Posted by Jackson Peos in Immune Support
Estimated reading time: 11mins
In times of a pandemic, such as the one we are going through now, a healthy and functioning immune system is paramount. We must also remember that a resilient immune defence system won’t just bolster your chances of avoiding the virus or remaining asymptomatic, but it will also reduce the time of infection (if you are unfortunate enough to become symptomatic) subsequently reducing your risk of spreading the infection to others, particularly to the elderly who might not be as equipped as yourself when marching into battle with the COVID-19 virus.
It’s also important to point out, that we - as a nation - are facing several challenges that have the capacity to deteriorate our immunity. Our ability to exercise (particularly weight training) and get outdoors for fresh air has now been hindered with recent gym and fitness centre closures and strict social distancing measures. We, of course, know that moderate-intensity exercise is beneficial to our immune system for several reasons.
I’m sure at one time or another during this past two weeks we’ve all struggled to find a necessary grocery item, whether that be toilet paper, hand sanitiser, chicken or rice. These unprecedented times have caused panic among many, with that panic comes preparation for the worst. Many foresee harsher lockdown laws in the future (which may very well happen) that may threaten our ability to take trips to the grocery store, for suppliers to fill grocery store shelves, and the capacity for the food industry to operate. As such, the public has attempted (often selfishly) to over-purchase foods and provisions to supply the next 3-6 months, leaving at times sparse options for the rest of us.
Going to the supermarket recently I’ve noticed a massive hit to fresh produce. Lean meats are hard to come by, wholegrain shelves are often empty, and fruits and vegetables are few, and now overpriced. What isn’t scarce, is chocolate, ice cream, chips and lollies. If we went to the store and just purchased what was most available in this current environment, the result in the basket would look something like a show bag at the Royal Show. We have a recipe here for a reduction in our intakes of micronutrients, whole foods and protein, and an increase in ultra-processed, micronutrient-poor, trans-fat containing foods. While this change in eating behaviour not only threatens our ability to retain our muscle mass, remain at a healthy body fat level without nutrient deficiencies, but it also presents a massive risk to our immune system.
Research shows that poor nutrition choices and protein deficiency both result in impairment to humoral and cell-mediated immune function. Additionally, evidence from weight loss trials also suggests that low energy intake can interfere with healthy immune function. So how can we then structure our food behaviour during this time to prevent a compromise in immunity?
Low protein intake is known to interfere with our immune system and our resistance to infection or disease because most immune mechanisms actually rely on the production and replication of active protein compounds. So, a lack of essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) can result in an impaired response by the humoral immune system, immunity mediated by our extracellular fluids which secrete the antibodies to fight the virus!
Ensure your meals include a lean protein source and if your meal is low in protein, why not add a delicious Bulk Nutrients protein shake?
Over the past 10 years, Glutamine has been studied heavily for its ability to promote immune cell proliferation and immune function. In several trials, it was shown that glutamine supplementation can reduce infection and recovery time. In one study the inclusion of glutamine in a sports drink decreased the incidence of infections (cold, sore throat, flu) in marathon runners. I think it’s fair to say that glutamine may be effective, particularly for those already infected, for supporting immune function.
L-Arginine supplementation has been shown to increase blood lymphocyte proliferation and reduce T-cell numbers. Arginine is also the precursor of nitric oxide, an important microbicidal molecule involved with macrophage killer function. Daily supplementation MAY enhance your ability to fight infection.
Ensuring you attain a wide range of vitamins and minerals (from a diet rich in whole foods if possible) will help support your bodily functions and the body’s ability to fight off infections.
There is convincing evidence for the role of vitamin A in fighting infections, as well as the negative impacts of vitamin A deficiency on immunity. Several trials have confirmed that a lack of vitamin A can cause immune alterations that increase the incidence of infectious disease, and death. Additionally, vitamin A supplementation in these cases to correct a deficiency has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms from the infection.
Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant for the protection of our cells against oxidative damage. Controlled trials in both elderly and healthy young participants have demonstrated an enhancement of immune function with vitamin E supplementation.
Despite widespread coverage by the media of vitamin C as a combatant against the common cold, research on vitamin C to support immune function is actually quite unclear. The largest meta-analysis to date on human studies involving supplementation of vitamin C only showed immunity improvements in individuals with the lowest initial intakes of vitamin C.
In summary, the effects of vitamin A deficiency on immune function are significant and should be avoided. Additionally, there is some evidence that vitamin E and C may enhance the immune response by reducing oxidative stress. A diet compromising a high variety of different coloured fruits and veg will be your best strategy for avoiding the above vitamin deficiencies. If it becomes a time where all our fruits and veg aren’t available, it may be wise to invest in a multivitamin supplement to cover your bases.
We have a great range to choose from here at Bulk Nutrients. Green Fusion and Red Fusion are 100% natural vitamin and mineral powders that support energy levels and immune function, or for an easy all-in-one, I’d recommend checking out Proviotic Capsules.
Fatty acids affect immune function not only by the total amount of fat in the diet but also by the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Experimental studies have shown that the functional properties of immune cells can be modified by supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids via fish oil or linolenic acid. However, in some studies, authors have suggested that immune function may actually be improved with a reduction in total fat intake. Thus, don’t use this time to get lazy with your diet and slump to more “junk” style foods. Letting your daily fat intake creep up, particularly if it isn’t from omega-3 fatty acids, has the potential to hurt your immunity.
Mechanistic data suggests that both iron deficiency and iron excess can increase the chances of infection. However, it’s also important to note that there is a fairly large range of iron intakes to which the body can function normally. With that said, if these times are being accompanied by a big drop in your red meat and green veg intake and you don’t think you can rectify it with better eating behaviour, it might be worth looking into an iron supplement.
Zinc is the most important mineral for immune function. Zinc deficiency is known to cause decreased T-cell function, impaired antibody response and depletion of macrophages and lymphocytes. Luckily for us, required intakes for zinc are relatively easy to achieve through a balanced diet. So as long as you haven’t slumped to the Twisties and Twinkies diet, you’ll be ok.
For a daily dose of Zinc you can’t go past Bulk Nutrients ZMA Capsules, they contain zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 and together provide support for sleep, recovery and immune function.
To sum up, these are the key takeaways to keep your body healthy and immunity strong...