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Vitamin C & the Immune System | How to Beat Sickness | How Immune Cells Work- Thomas DeLauer… The human body does not produce vitamin C, it must be obtained from outside-the-body sources. Water-soluble vitamin C is quickly excreted, which is why it makes sense to supplement daily with vitamin C to ensure the body has the protection it needs. Aging individuals tend to have lower levels of vitamin C circulating in their bloodstream and immune cells – this can lead to impaired immune function.
One of the most important functions of vitamin C is to support and energize the body’s immune system – immune cells have active vitamin C transporter molecules embedded in their membranes that actively pump the vitamin into the cells when more vitamin C is required. Vitamin C produces beneficial effects on virtually all of the immune system’s cells:
Natural killer (NK) cells: These “hit men” of the immune system move in on infectious and malignant targets that have been identified as foreign by other immune system components. Vitamin C helps NK cells track and destroy tumor cells as well by reducing the shielding effect of platelets (blood clotting cell fragments) that would prevent NK cells from destroying them.
Neutrophils: are the main immune system cell for fighting bacterial infections. Neutrophils engulf invading organisms, then destroy them with powerful blasts of short-lived oxygen free radicals. Vitamin C supports many aspects of neutrophil function, aiding in their ability to chase down bacterial targets and improving their ability to engulf and kill such targets.
Lymphocytes: are immune system cells that produce antibodies (called B-lymphocytes) and coordinate with other immune cells to guide them towards threats needing destruction. When they detect a threat, lymphocytes rapidly reproduce in a proliferative response that is enhanced in the presence of vitamin C.
Antibodies: are noncellular components of the immune system that help identify and destroy invading threats and cancerous cells. Vitamin C benefits this portion of the immune system by raising levels of three main classes of antibody immunoglobulins: IgA, which protects against infections mainly on mucosal surfaces, such as the respiratory and digestive tracts, IgG, which provides long-term protection in the bloodstream, and IgM, which is the earliest immunoglobulin to appear in blood in response to threats.
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