Why is the immune system important?
The immune system is the body’s defense system. It protects us against pathogens which are micro-organisms like viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi, that can cause disease. The immune system fights off these disease-causing microbes, keeping them in balance with the health-promoting microbes of our microbiota (the ‘friendly’ bacteria, yeasts, and fungi occurring throughout the body that are beneficial to health).
Because pathogens rapidly mutate and evolve, our defense system needs to be responsive and have multiple defenses. The first line of defense is the innate response. This response is non-specific, meaning that it will not discriminate against specific bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Inflammation is one of the key innate responses. People think of inflammation as ‘bad’ or undesirable but when you the cardinal signs of inflammation: redness, swelling, warmth, along with pain, there is a complex interplay of cells and molecules working to prevent pathogens from causing damage and clearing out waste products of the healing process.
Conversely, the adaptive response adapts to specific pathogen threats, allowing us to better defend ourselves against future infection. It includes a range of different cells and systems that identify specific patterns on the surface of pathogens and builds a large, targeted response specifically against them. This is why for many illnesses, exposure when young, or vaccination, will provide lifelong, or long-term immunity to the illness.
Disorders of the immune system can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases and cancer. Immunodeficiency occurs when the immune system is less active than normal, resulting in recurring and life-threatening infections. In humans, immunodeficiency can either be the result of a genetic disease such as severe combined immunodeficiency, or acquired conditions such as HIV/AIDS, or the use of immunosuppressive medication.
Autoimmunity results from a dysfunction of the immune system in which self-cells (or non-pathogenic microbes residing on tissue) are targeted by the immune system and result in damage to our own tissue.
What is the immune system made up of?
The immune system includes cells that help to recognise pathogens and differentiate them from ‘self’ tissue and beneficial microbes, along with proteins that help to regulate the inflammatory response (inflammasomes). It also includes many of the more commonly known immune components; white blood cells (leukocytes) that engulf and destroy pathogens, along with lymphocyte B and T-cells which identify, mark, and target pathogens and cells infected with pathogens for destruction. The various components of the inflammatory systems work to help encourage healing by encouraging increased blood-flow to areas of infection (transports immune cells to the area), swelling and pain (which results from the increased flow and slow clearance, but also helps immobilise the area to prevent further damage).
How can I support the immune system?
Immune boosting ingredients in Nuzest Good Green Stuff
Omega 3 fats
Omega 3 fats help us to regulate immunity and inflammation in conjunction with the ‘pro-inflammatory’ omega 6 fats. Omega 3 fats are found in fatty fish and in vegan sources like flax seeds and in algae.
Vitamins A, C and E
Vitamin A is intricately involved in immunity. (1) Vitamin A supplementation is associated with large reductions in illness, mortality, and vision problems in children and it has been recommended that any children at any risk of deficiency should be given a vitamin A supplement. (2) Additionally, vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy improves immunity to illness and reduces the incidence of gestational night blindness. (3)
While vitamin C, contrary to popular belief, probably won’t cure the common cold, reviews research show that it might help to reduce symptoms of colds and shorten their duration, (4) and might even help to prevent the occurrence of colds in athletes and others prone to higher levels of stress when taken regularly. (5, 6) Vitamin E also has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. (7)
Vitamin D is a key immune regulator and has also shown promise for aiding several auto-immune conditions like systemic lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. (8)
In addition to their other actions, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and B12 are under-recognised antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative stress to the body. (9, 10)
Bioflavonoids, polyphenols and plant-based antioxidants
Bioflavonoids, polyphenols and other plant-based antioxidants found in many plants and fungi foods have a range of immune system benefits. Research shows that bioflavonoids reduce upper-respiratory-tract infections. (11) Other antioxidant-rich foods like grapeseed, rosehip, and cacao improve antioxidant status and immunity and reduce inflammation. (12-17)
Adaptogens are herbs that are stress ‘tonics’ that help us to respond to stressors more effectively. Among the adaptogens, ginger, ginseng, gotu kola, ashwagandha and astragalus have demonstrated a range of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. (18-26)
Common culinary and medicinal herbs like rosemary are anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial and may benefit immune status. (27)
Turmeric is likely to improve immune function. (28)
Shiitake mushroom is thought to aid immunity by increasing white blood cell activation. (29, 30)
The natural plant enzyme bromelain is considered to be both anti-inflammatory and immune supportive. (31, 32)
Overall, the research shows that probiotic supplementation reduces the incidence and severity of respiratory infections, (33-35)(36-38) Probiotics are suggested for use to reduce inflammation and infection following several types of surgeries. (44-46)(47)
Spirulina and chlorella
Spirulina could reduce the seasonal allergies, along with protection from heavy metals and other toxins and general protection of the liver, (53) along with reducing oxidation and inflammation. (54)(56, 57)
In randomised, controlled trials, chlorella has demonstrated the capacity to provide a short-term ‘boost’ to immunity by increasing natural killer cells. (58)
The importance of protein for immunity
Protein is also important for preserving immunity, especially if you’re an athlete, or you’re working (or playing!) hard. In fact, one of the results of over-stress, over-training, and chronic fatigue is an increased susceptibility to infection.
