Like vitamin D, C and zinc, there is also key role of vitamin A in immune System boosting. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has become a global pandemic and severely affected our everyday life. At this time, there is yet any clinically proven drugs or treatments to prevent or cure COVID-19.
With the novel coronavirus, about 80% of the infected had mild to moderate symptoms (mild symptoms up to mild pneumonia), about 15% developed severe disease (shortness of breath, low blood oxygen, or >50% lung involvement), and 5% became critically ill (respiratory failure, shock, or multi organ dysfunction).
Patients with severe COVID-19 illness and adverse outcome are mostly older, have diabetes, heart disease, prior stroke, hypertension, chronic respiratory disease, and/or chronic lung disease. In many cases, these patients’ immune system, in an attempt to fight the virus, becomes dysfunctional and go into overdrive, resulting in a deadly effect known as a “cytokine storm”.
Cytokines are an important part of your immune response. Your body release them as a response to an infection to trigger inflammation for your protection. A cytokine storm happens when the body releases excessive or uncontrolled levels of cytokines, causing hyper inflammation, which may lead to serious complications and even death.
Why does the immune system go haywire? How come it occurs more in patients who are immunocompromised or with preexisting conditions? How can we have a stronger, better functioning immune system?
By now, most of us are well aware of the important role nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and probiotics play in regulating the immune system and keeping us healthy. Not enough has been said about vitamin A though.
For the past several decades, scientists have been studying the impact of dietary vitamin A on human health. It is well established that vitamin A is an essential nutrient and is responsible for many vital functions in the body:
Role Of Vitamin A In Immune System Boosting
What is vitamin A benefits?
1- It protects the eyes from night blindness and age-related decline.
2- It reduces the risk of certain cancers.
3- It supports a healthy immune system.
4- It reduces the risk of skin problems like eczema and acne.
5- It supports bone health.
6- It promotes healthy growth and reproduction.
In the following, we will look at how vitamin A can help reduce the incidence and severity of infectious diseases, how the immune system works against infectious agents like viruses, and the role vitamin A plays in regulating a healthy immune response. Lastly, we will discuss how you can get enough vitamin A to complement your immune protocol.
The effect of vitamin A on immune function is wide-reaching:
It promotes and regulates both the innate and adaptive immune systems and the development of healthy immune responses.
It plays an important role in the regulation of different white blood cells (neutrophils, monocytes, macrophages, natural killer cells, and lymphocytes) and influence the generation of cytokines by the immune cells.
Deficiency of vitamin A favors the production of more pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Research on vitamin A deficiency in children found that it damages the mucosal barrier, which is the natural defense of the respiratory tract, allowing bacteria and viruses to proliferate.
How Immune System Works?
Our immune system can be broken down into the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.
Innate immune system
This is the dominant defense system in the body and it relies on the use of physical barriers like the skin and mucous membranes, coupled with first responder defenders called leukocytes (white blood cells). Leukocytes include phagocytes (which engulf foreign invaders) and natural killer cells.
The innate immune system response is why you get a stuffy nose and sneeze when you have a cold, or why a scrapped knee gets red, hot, and inflamed, or filled with pus. For people who contract COVID-19 and have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, their innate immune system is effective and working well against the coronavirus.
Adaptive immune system
When the innate immune system is not strong enough to combat the foreign invaders, it sends out signals called antigens to call on the second line of defense – the adaptive immune system. This system uses special types of leukocytes called lymphocytes, namely the B-cells and T-cells.
This is typically when the inflammatory response gets kicked into a higher gear and you develop a fever and body aches. The adaptive immune response not only identifies and fights off viruses, it also remembers them so it can quickly and effectively combat and neutralize them in the future, thus creating immunity. This is also how vaccines work.
What is Signs of mild Vitamin A deficiency?
Poor night vision
Low energy and fatigue
Frequent throat and chest infections
Eczema and acne
What is Sources Of Vitamin A ?
From animals (preformed vitamin A):
Pastured animal liver (liver is an organ that processes toxins, toxins are not stored in the liver but in fats in the body)
Pastured poultry giblets
Cod liver oil
Grass fed ghee and butter
Grass fed cream and cheese
Pastured egg yolks
From plants (provitamin A carotenoids):
Dark green, leafy vegetables
Red bell peppers
Although nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and probiotics have been shown to strengthen the immune system, at present, there is no research or study on their efficacy towards preventing and curing COVID-19.
Carol Chuang is a Certified Nutrition Specialist. She has a Masters degree in Nutrition and is a Certified Gluten Practitioner. She specializes in Metabolic Typing and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition.