When the immune system functions well, a person experiences good health. The immune system is akin to the engine in a motor vehicle. It must be well maintained and provided with the proper fuel for the body to function in tip-top condition. It is instrumental in warding off and fighting disease. If the immune system is weakened, such that it under-performs, then the body will be susceptible to every type of illness.

Phyllis and James Balch in 'Prescription for Nutritional Healing'discussed the role of the immune system in a way that is easy to understand. They describe its working as follows:'the task of the immune system is to identify those things that are are self (that naturally belong in the body) and those things that are non-self (foreign or otherwise harmful material) and then to neutralize or destroy foreign or alien intruders.'

Like good-quality fuel for the motor vehicle, vitamins can provide the nutrients to assist the immune system in its proper functioning. Vitamins are micro-nutrients that are indispensable for living and obtainable naturally from food. Vitamins are also available through manufactured sources. Research has demonstrated that the body more readily absorbs the vitamins retrieved from whole foods. However, Reuters has reported that vitamins derived from both sources do help the body.

Effects of vitamin D on the immune system

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has published results of research conducted by Mora, Iwata and Von Andrian of Harvard Medical School that demonstrates the efficacy of Vitamins A and D in supporting the immune system,especially in averting inflammatory and autoimmune responses.

Vitamin D acts on the immune system by signaling cells to secrete hormones. Thus, it acts as an autocrine agent. It also acts as a paracrine agent since it sends signals to cells that cause them to change their behavior. Vitamin D assists in arresting the overproduction of T cells in autoimmunity. It also slows down the B cells from producing chemicals to destroy surrounding tissue. These actions cause an overall contribution to homeostasis in the immune system.

Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol comes from food sources such as fish liver oils, egg yolks, salmon, sardines, dairy products, halibut, tuna, sweet potatoes, vegetable oils, nettle, alfalfa, parsley and horsetail. It is also formed within the body through exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D5 is another name for the manufactured form of vitamin D.

Health benefits received from vitamin D include arresting breast and colon cancer. Additionally, it helps with hypocalcemia, the thyroid function, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. Moreover, it encourages blood clotting to take place, as it should.

Effects of vitamin A on the immune system

A report from the NIH shows that it in some cases Vitamin A helps the antibody response to a number of vaccines in infants. Some immunomodulatory mechanisms are linked with vitamin A supplementation. It reduces the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and certain types of diarrhea and measles in children.

Some food sources of vitamin A include vegetables and fruits that have a yellow or green color, fish liver oil and animal liver. Carrots, apricots, yellow squash, dandelion greens, sweet potatoes and mustard greens are some good sources of the vitamin. However, animal sources are in much higher concentrations.

Effects of vitamin E on the immune system

The results from scientific research have concluded that vitamin E stimulates the helper activity in T lymphocytes. According to Gershwin, German and Keen in 'Nutrition and Immunology: Principles and Practice,'vitamin E possesses anti-oxidative and immune-protective properties. Because of these properties, vitamin E can lower the risks associated with aging such as cardiovascular complications and cancer. It helps to maintain the structure of cells since it averts damage from free radicals (enemies of the body).

Some foods containing vitamin E are dark-green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils that have been cold pressed, brown rice, eggs, sweet potatoes, wheat and desiccated liver. Some other sources of foods containing vitamin E include corn meal, oatmeal, organ meats and wheat germ.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a well-known and widely used vitamin. However, from research conducted, there has not been conclusive evidence regarding its relationship with the immune system. It works synergistically with other micro-nutrients.
Vitamins do play an essential role in helping to maintain a healthy body, and they are fundamental for living. The benefit they provide for the body is apparent.

Some more than others have a greater known effect on the immune system, such as vitamins A, D, and E. While scientific studies have limitations shedding light on their impact say, for example, vitamin C, many users extol its benefits. Many of these powerful micro-nutrients have stood the test of time in contributing to better health and increasing immune system functioning.

Author's Bio: 

Donna Carter-Cupid has a passion for wholistic healing and fully embraces the concept of the integration of body, mind and spirit for total healing. Donna holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Andrews University, Berrien Springs Michigan and is a Master Herbalist graduate from the Trinity College of Natural Health, Warsaw Indiana. She is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Naturopathy course of study with Trinity. Donna runs a part-time home clinic and is the founder of the Caribbean College of Natural Health.