Glutathione Supports the Immune System and Promotes Cellular Health
The immune system involves interactions between biological structures and cellular processes to help protect our bodies from serious infections and diseases. The immune system works by identifying a variety of pathogens, or agents that can infiltrate cells and tissues, causing potentially-fatal conditions. A healthy immune system can determine the difference between pathogens and healthy cells and tissues. Pathogens can invade cells allowing viruses, bacteria, parasites and microorganisms to infiltrate cells, causing a host of serious diseases including cancer. Pathogens can quickly grow and mature in healthy cells, making it extremely difficult for the immune system to recognize and eliminate them from the body.
Immune System Disorders
A weakened immune system, called immunodeficiency can lead to serious medical conditions and diseases including autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases and certain types of cancer. Immunodeficiency occurs when the body's immune system is compromised or is less active than normal. An overactive immune system, called autoimmunity can cause otherwise healthy and active cells to attack healthy tissues and organs as if they were foreign organisms in the body. Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, lupus and potentially life-threatening thyroid conditions.
How the Immune System Protects Our Bodies against Disease
The immune system protects our bodies from serious infections from bacteria, viruses, microorganisms and other agents by using multiple layers of defense mechanisms. The immune system is made up of cellular barriers that prevent dangerous agents, known as pathogens from entering and attacking our bodies. If a pathogen is able to break through these cellular barriers, a healthy immune system works to provide a fast attack response, fighting to eliminate pathogens from entering the body and infiltrating healthy tissues and organs.
Inflammation is the primary factor that alerts the immune system to fight infection. Inflammation usually affects soft tissues, organs and muscles, causing symptoms such as swelling, pain, weakness and heat, all of which are caused by increased blood flow to cells. When the immune system detects that a pathogen has entered the body, white blood cells, called leukocytes take immediate action. Known as the body's natural killer cells, leukocytes are vital to the proper functioning of the immune system. Leucocytes are able to identify and remove pathogens by killing microorganisms, bacteria and viruses before they attack organs and tissues.
The Importance of Healthy Leukocytes in Immune System Function
Leukocytes contain multiple cells that help attack pathogens that have entered the body. The cells either kill the pathogens or contain and kill microorganisms or bacteria. This group of cells, called phagocytes, also known as “fighter cells” are active throughout the body. They travel to needed locations once a pathogen is detected. In order for these fighter cells to work effectively, they must remain healthy. The death or destruction of phagocytes can wreak havoc on the immune system, allowing our bodies to become susceptible to a variety of deadly conditions and diseases. Phagocytes work by protecting bodily openings from infection, such as the lungs, intestines and gastrointestinal tract. Leukocytes play an important role in protecting our body from developing tumors before they can become malignant and spread to multiple organs. A healthy immune system can identify and destroy abnormal cancer cells before they can migrate to healthy cells in the body.
The Lymphatic System and its Role in Maintaining a Healthy Immune System
Another vital component of the immune system is the lymphatic system, a network of lymph nodes and vessels that travel throughout the body. The lymphatic system contains a clear fluid called lymph, which comes from tissue, immune system cells and waste products generated by the body. Lymph nodes, important to the immune system, are bean-shaped nodules that contain an accumulation of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymph nodes are primarily located in the neck, groin and other regions where cancer cells may accumulate. Lymphocytes, the primary cells of the immune system are produced by lymph glands, bone marrow, the thymus gland and spleen. If the immune system is not functioning properly, two severe disorders can occur. Immunodeficiency is a lack of immune system cells and autoimmune deficiency is an over-production of immune system cells. Both disorders can cause deadly diseases.
The Effects of Glutathione on the Immune System
Researchers have indicated that a healthy immune system depends on well-functioning and healthy lymph cells infused with a balanced level of glutathione. Changes of glutathione levels in cells can adversely affect functions of the lymphatic system. Studies have also found that all cellular functions including DNA and RNA synthesis are sensitive to reactive oxygen and peroxides, both of which can be reduced by healthy levels of glutathione. It has been suggested that high levels of glutathione can improve cellular health and the function of lymphocytes in healthy people. Research has shown that low levels of glutathione can cause several serious disorders and diseases including diabetes, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular conditions, kidney and liver disease and cancer.
Glutathione, the most abundant amino acid naturally produced by the body can be found in fresh leafy vegetables, fruits, grains, carbohydrates and fish. Glutathione has been found to stimulate the production of lymphocytes, as well as healthy cellular activity in the body. Low levels of glutathione can slow the healing of wounds and increase the risk of organ failure due to serious diseases.
If you are not getting enough glutathione from your diet, there are several supplements and vitamins that can help increase glutathione production. Methionine and cysteine are both natural amino acids which can help with DNA and RNA synthesis, as well as the synthesis of glutathione. Vitamins B, C and E have been shown to help improve immune system functions and help increase glutathione levels.
If you are considering taking supplements or vitamins to help increase glutathione production, it is important to speak with your healthcare professional or trusted naturopathic pharmacist to gain a clear understanding of available doses and the potential interactions with other supplements, vitamins and prescription medications you are taking. The first step in increasing glutathione production is education. The more informed you are, the better decisions you can make when it comes to your health. Protecting and maintaining your cellular health can be optimal in protecting yourself from preventable diseases and disorders associated with the normal aging process.