very popular one.
The reason Vitamin C is so well known as an immune booster comes early research that demonstrated that those who do not have sufficient vitamin C in their diets, end up suffering from a variety of maladies, one of which is a weakened immune system and increased susceptibility to infection.
Vitamin C supports the immune system by several mechanisms: it can protect the integrity of epithelial cells, which would make it harder for pathogens to enter, it can accumulate in certain white blood cells and improve the way they move and defend against pathogens, it can modulate the inflammatory response, reduce the amount of histamine released, and it is also a potent antioxidant that can minimize cellular damage from oxidation.
Another aspect is that during an infection, there is an increase in the need for vitamin C by the body, and since it is a water-soluble vitamin that cannot be stored, levels can drop quickly resulting in a deficiency. For this reason, studies have shown that supplementing Vitamin C during infections can replete the levels and help the body recover a bit faster, and ameliorate the severity of infections, such as colds, flus and pneumonia.
It also doesn’t take a whole lot of Vitamin C in order to have sufficient levels from the diet, it just has to be a steady, daily supply. A supplement need not necessarily provide a high dose of vitamin C to ensure that the average person has an adequate level of vitamin C. It’s also quite easy to get plenty of Vitamin C through foods, such as citrus, kiwi, berries, bell peppers, and greens.