Q: What are immune system vitamins?
A: This an informal name that refers to vitamins which are said to help support our immune systems. Most people consider vitamin C, A, D, E, and the B complex to make up this category. Additionally, there are minerals like zinc which are often included in immune system supplements.
What we all need to understand though is that these supplements are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease. They also should not be used in place of vaccines. For example, there are some manufacturers out there whom claim their products offer flu protection – the government is taking action against unproven claims like this.
So although there are many claims out there which are unsubstantiated, there is something we know for sure…. a number of vitamins are needed for our bodies to function properly. And as we all know, if you are in good overall health, you are probably less susceptible to catching a bug.
With that being said, let’s take a look at a few of ingredients typically used in immune system vitamins:
Vitamin C: The synthetic form of this is known as ascorbic acid and that is what is usually used in supplements. The natural form can be obtained through fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as natural vitamins. It’s important to note that heat destroys vitamin C so cooked food is not the same. It is water soluble so it doesn’t stay in our systems very long.
Vitamin E: Acting as an antioxidant, this nutrient helps combat free radicals in our bodies. It’s fat soluble so it stays in our system longer.
Vitamin A: This nutrient reportedly plays a role in our immune system, health of our skin, vision, and many other functions. This is also fat soluble.
Vitamin D: This one has been largely ignored for years but lately this one has gotten a lot of buzz. There is evidence which points to vitamin D contributing to our immune system function in a number of ways. It is fat soluble and our body produces it naturally through our skin’s exposure to sunlight. It has been said that we produce it so efficiently, we only need around ten minutes of sunlight a day to make what we need. However if we work in an office or live in regions which don’t get a lot of sun, then this may be difficult to do.
B Complex: This actually refers to the eight different B vitamins which are essential for humans. They are essential for energy metabolism at the cellular level. They support our immune systems as well as many other bodily processes.
Zinc: This is what is known as an essential trace element. It has frequently included in supplements but recently (June 2009) the FDA state that consumers should not use zinc cold products which are intranasal (i.e. sprays) because they can allegedly cause a loss of smell. However that does not mean you should not consume iron – it just means don’t consume it in that way. Consuming the recommended daily allowance is what is currently advised, which is 11 mg daily for men and 8 mg daily for women. Even though it is an essential nutrient, taking excess amounts can lead to toxicity.
The above ingredients are some you will typically find in immune system vitamins. Some also include other ingredients like garlic supplements and astragalus.