How exactly does Vitamin C help fight off colds and flu?
There’s a reason many people call Vitamin C “the immunity vitamin”
Vitamin C is a remarkably versatile nutrient. It plays an important role in a wide range of different systems and processes throughout your body.
From helping to heal cuts and bruises to supporting your adrenals when you’re under stress… Vitamin C has a part to play across so many different functions.
This vitamin is best known, however, as an immunity superstar – and there’s a good reason for the association.
How Vitamin C directly supports your immune system
Ascorbic acid – the scientific name for pure Vitamin C – has been shown to support a vast number of immune mechanisms in your body.
For example, your white blood cells are an important component of your immune system. You have several different types of white blood cell, each of which helps to fight off illness-causing viruses and bacteria in a different way.
Vitamin C helps to stimulate both the production and function of many of these types of white blood cells. It also helps your body to produce important antibodies: proteins that bind invading microbes to neutralise them. And Vitamin C’s powerful antioxidant properties help to protect certain white blood cells from the toxic compounds they produce in their fight against pathogens.
In other words, Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for healthy immune system response.
The immunity benefits go far beyond your white blood cells
However, your immune system isn’t a simple set of cells that work in isolation from anything else. Instead, it’s a complex network of interconnected organs, cells and processes.
What’s more, several of your body’s other functions affect how well your immune system can do its job. And Vitamin C plays a role in several of these functions too.
For example, your skin and mucous membranes are your body’s first line of defence. A cut or puncture in your skin can become a doorway for infection-causing bacteria. Vitamin C helps your body to produce collagen – a key protein in skin, and one you need for proper wound healing.
Similarly, your adrenal glands play a key role in your body’s response to stress. They use a significant amount of Vitamin C each time a stress response gets triggered. This may be part of why, all other things being equal, you’re more likely to get a cold when you’re stressed.