This article is a continuation of our prior articles on immunity. Once again there is no “magical” formula of supplements/herbals to improve your immunity but requires practicing the fundamentals as outlined previously and making sure you have adequate nutrient levels. This can be done by performing the Micronutrient Test. This test measures the levels of nutrients within your own white blood cells that make up a key portion of your immune system. This measurement also reflects the levels of these various nutrients over a few months’ time and not what is being immediately circulated in the blood stream. For more information you can view this video or find out more by visiting our website.
Most everyone has heard about zinc, recently for its antiviral properties. Zinc is known to be antiviral as it inhibits viral replication inside the cell by blocking an enzyme known as RNA polymerase. It decreases the response of a receptor on your cells known as ACE 2 receptor that is a viral “entry” point.
Additionally, zinc stimulates Natural Killer cell (NK cell) activity and increases the process of phagocytosis, when innate immune cells called macrophages engulf pathogens and injured cells. Zinc is critical in producing and regulating adaptive immune cells known as T lymphocytes, decreasing inflammatory cytokines helping to reduce inflammation. Furthermore, zinc helps to increase and regulate your pH level. This is important because studies show that as your pH becomes more acidic (goes down) there is increased viral fusion into your cells.
Last, zinc helps in building your respiratory and digestive barrier system as mentioned in part 1. Zinc is also essential in the conversion of beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Moreover, it maintains the size and health of the thymus gland (a vital part of the immune system) and regulates the production of an important hormone from the thymus, known as thymulin.
It is estimated that about 40% of the US population is deficient in magnesium! This mineral is essential in maintaining proper function of the heart and cardiovascular system, as well as the immune system.
Magnesium is involved in antibody production, the antibodies’ ability to attack infected cells and pathogens, immune cell adherence, macrophage response, and assists in the activation of vitamin D. It is an important antioxidant and has been identified to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Another important mineral is selenium. It is used within the body in certain selenium containing enzymes that produce antioxidants which help in regulating the inflammatory process. Also, selenium has been shown to have beneficial effects for both the innate and adaptive immune system and plays an important role in the production of cytokines and eicosanoids (fish oil) derivatives.
This mineral can affect innate immunity and is used by some enzymes inside and outside the cells to inhibit microbial growth. It is known for improving antiviral activity and is essential in activating immune cellular signaling (communication) pathways. Manganese has antioxidant properties and helps produce an important antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD).
This mineral has been found to help with the function of B and T lymphocytes, macrophages, and NK cells. More importantly it affects a white blood cell called a neutrophil, which is considered part of your innate immune system.
It is also found in a copper-based SOD enzyme. A careful balance between zinc and copper is ideal for the most efficient functioning immune system.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, enzymes, certain hormones, and the main antioxidant/anti-inflammatory called glutathione. Amino acids are necessary in the production of antibodies, cytokines, and other immune fighting substances.
Additionally, amino acids are involved in the activation of T and B lymphocytes, NK cells, macrophages, and lymphocyte proliferation. Furthermore, they play an important role in the genetic expression of the immune cells and their ability to regulate inflammation involving redox reactions.
Eicosanoids/Omega -3 Fats/Fish Oils
Studies have found that these supplements have a tremendous immunomodulatory effect on the entire immune system. They are incorporated into the cell membrane of all the immune cells and therefore have substantial impact on immune cell response. Also, they are involved in the production of specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) which help to reduce inflammation, balance the immune system, and repair damaged tissue.
It is worth mentioning again that about 70- 0% of the immune system is imbedded in the digestive system. Many of these probiotic bacteria and other microorganisms produce compounds that send chemical signals that help modulate both the innate and adaptive immune cells found in the digestive system. They then send protein chemical messengers called cytokines throughout the body influencing other immune cells.
In addition, probiotics are involved in stimulating the B – lymphocytes to produce the protective antibody called secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) that “coats” and protects the lining of the digestive tract.
This is a compound called a flavonoid that is found in many fruits and vegetables such as apples, citrus, capers, onions, shallots, grapes, tomatoes, berries, and vegetables in the brassica family. However, many people need additional amounts to help their immune system.
Quercetin is anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and an anti-viral. Also, it prevents platelet aggregation (clotting), has antihistamine properties, and decreases the permeability of your blood capillaries. Additionally, another interesting function is that it acts like an ionophore for zinc. An ionophore allows an increased amount of a substance into the cells. Therefore, it improves the absorption of zinc.
N- acetylcysteine (NAC) is amino acid derived and is a precursor to glutathione. NAC is a strong antioxidant and detoxifier, and it also helps to reduce mucous production. Moreover, it can reduce the effects of a cytokine storm and decrease the likelihood of tissue damage from acute inflammation.
Glutathione is the main antioxidant in the body, and it helps to reduce inflammation. Additionally, it has important effects on regulating certain types of immune cells, especially T regulatory lymphocytes. You can read more on these two remarkable amino acid derived compounds in previous newsletters which you can find under the blog section of our website.
Herbals and Other Compounds
There are many other herbals and nutrients that have beneficial or modulating effects on the immune system. We will go into detail on some of these compounds individually with future newsletters. Below, is a list of herbals and nutrients that have known beneficial effects:
- Andrographis complex
- Epigallocatechin (ECGC) – often from green tea
- Lipoic acid
As you can see, there are many other nutrients and compounds that have beneficial and immunomodulatory effects on all parts of the immune system and barrier system. Making sure you have a diverse, mostly organic diet along with good digestion will help to ensure that you get many of these needed nutrients and that you are also capable of absorbing them!
Like always, we hope this information is helpful. If you are curious to find out about the levels of some of these nutrients in your cells, we highly recommend the 31- icronutrient test. More information about this test is available on our website under laboratory testing in the services tab. You may also contact our office at (480) 732- 0911 for information or to set up a functional medicine appointment to have your immune system evaluated.