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Vitamin C for immune health

The Benefits of Vitamin C for Immune Health

, by AussiePharmaDirect, 7 min reading time

The immune system is a remarkable network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect our bodies from harmful pathogens. Its primary function is to identify and eliminate invading microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites, as well as detect and destroy abnormal cells, such as cancer cells. Through a series of complex interactions, the immune system acts as our body's defence mechanism, helping maintain our overall health and well-being.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in supporting the proper functioning of the immune system. It is considered an essential nutrient, meaning that our bodies cannot produce it on their own, so we must obtain it through our diet or supplements.

In this blog, we’ll explore the specific benefits of vitamin C for our immune health, uncovering the ways in which vitamin C can act as an immune booster.

First, let’s understand how the immune system works

At the forefront of the immune system's defence are various types of immune cells, including neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes.

  • Neutrophils - The most abundant white blood cells and are highly efficient at engulfing and neutralising pathogens.
  • Lymphocytes (comprising T cells and B cells) - T cells recognise and destroy infected or abnormal cells directly, while B cells produce antibodies that target specific pathogens, marking them for destruction by other immune cells.
  • Phagocytes - Another group of immune cells that engulf and digest foreign invaders.

How does Vitamin C support the immune function?

When the immune system is supported by adequate vitamin C levels, it becomes more efficient in identifying and eliminating pathogens. This can result in a reduced likelihood of infection and a lower risk of experiencing severe symptoms. While vitamin C does not guarantee complete immunity, it contributes to the overall resilience of the immune system.

Here are key ways in which vitamin C supports immune function:

  • Enhances immune cell activity
  • Vitamin C aids in the proliferation and maturation of neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes, making them more effective in their roles. By bolstering the performance of these immune cells, vitamin C helps to strengthen the body's defence against pathogens.

  • Modulates cytokine production and regulating immune responses
  • Cytokines are small signalling molecules that act as messengers in the immune system, coordinating and regulating immune responses. Vitamin C helps maintain a balance in cytokine production, ensuring an appropriate immune response without excessive inflammation. This modulation is crucial as an overactive or uncontrolled immune response can lead to detrimental effects on the body.

  • Boosts collagen production and assisting in wound healing
  • Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that forms the structural framework of many tissues, including the skin, blood vessels, and organs. Because of this, it aids in the repair and regeneration of tissues.

  • Acts as an antioxidant
  • Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps protect immune cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Oxidative stress can impair immune function and weaken the body's ability to combat infections. By neutralising free radicals, vitamin C helps preserve immune cell integrity and function, reducing the risk of infections.

  • Enhances natural killer cell activity
  • Natural killer (NK) cells are a type of immune cell that plays a critical role in identifying and destroying infected or abnormal cells. Vitamin C supports the activity and effectiveness of NK cells, contributing to the body's immune surveillance.

    Vitamin C benefits

    With its vital role in supporting immune function, vitamin C not only promotes a strong defence against infections but also offers a range of general health benefits.

    • Supports faster recovery process
    • Aids in the healing of wounds, cuts and bruises
    • Helps protect cells from damage, which is associated with various chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and ageing
    • Lowers risk of cardiovascular diseases by improving blood vessel function, reducing inflammation, and preventing the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol
    • Skin rejuvenation
    • Supports overall eye health and maintains clear vision
    • Contributes to improved mood and a reduced risk of depression (it is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, including serotonin)
    • Improves iron (non heme iron) absorption to prevent iron deficiency anaemia and supports the transport of oxygen throughout the body

    How to boost your immune system with Vitamin C

    Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that cannot be produced by the human body, so it must be obtained through dietary sources. Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that are naturally rich in vitamin C, making it easy to incorporate into your daily meals.

    Some examples of foods high in vitamin C:

    • Citrus fruits
    • Berries
    • Kiwi
    • Bell peppers
    • Broccoli
    • Leafy greens
    • Papaya

    While obtaining vitamin C from natural food sources is generally recommended, there are situations where vitamin C supplements are needed as part of your dietary intake, especially if you have a known vitamin C deficiency or specific circumstances that may require additional supplementation. In such cases, you can consider buying vitamin C supplements.

    Can you overdose on vitamin C?

    The answer is yes. It is possible to consume too much vitamin C, although it is relatively rare. Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means that any excess amounts are typically excreted through urine. However, extremely high doses of vitamin C, usually well above the recommended dietary allowance (RDA), can lead to adverse effects in some individuals.

    To avoid the potential risks associated with excessive vitamin C intake, it is generally recommended to stick within the recommended daily allowance guidelines. The RDA for vitamin C varies based on age, gender, and life stage, but for most adults, it ranges from 75 to 90 milligrams per day

    If you have any concerns about your vitamin C intake or are considering high-dose supplementation, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional.

    Wrap-up

    Vitamin C is your immune system's best friend when it comes to staying healthy and feeling your best. Its immune-boosting properties, such as enhancing the production and activity of immune cells, help reduce the risk of infections and the severity of symptoms.

    While vitamin C is an essential nutrient for immune health, it is just one piece of the puzzle. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, and a balanced diet, is crucial for overall immune function. By taking a holistic approach to your well-being and incorporating vitamin C as part of a comprehensive immune-supporting strategy, you can optimise your body's defences and promote a strong and resilient immune system.


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