Healthy Eating

How does vitamin C boost immunity?

You definitely have heard that vitamin C boosts immunity. But how does it work? In this article, I discuss the details of how exactly vitamin C boosts immunity.

Recently, a friend said, “I have noticed since I enforced compulsory intake of vitamin C rich fruits in my house, our visits to the paediatrician have drastically reduced”. Hearing such testimonies always excite me, because food is our best medicine, and secondly eating right pays.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and is not stored up in the body. Therefore you need to consume adequate amounts regularly to avoid deficiency. Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections.

The immune system

The immune system is the body’s defense unit against foreign materials and disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites. It is made up of a complex system of cells, tissues, and organs that have a specialized role in defending our body. Generally, we have three types of immunity, passive, innate, and adaptive immunities.

Passive immunity involves the antibodies we receive from our mothers before birth and when breastfeeding. This immunity is short-lived and protects us during the early years of our lives before we can build our own immunity.

Vitamin C and the innate immunity

Innate immunity includes the skin and the mucous membranes. They are the physical barriers that prevent disease-causing agents from entering our bodies. When you take vitamin C, some of it goes to the skin to support the innate immunity.

In the skin, vitamin C helps the body to synthesize collagen which stabilizes the epithelial cells. Vitamin C is also an anti-oxidant, therefore, protects the skin from environmental oxidative stress contributing to strong, healthy skin.  In case of a wound on the skin, you can count on vitamin C to help the wound heal faster.

Vitamin C and the Adaptive immunity

Adaptive immunity deals with any disease-causing agent that bypasses the physical barriers. We develop adaptive immunity as we grow and are exposed to many diseases or immunizations. After every first exposure to a disease or vaccine, our bodies build antibodies and store a memory of the disease-causing agent. In case of a future attack by the same disease, our bodies will be ready to protect us.

In case of an attack by a new disease, the body mounts an immune response geared towards the production of antibodies and keeping a memory of the new disease. Again, vitamin C is very vital in this process. It helps the body to produce T-cells which are responsible for remembering the new disease-causing agent. Vitamin C also helps the body to produce healthy antibodies that will be able to fight the disease in case of a future attack

Helps to fight diseases

Vitamin C is an important part of adaptive immunity. In case of an infection, vitamin C helps the body to make more white blood cells. White blood cells are the army that to fights against disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. In addition to helping the body make soldiers, Vitamin C also accumulates on the white blood cells and fights along with them.

When fighting against diseases, white blood cells normally produce toxins/poison to kill the bacteria. Unfortunately, this poison also kills the white blood cells in the process. When you see pus, those are white blood cells that died in the course of protecting you! Think of it as a suicide mission, they choose to die while protecting you.

However, the presence of Vitamin C in the white blood cells protects them from the toxins that they produced. Leading to fewer white blood cell death. On the battlefield, vitamin C is also responsible for removing the dead white blood cells, therefore, preventing the area from becoming septic.

Where can you get vitamin C?

You can get vitamin C in citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, lemons, grapefruit, or their juices. Vegetables are another great source of vitamin C. However, vitamin C is both water-soluble and heat-unstable. Therefore, be careful when preparing the vegetable to preserve the vitamin C.