by Gloria Moreira

By now you may know that vitamin D is an important nutrient for bone health, but did you know that it is also just as critical for good immune system health? And it’s not the only one. Your immune system also requires a range of B vitamins, zinc, selenium, copper, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E, so it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to get enough of all the nutrients you need.

Vitamin D, iron and zinc are three common deficiencies in the population. Just one of these will impair immune function, but when compounded by all three deficiencies, immune function can really suffer. These people present with many immune-related symptoms, including allergies, inflammation, rashes and frequent infections. The less obvious symptoms that can signal an immune system going awry are cold hands, dry eyes, fatigue, headaches, joint pain, patchy hair loss, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, trouble swallowing and changes in bowel movements (diarrhea/constipation). Other red flags indicating impaired immune function are chronic sinus infection, coming down with more than four ear infections in a year (for anyone over the age of four) or having pneumonia more than once.

A few important blood tests your physician can order to determine if you have one of these common deficiencies are: a comprehensive metabolic panel; 25-OHD, vitamin D3; and ferritin, total iron and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC). In the comprehensive metabolic panel, a zinc-dependent metalloenzyme called alkaline phosphatase is of special interest. This enzyme when high doesn’t point to an excess of zinc but rather an inflammatory process in the body, so is not clinically significant for zinc deficiency. If this is the case, a red blood cell (RBC) zinc test might then be ordered to rule out zinc deficiency. However, when alkaline phosphatase is low (less than 70), it points to a zinc deficiency or insufficiency. Zinc also plays a vital role in wound healing, white blood cell formation, maintaining sense of smell and taste and division of cells. Iron is necessary for immune cells’ proliferation and development, particularly white blood cells which are associated with the generation of a specific response to an infection.

When these vital nutrient deficiencies are corrected (especially if all three are present), it’s amazing how overall health improves and people get quality of life back. There are other factors contributing to a poorly functioning immune system but these three are key players and, if low, chances are you will have one or more of the symptoms and signs mentioned.

Another important contributor to immune function is gastrointestinal health as 75 percent of the immune system is in the gut—but that’s for another article.

Gloria Moreira, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., ABAAHP holds a master’s degrees from USF Morsani School of Medicine, in Metabolic Nutrition and Regenerative Medicine. She practices at Pembroke Holistic Center, 1806 N. Flamingo Rd., Ste. 105, Pembroke Pines. For more information, call 954-501-2208 and/or visit