Your body has an army to defend itself against foreign invaders: the immune system. Your body's immune system protects you from viruses, bacteria, fungi, toxins, and other things that may cause you harm.
To fight this internal battle against harmful invaders, your immune system responds by creating inflammation. Your body's inflammatory response allows you to overcome infections and helps you repair damaged tissues (think of a bruise!).
Normally, your body regulates its immune response so that just enough inflammation is released to heal you. However, when your immune system fails to function appropriately, it will also fail to properly employ the right amount of inflammation in your body – potentially causing more harm than good.
If your immune system overreacts to harmful stimuli, this can wreak havoc on your body and result in autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation.
Consequences of an Overactive Immune System
Cytokine storm is an extreme, uncontrolled inflammatory response where the immune system harms its body. This dangerous reaction has been a primary contributor to the death of patients with Covid-19, as the immune system attacks the body to fight the illness.
Allergies: a reaction commonly presented in forms such as sneezing, stuffy noses, and rashes in response to hypersensitivity to certain substances.
Eating fried foods, sodas, processed meats (hamburgers, hotdogs), and refined carbohydrates promote immune system overactivity.
On the other hand, if your immune system under-reacts to external and internal pathogens, harmful pathogens such as parasites or cancer cells will be able to invade and harm your body. Contributors to an underactive immune system include congenital genetic disabilities, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, chronic stress, overeating, lack of sunlight, and lack of exercise.
Consequences of an Underactive Immune System
Cancer. When the body's immune response is not strong enough, it fails to defeat cancer-causing pathogens. Some examples of cancer-causing pathogens:
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – cervical cancer
- HIV – Kaposi sarcoma, leukemias
- Hepatitis B&C – liver cancer
- Helicobacter Pylori – stomach cancer
- Epstein Barr virus – nasopharyngeal cancer
Infections: Bacteria, mold, parasites, and viruses
As you can see, an out-of-balance immune system (overactive or underactive) leads to health problems and disabilities.
However, there's hope! There are immune system “modulators” that balance the immune system (homeostasis) and allow it to function at its optimal performance. Luckily, we can eat natural foods and make healthy life choices to increase these “modulators” and boost our immune systems.
Here is a list of 10 Immune System Modulators:
1. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D, plays an essential role in regulating calcium and phosphorus metabolism. This vitamin acts as an immunomodulatory and targets various immune cells, including macrophages, monocytes, T-cells, B-cells, and dendritic cells.
According to one study, it is reported that a high dose of vitamin D3 modulates the immune response in mammals via negative regulation of the NF-kB signaling pathway. (Cheng, Tang, et al., 2020) Another scientific study reported that vitamin D3 glycoside and lipopolysaccharide modulates the immune response in the broilers by increasing the production of interleukin-10. (Nunes, de Souza Duarte et al. 2020).
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a reducing agent and acts as an antioxidant. This vitamin is essential against acute aflatoxin activity in guinea pigs. (Sahoo and Mukherjee 2003) In another study, it is reported that vitamin C increases the interferon-γ by reducing the IL-4 in the cultured primary splenocytes; this, in turn, suppresses the Th2-type immune response. The findings of this research suggested that the dose of vitamin C is helpful in the prevention of soybean allergies. (Sun, Li et al. 2009).
Zinc acts as a cofactor for enzymes involved in cell proliferation, such as DNA replication and signaling pathways. It is reported that zinc plays a significant role in innate immunity. For example, one of the zinc-dependent hormones, “thymulin” secreted from the thymic stroma is responsible for T-cell proliferation. (Goswami, Bhar, et al. 2005).
4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are the precursor molecules for lipid signaling pathways and play a significant role in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Research studies indicated that these fatty acids are helpful against heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and diabetes. (Zivkovic, Telis, et al. 2011) One study indicated that omega-3 fatty acids suppress the activity of nuclear transcription factors such as NF-KB and decrease the synthesis of cytokine and inflammatory enzyme production. (Kang and Weylandt 2008).
5. Turmeric (curcumin)
Turmeric is a well-known herbaceous plant because it is anti-inflammatory and prevents inflammatory diseases. Curcuminoids are one of turmeric's main components with potent anti-inflammatory properties. (Chainani-Wu 2003) One research study reported that turmeric extract contains prebiotics, probiotics, and anti-inflammatory compounds. Prebiotics and probiotics promote the health of the gastrointestinal tract. (Yazdi, Soleimanian-Zad et al. 2019).
6. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables consist of various compounds responsible for health benefits. Regular consumption of these vegetables overcomes nutritional deficiencies and provides a healthy immune system. These vegetables contain antioxidants, which combat free radicals in the body and provide a defense mechanism against free radicals. In-vitro studies reported that these GLVs are a rich source of antioxidant vitamins. (Gupta and Prakash 2009).
7. Green Tea
Green tea is a tea type commonly used as a beverage globally. It consists of catechins that play an essential role in modulating biological activities and thus provide health benefits. As a nutritional modulator, it is effective against obesity and cancer. Studies reported that it contains a compound known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that is effective against cancer. (Rahmani, Allemailem et al. 2015) Another study suggested that green tea is a rich source of antioxidants and effective against oxidative stress. (Peluso and Serafini 2017).
8. Allium Vegetables
Allium vegetables are a rich source of organosulfur compounds, protecting against several cancer types. The Allium family includes onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots. (Bianchini and Vainio 2001) According to research studies, the extracts of these compounds show antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. (S Bisen and Emerald 2016).
