Supporting Redox Balance for Immune Health
The immune response depends on intracellular oxidation-reduction (redox) reactions. Redox active molecules fulfill key functions in immunity. Redox reactions trigger and shape the immune response. Regulatory mechanisms provided by redox-activated signaling events guarantee the correct proceeding of immunological processes. However, redox active (free radical) molecules can be harmful to healthy host cells as well as to pathogens. Continued imbalances in redox homeostasis eventually lead to crucial failures of control mechanisms. It’s well accepted that a build-up of free radicals leads to unchecked inflammation and various immune related concerns. Maintaining balance between free-radical and antioxidant activity inside the cells is crucial.
If we lived in a pristine environment, the antioxidants we normally consume in a natural and diverse whole food diet might possibly be enough to support redox homeostasis. The problem is, we don’t. Environmental toxins are ubiquitous, and are one of the biggest offenders in disrupting redox balance.
We don’t normally like to think about the fact that just filling our gas tank exposes us to toxic gasoline fumes. Or that walking or driving down a busy street exposes us to carbon monoxide from car exhaust. Contaminants in our water and food (like arsenic or lead or pesticides or plastic), the chemicals in body care products…the chemicals we inhale, consume and absorb…it all adds up to creating a lot of free radical activity in our bodies on top of what is normally produced through metabolic processes.
Free radicals are generated in initiating and sustaining the active immune response and antioxidants are needed and used in greater volume than under normal conditions. Research literature continues to validate the benefits of moderate antioxidant supplementation, especially for supporting the immune system.* Antioxidant nutrients, like selenium, zinc and vitamins A, C, D, and E, synergize to support redox balance.* Many herbs also support redox balance—especially turmeric or its active compound, curcumin.* Glutathione is a potent cellular antioxidant, and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is its rate-limiting precursor so supplementation with glutathione or glutathione precursors is an additional strategy.*
The simple fact is that nutrient needs increase during illness. And often, food intake decreases concurrently. It’s an interesting paradox, that when we actually need more nutrients, the body also decreases appetite to conserve and utilize energy that would be normally used for digestion and absorption. So the body is relying on its reserve of nutrients. The problem is that for many people the reserve is inadequate, being used to combat environmental toxicity. That’s why building up nutrient reserves, and supplementing key nutrients when they’re needed most, supports more optimal and complete recovery.