Vitamins That Fight Infections

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Cut cantaloupe's on a table. (Image: margouillatphotos/iStock/Getty Images)

You are constantly exposed to pathogens and bacteria from your surrounding environment and a significant amount of microorganisms live within your body as part of the normal flora. Infections are relatively rare and all credit for that goes to your immune system. Infections do, however, occur when your immune system is compromised due to a pre-existing condition, antibiotic therapy, injuries and other factors. There are certain vitamins and natural supplements you can take that will boost the proper functioning of your immune system.

Vitamin A

The fat-soluble vitamin A or retinol is essential for maintaining healthy skin, bones, teeth and mucous membranes and is found in foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Along with other functions, skin and mucous membranes are also a part of the immune system as they prevent the pathogenic microorganisms from entering the body. The Linus Pauling Institute also states that retinol plays an important role in differentiation of white blood cells and activation of T-lymphocytes, which are crucial components of the immune system. Although diet is the best and safest source of vitamin A, synthetic supplements are also available at most pharmacies. However, caution should be administered while taking these supplements as an overdose can lead to dizziness, headache, bone pain and liver damage.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is a component of vitamin B-complex that is important for metabolism and red blood cell formation. A study published in the April 2002 edition of the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” states that vitamin B-12 deficiency is commonly found in patients with symptomatic Giardia and Enterobius infections but not in the asymptomatic ones. This indicates that the deficiency of this vitamin may play a role in the development of the symptoms. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can be avoided by taking synthetic B-complex supplements that are generally safe to use with minimal side effects. It can also be obtained from foods such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has the ability to protect the cells of the body, including the immune cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. This increased lifespan of the immune cells boosts the ability of the immune system to fight diseases. Vitamin C may dramatically reduce infection time and improve the resistance of an individual.

Foods such as citrus fruits, berries, cantaloupes, green leafy vegetables and tomatoes are good sources of vitamin C along with synthetic vitamin C supplements. However, an overdose can lead to upset stomach and diarrhea and hence, it’s important to follow dosage instructions carefully.

Vitamin D

Fat-soluble vitamin D can regulate the activity of T-cells and other co-factors that are part of the cell- mediated immune response and hence, may play a role in managing respiratory tract infections, "Current Allergy and Asthma Reports" states. A balanced diet rich in fish, diary products and oysters is a good source of vitamin D. The human body can also produce significant amounts of vitamin D when the body is exposed to sunlight. Individuals with vitamin D deficiency can take synthetic vitamin D supplements but chronic overuse can lead to kidney stones, vomiting and muscle pain. Hence, it’s recommended to talk to a doctor before taking them.Fat-soluble vitamin D can regulate the activity of T-cells and other co-factors that are part of the cell- mediated immune response and hence, may play a role in managing respiratory tract infections, "Current Allergy and Asthma Reports" states. A balanced diet rich in fish, diary products and oysters is a good source of vitamin D. The human body can also produce significant amounts of vitamin D when the body is exposed to sunlight. Individuals with vitamin D deficiency can take synthetic vitamin D supplements but chronic overuse can lead to kidney stones, vomiting and muscle pain. Hence, it’s recommended to talk to a doctor before taking them.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another antioxidant vitamin that can neutralize free radicals. In addition, vitamin E supplementation can help prevent respiratory tract infections, especially in the elderly. However, chronic use of vitamin E supplements may increase the risk of death and hence it’s very important to talk to a doctor before taking these supplements. Including foods such as wheat germ, corn, nuts and olives in the diet is a risk-free way of obtaining vitamin E.

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