A deficiency in protein is rare in the modern world. But when we consider that the recommended daily intake for protein is a woefully low 0.8 g per kilo of body weight per day and that levels of 2 x this amount or more are indicated for improved performance and body composition, higher protein intake is likely to better help you to regulate immunity and inflammation. (60)
Specific amino acids like glutamine reduce the incidence of infections and improve immunity. (61-64) Glutamine levels are correlated with over-training in athletes, and plasma glutamine levels don’t rise in athletes with over-training syndrome, (65) and over-trained athletes maintain low glutamine levels for months or even years. (66)
So, protein, along with helping you to maintain muscle, lose fat, and improve satiety, could also help you to stay well, in spite of what life throws at you! Nuzest’s Clean Lean Protein is a high quality pea protein designed to support you with energy, recovery, repair and weight management.
1. Wiseman EM, Bar-El Dadon S, Reifen R. The vicious cycle of vitamin a deficiency: A review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2017;57(17):3703-14.
2. Mayo-Wilson E, Imdad A, Herzer K, Yakoob MY, Bhutta ZA. Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011;343:d5094.
3. Cruz S, da Cruz SP, Ramalho A. Impact of Vitamin A Supplementation on Pregnant Women and on Women Who Have Just Given Birth: A Systematic Review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2018;37(3):243-50.
4. Hemila H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2013;1:CD000980.
5. Van Straten M, Josling P. Preventing the common cold with a vitamin C supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. Advances in therapy. 2002;19(3):151-9.
6. Sasazuki S, Sasaki S, Tsubono Y, Okubo S, Hayashi M, Tsugane S. Effect of vitamin C on common cold: randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006;60(1):9-17.
7. Nazrun Shuid A, Das S, Mohamed IN. Therapeutic effect of Vitamin E in preventing bone loss: An evidence-based review. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. 2019:1-14.
8. Franco AS, Freitas TQ, Bernardo WM, Pereira RMR. Vitamin D supplementation and disease activity in patients with immune-mediated rheumatic diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine. 2017;96(23):e7024-e.
9. Ashoori M, Saedisomeolia A. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) and oxidative stress: a review. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014;111(11):1985-91.
10. van de Lagemaat EE dGL, van den Heuvel EGHM. Vitamin B12 in relation to oxidative stress: a systematic review. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):482.
11. Braakhuis AJ, Somerville VS, Hopkins WG. Effect of Flavonoids on Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Immune Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Advances in Nutrition. 2016;7(3):488-97.
12. Nuttall SL, Kendall MJ, Bombardelli E, Morazzoni P. An evaluation of the antioxidant activity of a standardized grape seed extract, Leucoselect. Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics. 1998;23(5):385-9.
13. Kar P, Laight D, Rooprai HK, Shaw KM, Cummings M. Effects of grape seed extract in Type 2 diabetic subjects at high cardiovascular risk: a double blind randomized placebo controlled trial examining metabolic markers, vascular tone, inflammation, oxidative stress and insulin sensitivity. Diabet Med. 2009;26(5):526-31.
14. Patel S. Rose hip as an underutilized functional food: Evidence-based review. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2017;63:29-38.
15. Espinoza T, Valencia E, Quevedo R, Díaz O. Physical and chemical properties importance of Rose hip (R. canina, R. rubiginosa): a review. Scientia Agropecuaria. 2016;7(1):67-78.
16. Araujo QRD, Gattward JN, Almoosawi S, Parada Costa Silva MdGC, Dantas PADS, Araujo Júnior QRD. Cocoa and Human Health: From Head to Foot—A Review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2016;56(1):1-12.
17. Martín MÁ, Ramos S. Health beneficial effects of cocoa phenolic compounds: a mini-review. Current Opinion in Food Science. 2017;14:20-5.
18. Almatroudi A, Alsahli MA, Alrumaihi F, Allemailem KS, Rahmani AH. Ginger: A novel strategy to battle cancer through modulating cell signalling pathways. Current pharmaceutical biotechnology. 2019.
19. de Lima RMT, dos Reis AC, de Menezes A-APM, Santos JVdO, Filho JWGdO, Ferreira JRdO, et al. Protective and therapeutic potential of ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract and -gingerol in cancer: A comprehensive review. Phytotherapy Research. 2018;32(10):1885-907.
