You may have heard about inflammation in an ad on TV. But what is inflammation? Inflammation is your body’s immune response to an irritant. That irritant could be a cut, a microbe – i.e bacteria, virus, or fungus – or it could even be some of the chemicals your body produces during its normal functioning such as free radicals. Inflammation is a good thing and generally speaking, you want your immune system to mount an inflammatory response to an invasion that threatens your life.
However, unnecessary and excessive inflammation can also wreak havoc on your health. For instance, researchers show that having a microenvironment of constant inflammation can lead to cancer.
The underlying cause of a disease like rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation against a person’s own body. In this instance, the immune system incorrectly identifies molecules in your body that should be otherwise harmless as the “enemy” and goes into attack mode.
Fortunately, you can control inflammation by eating the right foods. Vitamins are central to helping your body’s immune system mount the appropriate inflammatory responses and stave off the inflammation you don’t need.
Let’s learn about how each vitamin contributes to this.
Vitamin A is involved in the formation of epithelial and mucous membranes. Epithelial cells line most of the outer and inner surfaces of organisms. The mucous lining of the mouth and nose trap disease-causing microbes and prevent them from entering your body in the first place.
Epithelial cells are the first line of defense against the invasion of microbes.
In addition to this, vitamin A, in a form called retinoic acid, regulates the homeostasis of the bone marrow. The cells that make up your immune system are primarily derived and mature from bone marrow cells. Without this regulation, an organism would have many immature bone marrow cells – which is not the situation we need for a robust and healthy immune system.
You can get vitamin A from dairy products, liver, carrots, cantaloupe, broccoli, and squash.
The B vitamins
There are several versions of vitamin B that all contribute to boosting your immune system and fighting inflammation.
The B vitamins include:
- B1 (thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B7 (biotin)
- Folic acid
Each of these B vitamins has functions that deserve volumes. However, there is strong evidence that vitamin B deficiency does contribute to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Vitamin C is hard to ignore. It is in your orange and apple juice. If you eat an apple a day as the adage says, then you are taking in a good amount of vitamin C. A deficiency in vitamin C can lead to gum bleeds and wounds that don’t heal properly.
Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that protect your cells and tissues from inflammatory damage. It also helps neutrophils – a type of immune cell that fights infections – with killing microbes that cause disease.
It is also important in the development and proliferation (spread) of B and T cells of the immune system.
B cells produce antibodies that protect your body from being reinfected with the same disease twice. B cells are the main players behind why vaccines can protect people from deadly diseases. T cells are particularly important in fighting off viral infections.
As we mentioned before inflammation underlies many cancers.
Studies show that Vitamin D influences the inflammatory processes involved in the progression of cancers. Vitamin D has the potential to stop tumor development by interfering with the inflammatory chemical pathways in the body that lead to cancer.
Vitamin D is also implicated in many immune-related diseases, such as asthma, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. Sources of Vitamin D include oily fish, red meat, liver, and egg yolks.
There are molecules that can arise in your body called free radicals. Your body is also exposed to free radicals in the environment in the form of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, cigarette smoke, and air pollution.
These free radicals can cause organ and tissue damage. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that counteracts the actions of free radicals. In addition to this, vitamin E is important to your immune system.
Animal and human studies both show that a deficiency in Vitamin E impairs the immune system. Particularly, scientists have found that low vitamin E can result in the malfunctioning of T-cells – a type of immune cell that fights infection.
In mice and rats, researchers found lower antibody production when vitamin E was lacking. On the other hand, replacing vitamin E in the diets of these organisms reversed lowered immunity.
Vitamin E is found commonly in plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits.
Vitamin K is naturally present in green leafy vegetables meat, and fermented foods. Vitamin K acts as a coenzyme or a “helper” of the main enzymes involved in blood clotting and bone formation.
Vitamin K is also a key component that affects certain blood proteins that are involved in the immune and inflammatory response of the human body. Some studies have found a link between low levels of vitamin and inflammatory conditions, including cancer.
Foods That Help Your Body Fight Inflammation
As you can see, you can derive all of these vitamins from your food. This is why having a balanced diet is important. You don’t have to go out of your way to “find” these vitamins if you’re eating well.
It is also possible to get these vitamins in supplement form.
However, you choose to go about getting these vitamins, the bottom line is that they are crucial to your health and well-being. So pay attention to them.