Like most time-worn bits of advice, the recommendation to drink plenty of orange juice to lessen the effects of a cold and boost immunity has its roots firmly planted in logical advice. In fact, vitamin C plays a critical role in supporting a strong immune system and should never be underestimated or overlooked entirely.
The severity and frequency of cold viruses can provide an early clue that your immune system is lacking. While the common cold may not have serious health implications, it can lead to more serious respiratory ailments, including pneumonia, which can be especially dangerous to the elderly or very young.
Deficiency in vitamin C is felt throughout the immune system
A lack of sufficient levels of vitamin C can be felt across your entire immune system. That includes not only the innate system you were born with, but the adaptive system that developed during childhood. Inadequate levels of vitamin C can weaken the cells that normally kill invading toxins and disease-causing agents, as well as the specialized cells that coordinate those attacks. Even the production of antibodies to ward off specific infections can be diminished due to a deficiency in vitamin C.
Vitamin C has a “hands-on” role to play in ensuring optimal function of your immune system. Immune cells have active vitamin C transporter molecules embedded in their membranes. These transporter molecules actively pump vitamin C into cells where greater amounts are needed, such as during times of infection or inflammation.
Through transporter molecules, cells are able to reach levels up to 100-times that found at the plasma level. This is why blood levels of vitamin C are found to be diminished during times of disease or infection, as your body works to move vitamin C into cells where it is most needed. You can see how this cycle can eventually deplete your body’s supply of vitamin C through diet alone.
That’s why it is vitally important to give your body extra vitamin C, especially during times of illness, injury or stress, when your body’s stores from your diet alone are most likely to be inadequate. Your body cannot manufacture vitamin C on its own, so it is reliant on the vitamin C you consume through diet and supplements.
Warning: Pay attention to the signs that you are vitamin C deficient
Vitamin C deficiency shows up in a number of ways, from minor illnesses like frequent colds to more serious, even life-threatening diseases. When your immune system is weakened by inadequate levels of essential nutrients, any infection can suddenly grow much more serious.
But a number of conditions can impact your body’s vitamin C levels as well as worsen through continued inadequate stores of the vitamin. Aging is associated with lowered levels of vitamin C, since the concentration of vitamin C in immune cells is already known to decrease with age
Stress and illness can also trigger reduced levels of vitamin C, just at a time when your immune system is most important. In addition to these health concerns, lower levels of plasma vitamin C have been associated with the advancement of a number of serious diseases, including diabetes, pancreatitis, pneumonia, cancer and arthritis, among others.
Inflammation and oxidative stress caused by these diseases likely contributes to reduced levels of vitamin C, since it is rapidly used in the battle of free radicals. This results in lowered plasma levels of vitamin C in patients suffering from these conditions. However, it is also quite possible, and logical, that vitamin C deficiency plays a more direct role in causing, or at least contributing to, the development of these diseases and disorders in the first place.
Give your body what it needs for strong immunity
Fortunately, you can improve your immune system’s function by supplementing with vitamin C. The ‘recommended daily allowance’ of vitamin C is just around 90 mg per day. (Not enough to keep a mouse healthy)
For optimal immunity and overall good health, most integrative healthcare experts recommend supplementing with at least 1 gram, or 1,000 mg, of vitamin C once or twice daily. For best results, use a high-quality, non-GMO powder form and/or liposomal form of vitamin C.
Keep in mind, when struck with any kind of serious health crisis like an infection or chronic (inflammatory) illness – you’ll need substantially more vitamin C than the average healthy individual.
Naturally, vitamin C supplementation ought to be in addition to a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. But, no doubt, higher doses of vitamin C – beyond those supplied by a healthy diet – will be required to help support a healthy immune system, protect you from the common cold as well as a number of age-related disorders.