20. Jafarzadeh A, Nemati M. Therapeutic potentials of ginger for treatment of Multiple sclerosis: A review with emphasis on its immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Journal of Neuroimmunology. 2018;324:54-75.
21. Shergis JL, Zhang AL, Zhou W, Xue CC. Panax ginseng in Randomised Controlled Trials: A Systematic Review. Phytotherapy Research. 2013;27(7):949-65.
22. Lee DC, Lau AS. Effects of Panax ginseng on tumor necrosis factor-α-mediated inflammation: a mini-review. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 2011;16(4):2802-16.
23. Jamil SS, Nizami Q, Salam M. Centella asiatica (Linn.) Urban—a review. 2007.
24. Arora D, Kumar M, Dubey S. Centella asiatica-A Review of it’s Medicinal Uses and Pharmacological Effects. Journal of Natural remedies. 2002;2(2):143-9.
25. Tiwari R, Chakraborty S, Saminathan M, Dhama K, Singh SV. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Role in safeguarding health, immunomodulatory effects, combating infections and therapeutic applications: A review. J Biol Sci. 2014;14(2):77-94.
26. Block KI, Mead MN. Immune System Effects of Echinacea, Ginseng, and Astragalus: A Review. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2003;2(3):247-67.
27. Nieto G, Ros G, Castillo J. Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Properties of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, L.): A Review. Medicines. 2018;5(3):98.
28. Fallah Huseini H, Zahmatkash M, Haghighi M. A review on pharmacological effects of Curcuma longa L.(turmeric). Journal of Medicinal Plants. 2010;1(33):1-15.
29. Lee HH, Lee JS, Cho JY, Kim YE, Hong EK. Study on immunostimulating activity of macrophage treated with purified polysaccharides from liquid culture and fruiting body of Lentinus edodes. Journal of microbiology and biotechnology. 2009;19(6):566-72.
30. Gaullier J-M, Sleboda J, Ofjord ES, Ulvestad E, Nurminiemi M, Moe C, et al. Supplementation with a Soluble Beta-Glucan Exported from Shiitake Medicinal Mushroom, <i>Lentinus edodes</i> (Berk.) Singer Mycelium: a Crossover, Placebo-Controlled Study in Healthy Elderly. 2011;13(4):319-26.
31. Kelly GS, editor Bromelain: a literature review and discussion of its therapeutic applications. Alternative Medicine Review; 1996: Citeseer.
32. Pavan R, Jain S, Shraddha, Kumar A. Properties and Therapeutic Application of Bromelain: A Review. Biotechnology Research International. 2012;2012:6.
33. de Araujo GV, de Oliveira Junior MH, Peixoto DM, Sarinho ESC. Probiotics for the treatment of upper and lower respiratory-tract infections in children: systematic review based on randomized clinical trials. Jornal de Pediatria. 2015;91(5):413-27.
34. Ahanchian H, Kianifar H, Ganji T, Kiani M, Khakshour A, Jafari S. Probiotics in childhood upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review. Journal of North Khorasan University of Medical Sciences. 2015;7(2):445-52.
35. Ozen M, Kocabas Sandal G, Dinleyici EC. Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy. 2015;15(1):9-20.
36. Peng Y, Li A, Yu L, Qin G. The Role of Probiotics in Prevention and Treatment for Patients with Allergic Rhinitis: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. 2015;29(4):292-8.
37. Güvenç IA, Muluk NB, Mutlu FŞ, Eşki E, Altıntoprak N, Oktemer T, et al. Do Probiotics have a role in the Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis? A Comprehensive Systematic Review and Metaanalysis. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. 2016;30(5):e157-e75.
38. Zajac AE, Adams AS, Turner JH. A systematic review and meta-analysis of probiotics for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology. 2015;5(6):524-32.
39. Deshpande G, Jape G, Rao S, Patole S. Benefits of probiotics in preterm neonates in low-income and medium-income countries: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. BMJ open. 2017;7(12):e017638.
40. Onubi OJ, Poobalan AS, Dineen B, Marais D, McNeill G. Effects of probiotics on child growth: a systematic review. Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition. 2015;34(1):8.
41. Cuello-Garcia CA, Brożek JL, Fiocchi A, Pawankar R, Yepes-Nuñez JJ, Terracciano L, et al. Probiotics for the prevention of allergy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2015;136(4):952-61.
42. Zuccotti G, Meneghin F, Aceti A, Barone G, Callegari ML, Di Mauro A, et al. Probiotics for prevention of atopic diseases in infants: systematic review and meta-analysis. Allergy. 2015;70(11):1356-71.
43. Zhao M, Shen C, Ma L. Treatment efficacy of probiotics on atopic dermatitis, zooming in on infants: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Dermatology. 2018;57(6):635-41.
