We’re currently hearing a lot of talk about keeping our immune system healthy to fight off the Coronavirus. But what defines a healthy immune system, and what does one need to achieve that? Also not unimportant: can our Plenny Shake products contribute to a healthy immune system? Let’s take a dive.
What defines a healthy immune system?
The body has its own defense mechanism against disease-causing microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites called the immune system (1,2). This system is formed by multiple defensive compounds called white blood cells, and they are capable of recognizing and removing these substances and cells that do not belong in the body (1).
The immune system remembers which of these substances it has attacked so that renewed contact with this substance leads to an even faster and stronger reaction (1). In order to stimulate the body’s capability of defending itself against pathogens, the body should be nourished by a healthy lifestyle, starting with a balanced and complete diet (2). In animal studies, it was found that deficiencies of certain micronutrients lead to a negative alteration of the immune system (2). Reason enough to step up your game and nourish your body with the following vitamins and minerals!
Firstly, Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, which plays a role in many vital functions, including metabolism and immunity by stimulating the activity of white blood cells (3).
Did you know that our body is unable to produce Vitamin C on its own? (4) That's right! We need to get it from dietary sources such as citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower (3,5). Vitamin C is easily absorbed by the body due to its solubility within water. This aspect leads to easier transportation of the vitamin to the kidney as well, leading to an excretion of this vitamin (3–5). Therefore, replenishing this nutrient is important for maintaining a well-nourished immune system.
Another important vitamin with a high deficiency rate, is Vitamin D, resulting in a higher incidence in chronic diseases as well as infectious diseases, such as the flu (6).
Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, due to the manufacturing of Vitamin D out of cholesterol by the action of sunlight (6–8). Not everyone is able to make enough vitamin by the body itself, so supplementation is found necessary (6,8). Unlike Vitamin C, only a few foods contain high amounts of Vitamin D, such as fatty fish and breakfast cereal (6–8). Research has shown a decrease of 42% in the incidence of influenza infection by people taking Vitamin D supplements (9). This effect can be explained by its promoting function on the so-called T-cells, that play an important role in the specific immune system by e.g destroying infected cells and stimulation of antibody production (7). These aspects make it totally worth supplementing vitamin D within your diet.
Immune function is not only dependent on the earlier mentioned vitamins. Also, Zinc plays an important role in your body (10). Zinc is a part of numerous enzymes in the body and necessary in the construction of proteins and a well functioning immune system (10,11). Even a mild deficiency of this trace-element can slow down the activities of cells contributing to the immune system (10,12). Zinc does naturally occur in small amounts in shellfish, nuts, whole grains and cheese (11,12). Whilst zinc is an important nutrient for the immune system, excess amounts can interfere with iron and copper absorption and lead to nausea and vomiting (11,12). When supplementing this nutrient, keep in mind to do this in moderation!
Some other nutrients to keep in mind for the nourishment of your immune system are Vitamin B6 and selenium, having an effect on antibody production and do naturally occur in meat, pulses, dairy products and potatoes (13–15). Nevertheless, a deficiency in these nutrients is rare.
These micronutrients, together with all the essential vitamins and minerals our body needs on a daily basis can be found in our tasty range of products! Healthy and convenient solutions for these uncertain times. Stay safe and take care!
1. Het immuunsysteem [Internet]. WUR. 2012 [cited 2020 Mar 23]. Available from: https://www.wur.nl/nl/Onderzoek-Resultaten/Projecten/Allergieconsortium/Allergie/Het-immuunsysteem.htm
2. Publishing HH. How to boost your immune system [Internet]. Harvard Health. [cited 2020 Mar 23]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
3. Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Vitamin C [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2012 [cited 2020 Mar 23]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-c/
4. Vitamin C [Internet]. Linus Pauling Institute. 2014 [cited 2020 Mar 23]. Available from: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C
5. Vitamine C (ascorbinezuur) | Voedingscentrum [Internet]. [cited 2020 Mar 23]. Available from: https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/vitamine-c.aspx?query=vitamine%20c
6. Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Vitamin D [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2012 [cited 2020 Mar 23]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/
7. Aranow C. Vitamin D and the Immune System. J Investig Med Off Publ Am Fed Clin Res. 2011 Aug;59(6):881–6.
8. Vitamine D | Voedingscentrum [Internet]. [cited 2020 Mar 20]. Available from: https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/vitamine-d.aspx?query=vitamine%20d
9. Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, Kurihara M, Wada Y, Ida H. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1255–60.
10. Zinc [Internet]. Linus Pauling Institute. 2014 [cited 2020 Mar 24]. Available from: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc
11. Zink | Voedingscentrum [Internet]. [cited 2020 Mar 24]. Available from: https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/zink.aspx?query=zink
12. Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Zinc [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2019 [cited 2020 Mar 24]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/zinc/
13. ILSI / Nutrition and Immunity in Man, 2nd Edition [Internet]. [cited 2020 Mar 24]. Available from: https://ilsi.eu/publication/nutrition-and-immunity-in-man-2nd-edition/
14. Selenium (seleen) | Voedingscentrum [Internet]. [cited 2020 Mar 24]. Available from: https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/seleen.aspx?query=selenium
15. Vitamine B6 | Voedingscentrum [Internet]. [cited 2020 Mar 24]. Available from: https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/vitamine-b6.aspx?query=b6