Vitamin C is probably one of the best known immune boosting nutrients around, but that doesn’t mean that people always have enough on board to stay healthy. Supplementation can be critical.
One of the benefits of a supplemental form of vitamin C is that it provides a consistent level of the nutrient each day, so that you’re not relying on food sources only.
Vitamin C works through our innate and adaptive immune responses and can also alleviate allergy and other respiratory symptoms, because it has a natural antihistamine effect. It literally helps you breathe easier. It also kills dangerous microbes and is an essential element in the body’s natural defenses that are on watch every day for viruses and other harmful invaders.
Even though vitamin C may be included in daily multivitamin and mineral formulas, it’s likely to be more helpful when taken in dosages that saturate plasma levels. For established infections, even higher levels of vitamin C are required to bolster the various aspects of the immune system so they can work more efficiently to get you feeling healthy again.
Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published 2017 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu9111211
Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient for humans, with pleiotropic functions related to its ability to donate electrons. It is a potent antioxidant and a cofactor for a family of biosynthetic and gene regulatory enzymes. Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress. Vitamin C accumulates in phagocytic cells, such as neutrophils, and can enhance chemotaxis, phagocytosis, generation of reactive oxygen species, and ultimately microbial killing. It is also needed for apoptosis and clearance of the spent neutrophils from sites of infection by macrophages, thereby decreasing necrosis/NETosis and potential tissue damage. The role of vitamin C in lymphocytes is less clear, but it has been shown to enhance differentiation and proliferation of B- and T-cells, likely due to its gene regulating effects. Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections. In turn, infections significantly impact on vitamin C levels due to enhanced inflammation and metabolic requirements. Furthermore, supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. Prophylactic prevention of infection requires dietary vitamin C intakes that provide at least adequate, if not saturating plasma levels (i.e., 100-200 mg/day), which optimize cell and tissue levels. In contrast, treatment of established infections requires significantly higher (gram) doses of the vitamin to compensate for the increased inflammatory response and metabolic demand.
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