44. de Andrade Calaça PR, Bezerra RP, Albuquerque WWC, Porto ALF, Cavalcanti MTH. Probiotics as a preventive strategy for surgical infection in colorectal cancer patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Translational gastroenterology and hepatology. 2017;2:67-.
45. Liu PC, Yan YK, Ma YJ, Wang XW, Geng J, Wang MC, et al. Probiotics Reduce Postoperative Infections in Patients Undergoing Colorectal Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Gastroenterology Research and Practice. 2017;2017:9.
46. Ouyang X, Li Q, Shi M, Niu D, Song W, Nian Q, et al. Probiotics for preventing postoperative infection in colorectal cancer patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Colorectal Disease. 2018.
47. Yang Z, Wu Q, Liu Y, Fan D. Effect of Perioperative Probiotics and Synbiotics on Postoperative Infections After Gastrointestinal Surgery: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. 2017;41(6):1051-62.
48. Sawas T, Al Halabi S, Hernaez R, Carey WD, Cho WK. Patients Receiving Prebiotics and Probiotics Before Liver Transplantation Develop Fewer Infections Than Controls: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2015;13(9):1567-74.e3.
49. Lytvyn L, Quach K, Banfield L, Johnston BC, Mertz D. Probiotics and synbiotics for the prevention of postoperative infections following abdominal surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Hospital Infection. 2016;92(2):130-9.
50. Miller H, Ferris R, Phelps BR. The effect of probiotics on CD4 counts among people living with HIV: a systematic review. Beneficial Microbes. 2016;7(3):345-51.
51. Lei WT, Shih PC, Liu SJ, Lin CY, Yeh TL. Effect of Probiotics and Prebiotics on Immune Response to Influenza Vaccination in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2017;9(11).
52. Zimmermann P, Curtis N. The influence of probiotics on vaccine responses – A systematic review. Vaccine. 2018;36(2):207-13.
53. Bhatia KK, Puri S, Kaur R, Ahluwalia KK, Ahluwalia AS. Efficacy of Spirulina as Hepatoprotectant: A Review. Vegetos-An International Journal of Plant Research. 2016;29(special):129-36.
54. Hernández ML, Wall-Medrano A, Juarez-Oropeza M, Ramos-Jimenez A, Hernandez-Torres RP. SPIRULINA AND ITS HYPOLIPIDEMIC AND ANTIOXIDANT EFFECTS IN HUMANS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(2):494-500.
55. Yousefi R, Saidpour A, Mottaghi A. The effects of Spirulina supplementation on metabolic syndrome components, its liver manifestation and related inflammatory markers: A systematic review. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2019;42:137-44.
56. Huijuan X, Guihua X. Review health effect of spirulina as function food. J Agric Sci. 2005;26:90-3.
57. de la Jara A, Ruano-Rodriguez C, Polifrone M, Assunçao P, Brito-Casillas Y, Wägner AM, et al. Impact of dietary Arthrospira (Spirulina) biomass consumption on human health: main health targets and systematic review. Journal of Applied Phycology. 2018;30(4):2403-23.
58. Kwak JH, Baek SH, Woo Y, Han JK, Kim BG, Kim OY, et al. Beneficial immunostimulatory effect of short-term Chlorella supplementation: enhancement of Natural Killercell activity and early inflammatory response (Randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial). Nutrition Journal. 2012;11(1):53.
59. Ebrahimi-Mameghani M, Sadeghi Z, Abbasalizad Farhangi M, Vaghef-Mehrabany E, Aliashrafi S. Glucose homeostasis, insulin resistance and inflammatory biomarkers in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Beneficial effects of supplementation with microalgae Chlorella vulgaris: A double-blind placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. Clinical Nutrition. 2017;36(4):1001-6.
60. Lesourd BM, Mazari L. Immune responses during recovery from protein-energy malnutrition. Clinical Nutrition. 1997;16, Supplement 1:37-46.
61. Castell LM, Poortmans JR, Newsholme EA. Does glutamine have a role in reducing infections in athletes? Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1996;73(5):488-90.
62. Castell LM, Newsholme EA. The effects of oral glutamine supplementation on athletes after prolonged, exhaustive exercise. Nutrition. 1997;13(7-8):738-42.
63. Castell LM, Newsholme EA. Glutamine and the effects of exhaustive exercise upon the immune response. Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology. 1998;76(5):524-32.
64. Castell LM. Can glutamine modify the apparent immunodepression observed after prolonged, exhaustive exercise? Nutrition. 2002;18(5):371-5.
65. Mackinnon LT, Hooper SL. Plasma glutamine and upper respiratory tract infection during intensified training in swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996;28(3):285-90.
66. Rowbottom DG, Keast D, Morton AR. The emerging role of glutamine as an indicator of exercise stress and overtraining. Sports medicine (Auckland, NZ). 1996;21(2):80-97.