Colds and flu

Updated 24 July 2015

How Vitamin C boosts your immune system

Vitamin C is an essential part of your body's needs, especially for the maintenance of a strong and effective immune system.

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Vitamin C is best known for its ability to increase the body’s resistance to infections like cold and flu. While it may not prevent us from getting ill altogether, studies indicate that people who take vitamin C tend to recover from colds more quickly, and have milder symptoms.

Vitamin C also aids wound healing, is essential for the production of collagen (a type of protein that connects and supports other bodily tissues such as skin, bone, tendons, muscles and cartilage), enhances iron absorption and fights cataracts by increasing the amount of blood flow to the eye. 

It is also a powerful antioxidant which helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals that could contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, cancers and other diseases.

Read: 10 immune system boosters

As the body is not able to make vitamin C on its own, it is very important to include plenty of vitamin C-rich foods in your diet, and not just in winter. Your immune system is fighting off infections throughout the year, meaning it's always important to keep your vitamin C levels stocked up.

Your body has a limited capability to store vitamin C and long-term deficiencies can have a seriously detrimental effect on the body, including a weakened immune system and the resultant vulnerability to illness and infection.

While citrus is the most well-known source of vitamin C, there are numerous other options if you don’t like citrus. You can stock up on guavas, kiwi fruit, blackcurrants, strawberries, papaya, sweet peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower – all these foods are vitamin C superstars. 

Another option is supplementary Vitamin C. Vitamin C tablets contain anywhere between 2 and 20 times the amount of Vitamin C in an orange. Effervescent tablets are a great way to get your required dose, especially as they often contain other vitamins and minerals necessary for maintaining optimum health. 

Read more:
Vitamin C effective in cataract prevention
IV vitamin C boosts chemotherapy action 
Vitamin C leads to TB breakthrough

 

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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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