Because of the covid-19 pandemic, immune health is center stage in the nutrition and fitness world. Millions of men who would have otherwise left their chances of catching a cold or flu up to fate, are suddenly scrambling to make sure their immune systems are protected.
Consequently, this new interest in immune health spawned a pack of marketing hyenas who will try to sell you everything from healing crystals to 5G survival kits.
How do you cut through all the noise? What are the most effective ways to build a strong, resilient immune system?
While the answer isn’t as sexy as those healing crystals, it’s much more effective.
The best way to make sure your body is prepared to ward off sickness is by having your basic nutrient levels optimized.
Nutrients are compounds in foods essential to life and health, providing you with energy and the building blocks for repair and growth.
The keyword here is building blocks.
Because nutrients are the foundation of immunity.
Without optimal levels of certain nutrients the immune system can’t protect you from outside threats and can’t mount a proper response once sickness takes hold.
Recently, a review was published in the journal, Nutrients, that looked at the typical levels of nutrients essential to immune health in American adults.
The study findings do not paint a promising picture.
Out of the five nutrients they deemed most important to immunity, the average American is significantly deficient in four. [R]
After seeing these findings, it’s easy to see why so many people are currently having their immune systems decimated.
That’s why in the next few minutes I’m going to dig into each nutrient deficiency sited in the study.
I’ll show you why it’s important to your immune health, and most importantly, how you can make sure you have optimal levels flowing throughout your own body.
Nutrient Deficiency #1 Vitamin D
Number of Americans Deficient: 95%
Why Vitamin D Is Essential to Immune Health
Vitamin D is directly linked with cold and flu cases. When vitamin D is lowest in the winter, cold and flu cases are at their highest. One report studied almost 19,000 subjects between 1988 and 1994. Individuals with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for variables including season, age, gender, body mass and race[R].
There have been many cross-sectional studies looking at vitamin D levels and rates of influenza [R] as well as other infections including bacterial vaginosis and HIV. All have reported an association of lower vitamin D levels and increased rates of infection.
The beneficial effects of vitamin D on immunity are due in part to its ability to activate antimicrobial activity. This kills dangerous microbes that form due to infection.
An additional benefit of Vitamin D is reduced proinflammatory cytokine production, which may play a protective role during infections that cause a cytokine storm.
How to Optimize Vitamin D Levels.
Vitamin D does not occur naturally in many foods. You can get some through cod liver oil or the Japanese fermented food, NATTO. However, the ideal means to get enough Vitamin D naturally is through the sun.
Research shows that 30 minutes of full-body sun exposure during the middle of the day triggers your body to produce adequate levels of vitamin D.
However, most men are not outside enough to get the recommended sun exposure, nor do most live close enough to the equator, which means they need to spend even more time outside. (Barely clothed)
Not to mention, during the winter months it’s almost impossible generate enough vitamin D naturally.
That’s why a Vitamin D3 supplement is essential for most men.
Nutrient Deficiency #2 Vitamin E
Number of Americans Deficient: 84%
Why Vitamin E Is Essential to Immune Health
Vitamin E’s importance to immune function is obvious by the fact its concentration is up to 30-fold higher in white blood cells than in red blood cells.
White blood cells flow through your bloodstream to fight viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders that threaten your health.
When your body is in distress and a particular area is under attack, white blood cells rush in to help destroy the harmful substance and prevent illness.
Vitamin E’s main role in every step of the immune system is as a antioxidant that protects the cell membranes against free radical attack.
Vitamin E also supports epithelial barrier by protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage.
Foods Highest in Vitamin E
1. Sunflower Seeds
4. Butternut Squash
Nutrient Deficiency #3 Vitamin A
Number of Americans Deficient: 45%
Why Vitamin A Is Essential to Immune Health
As soon as Vitamin A was studied early in the 20th century, it was associated with resistance to infection to the extent that it was referred to as “the anti-infective vitamin”. [R]
Vitamin A is responsible for helping maintain the physical barriers of the body—the skin, and epithelial mucosal cells of the respiratory and GI tracts.
Vitamin A is essential for directing immune cells to the mucosa in the intestine, where they reside to help prevent the entry of pathogens [R]
Foods Highest In Vitamin A
3. Grass-Fed Beef
4. Dairy Products
5. Seafood (especially shrimp, salmon, sardines, and tuna).
Nutrient Deficiency #4 Vitamin C
Number of Americans Deficient: 46%
Why Vitamin C Is Essential to Immune Health
Extensive research has shown that vitamin C is a pivotal nutrient in immune health. Almost 150 studies have shown that vitamin C may alleviate or prevent bacterial or viral infections [R]
A study conducted on 28 healthy men between 18 and 35 years old showed that 1000 mg vitamin C per day taken for eight weeks reduced duration of colds by 59% compared to placebo. [R]
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. When a virus invades the body, free radicals run rampant. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cell membranes, proteins, DNA and how cells communicate.
However, the immune system is especially vulnerable to these free radicals. Without proper antioxidant defense, the immune system is eventually overrun and can’t respond to threats.
Vitamin C also stimulates production and function of leukocytes. Leukocytes are cell that circulates in the blood that counteract foreign substances and disease.
Foods Highest In Vitamin C
3. Bell Peppers
Nutrient Deficiency #5 Zinc
Number of Americans Deficient: 15%
Why Zinc Is Essential to Immune Health
While the study authors did not classify zinc deficiency as significant, for older men 60+ that number quickly climbs to around 40%. [R]
Zinc is a natural mineral found in nature that we MUST get from our diets. In fact, the body doesn’t even store zinc, so a daily supply is essential.
When it comes to boosting the immune system, zinc has been shown to increase interferon levels 10-fold.
Which means that higher levels of zinc allow your immune system to recognize threats faster and stop infections before they have a chance to spread.
The clinical evidence of zinc as an immune defense stalwart is quite remarkable.
In one study, researchers found that supplementation with zinc cut down the duration of the common cold in half.
Specifically, when subjects came down with a cold, half were given zinc supplements and half were not.
The group taking zinc had an average cold duration of 5 days while the group not taking zinc took 10 days to get over their illness.
Zinc can help lessen the severity of the common cold.
Zinc shortens the duration of nasal congestion by an average of 2 days.
Zinc helps soothe a sore throat faster.
Foods Highest In Zinc
1. Grass-Fed Beef
3. Organ Meats
4. Seeds, especially almonds.
What Men Need to Know
Each one of the nutrients in this article play their part in keeping you healthy and illness free.
But, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough of them.
More importantly. the study authors are simply looking if the average American meets the recommended daily amount of nutrients.
That doesn’t mean optimal. It means enough to survive.
In reality, even more American’s than reported could use more of the nutrients.
We recommend creating meals that combine foods highest in each immune boosting nutrients to make things simple.
How do you think you’re keeping up on this immune boosting scale?
Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
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