Vitamin C for the Immune System: What the Facts Say
Our body's immune system protects us from infections, viruses, and autoimmune conditions. Keeping your immune system strong is a crucial factor in remaining healthy - this has never been more important than it is now amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the most popular ways to boost your immune system's defenses is the consumption of vitamin C. But, can vitamin C really work to improve immunity? Let’s examine the evidence.
Vitamin C and function of the immune system
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is essential for our health and wellbeing. The importance of this micronutrient has been documented by scientists in countless studies. More recently, researchers have also been focused on the role vitamin C plays in our immune system.
A study from the journal Nutrients showed that vitamin C contributes to immune defenses by supporting numerous cellular functions, of both innate and adaptive immune systems. This critical micronutrient supports the epithelial barrier function against pathogens and invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant and supports oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thus providing protection against environmental oxidative stress. Studies have also shown that vitamin C can accumulate in certain cells to kill microbes. Even though the complete role of vitamin C in the immune system function is not clear, one of its functions may include enhancing differentiation and proliferation of B and T cells (these are vital for immunity).
The results of the Nutrients study help explain why low levels of vitamin C in the body impair the function of the immune system and may increase susceptibility to infection.
Vitamin C and protection against viruses and infections
Most consumers take extra of vitamin C every winter, usually through a standard multivitamin, hoping to avoid flu and the common cold. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are now striving to take more if it year-round to strengthen the immune system.
Will vitamin C really help protect against COVID-19 related illnesses though? It's a perfectly understandable question. A growing body of evidence confirms that vitamin C really can protect us against some viruses and infections. More research is needed to confirm whether vitamin C plays any role in protecting against COVID-19 specifically.
The Immune Network published a study that revealed that vitamin C exhibits antiviral immune responses at the early time of infection, particularly against the influenza virus through the increased presence of interferons, which play an important role in the prevention of viral pathogenesis. This particular study was conducted on mice.
The review of scientific evidence on this subject, published in the Nutrients, concluded that animal studies confirmed vitamin C played a role in preventing, shortening, and alleviating various infections. It’s evident the effect could be the same in humans, too.
Various studies have shown the favorable influence of vitamin C on the prevention and treatment of flu and common cold and pneumonia, but its role on other infections is insufficiently explored. Therefore, scientists concluded that the practical importance and effective doses of vitamin C for the prevention and treatment of infections are still unknown, but they’re worth exploring.
The Biomed Research International featured a study that found a new mechanism through which vitamin C could address virus-induced pneumonia. Vitamin C works in a synergic way that interacts with the virus and the body to keep everything in balance. That’s why it works differently than traditional antivirus drugs. This study was, like many others, conducted in mice but discovered that vitamin C inhibited influenza virus-stimulated pulmonary morphological changes and reduced structural damage in blood vessels and alveoli. In other words, vitamin C could ameliorate the progression of inflammation in the lungs.
A vast majority of studies revolving around vitamin C, and viruses or infections were focused on the common cold. A large review of studies involving thousands of participants showed that consumption of vitamin C shortened the duration of a cold by 8% in adults and 14% in children. The administration of vitamin C also decreased the severity of a cold. That being said, some studies also failed to confirm that supplementation with vitamin C reduces the incidence of the common cold in the general population.
On the other hand, other studies have shown that vitamin C in megadoses administered before or after the appearance of flu or common cold symptoms relieved and prevented the symptoms in participants. Extra doses of vitamin C could benefit patients who develop flu or common cold despite taking vitamin C supplements, evidence confirms.
When discussing the potential of vitamin C to prevent or treat the common cold, it's useful to mention that not all studies have the same results. For example, some studies have shown that long-term daily supplementation with vitamin C in large doses doesn’t appear to prevent the common cold and only provides modest benefits in reducing symptoms. The lack of consistency in findings from different studies is the reason why the role and potential of vitamin C to prevent or treat viral infection needs to be further explored.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin C?
While vitamin C is likely naturally present in many of the foods in your diet, if you want to make sure you're getting enough of this essential micronutrient, you might consider a vitamin C supplement. One highly convenient option is our C Plus Topical Patch. Simply apply the patch daily, and enjoy the benefits of 100mg of vitamin C without the hassle of taking frustrating pills.
Vitamin C is crucial for your health and wellbeing. This micronutrient participates in the immune function and its defenses from pathogens such as viruses and bacteria.
Most studies focused on virus-induced pneumonia, common cold, and flu and showed positive results, but the impact of vitamin C on the prevention and treatment of other viruses still needs to be explored.
To strengthen your immune system, you need to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, modify your diet, exercise regularly, and try to manage stress. That being said, getting enough vitamin C is important. If you're not sure if you're consuming enough vitamin C in your natural diet, consider giving our C Plus Topical Patch a try.