5 Uncommon Ways to Boost the Immune System
1. Glutathione Builders
Glutathione has become a common name among nutrition enthusiasts as of late – and for good reason! It’s one of the most important antioxidants produced in the body for supporting immune function and fighting off invaders, but many of us don’t make enough of it because our billions of cells are malfunctioning (what Dr. Rodier calls Cellular TOIL). Glutathione deficiency is found in people with all sorts of chronic illness, including chronic fatigue, and is often a sign that the body isn’t detoxifying properly. To stimulate glutathione production, it’s important to supplement with glutathione precursors like n-acetyl cysteine and upregulators like alpha lipoic acid (also a potent detoxifier).
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Last year, researchers discovered a second mechanism by which omega-3s support immune function. Previously, scientists believed that omega-3s simply suppressed overactive immune systems by reducing inflammation. A new study, however, suggests that omega-3s also work by pumping up white blood cell (B cell) function, solidifying omega-3s’ place among the best nutrients for immune health. That makes omega-3s a double whammy for fighting off the sniffles as the students in your life head back to school.
Need another reason to consume lots of omega-3s? These friendly fatty acids have been found to boost brain function and support healthy moods – two things you’ll definitely need come classroom time!
Though your thoughts may not travel to the gut when you think about the immune system, your body actually relies heavily on good bacteria to fuel proper immune function. Our bacterial cells, concentrated in the gut, outnumber our human cells 10 to 1 and about two-thirds of the immune system is made up of our microbiome. Once you know those stats, it’s not too surprising that probiotics can help keep the intestinal flora in balance and thus strengthen immune cell function.
4. B Vitamins
We talked about glutathione and its precursors in number one, but as it turns out, there are actually glutathione precursor precursors too (that’s a mouthful)! B vitamins play an essential role early on in ensuring glutathione production by fueling the creation of n-acetyl cysteine. Moreover, vitamin B6 deficiency has been found to suppress the immune system and inhibit the ability of lymphocytes to mature, while B2 is thought to help protect against unfriendly microbes. And just like omega-3s, B vitamins are great for improving energy and ensuring you’re on top of your study game.
5. Beta Glucans
Studies have shown that beta glucans, found in mushrooms, oats, yeast, and barley (to name a few), act as immunomodulators, or agents that stimulate a series of biological processes necessary for proper immune function. They also increase the production of macrophages, which devour harmful pathogens and release signals that allow immune cells to plan their attack strategy. As an added bonus, beta glucans promote moisturized, glowing skin by preventing the oxidation of epidermal proteins.
Bonus: Vitamin C
Okay, I know we said we were only going to talk about five ways to boost the immune system, and though vitamin C isn’t too surprising, it’s so important that we have to add a sixth way. A recent review of 29 studies showed that vitamin C can reduce the risk of developing a cold, especially in athletes. Plus, another study just confirmed vitamin C’s immune-boosting benefits in men ages 18-25. After eight weeks of supplementing with 1,000mg of vitamin C/day, subjects in the vitamin C group reported fewer instances of the common cold and those who did get sick experienced 59% shorter colds than those in the placebo group.
In the final two weeks of the study, a 40% increase in physical activity was seen, which helps your body fight off colds and promotes longevity too. Researchers attribute the observed increase in activity to vitamin C’s ability to reduce oxidative stress, thereby diminishing fatigue and muscle recovery time. Convinced yet?
With these six allies for boosting immune function, you’re ready to take on any pesky pathogens or nasty microbes that stand in your way.