Cod Liver Oil Superfood and Healthy Immunity
The human immune system is an extraordinarily complex and intricate combination of organs, cells, and signaling factors. Our immune systems can be roughly compartmentalized into two categories; innate and acquired. The innate immune system is made up of the organs, cells, antibodies, and signaling proteins such as cytokines that we are born with. The acquired, or adaptive immune system, largely refers to the immune components, primarily various antibodies, that our immune cells make in response to exposure to pathogens such as viruses and bacteria over the course of our lifespans.
A critical consideration regarding immune function is that it must be balanced. In this instance, balanced refers to supporting the immune system’s capacity to fight foreign pathogens (viruses and bacteria) and to vigilantly patrol the body in search of aberrant cell growth and tissue damage, while at the same time to not get “stuck” in the attack mode. When our immune system becomes overly aggressive, it can cause significant damage to healthy tissues.
Key nutrients for balanced immune activity:
Omega-3 fatty acids and pro resolving mediators: Thirty yearsof research shows that omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in promoting balanced immune activity. Studies have discovered that omega-3 fatty acids have inflammation calming effects due to their capacity to convert into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids can decrease the production of inflammatory prostaglandins by reducing the quantity of fats in cellular membrane that are more likely to contribute to the inflammatory cascade.(1) Omega-3 fatty acids are also converted into anti-inflammatory cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD). The endocannabinoid system is emerging as a significant regulatory pathway of immune activity and therefore of inflammation.
Recent investigations have focused on the role of omega-3 metabolites calledspecializedproresolving mediators, which are various classes of reduced omega-3 fatty acids that communicate directly with immune cells to effect healthy and balanced immune activity(2). There are several active classes of resolving mediators that are formed from specific omega-3 fatty acids. Subgroups of specialized pro resolving mediators: resolvins, lipoxins, maresins, and protectins. These are the families are active resolving mediators that are constantly being formed throughout the human body in order to resolve inflammation and promote healing. While Steward marine superfoods contain trace amounts of these active compounds, they deliver much higher levels of the precursors to active mediators, these are the 18-HEPE, 17-HDHA, and 14-HDHA metabolites that we refer to aspro resolving mediators. These “intermediate” compounds are one the continuum from the omega-3 starting point, towards becoming active specialized pro resolving mediators (see figure #1). Supplementing the diet with pro resolving mediators as well as omega-3 fatty acids, may ensure the body has adequate raw material to keep the immune system balanced and effective.
Vitamin D: Research shows vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk for viral infections, including respiratory tract infections, by reducing production of proinflammatory compounds in the body. Increased vitamin D in the blood has been linked to support for numerous organ systems. Vitamin D is converted in the body to an active form, 25 hydroxyvitamin D, that is utilized by immune cells to communicate a restraining of immune activity (3). Vitamin D also plays a critical role in maximizing immune vigilance.
Vitamin A: Required for many biochemical roles, this micronutrient is crucial for maintaining vision, promoting growth and development, and protecting epithelium and mucus integrity (immune barrier) in the body. Also known by its various forms, retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid, vitamin A is well known for its critical role in enhancing immune function. Vitamin A is involved in the development of the immune system and plays regulatory roles in cellular immune responses and humoral (cytokine) immune processes. This essential nutrient has demonstrated a therapeutic effect in the presence of various antigens (4).