Did you know that your first line of defense against allergies is your immune system? Before you run to the drugstore and stock up on antihistamines that fight the symptoms of seasonal allergies, try curing your allergies at the source by bolstering immune function.
An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system responds to a “false alarm.” Essentially, it treats an everyday substance like dust or pollen as a harmful intruder. The immune system then sends antibodies to attack the allergen and inflammation occurs, causing itching, clogged sinuses, wheezing, and other typical symptoms.
Allergies are actually considered a disorder of the immune system. Supporting vital immune functions with proper nutrition may just help you fight off allergies before the symptoms even set in.
Vitamin C Dramatically Improves Immune Cell Count
Vitamin C is known to be one of the most powerful immune-boosting vitamins around. Recently, Japanese researchers sought to examine the influence of vitamin C on the number of immune cells circulating in the body. What they found was pretty remarkable.
The researchers supplemented the diet of vitamin-C deficient mice with either 20mg/kg or 200mg/kg of vitamin C per day for an entire year.
At the end of the study, the researchers measured both the weight of the thymus, a key immune organ, and the amount of immune cells in the blood, spleen and thymus combined. They discovered that mice who were fed the highest vitamin C intake at 200mg/kg did not experience a drop in their immune cell count as they aged.
The high-dose vitamin C also seemed to inhibit thymus shrinkage associated with aging and help maintain thymic output. The thymus plays an important role in regulating T-cells, white blood cells that act as key immunomodulators. Scientists believe that vitamin C’s ability to increase the production of fibronectin and laminin (glycoproteins), and support healthy collagen may be at the root of its immune-supporting qualities.
The high-dose vitamin C group also experienced higher T cell counts than the 20mg/kg group.
Thymic Function Declines as You Age
These findings are especially relevant to older folks, as thymic function is known to decline dramatically with age, leading to compromised immune function. High-dose vitamin C may just help ward off creeping sniffles now, while preventing against chronic disease later in life.
Low Zinc Levels Linked to Compromised Immune Function
A recent study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research established a link between zinc deficiency and poor immune function.
When zinc levels are too low, the cells in charge of regulating inflammation are thrown out of whack, causing excess inflammation in the body. As you’re probably well aware, inflammation is a major root cause of chronic disease.
The researchers found that zinc appears to increase the healthy inflammatory response in cells when an injury site triggers a healing response. Specifically, they measured a direct link between inadequate zinc levels and dysregulation of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6).
Age-related decline in immune function could potentially be slowed or even reversed with the dietary addition of zinc supplementation, researchers suggest.
With 12% of the population not consuming enough zinc and 40% of folks over 65 not meeting the RDA, there’s a big gap to fill. Plus, since the body can’t store zinc for long periods of time, it’s important to replenish it daily with zinc-rich foods and nutritional supplements.