As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and new strains are discovered, more and more people are seeking ways to boost the natural defenses inherent in their immune systems. In fact, according to research from Fortune Business Insights, this is more than a passing trend: sales of immune health supplements are projected to grow from $16 billion in 2019 to $29 billion by 2027.
What Is the Immune System?
The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection. The immune system keeps a lifelong record of every threatening foreign pathogen it encounters so that it can swiftly recognize and destroy them if they re-invade the body.
Amino Acids and Immune Health
Most experts agree that nutrition plays a critical role in immune health. Protein rich diets can help ensure that the body maintains levels of certain amino acids to help it ward off infections. The body uses amino acids acquired from dietary proteins to build new proteins – including those that make up the immune system. Diets that lack protein and the specific amino acids they contain lead to lower white blood cell counts, inhibiting the body’s ability to combat disease. Dietary supplements that contain amino acids can provide essential immunity-boosting nutrients.
The following amino acids can strengthen key functions of the immune system:
- L-Arginine and L-Citrulline help activate the body’s white blood cells, which detect, ingest and eliminate harmful foreign bodies including viruses.
- Glutathione, L-Cysteine, N-Acetyl Cysteine (aka NAC), and Cystine are antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals, which are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness, aging and a host of diseases.
- Histidine helps reduce overactive allergic and inflammatory reactions to germs and other bacteria, which can cause the immune system to overreact and destroy healthy tissue and lead to autoimmune disease.
- L-Glutamine is used when one is sick or injured, as it helps kill invading pathogens by boosting white cell production in key organs such as the liver. It is also essential to gut health, which has an impact on the immune system.
- L-Lysine works to relieve stress in the body to regulate immune response.
How “Natural” are the Supplements that Bolster the Body’s Natural Defenses?
Consumers have varying dietary and lifestyle preferences, and when it comes to supplements, there may be more than meets the eye about which brands to choose. For many people, it’s important to understand whether or not their supplements are made from plants or animals (or both). In addition, many consumers would like more information from supplement manufacturers about their sourcing standards, chemical usage, farming practices and more.
Because the supplement market lags behind the food industry in terms of regulatory oversight, it’s important for conscious consumers to learn how to decipher labels, and what questions should be asked of supplement manufacturers.
For example, some amino acids are manufactured through a process called hydrolysis, which extracts amino acids from the inedible parts of slaughtered animals – including fish silage, hooves, hair, skin, feathers and teeth from cows, pigs and chickens. This process often uses harsh chemicals, such as hydrochloric acid, which can have a detrimental impact on the environment.
There are also many products on the market that are plant-sourced and truly vegan. Most plant-based products use fermentation, a relatively natural method that utilizes microorganisms to produce individual amino acids from plants, including sugar cane, soy and corn.
The bottom line is that supplementation can be an effective way to boost immune health. And for those consumers who prefer more natural, plant-based lifestyles, the labels can help them make choices that are compatible with their values.
AminoFacts is Here to Help.