By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
13 Mar 2020
Our immune system is a highly complex network of tissues and cells whose job description is to correctly identify, label, attack and destroy physical threats to our well-being. Antibodies, neutrophils, phagocytes, T cells, B cells and Natural Killer cells are just a few of the vital cells that do the bulk of the work when we come in contact with an infectious agent. How well they fend off a pathogen depends on how well nourished these cells are.
Only nutrients can nourish. The essential vitamins and minerals that are used to construct the immune system's vital components are best referred to as immune-builders. Vitamins A, B-6, C, D, as well as the minerals zinc and selenium are examples of immune-builders because without them, we don't just have a poorly-functioning immune system-we'd have an incompletely constructed one.
Here's how some of these nutrients help strengthen our immune systems:
Zinc: Deficiency has long been established to increased risk of infection by viral, fungal and bacterial infections. It's an essential mineral in the production of all immune cells, like macrophages, neutrophils, T-lymphocytes and natural killer cells. It's also vital to the complement system that works together with these white blood cells to fight pathogens.
In a 2007 study of elderly adults in 33 different nursing homes, adequate zinc status was associated with decreased incidence and duration of pneumonia. Similarly, studies using oral zinc supplementation in children with respiratory illness have shown good results with as little as 10 milligrams daily. Meanwhile, a 2010 in vitro study showed that zinc blocked the replication of coronavirus and arterivirus in cell cultures-outside the body. This exciting research will hopefully stimulate further studies to find out if zinc may also be effective in fighting COVID-19 in humans. In any case, since immune support depends on adequate zinc, an amino-acid bound zinc supplement such as PLV Zinc Glycinate supplying 22.5 milligrams of highly bioavailable zinc per capsule can help ensure zinc status for healthy immune function.
Selenium is another mineral important to the immune system because it's a building block of certain immune proteins called selenoproteins. For example, glutathione peroxidases are a series of enzymes used by the immunity system, and it's made with selenium. A 2015 review published in Advances in Nutrition details how selenium deficiency is associated with numerous life-threatening infections. The same review indicated that supplementation of selenium has been shown to improve immunity in those infected with hepatitis C, tuberculosis and influenza. Not only that, but in a 1998 study of critically-ill SIRS patients the virus significantly depleted the body's stores of selenium -- by 40 percent!
It makes sense, then, to keep selenium levels topped up in the face of increased risk. PLV Selenomethionine is a selenium compound containing 200 micrograms of highly bioavailable selenium that provides free radical protection and supports healthy immune function. Only one capsule is needed to obtain your daily dose.
Vitamin D: This nutrient increases the production of defensins and cathelicidin - anti-microbial proteins that provide a natural defence against disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
Low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased incidence of upper and lower respiratory tract infections in all age groups. In fact, those who are deficient have been shown to benefit the most from supplementation. In a pediatric respiratory health study of 197 children, the acute lower respiratory infections (ALRIs) bronchiolitis and pneumonia were correlated with low vitamin D status. Specifically, the mean average vitamin D level for infected children admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit was significantly lower than that observed for both the control (non-infected) group and ALRI subjects who were admitted to the general pediatrics ward.
If you live in a climate cold enough that you can't wear shorts and a T-shirt during the winter months, your vitamin D production is probably next to nil. If you're not already supplementing this nutrient and you're reading this, then it's not too late to start! PLV Vitamin D supplies 1000 International Units of cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) per capsule to support the maintenance of a strong immune system.
Can nutrients protect us from developing COVID-19? It's important to realize that viruses like influenza and the SARS-coV-2 strain of the coronavirus have been shown to mutate quickly and unpredictably, so we cannot be certain that any one nutrient or supplement that has shown promising results in the research literature will have a protective benefit today. Having said that: if your diet is lacking in sufficient immune-essential nutrients, you are sleep-deprived and/or stressed it stands to reason you may have a higher risk of contracting, and suffering from, any infectious agent.
Immune BOOSTING: Is it Useful?
What about mushroom extracts? Echinacea? Astragalus? Elderberry? While immune-boosters may be effective at mobilizing and increasing white blood cell production, they are NON-essential substances to the human body. Also, immune-boosters may not be appropriate for everyone--such as those with auto-immune diseases-because these individuals already have over-stimulated immune systems. Like a car in overdrive mode, eventually this will produce a lot of stress on the system, leading to bigger problems (and worsening symptoms). In contrast, supplementary nutrients such as zinc, selenium and vitamin D come with very few contraindications, and are actually building blocks of the immune system. After all, infections are not caused by deficiency of echinacea or elderberry!
Finally, no discussion about healthy immunity is complete without mentioning the importance of quality sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation reduces immune function, leaving us more susceptible to infection. So, if you're feeling especially anxious or have trouble sleeping since the coronavirus was upgraded to pandemic status, consider the value of natural calming aids. A component of green tea, PLV L-Theanine promotes relaxation---without unwanted side effects-and is available in fast-acting chewables as well as slow-release capsules. Similarly, PLV Magnesium Glycinate with Melatonin can be taken at bedtime to support good quality sleep.
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