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Boosting natural immune system with micronutrients

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Micronutrients are vitamins and certain minerals that function in the metabolic and other processes in the body in very small amounts. Some of them function in the production and differentiation of the immune system cells. When these vitamins and minerals are deficient, there will be a suppression of the immune system. Among the phagocytes, for example, there is a lot of oxidative stress (destruction by free radicals0 taking place. The free radicals released play positive roles as they join in the destruction of pathogens. A situation such as this is commonly seen where there is vitamin E deficiency.

Vitamin E functions in the balanced production and differentiation of the T-helper and T-suppressor cells. T-suppressor cells are responsible for controlling the inflammatory response to prevent damage to the surrounding cells not involved in the inflammation. Deficiency of vitamin E suppresses the immune system by causing damage to the surrounding cells, a phenomenon that may lead to what is known as autoimmune response whereby the immune system is said to attack and destroy the host cells and organs.

Vitamin E deficiency may be due to failure to absorb it in the intestines due to the mal-absorption syndrome or in the elderly in whom absorption reduces with age. Common sources of vitamin E are vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin, broccoli, red pepper, carrots and fruits – mangoes and pawpaw. Other sources are sunflower seeds and nuts. Apart from these that should form part of our diet, taking vitamin E supplements can boost the immune system.

Vitamin C has been found to improve the first line defense of the immune system by enhancing the function of the phagocytes. There is a lot of ongoing research work on the ability of vitamin C to boost the immune system with evidence that vitamin C enhances various aspects of the immune system. An important role of vitamin C is that it helps to regenerate vitamin E thereby extending the immune system enhancing effect of vitamin E.

Vegetable sources of vitamin C include Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, kiwi, broccoli, kale, red and yellow peppers, Moringa oleifera and sweet potatoes. Fruits that have a high concentration of vitamin C are mangoes, oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruits, pawpaw (papaya), strawberries and berries in general.

Vitamin A (beta carotene). This is a fat-soluble vitamin, a powerful antioxidant that operates optimally in the fat laden cell membrane. It prevents lipid oxidation of the lipids in the cell membrane.

Vitamin A is required for vision and as an immune booster. It can also enhance skin health and acts as a protection against cancer and ageing.

Sources of vitamin A include:
Vegetables: carrots, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, Mustard greens, Collard greens, Turnip greens, beet greens and broccoli. Other types of vegetables that are high in vitamin A are Romaine lettuce, pumpkin, sweet red, yellow and green peppers and peas.
Fruits: mango, pawpaw (papaya), cantaloupe melon, dried apricots and squash.
Fish/seafood: tuna, mackerel and oysters.
Oils: cod liver oil.

The Enzyme Antioxidant Defence System made up of three enzymes produced in the body; also help to boost the immunity of the body. These are glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase.

Glutathione peroxidase
A product of the liver, glutathione is found in all the cells and tissues of the body. It is also abundant in the body fluids as they are transferred to different parts of the body. It is a powerful neutralizer of free radicals and it also acts as a detoxifier. It is a component of the enzyme antioxidant defense system and can be synthesized from the following amino acids: glutamic acid, glycine and cysteine. It is important to note that vitamin C, N-acetyl-cysteine and the herb milk thistle increase the rate of synthesis of glutathione. These are powerful supplements to give when there is deficiency of glutathione.

Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
SOD as an antioxidant neutralizes the free radical superoxide, converting it to hydrogen peroxide, which is also a free radical. SOD, together with another antioxidant, catalase, break down the hydrogen peroxide to water. Lipid peroxides and hydrogen peroxide can be neutralized by SOD and glutathione.
SOD is manufactured from manganese, copper and zinc and these minerals would be good supplements to give to a patient with any of the chronic degenerative diseases. Copper and manganese can be sourced from nuts and whole grains while zinc comes from oatmeal, nuts, milk, legumes, oysters and egg yoke. Regular consumption of these, especially by the elderly can guarantee sufficient SOD in the body. Production of these enzymes in the body declines with age.

Catalase
This is a powerful antioxidant that works synergistically with SOD to neutralize hydrogen peroxide. Particularly in the skin, it converts hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygenates the epidermis making it to look smoother and younger. Iron is a co-factor to catalase in its metabolic reactions.

*Dr. Paul Joseph Nanna is a physician and a Pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). Phone: 08033018181. Email: paulnanna.pn@gmail.com. Blog: www.nutritionandhealthmanagers.com


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