Flu season: strengthen your immune system with amino acids!
A healthy diet is essential for a strong immune system. This is nothing new. When it comes to the immune system, many people think of vitamins and trace elements. Vitamin C, D, zinc and selenium are at the forefront of this. But what should you do if you constantly fall ill despite having a sufficient supply of micronutrients? It can't be down to your diet, can it? What many people don't realise: In addition to micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and trace elements), macronutrients are also important for a functioning immune system. First and foremost protein or its building blocks - the amino acids.
Table of contents:
- Proteins: essential for the formation of antibodies and immune cells
- Which amino acids are important for a strong immune system?
- Conclusion: Strengthening the immune system with amino acids
Proteins: essential for the formation of antibodies and immune cells
Our immune defence is a complex system made up of a large number of different cells. In the event of an acute infection, e.g. with a virus, these cells multiply particularly quickly and produce antibodies and hormone-like substances (known as cytokines). The most important component of all these defence mechanisms is protein. During an acute infection, our protein requirement therefore increases by 30-40%. During cold and flu season in particular, it is therefore important to ensure a sufficient protein intake (e.g. in the form of our protein powder).
Which amino acids are important for a strong immune system
It's not just the quantity of protein that matters, but also the quality (= biological value). This means that all essential amino acids are available in sufficient quantities. These cannot be produced by the body itself and must be taken in with food. Like non-essential amino acids, they are a building block of the body's own protein and also have numerous other functions. Some are also important for the immune system. The need for certain amino acids therefore increases during acute infections. This also applies to non-essential amino acids such as glutamine or arginine. In the event of an infection, the body's own production may no longer be sufficient and the amino acids must be supplied through food.Arginine
Arginine is the precursor of nitric oxide and is primarily known for its vasodilatory properties and its resulting positive effect on the cardiovascular system. However, the amino acid also influences the immune system by stimulating the formation and activation of defence cells in the thymus gland. Macrophages, which are white blood cells, also utilise nitric oxide to protect the body from bacteria and fungi. Arginine is also important for intestinal health and thus also contributes to a strong immune system.
The amino acids cysteine and glycine (along with glutamine) are the starting materials for the antioxidant glutathione. This ensures that free radicals are rendered harmless. Free radicals favour the ageing process and inflammation. Glutathione is also found in high concentrations in lymphocytes and influences the immune response. Low plasma levels of glutathione weaken the body's defences. Cysteine and glycine are also involved in the formation of antibodies.
Glutamine is probably the most important amino acid when it comes to defence against infection. The amino acid is not only involved in the formation of immune cells, but also supplies them with energy. In contrast to the rest of our body cells, lymphocytes and other immune cells do not prefer glucose (i.e. sugar) as fuel, but glutamine. During an acute infection, our body therefore uses 10 times more glutamine. In addition, glutamine - like cysteine and glycine - is required for the formation of glutathione and is also of great importance for intestinal health. To reduce the effects of the flu and activate the immune system, some experts recommend taking 5 gL-Glutamine in the morning and evening or 10-20 g per day at the first sign of a cold.