For the most part, you’re born with the immune system that you have now. Age and exposure to germs over the years may change it a bit, but in general, your body’s defense is dependent on your parent’s defense system. Treatments such as allergy shots and drugs like Zyrtec may help you cope with annoying immune system reactions (aka allergies), but there’s no real way to completely change the way your cells react to foreign invaders.
But none of this is to say you can’t take some measures to bolster your immunity. Your lifestyle and diet choices definitely matter. Drinking too much alcohol, smoking, doing drugs, and not sleeping enough can severely decrease the effectiveness of our immune systems. Eating a diet that lacks substantial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can also have a detrimental effect.
So, which vitamins are most essential to maintaining a healthy immune system? Let’s take a look.
The Big Three
Three vitamins to keep in mind are Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E. You can take these as pills or you can choose foods that are high in these vitamins.
For Vitamin C, look for citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits. Strawberries, kale, and broccoli are also high in this vitamin, so if sour-tasting food isn’t your thing, try these other options.
The Mediterranean diet is absolutely loaded with Vitamin B6. This vital nutrient can be found in chicken, salmon, and tuna. And if you love hummus, you’re also in luck, because chickpeas are just loaded with B6. Consider making your own hummus, and adding green peppers or other vegetables into the mix for an even more diverse dish.
And finally, Vitamin E is found in seeds, nuts, and spinach. This antioxidant is so powerful that some people even use it on their skin (in oil form) to prevent wrinkles or scars.
Don’t over-do it with supplements!
Do note that you can overdose on Vitamin E if you consume too much of it. Unless your doctor recommends it, try to stick to foods that are high in the vitamin instead of the pills.
The same can be said for B6, though overdosing on it is rare. Still, those who get their vitamins from pills instead of eating a wide variety of foods can suffer nerve damage from a Vitamin B6 overdose.
As for Vitamin C, no need to worry. It is water-soluble, so if you consume too much, your body will dispose of it through urine.