Simply put, the first line of human defense against any type of infection is the immune system. It’s how our bodies keep the enemy out of the gates, so to speak, and it’s why maintaining strong immunity at all times is critically important for health and vitality. But are you confident that your own immune system is really where it needs to be?
Many people think they’re healthy until disease strikes and their immune systems are put to the test. They suddenly find that every cold, cough, flu, and stomach bug that goes around ends up taking root, no matter what they seem to do. And the only thing left is to try to manage their symptoms with whatever the local drug store has to offer. Is this really what true health and wellness looks like?
If you’re someone who finds yourself getting sick at the drop of a hat, or who constantly battles with some degree of feeling under the weather, then chances are you have a vitamin deficiency. You may be thinking to yourself, but I take vitamin supplements every day. To which you then need to ask yourself the question: are the vitamins I take really vitamins?
As strange as it might sound, many so-called vitamins sold at retail stores and online aren’t even close to being the same as the vitamins naturally found in food. They’re synthetic impostors that, at best, provide minimal wellness support. At worst, your body recognizes them as toxins, meaning they can actually make your health worse .
Synthetic vs. Natural: Not All Vitamins Are Created Equal
Vitamins are a multi-billion-dollar industry that is largely dominated by the pharmaceutical industry. Drug companies have figured out all kinds of ways to synthesize the compounds found in nature and peddle these artificial knockoffs to health-conscious people as dietary supplements.
Ascorbic Acid Is Not the Same As Real Vitamin C
Take vitamin C, for instance, which is one of the first vitamins people think of in relation to the immune system. Most of the vitamin C on store shelves today is actually ascorbic acid, a fractionated portion of real vitamin C that one expert in the field describes as the “antioxidant wrapper” portion of true whole food vitamin C .
Besides the fact that a bulk of it is manufactured in China from questionable ingredients (along with most other vitamins, it turns out ), this synthetic form of vitamin C is functionally incomplete. Ascorbic acid lacks the full-spectrum benefits of real vitamin C because it’s created in a laboratory with “dead” chemicals that the body has a hard time recognizing, let alone processing.
Is Your Vitamin A and E Fake?
The same is true of most vitamin A and E supplements, which are isolated molecular compounds that lack the complexes and cofactors necessary for activation within the body. These inferior vitamin isolates simply can’t perform like their natural counterparts because they’re fake, to put it in basic terms.
Unfortunately, most vitamin supplements on the market today fall into this inferior category. Unless they’re derived from real, whole foods (which most of them aren’t), they will always pale in comparison to what you would otherwise naturally find in fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as in pasture-raised meat and dairy products.
Read the Vitamin Ingredients Label
If the ingredients list on a vitamin bottle lists the vitamin’s common name alongside its scientific name in parenthesis, it’s almost guaranteed to be synthetic.
This is true whether you’re looking at a bottle of vitamin C or a multivitamin containing vitamin C along with many other vitamins. If it doesn’t specifically say that it was derived from real food, in other words, then it almost certainly wasn’t.
Why Whole Food Vitamins Are Superior to Synthetics
While fake vitamins can, in some cases, provide some benefits, they’re altogether inferior no matter how you look at it. Because they lack certain biological “partners in crime,” synthetic vitamins actually function more like pharmaceutical drugs than actual, real-life vitamins.
In order to qualify as a vitamin, a vitamin compound or biochemical complex has to possess the ability to exert vitamin activity. Actual biological and cellular changes have to occur, in other words, otherwise that vitamin is a fraud.
Using a car as an analogy, many people think of vitamins as simply the fuel that goes into it. But in reality, real vitamins are the gas, the carburetor, the ignition, the spark plugs, and everything else that’s necessary to actually make it start and go.
So, in a sense, synthetic vitamins really are just the gas without the rest of the car. What good can they do all by themselves? Not much. And that’s the gist of what differentiates real vitamins from fake vitamins: real vitamins get the job done, while fake vitamins do a whole lot of nothing, in many cases.
Vitamins Require Enzymes & Minerals to Synergistically Support Healthy Immunity
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself: “can’t I just eat food and skip taking vitamins altogether?” If only it was that simple. The truth is that many foods today don’t contain the vitamin content they once did. This is due to a variety of factors, the most notable being chemical-based agriculture, poor soil quality, and heavy processing.
In essence, most food today has been stripped of its nutritional content, meaning it’s a mere shell of what our ancestors ate. As a result, most people, it’s safe to say, are now severely nutrient deficient, which means they’re not getting nearly enough of the bioactive vitamin complexes they need to stay healthy.
