You’re washing your hands 10 times a day and have stopped touching your face. You may even be house-bound. But, what else can you do to improve your health?

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In the midst of coronavirus panic and winter on its way, boosting your immune system has never felt more significant. While we wait for word on a cure and adhere to the World Health Organisation’s protective guidelines, let’s explore vitamin C’s role in immunity.

Immune system 101

The immune system is a network of organs, cells and proteins that protect the body from viruses, bacteria and foreign substances. It plays a very important role in the body but it can get worn down by modern life – not just bacteria and toxins, but stress and diet too. So it needs all the help it can get, especially through more compromising times.

One of the most common and effective ways to boost immunity is through upping your vitamin C intake. But, before you face the crowds to stock up on OJ, is there actually merit in loading up on this antioxidant? And what about vitamin C supplements? We break it all down for you below.

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant in the body. Many people make the mistake of taking vitamin C only when they get sick but it’s actually a great year-round safeguard to prevent falling ill in the first instance. However, to get the full touted benefits of vitamin C you will need to consume it daily.

Unlike many animals, humans aren’t able to naturally produce or store their own vitamin C, so it’s important we obtain an adequate amount through ingestion. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for men is 90 milligrams (mg) per day and for women, 75 mg per day. You can obtain vitamin C from foods such as oranges, strawberries, capsicum, spinach, kale and broccoli. However, it’s always a good idea to supplement your diet with it in case you aren’t consuming enough. Don’t worry you can’t overdose - your body will naturally get rid of any excess that it doesn’t need.

Why the immune system LOVES vitamin C

Vitamin C can strengthen the immune system in lots of different ways – below are five of the many ways they work:

  1. Vitamin C supports the production of interferons

Interferons are produced when the presence of pathogens are detected. Pathegons are bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms that can cause disease. Interferons facilitate cell’s ability to initiate protective cellular defences.

  1. Vitamin C enhances the function of phagocytes

Phagocytes are a type of cell within the body capable of absorbing bacteria, other small cells and particles.

  1. Vitamin C is mainly found in white blood cells

White blood cells are the primary cells of the immune system, which boast levels of vitamin C up to 80 times higher than the levels found in the plasma

  1. Vitamin C supports the cellular immune response

One of the primary ways the body responds to a pathogen is through the the activation of macrophages, natural killer cells and antigen-specific T-lymphocytes that attack anything that is ‘perceived’ as foreign (AKA bad guys). Vitamin C supports this process.

  1. Vitamin C supports the production and activity of antibodies

Good antibody function is important for a healthy immune system.

by your immune system by strengthening your skin’s defense system, allowing white blood cells to function more effectively, and helping wounds heal faster.

Other vitamin C benefits

The benefits of vitamin C span far beyond the immune system.

  1. Boosts collagen production

This wonder vitamin supports healthy skin function and structure but it also helps in the formation of collagen and elastin AKA the fountain of youth. As we age our collagen production slows down *sigh*, which can speed up signs of skin ageing like fine lines and wrinkles. Thankfully there are ways to restore it – vitamin C plays an essential role in helping maintain and promote healthy collagen levels. Learn more about the benefits of collagen.

  1. Fights free radicals

Vitamin C has the added bonus of protecting skin from free radical damage caused by chemicals and toxins in your diet and environment, which can accelerate premature ageing.

  1. Skin brightening

Forget lotions and potions, vitamin C is the ultimate glow-getter! As well as being a powerful antioxidant that neutralises free radicals, vitamin C has been found to restore radiance, luminosity and a more even skin tone.

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