Microbes came to earth well before humans and in fact, they were the most primitive life forms ever existed on the earth. They were also key to initiate the evolution of different life forms including humans and were also critical to maintaining homeostasis of the earth. Perhaps, without microbes, no evolution could have been possible. We thus exist because of microbes.
While most of the microbes around and inside us are friendly (Commensals), some can make us ill. These are known as pathogens. We get exposed to pathogenic microbes like bacteria, fungus, and viruses every second and most of the time commensals don’t let them penetrate. However, if these pathogens get an entry in a living body then the body’s own defense system known as the immune system comes into action and tries to locate and destroy such invaders. The fight between pathogens and immunity is always on and mostly goes without our notice. But when microbes win, different symptoms appear like cough and cold, fever, inflammation, pain and so on. Hence, maintaining the immune system at the optimum level is key to avoid infections, may it be bacterial or viral.
There are different types of immune cells that work in a synchronized manner to identify, locate, capture and destroy the pathogens. Enormous oxidative stress which the pathogens generate needs to be combated with a powerful antioxidant payload which is usually concentrated in immune cells. For example, vitamin C is present at 100 times higher concentration inside immune cells than that in blood and while these cells fight infection, concentrations go still higher. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin and it holds the front-line position. This effective antioxidant serves not only to neutralize the free radical burst but also improves the motility of immune cells. It also keeps the inflammation under check and helps to improve the signaling between cells making the immune system more effective. As immunity fights pathogens, Vitamin C levels deplete rapidly leading to an aberration in response.
The ally of Vitamin C in such a situation is Glutathione, the master antioxidant. Vitamin C and Glutathione work in sync and re-generate each other. Glutathione is produced by the body itself however; age, pollution, infections cause blood glutathione levels to deteriorate. Low glutathione levels are documented to hamper the function of various immune cells (esp. lymphocytes) and these cells show restored function post restoring Glutathione levels. Glutathione is important for the identification of pathogens and also for generating antibodies that offer long term protection. It is a very effective antioxidant that keeps inflammation in the lungs under check and especially helpful in keeping lung function during a viral infection. Supplementing Vitamin C with Glutathione or with Glutathione precursors like N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) helps boost immunity and offers a better ability to fight against infections.
Compromised immunity is an important reason to acquire an infection. Elderly, diabetics, immunocompromised patients, poor dietary and lifestyle habits show poor immunity profile and hence are more susceptible to acquire infections. Ensuring an efficient and potent immunity is key to keep oneself protected and prepared. It is almost impossible to avoid exposure to pathogens, but it is definitely possible to consume a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. Also supplementing with anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, Glutathione, NAC etc which produce direct positive effect on immunity may be considered in order to boost immune functions and for being immunesure.
Authored by: Dr. Anish Desai, Strategic Medical Affairs – Adroit Biomed Ltd
(Dr. Anish Desai specialises in – Market Access, Clinical & Economic Evidence, Regulatory Affairs, Medical Devices, Nutraceuticals & Pharmaceuticals)