Immaculate Immune System
By Sabeen Faquir
Are you looking to bolster you immune system? Now that we’ve wrapped up cold and flu season, you might think what do I need to support my immune system for? Well, some viral and bacterial infections occur year-round. I’m here to tell you to think outside of the box. Sure, you can go with the tried and true vitamin C and Echinacea combo but have you heard of lactoferrin? Did you ever try garlic? Or maybe zinc?
Lactoferrin is a milk protein of the transferrin family. It is a non-heme iron binding glycoprotein with properties to boost the cell-mediated immune response. It also has anti-bacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic properties. Specifically, camel lactoferrin inhibits viral DNA replication. Because of this fact, it is known to help the recovery of those suffering from chronic hepatitis B. Primarily, lactoferrin acts by transferring iron. But, it has additional functions like interacting with heparin sulfate on cell surfaces. This prevents HBV from binding to the cell. It also prevents the HCV virus from entering leukocytes (immune cells). Bovine lactoferrin acts be enhancing leukocyte production in the gut. Bovine-derived lactoferrin has also been shown to increase the number of cells in lymph nodes and spleen. It’s also known to enhance the production of cytokines specific to the Th1 response (Kanwar et al.). Remember from one of the previous articles on Astragalus, the Th1 immune response protects the body from pathogens that can enter the cell. It is commonly found as capsules in 100-300mg bovine-derived strength.
Or have you ever tried garlic when you were sick? Rather than eating raw garlic, aged garlic can deliver a more concentrated dose of its beneficial antioxidants (Benson). AGE supplementation is also associated with enhanced immune function and possibly, reduced severity of cold and flu infections. In one study, consumption of 2.56 grams of aged garlic extract per day for 45 days resulted in the proliferation and activation of immune cells like the NK cell (Percival). NK cells are known to help the body reject tumor or virally infected cells.
And zinc plays multiple roles in the immune system. A zinc deficiency has been associated with negative effects of the immune response. In fact, zinc is known to play 3 roles: a second messenger during signal transduction, immune cell function, and nutritional immunity (Hood et al). These may mean nothing to you, so let me explain. Signal transduction is the signaling of messages from outside the cell to inside the cell. And immune cells function by recognizing and destroying invading pathogens. Zinc helps this process. Finally, sometimes, immune cells may use zinc toxicity to destroy a bacterial cell. This means that zinc that is present in the cell sequesters at the pathogen, helping destroy it in the immune cell. A good dose of zinc is about 50mg as a zinc salt or chelated to an amino acid, commonly monomethionine.
So, the next time you reach for the vitamin C, think outside the box. You might benefit from lactoferrin, aged garlic, or zinc. Talk to your doctor about these options.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease.
Jagat R. Kanwar, Kislay Roy, Yogesh Patel, Shu-Feng Zhou, Manju Rawat Singh, Deependra Singh, Muhammad Nasir, Rakesh Sehgal, Alka Sehgal, Ram Sarup Singh, Sanjay Garg and Rupinder K. Kanwar. Multifunctional Iron Bound Lactoferrin and Nanomedicinal Approaches to Enhance Its Bioactive Functions. Molecules 2015, 20(6), 9703-9731
Benson, John. Alternative Medicine Cabinet. Ages Garlic Extract (AGE). Jan/Feb 2015. 60
Percival, Susan S. Aged Garlic Extract Modifies Human Immunity. The Journal of Nutrition. January 13, 2016
Hood M, Skaar EP. Nutritional immunity: transition metals at the pathogen-host interface. Nature reviews. Microbiology. 2012 Jul 16;10(8):525-37