Best Vitamins to Boost Your Immune System

at 3/31/2018 02:11:00 PM
Most of the time, the immune system does its job to keep us healthy. However, the system sometimes fails to defend, and this can result in illness, infection, or diseases. This is where the body then needs reinforcements in the form of vitamins and other immune-boosting nutrients. And in this article, we will detail the best vitamins for immune system health.
Your immune system contains tissues, antibodies, white blood cells, chemicals, and all the organs of the lymphatic system, which work together to protect you. They form your first line of defence against invaders such as micro organisms and germs. Interestingly enough, about 80% of the immune system is found your digestive system; therefore, when gut bacteria are balanced, so is the immune system.
Vitamins for Immune System
A lack of adequate nutrition is one of the key components of a compromised immune system. Fortunately, vitamins have properties that help protect the immune system and fight against disease, illness, and infection. It is possible to get vitamins from foods in the diet, as well as from supplements.
Some vitamins have more immune-protecting power than others do. The best vitamins for immune system health featured in this section include vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin D3, vitamin A, vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid), and vitamin K.
Each vitamin will also feature a table that details the recommended daily allowance for that particular vitamin.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is one of the biggest immune boosters. It is a water-soluble, antioxidant vitamin that plays a vital role in individuals with a weakened immune system due to stress.
A sufficient vitamin C intake could help you fight off viruses, colds, and other complications like lung infections and pneumonia. Conversely, a weak immune system due to vitamin C deficiency might make any infection more severe, and this is even worse among older adults.
Several cells in the immune system can accumulate vitamin C, including T cells and phagocytes. As more immune cells take in vitamin C, this leads to an increase in directed movement to the infection location and increased proliferation of lymphocytes and other immune cells.
The increase of vitamin C also promotes a spike in production of immune-boosting proteins with cell proliferation. This forms a network that leads to a strong immune system. As an antioxidant, vitamin C is also thought to neutralize free radicals that may otherwise damage cells.
According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the following is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C daily:
0-6 months40 mg40 mg
7-12 months50 mg50 mg
1-3 years15 mg15 mg
4-8 years25 mg25 mg
9-13 years45 mg45 mg
14-18 years75 mg65 mg80 mg115 mg
19+ years90 mg75 mg85 mg120 mg
Smokers require 35 mg per day more of vitamin C than non-smokers.

2. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a B-complex vitamin that plays a critical role in energy levels and immunity. A vitamin B6 deficiency will also lead to fatigue, low energy, and chronic pain. Research shows that large doses of vitamin B6 supplementation (50 mg or 100 mg daily) can increase immune response in critically ill patients.
Adequate vitamin B6 intake is especially vital for an optimal immune system, especially in the elderly. Chronic inflammation will also trigger tryptophan degradation and may trigger pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP) loss, which increases the requirement of vitamin B6.
According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the following is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin B6 per day:
0-6 months100 mcg100 mcg
7-12 months300 mcg300 mcg
1-3 years500 mcg500 mcg
4-8 years600 mcg600 mcg
9-13 years1.0 mg1.0 mg
14-18 years1.3 mg1.2 mg1.9 mg2.0 mg
19-50 years1.3 mg1.3 mg1.9 mg2.0 mg
51+ years1.7 mg1.5 mg

3. Vitamin E

Vitamin E (tocopherol) is a very powerful antioxidant vitamin that helps boost immunity and fight infection. A vitamin E deficiency leads to increased infectious diseases and tumors.
Research shows that low vitamin E levels are linked with digestive problems, including poor nutrient absorption in the digestive tract. This leads to all sorts of immune issues, including damaged skin, hormonal problems, eye disorders, nerve and muscle damage, and inflammation.
On the other hand, vitamin E from food and supplementation can help induce higher differentiation of immature T cells in the thymus that leads to improved immunity, especially in the elderly.
According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the following is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin E daily:
0-6 months4 mg (6 IU)4 mg (6 IU)
7-12 months5 mg (7.5 IU)5 mg (7.5 IU)
1-3 years6 mg (9 IU)6 mg (9 IU)
4-8 years7 mg (10.4 IU)7 mg (10.4 IU)
9-13 years11 mg (16.4 IU)11 mg (16.4 IU)
14-18 years15 mg (22.4 IU)15 mg (22.4 IU)15 mg (22.4 IU)19 mg (28.4 IU)
19+ years15 mg (22.4 IU)15 mg (22.4 IU)15 mg (22.4 IU)19 mg (28.4 IU)

4. Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is a fat-soluble vitamin found in food and supplements. Vitamin D is among the best vitamins for immune system health since it can help reduce inflammation; fight bacteria and viruses; and regulate differentiation, cell proliferation, and cell death.
As a result, an adequate vitamin D intake could potentially help fight the common cold, flu, and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
How else can vitamin D boost immune health? Vitamin D is sent to immune cells that contain vitamin D receptors. Macrophages are specific immune cells that recognize lipopolysaccharides (LPS) through Toll-like receptors (TLRs). When these receptors bind with LPS, this leads to vitamin D3 helping in the transcription process of proteins that later destroy pathogenic cells.
According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the following is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D3 daily:
0-12 months10 mcg (400 IU)10 mcg (400 IU)
1-13 years15 mcg (600 IU)15 mcg (600 IU)
14-18 years15 mcg (600 IU)15 mcg (600 IU)15 mcg (600 IU)15 mcg (600 IU)
19-70 years15 mcg (600 IU)15 mcg (600 IU)15 mcg (600 IU)15 mcg (600 IU)
71 years and older20 mcg (800 IU)20 mcg (800 IU)

