There is a lot of talk about the benefits of lemon water and drinking lemon teas to help boost your immune system to withstand winter flus and colds and live a healthier life any time of the year. While the benefits of vitamin C rich lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits are many, it helps to know there is a sound basis for all the hype.
The Study: “Vitamin C and Immune Function”
A recent study published in Nutrients in November 2017 looked specifically at the action of vitamin C on the immune system, a micronutrient that the study called a “potent antioxidant”. In addition to its antioxidant qualities, it is thought that vitamin C plays a crucial role in supporting the enzymes that regulate genes and helping the immune system to adapt to new threats and conditions.
The immune system is a complex network of processes, organs, tissues, and more that work together to protect the body from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and even cancer cells. Vitamin C plays a key role in many facets of the human immune response.
- It helps to protect the body by bolstering the skin’s ability to protect against pathogens;
- It aids the skin in protecting against oxidative stress, an imbalance that decreases the body’s ability to detoxify and repair cells;
- It enhances the ability of specific cells in the body such as phagocytes to kill microbes;
- It aids in the body’s healing processes.
As the study clearly states, “Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections.” In fact, adding vitamin C to the diet both protects and helps heal the body from infections.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Decades of research have proven the link between vitamin C and our immune system function. The important thing to remember about vitamin C intake is that the nutrient is water soluble, and cannot be stored by the human body. That means we need to eat it in our diet every day. One of the more surprising revelations from the study is that vitamin C deficiency is fairly common in the Western world – in fact, it is the fourth most common nutrient deficiency in the United States.
How does that happen? Outside of poverty, it’s largely a lifestyle issue, including poor and extreme diets, smoking and exposure to pollutants (which can inhibit absorption,) alcohol and drug abuse. Chronic stress can also cause the body to use more vitamin C as immune responses are constantly triggered, leading to a state of deficiency.
The body’s need for vitamin C increases in some cases, and it makes sense to increase your usual intake of vitamin C rich foods like lemons.
- Exposure to pollution and smoking;
- When you are fighting an infection;
- The elderly, whose immune systems are weakened;
- If you live with conditions that involve oxidative and inflammatory stress, such as type 2 diabetes.
The evidence is in – making lemons and oranges part of your daily diet is an excellent way to make sure your body has all the vitamin C it needs to protect your health.