Why is it that some people survive cold and flu season with hardly a sniffle, yet others seem to catch cold after cold, the stomach and other flu varieties and every other flavor-of-the-month malady? What is the difference between these two groups?
The answer is that not all immune systems function alike. While it’s true one cannot get a “cold” or respiratory infection without an infectious agent, everyone carries around a generous supply of both viruses and bacteria and, for the most part, the immune system does a remarkable job of defending against them to maintain health.
It’s important to recognize the immune system is precisely that: a system, not a single entity. It is perhaps the single most important body system when it comes to maintaining health and living a vibrant, active lifestyle. The immune system consists of organs, glands, lymphatics, specialized white blood cells and antibodies. Each has a different responsibility, but they all work together.
A healthy immune system provides multiple response layers against infectious agents. Many nutrients in botanicals provide support for these pathways of defense. Together, these promote healthy immune function and ensure all parts of the immune system can get the support necessary to function optimally, depending on the part that needs the most support.
A healthy inflammatory response is the body’s natural attempt at self-protection for the immune system to overcome the effect of invading organisms or toxins. This also plays a role in the removal of dead or injured tissues. However, the immune system can become its own worst enemy if the intricate set of checks and balances associated with inflammation becomes disrupted. If excessive inflammation occurs, the body’s own tissues can become damaged from direct attack.
Excessive inflammation can occur as part of an autoimmune reaction, as well as collateral tissue damage from a normal immune response. This is because the reactions used to defend against invaders involves the generation of high levels of toxic free radicals and oxidative stress. It is more likely to occur when the natural antioxidant defenses are diminished or depleted.
When this happens, the immune system can benefit from additional nutrients targeted to promote a healthy immune-related inflammatory response.
Key immune support ingredients
Astragalus is a plant with immunoregulatory properties that promotes a healthy internal response to ever-changing immune challenges.1
Milk thistle provides an immune balancing effect that may be of benefit in promoting healthy immune responses. It also supports liver function and detoxification, particularly in times of increased immune challenges.2
Monoammonium glycyrrhizinate is an active component from licorice root that promotes a healthy immune response for viral regulation.3
Olive leaf extract provides compounds for the promotion and support of a healthy immune response in the gut as well as systemically in the body.4
The compounds in elderberry can promote a healthy immune reaction to viral challenges and replication in human cells. This can support a healthy immune response to the virus.5,6
EpiCor yeast extract promotes significant anti-inflammatory activity to maintain balanced immune function and supports a healthy inflammatory response.7
The fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, and E play important roles in supporting immune function health, as well as supporting healthy management of the oxidative stress associated with immune challenges.8
The water-soluble vitamins C and B1 (thiamine) play important roles in immune health and response. They support healthy metabolic function and aid in the detoxification of excessive free radicals that can occur during immune system challenges. They promote the healthy activity of immune system cells that are on the front lines of defense.9
The trace minerals zinc, copper and selenium play crucial roles in supporting and maintaining healthy immune function, especially during periods of acute immune system challenges. Selenium is an essential trace mineral that supports viral immune defenses in part by diminishing viral replication. It also acts as an antioxidant and supports liver function.10
The essential amino acid derivative N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a powerful immune support nutrient. NAC maintains both short- and long-term viral defenses. It also supports the production of glutathione, detoxification, lung health and the management of free radicals from excessive oxidative stress.11
Proteolytic enzymes such as bromelain and papain support healthy cellular turnover rates and play a role in the clearing of cellular debris as a result of an excessive immune response.12
The herbal extracts of echinacea and goldenseal root offer benefits for immune support and response, especially in the beginning stages of immune challenges.13
Phytonutrients are natural compounds showing tremendous value in balancing the effects of excessive free radicals and their negative impact on health. Hundreds of plants naturally produce these compounds, such as flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenolics and anthocyanins, to protect the tissues from excessive oxidative stress. A multitude of plants contain these antioxidants, including berries, turmeric, many teas, coffee and virtually all other fruits, vegetables, herbs and plants.14
In addition, naturally occurring complex polysaccharides from plants—including arabinogalactan, mannanoligosaccharides and fructooligosaccharides (FOS)—support the rich supply of immune tissue in the intestinal tract. This is important because 70% to 80% of the immune system is in the intestinal tract, called the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT).15
Jack Grogan is chief science officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition. He is a recognized expert in hair mineral analysis, a valuable tool in determining the causes of nutritional imbalances or deficiencies. With considerable experience in the fields of biology, biochemistry and nutrition, he has been influential in the development of hundreds of proprietary nutritional formulas and programs.
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2 Wilasrusmee C et al. “Immunostimulatory effect of Silybum Marianum (milk thistle) extract.” Med Sci Monit. 2002;8(11):BR439-443.
3 Wang ZG et al. “Immunoregulatory studies on ammonium lycyrrhizinate in mice.” Inst Basic Medical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing. 1990;4(1):36-38.
4 Magrone T et al. “Olive Leaf Extracts Act as Modulators of the Human Immune Response.” Endocrine, Metabolic and Immune Disorders. 2018;18(1):85-93(9).
5 Emiko Kinoshita et al. “Anti-Influenza Virus Effects of Elderberry Juice and Its Fractions.” Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2012;76(9):1633.
6 University of Sydney. “Elderberry compounds could help minimize flu symptoms, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. 2019;April.
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9 Amrein K, Oudemans-van Straaten HM, Berger MM. “Vitamin therapy in critically ill patients: focus on thiamine, vitamin C, and vitamin D.” Intensive care medicine. 2018;44(11):1940-1944.
10 Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. “Trace Minerals, Immune Function, and Viral Evolution.” National Academies Press (US).1999;16.
11 DeFlora S et al. “Attenuation of influenza-like symptomatology and improvement of cell-mediated immunity with long-term N-acetylcysteine treatment.” Eur Respir J. 1997;10(7):1535-1541.
12 Rathnavelu V et al. “Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications. Biomed Rep. 2016;5(3):283-288.
13 Rehman J et al. “Increased production of antigen-specific immunoglobulins G and M following in vivo treatment with the medicinal plants Echinacea angustifolia and Hydrastis Canadensis.” Immunol Lett. 1999;68(2-3):391-395.
14 Bupta C, Prakash D. “Phytonutrients as therapeutic agents.” J Complement Integr Med. 2014;11(3):151-169.
15 Kelly GS. “Larch arabinogalactan: clinical relevance of a novel immune-enhancing polysaccharide.” Altern Med Rev. 1999;4(2):96-103.