5. Vitamin A

Vitamin A (retinol and beta-carotene) is a fat-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant that plays a vital role in enhancing immune system function. Genes involved in immune response are regulated by vitamin A, which is needed for fighting illnesses like the common cold or flu, and more serious conditions like autoimmune diseases and cancer.
A vitamin A deficiency leads to respiratory infections, premature skin damage, and digestive issues. Insufficient intake will also impair immunity by diminishing the function of immune cells like natural killer cells, macrophages, and neutrophils.
Vitamin A deficiency also diminishes antibody-mediated responses directed from both T-helper (Th) cells since vitamin A plays a role in the development of both Th cells and B cells.
According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the following is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin A per day:
0-6 months400 mcg (1,333 IU)400 mcg (1,333 IU)
7-12 months500 mcg (1,666 IU)500 mcg (1,666 IU)
1-3 months300 mcg (1,000 IU)300 mcg (1,000 IU)
4-8 years400 mcg (1,333 IU)400 mcg (1,333 IU)
9-13 years600 mcg (2,000 IU)600 mcg (2,000 IU)
14-18 years900 mcg (3,000 IU)700 mcg (2,333 IU)750 mcg (2,500 IU)1,200 mcg (4,000 IU)
19-50 years900 mcg (3,000 IU)700 mcg (2,333 IU)770 mcg (2,700 IU)1,300 mcg (4,333 IU)
51+ years900 mcg (3,000 IU)700 mcg (2,333 IU)

6. Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

Folate (synthetic folic acid) is also called vitamin B9. Common signs of folate deficiency include poor immune function and frequently getting sick; chronic low energy; canker sores; anemia; pale skin; and digestive issues like bloating, constipation, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Folate also promotes proper production and function of white blood cells. Research shows that folate increases T cell distribution and cell division to increase immunity. T cells are lymphocytes that play a major role in immunity.
According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the following is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin B9 (folate) daily:
0-6 months65 mcg65 mcg
7-12 months80 mcg80 mcg
1-3 years150 mcg150 mcg
4-8 years200 mcg200 mcg
9-13 years300 mcg300 mcg
14+ years400 mcg400 mcg600 mcg500 mcg

7. Vitamin K

Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin involved in heart and bone health; however, it is also among the best vitamins for immune system health. The vitamin K that we absorb from our diet is related to intestinal bacteria; therefore, our current vitamin K levels depend greatly on our digestive health.
A vitamin K deficiency can lead to IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, and other intestinal problems. Other conditions that prevent the body from absorbing vitamin K include liver disease, gallbladder disease, celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity.
According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the following is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin K daily:
0-6 months2.0 mcg2.0 mcg
7-12 months2.5 mcg2.5 mcg
1-3 years30 mcg30 mcg
4-8 years55 mcg55 mcg
9-13 years60 mcg60 mcg
14-18 years75 mcg75 mcg75 mcg75 mcg
19+ years120 mcg90 mcg90 mcg90 mcg

Vitamin-Rich Foods to Boost Immune System

The following is a quick and easy chart with some of the better food sources of the best vitamins for immune system health we’ve mentioned above, including vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin C, vitamin D3, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Supplements containing these vitamins are often sold in doses that exceed the recommended daily allowances. As a result, a diet of whole foods is a better way to get your vitamins to boost your immunity.

Foods that Boost Your Immune System

VitaminsFood Sources
Vitamin ASweet potatoes, kale, carrots, spinach, beef liver, romaine lettuce, butter, eggs, winter squash, broccoli, apricots, cantaloupe, mango, sweet red peppers, and tuna
Vitamin B6Turkey breast, grass-fed beef, tuna, chicken breast, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chickpeas, amaranth, chickpeas, blackstrap molasses, avocado, pinto beans, and pistachio nuts
Vitamin B9 (Folate)Spinach, broccoli, asparagus, black-eyed peas, beef liver, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, kidney beans, avocado, romaine lettuce, and oranges
Vitamin CRed peppers, green peppers, black currants, guava, kiwi, oranges, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, parsley, pineapple, grapefruit, cauliflower, mango, and Brussels sprouts
Vitamin D3Halibut, carp, mackerel, eel, salmon, whitefish, swordfish, rainbow trout, sardines, cod liver oil, tuna, eggs, raw milk, maitake mushrooms, and portabella mushrooms
Vitamin EHazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, mango, avocado, broccoli, spinach, butternut squash, bell peppers, olives, collard greens, Swiss chard, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and kiwi fruit
Vitamin KParsley, dandelion greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, spring onions, Brussels sprouts, turnip greens, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, sea vegetables, cucumbers, cabbage, strawberries, chicken liver, and cauliflower

Final Thoughts on Vitamins for Immune System Health

This article featured seven of the best vitamins for immune system health, including vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin C, vitamin D3, vitamin E, and vitamin K. We also explained how each vitamin benefits the immune system, as well as which foods are rich in each vitamin. A vitamin-rich diet will be heavy in vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods.
When you do supplement with vitamins, it is best to choose a high-quality product made from real food sources and free from fillers or toxins. High-quality vitamin supplements are made in a process that allows that body to recognize the vitamins, and this gives you the most immune benefits.

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