When we talk about vitamins that boost immunity, vitamin C gets all the attention. Yet many other vitamins are crucial to maintaining your body’s ability to fight off infection.
Take vitamin E for example, a powerhouse nutrient that does a world of good for your body. This fat-soluble antioxidant is a vital ingredient in cosmetic products, as it protects the skin from solar radiation damage and may even prevent the formation of skin tumors.
Vitamin E in foods can also protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, the unstable molecules in your body created by the conversion of food into energy. Free radicals can ignite a process called oxidative stress that leads to a range of aging symptoms.
Most importantly, vitamin E helps the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. It also reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease by helping to widen blood vessels and prevent clotting.
The Dangers of Vitamin E Deficiency
Given the many functions vitamin E performs in the body, it is important that you get enough of this vital nutrient every day. Common signs of a vitamin E deficiency include a loss of feeling in the arms and legs, an inability to control certain body movements, muscle weakness, vision issues, and a weak immune system. These symptoms may indicate that you have suffered nerve and muscle damage caused by too little vitamin E.
Fortunately, severe vitamin E deficiency is very rare. It is almost always caused by certain diseases that make it difficult to digest or absorb fat, which the body needs to absorb and store vitamin E. Illnesses that can create a vitamin E deficiency include Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and a few rare genetic disorders such as abetalipoproteinemia and ataxia with vitamin E deficiency (AVED).
Maintaining Healthy Levels of Vitamin E in Your System
Vitamin E is found naturally in a wide variety of foods and is also added to fortified foods, making it even less likely that you will experience a severe deficiency. If you’re American, however, you probably do not reach the recommended amounts of vitamin E on a day-to-day basis. According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of adults and teens between 14 and 18 years of age should have 15 mg of vitamin E per day. Women who are breastfeeding need 19 mg per day.
You can easily increase your vitamin E intake by eating the right foods! To reach your recommended daily allowance, consider adding these foods to your diet:
- Vegetable oils, such as wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower oil
- Nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts
- Seeds, such as sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
- Green vegetables, including spinach, broccoli, and turnip greens
- Fruits, such as kiwi, mangoes, and tomatoes.
- Fortified cereals
Should You Be Taking Vitamin E Supplements?
While you can add vitamin E supplements to your diet, you must be careful about doing so. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA and vary significantly in the type of vitamin E and the amount. Some supplements contain far more than the recommended amount, which can be harmful in certain circumstances. In high doses, for instance, vitamin E can increase the risk of bleeding by inhibiting the body’s ability to form clots. A good rule of thumb is to never consume more than 1,500 IU/day for natural vitamin E supplements and 1,100 IU/day for synthetic vitamin E supplements. Note that some researchers believe that you shouldn’t take more than just 400 IU of vitamin E in supplement form.
Vitamin E supplements may also interfere with certain medications. These include:
- Anticoagulants, or blood thinners.
- Antiplatelets, which stop platelets in blood from forming clots.
- Simvastatin, a drug used to treat high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Niacin, a B vitamin that may be used to lower cholesterol and reduce arthritis pain.
- Chemotherapy drugs.
- Radiotherapy drugs.
By sticking to natural foods instead of supplements, you will eliminate a lot of these risks. Besides, reaching your daily allotment of vitamin E shouldn’t be too difficult. A day’s servings of fruits and vegetables should get you there in no time.