9. Olive Oil
Olive oil exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and prevents cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The antioxidant effect of olive oil is due to the presence of linoleic acid, oleuropein, tyrosol, and hydroxytyrosol. (Wahle, Caruso, et al. 2004) Olive oil also consists of phenolic compounds that improve lipid metabolism, improve immune function, and prevent obesity. (Farràs, Martinez-Gili et al. 2020).
Berries are a rich source of minerals, vitamins, and anthocyanins. In-vitro studies suggested that berry bioactive compounds play an essential role in oxidative stress. According to the studies, it is reported that berries improve the lipid profile in humans and help in the improvement of total antioxidant status. (Del Bo, Martini, et al. 2015).
The phenolic compounds in the berries are also helpful against cancer and have anti-inflammatory and cell regulatory effects. Overall, berries improve heart health and show high nutritional relevance for heart patients. (Beattie, Crozier et al. 2005).
Our bodies are constantly fighting pathogens to try to stay healthy. When we have chronic inflammation or a weakened immune system, our body may not be able to fight off everything we come into contact with entirely, which is why taking care of our immune system and using supplements to support it. Chiropractic care also helps to optimize your immune system's functions. Specific nutritional supplements also have significant research to show that they boost your immune system and keep it functioning correctly.
- Beattie, J., A. Crozier and G. G. Duthie (2005). “Potential health benefits of berries.” Current Nutrition & Food Science 1(1): 71-86.
- Bianchini, F. and H. Vainio (2001). “Allium vegetables and organosulfur compounds: do they help prevent cancer?” Environmental health perspectives 109(9): 893-902. Chainani-Wu, N. (2003). “Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of tumeric (Curcuma longa).” The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 9(1): 161-168.
- Cheng, K., Q. Tang, X. Guo, N. A. Karow and C. Wang (2020). “High dose of dietary vitamin D3 modulated the yellow catfish (Pelteobagrus fulvidraco) splenic innate immune response after Edwardsiella ictaluri infection.” Fish & Shellfish Immunology.
- Del Bo, C., D. Martini, M. Porrini, D. Klimis-Zacas and P. Riso (2015). “Berries and oxidative stress markers: an overview of human intervention studies.” Food & function 6(9): 2890-2917.
- Farràs, M., L. Martinez-Gili, K. Portune, S. Arranz, G. Frost, M. Tondo and F. Blanco-Vaca (2020). “Modulation of the Gut Microbiota by Olive Oil Phenolic Compounds: Implications for Lipid Metabolism, Immune System, and Obesity.” Nutrients 12(8): 2200.
- Goswami, T., R. Bhar, S. Jadhav, S. Joardar and G. Ram (2005). “Role of dietary zinc as a nutritional immunomodulator.” Asian-australasian journal of animal sciences 18(3): 439-452.
- Gupta, S. and J. Prakash (2009). “Studies on Indian green leafy vegetables for their antioxidant activity.” Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 64(1): 39-45.
- Kang, J. X. and K. H. Weylandt (2008). Modulation of inflammatory cytokines by omega-3 fatty acids. Lipids in Health and Disease, Springer: 133-143.
- Nunes, R. A., M. de Souza Duarte, P. H. R. F. Campos, L. L. de Oliveira, F. F. e Silva, B. S. Kreuz, C. G. Mirabile, S. O. Borges and A. A. Calderano (2020). “Active vitamin D3-glycoside preserves weight gain and modulates the inflammatory response in broiler chickens challenged with lipopolysaccharide.” Animal Feed Science and Technology 270: 114704.
- Peluso, I. and M. Serafini (2017). “Antioxidants from black and green tea: From dietary modulation of oxidative stress to pharmacological mechanisms.” British journal of pharmacology 174(11): 1195-1208.
- Rahmani, A. H., K. S. Allemailem, S. M. Aly and M. A. Khan (2015). “Implications of green tea and its constituents in the prevention of cancer via the modulation of cell signalling pathway.” BioMed research international 2015.
- S Bisen, P. and M. Emerald (2016). “Nutritional and therapeutic potential of garlic and onion (Allium sp.).” Current Nutrition & Food Science 12(3): 190-199.
- Sahoo, P. and S. Mukherjee (2003). “Immunomodulation by dietary vitamin C in healthy and aflatoxin B1-induced immunocompromised rohu (Labeo rohita).” Comparative immunology, microbiology and infectious diseases 26(1): 65-76.
- Sun, P., D. Li, B. Dong, S. Qiao, X. Ma and X. Chen (2009). “Vitamin C: An immunomodulator that attenuates anaphylactic reactions to soybean glycinin hypersensitivity in a swine model.” Food chemistry 113(4): 914-918.
- Wahle, K. W., D. Caruso, J. J. Ochoa and J. L. Quiles (2004). “Olive oil and modulation of cell signaling in disease prevention.” Lipids 39(12): 1223.
- Yazdi, F. G., S. Soleimanian-Zad, E. van den Worm and G. Folkerts (2019). “Turmeric Extract: Potential Use as a Prebiotic and Anti-Inflammatory Compound?” Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 74(3): 293-299.
- Zivkovic, A. M., N. Telis, J. B. German and B. D. Hammock (2011). “Dietary omega-3 fatty acids aid in the modulation of inflammation and metabolic health.” California agriculture 65(3): 106.