What’s worse, the synthetic vitamins that many people take to try to fill that nutritional void aren’t helping, and in some cases are actually hurting. Simply put, synthetic vitamins are an incomplete package, not just because they’re functionally “dead” but also because they’re missing the enzymes and trace minerals necessary to synergistically support a healthy and robust immune system.
How Fake Vitamins Can Actually Be Harmful
Whenever you take a synthetic vitamin in its isolated form, your body tries to compensate for these missing cofactors by pulling whatever it can from your body’s own backup reserves. Over time, this process depletes your body of its vital nutrient stores, creating an even worse deficiency. In other words, synthetic vitamins can cause more harm than good over time.
Your body has been programmed to expect these vital cofactors, and when it encounters synthetic vitamins that don’t have them, it simply doesn’t know what to do. Some of them end up building up in the liver, while others are expelled undigested. In short, synthetic vitamins simply aren’t bioavailable, meaning your body can’t assimilate and use them for any beneficial purpose.
According to the “experts,” synthetic vitamins are no different than real vitamins , but independent science is clear that they couldn’t be more different from one another. In order to derive any real benefit from vitamins, they have to come as a package deal, and this is something that only nature can provide.
Want Vitamins for Immune System Support? Whole Food Vitamins Are the Only Way to Go
So, if the modern food supply is lacking in vitamins and synthetic vitamin supplements are no good, is there some other alternative? We’re glad you asked because there is.
As it turns out, not all vitamin supplements are created equal, and there are real varieties made from whole foods that contain all the goodies you want, and none of the junk you don’t.
Since vitamins require enzymes in addition to trace minerals for effectiveness, a high-quality whole food vitamin supplement will be enzyme activated. Fermentation is also beneficial in that it makes food-based vitamin compounds easier for the body to digest, thus maximizing bioavailability – meaning more bang for your buck.
You’ll also want to look for whole food vitamins that come from organically-grown food, and preferably in “living,” nutrient-dense soils. This will ensure that the vitamin content is as close to optimal as possible, just as nature intended.
As for what you’ll want to look for in a high-quality whole food multivitamin, vitamins A, B, C, D, and E are a given, along with K. You’ll also want to make sure that trace minerals are included in the forms of things like calcium, iodine, zinc, magnesium, and selenium.
Let’s take a look at each one of these vitamins to see how they help in supporting a strong and healthy immune system.
What Vitamins Boost Your Immune System?
Carotenoids like beta carotene, which function as precursors to vitamin A, possess powerful antioxidant properties that have been scientifically shown to help boost immunity and causatively ward off cancer .
Technically a family of vitamins, B vitamins (and specifically B6 and B12) support immunity by managing cell division and growth and boosting the production of disease-fighting white blood cells. B vitamins as a whole also help to support a healthy gut microbiota .
Often the first vitamin people opt for when sick, vitamin C is a type of fuel for the immune system to perform vital functions such as the production of phagocytes and T-cells. It’s been shown to be beneficial against respiratory tract infections, and may also help against pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea, and other conditions.
Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D acts as a buffer against autoimmunity, which is when the body attacks itself, as well as a defense against infection. Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased illness and immune dysregulation.
A potent antioxidant, vitamin E is another fat-soluble family of vitamins that helps to support strong cellular immunity and the proper differentiation of immature T-cells . Research shows that vitamin E can help to not only protect immune cells from oxidative stress, but also aid damaged ones in getting repaired .
A necessary cofactor for some plasma proteins, vitamin K has been shown to support healthy immune and inflammatory responses throughout the body, particularly those mediated by T-cells. Vitamin K is also linked to supporting a balanced inflammatory response, which is associated with decreased disease risk . (Tip: leafy greens are among the best food sources of vitamin K.)
In order for all of these vitamins to accomplish these tasks, the presence of trace minerals is essential. Without them, vitamins aren’t able to perform their biological functions as intended, rendering them useless or even toxic. But with whole food vitamins, you don’t have to worry about uselessness or toxicity because they’re the complete package.
So, What’s the Best Vitamin to Boost Your Immune System?
The title of this article is actually a bit of a trick question. It isn’t a matter of whether vitamin C is better than vitamin D or A is better than E because all vitamins are necessary for strong immunity.
Thus, the real answer to the question is this: whole food vitamins are the best vitamins because, when done right, they’re exactly what our bodies need to stay strong, healthy, and fit… especially for such a time as this.