Everyone knows that as winter drags on, our immune systems can use all the help they can get—especially now. Constantly moving from freezing outside temperatures to overly dry, heated homes can strain our systems. While others around you may be sniffling their noses off, there are a few simple steps to staying healthy and avoiding the seasonal flu. Making time for nutritious meals will nourish you on many levels, while ensuring better digestion and nutrient absorption. Consuming a varied, plant-based diet rich in fresh produce will provide you with greater energy and well-being in the short term, as well as help to protect you against long-term chronic health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
While a balanced vegan diet is essential for year-round vitality, relying solely on what you eat can leave your nutrient levels slightly lacking. Even with the best intentions, you still may not get all the nutrients you need from foods alone. Once you factor in processed foods, eating on the run, stress, and environmental pollutants, supplementing with a high-quality vitamins is well advised. When it comes to supplements, if you can remember the alphabet, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.
Vitamin A is essential to proper immune function. It stimulates various immune processes, enhancing white blood cell function and increasing antibody response.
Vitamin C helps fight bacteria and viruses, and stimulates the white blood cells to combat stress. According to the journal Advanced Nutrition Research, one to three grams of vitamin C daily are recommended to achieve immune enhancement.
Protecting yourself with sufficient vitamin D helps to maintain a constant T-cell population as part of your front-line immune defenses system, while not getting enough has been shown to depress immune response.
Vitamin E has a powerful effect on immune health—and diet alone rarely provides enough. Vitamin E also aids in the removal of toxins from the blood and may increase resistance to infection.
Iron is also vital to consistent wellness. A depressed immune system may result from as little as a 10 percent decrease in dietary iron.
Selenium stimulates white blood cell and thymus function, while low selenium levels result in depressed immunity. Research suggests we need to supplement above normal dietary intake to get selenium’s immune-enhancing effects.
Like vitamin C, zinc has antiviral properties. When zinc levels are low, the number of T-cells decreases, thymic hormone levels are reduced, and white blood cell activities become less efficient. This is easily reversed when you get enough zinc.
Kiki Powers, MS, CNC, is a Certified Nutritional Consultant specializing in 100% plant-based weight loss, health and fitness.