The primary function of the immune system in our bodies is to ward off unwanted infections. It has the ability to recognize cells that have the potential to harm our health. B and T lymphocytes are the cells that are responsible for producing responsive actions towards certain microbes based on memory. This is why despite being exposed to several microbes, only a few are able to manifest themselves as diseases. The overall ability of the host to fight pathogens like viruses, toxins, bacteria, etc conferred by the immune system is called immunity.
One type of immunity is innate immunity. This is a nonspecific immunity type that is imparted by barriers that are present from the time of birth and they include physical (skin, mucous coating), physiological (saliva, tears), and cellular (WBCs and monocytes).
When the immune system is able to recognize pathogens from an infection that occurred earlier in the body, the response is termed as acquired.
Antibodies that are found in the blood give rise to a response which is also called the humoral immune response. This is one of the two types of our “acquired immune response” – antibody-mediated.
Acquired immunity, unlike innate, is specific to pathogens. It is under the control of the memory. This implies that our body when it encounters a pathogen for the first time, it produces a response called primary response which is usually of low intensity. Subsequent encounter with the same pathogen elicits a highly intensified secondary response.
The second type is called the cell-mediated immune response or cell-mediated immunity (CMI). The T-lymphocytes mediate CMI.
Keeping in mind the importance of regular exercise, a well-maintained diet, and restful sleep, one can also boost and maintain their immunity year-long by having a balanced mix of different vitamins & minerals – whether it be in the form of a supplement (like pills, syrups, etc) or through fruits and vegetables and other nutritious sources like dry-fruits & nuts in which they naturally occur.
Here are a few nourishing vitamins and minerals that are essential to ensure the unhindered, optimal performance of the immune system.
- Vitamin A
Besides promoting vision improvement and having anti-inflammatory properties, this vitamin plays a key role in imparting strength to the development of the immune system. Research reveals that the function of the primary immune response organs requires substantial amounts of this vitamin to function properly. Vitamin A also regulates the function and production of the bone marrow, where the B-lymphocytes are manufactured.
Vitamin A is present abundantly in vegetables such as squash, carrots, collards, etc. It is also present in dairy products, fish, and liver.
- Vitamin C
This vitamin is a strong antioxidant that helps scavenge for free radicals and reduces oxidative stress. Additionally, Vitamin C supports and promotes various functions of the immune system – including the innate and the acquired. It enhances the process of phagocytosis – which is the ability of our WBCs to ingest and digest harmful pathogens. It is also known to help in the proliferation of our fighter B and T lymphocytes.
Vitamin C is present in various citrus fruits like lemons, tangerines, oranges, and kiwis as well as in green leafy vegetables like spinach and bathua.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is well known for its properties that regulate the overall functioning of the immune system. Research shows that Vitamin E supplements can potentially combat the decrease in cellular immunity due to age and that it also helps in the differentiation of T lymphocytes in the thymus.
Vitamin C can be found in nuts, seeds, eggs, avocadoes, and pulses.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency leads to the autoimmune tendency – in which our body starts to destroy its own cells. This vitamin plays a significant role in the decrease of various types of infections by producing a large number of macrophages – cells that have the potential to destroy harmful pathogens.
Fatty fish, cheese, egg yolks and of course, sunlight are some common sources of Vitamin D
- Folic Acid
Folate or Vitamin B9 has a direct impact on cell-mediated immunity as well as the development of the primary immunity imparting organ – thymus. It also helps increase the number of T lymphocytes.
Dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, peas, and grains are known to contain high amounts of folic acid.
Iron is an essential micronutrient that is required for the elementary development of the immune system. Its deficiency inadvertently leads to a weak immune system, thereby making the host susceptible to many infections.
Iron is available in large amounts in red meats, fish, poultry, soybeans, lentils, and spinach.
Apart from initiating and maintaining immunity, this mineral is also responsible for the regulation of any exaggerated immune response. The deficiency of Selenium leads to the decreased proliferation and activity of immune cells.
Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, liver, and garlic, are excellent sources of Selenium.
Zinc plays a very important role in the function and regulation of cell-mediated immunity. The deficiency of this mineral negatively impacts the growth, proliferation, and activity of both the types of lymphocytes – B & T.
Seeds, nuts, dairy products, eggs, and whole grains are rich sources of zinc.
Bhookha Haathi’s products are enriched with many micronutrients such as vitamins like A, C, D, E, and K, as well as minerals like Calcium, Iodine, Zinc, and Iron. All of them help maintain and strengthen the ability of the immune system to ward off any unwanted infections and also prevent the onset of many chronic diseases.
Written by: Jahnabee Adhikari
Jahnabee is a part-time blogger, full-time dog lover. She believes that writing actually possesses the potential to change the world. She can be often found fantasizing about poetry or buried nose-deep in a Sudha Murthy novel.