We’re all exposed to dusts, bacterias and viruses daily as we breathe. If we don’t have a strong immune system to protect ourselves, these viruses can easily infect us. Did you know that airway epithelial cells serve as our body’s first defence of the immune system? Functional epithelial cells on the airway will protect us from foreign objects while we breathe so we won’t fall sick easily. A weakened immune system would decrease infection resistance thus increasing the chance of infection and affect our physical and mental development.
Micronutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C should be your best friend during this season. Adequate intakes of ALA (Omega 3) and LA (Omega 6) are important as well for your cells to work efficiently. Did you know these nutrients are really essential for the immune system? Have you ever wondered what would happen if one or more micronutrients were insufficient in your body?
Fat soluble Vitamin A helps to protect against infection by maintaining healthy skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system.
Vitamin D has been associated with decreased risk of viral respiratory disease. Vitamin D acts on epithelial cells to stimulate the secretion of cathelicidin and other peptides which protect against bacterial infections and enveloped viruses. Both interventional and observational epidemiological studies showed evidences that deficiency in Vitamin D can result in increased risk of influenza and respiratory tract infection.
Don’t forget about Vitamin E that acts as a fat soluble antioxidant which maintains the integrity of the cell membranes while reducing damage caused by free radicals.
Vitamin C serves as an antioxidant, enabling other essential antioxidants to regenerate and increasing the serum level of antibodies. Do note that high amounts of Vitamin C has been well established to prevent and treat respiratory infections. Vitamin C can prevent viral diseases at sufficient high doses and significantly speed up the recovery from an acute viral infection.
Essential Fatty Acids ALA (Omega 3) & LA (Omega 6)
Getting sufficient ALA and LA in the appropriate ratio will help maintain the structure, fluidity and permeability of the cell membranes. This will allow the cells to absorb all the vitamins consumed efficiently, enabling the body to utilise the vitamins to improve immunity. Adding on, our bodies will convert LA from omega 6 to PGE-1 which is really important in regulating immune response too. With a good balance of ALA to LA ratio, this will prevent inflammation that can lead to infections, or even allergic reactions.
In a nut shell
Maximizing the body’s antioxidant capacity and natural immunity is very effective in preventing or minimizing symptoms when a virus attacks the human body. Eat a healthy balanced diet that comprises of all these nutrients adequately to strengthen your immune system. If you are unsure, do consult our qualified dietitians to resolve your uncertainties.
Zhafirah Basri, Dietitian
BSc(Hons) University Science Malaysia
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