Lorna Vanderhaeghe, BSc
You have probably asked the question "Why should I take nutritional supplements? Canâ??t I get what I need from my diet?" The answer is simpl.
You have probably asked the question "Why should I take nutritional supplements? Can’t I get what I need from my diet?" The answer is simple. If you eat junk food, are too busy to eat the required seven to 10 half-cup servings of fruits and vegetables daily, are on a weight-loss diet or fitness program, or if you are under stress, you may not be getting adequate nutrients to support your immune system.
Your immune army is a highly specialized front-line defence that identifies, remembers, attacks and destroys disease-causing invaders and abnormal or infected cells. The following cells each have a specific duty:
To maintain health we must ensure that the following nutrients are available to support the immune system:
Vitamin A is the most powerful immune vitamin. If you are deficient in this vitamin you will be prone to infections, especially colds and flu. Wounds and stomach ulcers will not heal quickly. Vitamin A helps mucous membranes maintain structure and keep invaders out. Vitamin A has also been shown to halt hair loss in those undergoing chemotherapy.
Vitamin C increases IgA to stop invaders from entering our digestive tract. Vitamin C also has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-cancer properties. Importantly, it also increases intracellular glutathione and T-cell action.
Vitamin E, along with vitamin C and selenium, increases our resistance to infection and protects us against the damaging effects of stress. It also enhances our T-cell function. Vitamin E has been found to reduce inflammatory agents.
Vitamin B6 with a B-complex is essential for maintaining optimal hormone levels and a healthy immune and nervous system. B6 is required for good thymus gland and T-cell activity and it enhances NK cells. Without vitamin B6 the immune system is like an army without weapons waiting for attackers to descend. Many people lack the enzyme to convert vitamin B6 to its active form. They should take pyridoxal-5-phosphate, the most active form of vitamin B6.
Magnesium is required for more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body; that alone makes it important to the immune system. Magnesium keeps inflammatory factors in check, reducing pain and swelling of fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.
Zinc truly is the most important immune mineral. Zinc increases the size of the thymus gland, the conductor of the immune orchestra. Without a healthy thymus the immune system is powerless. Zinc has been studied for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. Remember–zinc is one of those nutrients where more is not better. Too much zinc can cause immune suppression. Don’t take doses higher than 60 milligrams (mg) per day for prolonged periods.
Selenium deficiency may be the cause of cancer. It was found that women who live in areas where the soil selenium levels were poor had higher rates of cancer per capita. South western British Columbia is one of those areas. In Africa, the worst rates of HIV are in areas where soil selenium levels are very low. Selenium is needed to fight off bacteria and viruses and ensure our T-cells and NK cells work hard.
Coenzyme Q10 has been found to halt tumors and have antibacterial and antiviral properties. By the time we are 50 our coenzyme Q10 levels are half the levels of our 20s. Thirty mg per day is a maintenance dose, but over 320 mg has been used in research to treat breast cancer with excellent tumor-inhibiting action.
Reduced L-Glutathione is one of my favorite nutrients. No other antioxidant is as important to overall health as glutathione. It is the regenerator of immune cells and the most valuable detoxifying agent. Low levels are associated with early death and viral infections. Optimal levels control insulin, halt inflammatory processes, detoxify alcohol, eliminate carcinogens and keep cholesterol from oxidizing.
Alpha Lipoic Acid, another potent antioxidant, is a more effective detoxifier than even vitamin C and vitamin E. It is well researched for the treatment of diabetes as it improves insulin sensitivity and controls diabetic neuropathies. Studies have shown that lipoic acid is an important vitamin-like nutrient that inhibits the ability of viruses to replicate.