When it comes to what nutrients your body needs to avoid the flu this winter…the immune system literally gobbles up Vitamin C and D

Vitamin C

Vitamin C strengthens the physical epithelial barriers that keep invaders out; it accumulates in the phagocytic cells that travel around the body and kill microbes. Any infection rapidly depletes vitamin C stores – That’s why your grandmother would tell you to eat oranges when you have a cold.

But the body can neither make nor store vitamin C well, and it needs something called active transport to get it into the body. If you’re taking ordinary supplements, If you can’t provide enough of the vehicles to get the vitamin C across the gut wall and into the bloodstream, you’re wasting your money

Vitamin D

All immune cells have receptors for vitamin D, so it’s important for both the innate and adaptive immune response. Vitamin D plays an important role in activating the peptides that can kill off harmful bacteria by disrupting their cell membranes It is increasingly recognised that vitamin K2 is essential alongside vitamin D for immune health. They work in concert to mobilise calcium and block inflammatory pathways.

How Vitamin C and D fight the common cold in winter

Research has shown that increasing vitamin C in both healthy and ill people increases the activity in several parts of the immune system – stimulating the production of white blood cells and activating both T and B cell functions.

This means your body will be able to fend off potential infections more easily as well as despatch more defenses against infections that have already taken hold.

A lot of the research on the efficacy of vitamins C and D for fighting infection is based on how people are more likely to catch infections when they are deficient in either vitamin. 

Can Vitamin C and D prevent the common cold?

When people are deficient in either vitamin C or vitamin D, it has been shown in several studies that they are much more likely to be susceptible to infections. If they already have an illness, deficiencies in both these key nutrients are more likely to prolong the infection.

Keeping an optimal level of both vitamins C and D allows the immune system to function efficiently; preventing pathogenic microbes from taking hold. So you should definitely notice fewer colds and coughs this ‘flu season. 

What happens when bacteria enter the body?

Bacteria don’t always cause problems, and they’re not all pathogenic. Trouble starts when they multiply fast inside the body. They have greater abilities than viruses to either kill cells or tissues outright. They can crowd out host tissue or rapidly give off toxins that paralyse or destroy a cell’s metabolism. Or the toxins can provoke a massive immune response that is dangerous to the body. Vitamin C was first recognised as important in fighting bacteria when it was used to help treat tuberculosis in the 1930s. It has since been shown to be effective in inhibiting the growth of several more bacteria.

Vitamin D helps stimulate the production of peptides that can directly kill off microbes including bacteria.

What happens when a virus enters the body?

Viruses work by killing cells or stopping them from functioning properly. 

A lot of the research into how vitamin D acts against viruses relies on the observations that people deficient in vitamin D are more susceptible to viral infections. The actual anti-viral mechanism of vitamin D is thought to be linked to its ability to increase the production of anti-microbial peptides but hasn’t been fully documented yet.

Why you need more Vitamin C and D when you’re ill

Once it’s called into action, the immune system uses huge amounts of both vitamin C and vitamin D to function properly.  We can’t either make or store vitamin C ourselves, so keeping levels topped up when we’re ill is crucial.

To make vitamin D, we need sunlight and the chances are you won’t be replacing your stores easily when you’re lying in bed struggling with an infection. 

How to be a GOAT this flu season

A typical 70 kg goat produces more than 11,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day. Which is about the same for most other mammals and animals that can manufacture their own vitamin C. In contrast to that, official health advice for humans recommends 100 milligrams of vitamin C a day.

This may be the amount that stops your body from developing scurvy, but it certainly won’t be enough to optimise your immune system and prevent you from catching those winter infections.