The most important nutritional supplement we can all take is a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement. I do not believe it is generally possible to obtain optimal intakes of the essential vitamins and minerals from dietary sources alone. Vitamins degrade during transport, while sitting on the shelves, and through the cooking process. Minerals come from the soil and most soil in North America is deficient in the essential trace minerals. How to select a good quality multi is a topic for another day but make sure you take a supplement that has optimal daily intakes (ODI) of the vitamins and minerals as opposed to the recommended daily allowance (RDA) levels. Ensure it contains no binders or fillers, and comes in a liquid, powder, or capsule form for optimal digestion and absorption.
As important as it is to take a multi there are a few crucial vitamins and minerals that generally require extra supplementation for optimal immune function. We will now take a closer look at the vitamins and minerals most of us require in higher amounts than our multivitamins and minerals can provide.
Vitamin D has gained a great deal of attention as an essential nutrient for the immune system. Most of the research indicates that vitamin D functions more like a hormone than a vitamin. It appears to play a crucial role in the communication process of white blood cells and thus enhances immunity. Most people living in Canada have deficient or suboptimal serum levels of active vitamin D. Ensure your multi contains at least 1000IUs of vitamin D and have your blood levels tested by your physician. If you are like the majority and have low levels of vitamin D see a doctor who can recommend a supplemental dose sufficient enough to restore optimal levels but not high enough to cause toxicity.
Vitamin C has been known for a long time as an immune enhancing nutrient. One often overlooked reason vitamin C enhances immunity is due to its role in connective tissue integrity. Vitamin C along with the amino acids proline and lysine is required for the body to manufacture connective tissue. Healthy connective tissue enhances the overall immune system by creating stronger and tighter boundaries in the body. This helps to keep viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens from getting into the body or passing to different compartments or organs. This reduces the chances of acquiring an infection or spreading an infection throughout the body.
B complex vitamins are crucial for the production of cellular energy. The immune system requires a great deal of energy and the cells of the immune system utilize B vitamins to create the ATP required to fight off infections. The higher your stress levels, activity levels, and exercise levels the more B vitamins you will require to produce the energy you need each day. A good quality B complex supplement helps to provide the extra B vitamins your body needs to produce cellular energy and thus enhances immunity.
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral that is often overshadowed by calcium. Many supplements, especially bone health supplements contain relatively high levels of calcium but inadequate levels of magnesium. ATP and energy production rely on magnesium as a cofactor in their production. Inadequate magnesium intake contributes to fatigue and decreases immunity. Magnesium also dilates and relaxes the skeletal muscles of the body and the smooth muscles of the vascular system. This enhances blood flow throughout the body and thus the distribution of white blood cells through the bloodstream.