With winter just a couple of weeks away, now is the key time to ensure that your immune system is armoured and ready to protect your body from the heightened risk of illness. One of the best ways you can take a proactive approach to stay well is by providing your body with all the nutrition it needs to fend off any infections. Adding vitamins and supplements into your diet can be an easy and convenient way to achieve this.
If you don’t already have a vitamin and supplement pack as part of your everyday diet and have no idea where to begin, this is the perfect guide to get you started. Friend of Eden Health Retreat, Registered Pharmacist, Certified Personal Trainer and Online Coach Holly Louise explains how you can benefit from adding vitamins to your daily routine and shares a variety of supplements that are fantastic for boosting wellness and immunity.
Holly started her own personal fitness journey over 7 years ago after suffering from various health conditions and mental health issues. Her main goal is to initiate positive change in the lives of others through all aspects of health, fitness and wellness.
Do you need vitamins and supplements?
Vitamins and supplements should not replace a healthy, balanced diet. They are called supplements because their purpose is just that – to supplement your diet. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is, without question, the best way to ensure we get all the nutrients the body needs. However, not all of us achieve this on a daily basis. Our busy lifestyles mean that we are more inclined to skip meals and grab more convenient options without giving thought to putting together properly balanced meals that will provide us with the right mix of nutrients. Nutrients can also be lost from food as a result of poor methods of storage, preparation and cooking.
This is where vitamins and supplements can be used to accommodate the diet, help to bridge nutritional gaps and prevent any deficiencies from occurring which can lead to health problems.
How the body absorbs vitamins
The small intestine is where vitamin absorption happens. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins B and C, are picked up by “transport” molecules for absorption. These molecules carry the vitamin molecules through the intestinal walls where they can enter the bloodstream. Because much of your body consists of water, many of the water-soluble vitamins circulate easily in your body. Your kidneys continuously regulate levels of water-soluble vitamins, and any excesses are removed from the body in your urine (which is why it is a bright yellow colour after taking these vitamins). As a result, you need to consume these vitamins every few days in order to replenish levels.
The other type of vitamin, fat-soluble ones such as A, D, E and K, need to dissolve in fat before they can enter the bloodstream. This process requires a substance called bile which is produced in the liver and flows into the small intestine where it breaks down fat. When the bile breaks down the fat the vitamins are dissolved, the vitamins move with the fat through the intestinal wall, and eventually into the bloodstream. These vitamins are used throughout the body, but excesses are stored in the liver and fat tissues until they’re needed (much like fat). Fat-soluble vitamins, therefore, don’t require daily consumption.
Supplements for wellness and immunity
While it’s possible to get most of the vitamins and minerals you need from careful food selection and a nutrient-dense diet, it’s not easy! The purpose of a multivitamin is to bridge nutritional gaps in your diet. This helps to support against the possibility of deficiencies in some of the other vitamins and minerals that can result from lack of food variety or reduced calorie intake, as well as deficiencies caused by certain health conditions. Being deficient in many of these micronutrients can lead to a range of diseases such as anaemia and osteoporosis.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that’s vital for immune health. This vitamin supports the function of various immune cells and enhances their ability to protect against infection. It’s also necessary for cellular death, which helps keep your immune system healthy by clearing out old cells and replacing them with new ones. Vitamin C also functions as a powerful antioxidant, protecting against damage induced by oxidative stress, which occurs with the accumulation of reactive molecules known as free radicals. Supplementing with this nutrient may reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold.
- Fish oil
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). You cannot produce these in your body, so it is essential that you receive them through your diet or supplementation. Omega-3s provide a vast array of health benefits including assisting in the treatment of various heart diseases, high cholesterol, inflammation, arthritis, depression, anxiety, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, IBD, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, eye disorders, and skin conditions.
A lesser-known benefit is that they enhance immune responses by supporting immune cell function. The coordination of all the different immune cells and the regulation of their activity is crucial for maintaining an effective immune defence.
Magnesium is a mineral cofactor that serves a purpose in over 300 chemical reactions in your body. It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports heart health, and helps bones remain strong. It also helps with blood glucose control and aids in the production of energy and protein synthesis (helping the cells make protein). Magnesium has also been found to play an important role in immune system health. Like many of the body’s functions, it acts as a co-factor to the enzymes involved in the inflammatory response. Studies show that magnesium is important for the synthesis, release, and activity of cells found in a healthy immune system. Your body can’t make magnesium, so you need to obtain it from your diet, and many people get less than they need despite eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Zinc is a mineral that’s essential for immune system function. It’s needed for immune cell development and communication and plays an important role in inflammatory responses. A deficiency in this nutrient significantly affects your immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease. Supplementing with zinc may help protect against respiratory tract infections and reduce the duration of these infections.
For more content from Holly, visit her Instagram @thefitpharmacist_.