Safeguarding our wellbeing has never been so prevalent than the last few weeks as we all scramble to find the holy grail of health amongst the threat of the coronavirus. From guzzling bone broth to dosing on CBD, everything we think we know about immune support has come into play. But if you’re one of the 65 per cent of adults who take some form of vitamin supplement, we’ve got some bad news for your – you might be taking them wrong.
As vitamin C sales triple over the last week alone, research has shown that although popping a daily dose can support our body’s defences, our ability to absorb the correct amount can vary dramatically from person to person. “Our immune system has diverse vitamin needs to work well every day even when we are not sick,” says immunologist Dr Jenna Macciochi, ambassador of Tonic Health. “Being deficient in vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, and E, beta carotene, iron and zinc will impair our immunity.”
But, by taking certain vitamins in pairs we can boost the nutrient efficiency and reap the benefits of a more harmonious immune system. “There are 37 thousand billion things happening every second in our body so the more we do to support them the better,” says naturopath Louise Westra. “Everything in the body is related so there isn’t one nutrient that doesn’t need another. Having said that, nutrients work in harmony with one another to perform different functions throughout the body.”
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1/ Vitamin C and B6
If you’re guilty of reaching for the fresh orange when you feel the first signs of a sniffle, Westra suggests doubling up on a B6 supplement. “Viral infections release histamine in the body and this creates many of the symptoms that accompany a cold or flu-type infection. However, vitamin C and B6 work together to break down histamine, therefore supplementing with vitamin C at 2000mg three times daily has been shown to reduce histamine levels in the blood by just under 40 per cent thereby helping to reduce the severity of symptoms and lessen immune suppression,” she says.
2/ Vitamin A and vitamin D
When a national survey revealed that one in five people have low vitamin D levels in the UK, we all stocked up on the sunshine supplement, but should we have also opted for its lesser known ally? “Vitamin A is required for the normal development of our immune function and the epithelial cells found in the linings of the body such as the mouth, gut and respiratory tract,” Westra tells us. “Whereas vitamin D protects us against viral respiratory infections, therefore the two work well together. Take vitamin D3 and A with a meal that has some fat in it as they are fat soluble vitamins and your body will absorb them better this way.”
3/ Zinc and B6
Known as a healing mineral, zinc’s also a champion among immune supplements. “Zinc supports the function of the thymus gland (where our immune responses known as T-cells mature) and is needed alongside B6 (especially the active form, pyridoxal-5-phosphate) to keep it working optimally,” Westra says. “Opt for a zinc acetate lozenge as this supplement form was found to reduce the duration of viral respiratory illness in studies.”
4/ Magnesium and theanine
Stress and anxiety levels may be at an all-time high but keeping calm is paramount for our health. “Any additional stress will undermine our immune system,” Westra explains. “A combination of magnesium with L-Theanine (an amino acid) will ease the tension in the physical body and settle anxiety as L-Theanine supports the production of calming neurotransmitters. Take this combination now twice daily rather than waiting until you feel tense or anxious.”
5/ Iron and vitamin C
While devouring kale chips may make a healthy snack, boosting our immunity is going to take more than upping our leafy green intake. “Iron is the most common micronutrient deficiency. It’s vital for proliferation of immune cells, particularly our lymphocytes – taking non-heme iron (found in plant foods) with vitamin C supports its absorption. Eating a piece of vitamin C-rich fruit such as kiwi or orange when taking a non-heme iron supplement can be helpful to improve absorption.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR UK.
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