If the past year has taught us anything, it’s likely about the importance of a robust, well-functioning, balanced immune system. As we move into a new normal, we hope everyone remembers this lesson.
But how does one continue to strengthen and support their immune system to protect against disease and unbalance?
Immunomodulators are here to help.
Suppress or Stimulate
At their essence, immunomodulators are any substances, natural or synthetic, that affect the functioning of the immune system. Typically, people take immunomodulators to regulate, normalize, and correct out-of-balance immune systems.
More specifically, immunomodulators are broken down into two categories: immunosuppressants and immunostimulants.
Immunosuppressants suppress the immune system in an effort to control an overactive immune system that may arise in certain autoimmune diseases, graft rejections, etc.
Immunostimulants stimulate and enhance the body's immune response and resistance to infection, ultimately raising the body’s baseline level of immune response. Studies have shown that diseases such as: autoimmune disease, immunodeficiency, viral infection, and cancer can be treated with immunostimulants.
A New Frontier
Currently, immunology, or the study of immunity, is garnering a lot of attention, funding, and is one of the most rapidly developing areas of medical biotechnology research. Immunomodulators are being looked to for the treatment and prevention of disorders and diseases related to inflammation of the skin, respiratory tract, organs, joints, and gut.
Further, medicine is beginning to regard infectious diseases as immunological disorders while the cause of tumors (neoplastic disease) and autoimmune diseases are being accepted as symptoms of an immunosuppressive state.
How They Work
In the most basic sense, immunomodulators help stimulate the body’s natural and adaptive defense mechanisms like the production of cytokines. These are small proteins that are vital to the activity of other immune systems cells and blood cells because they act as a signaling agent telling the immune system to kick into high gear. Unfortunately, many of the immunosuppressants and immunostimulants currently used in clinical settings have serious side effects.
Such adverse reactions are causing a rising interest in the use of herbal and fungal medicines as preventative immunomodulators. These natural remedies have been shown to help your immune system find homeostasis and prevent infection, instead of treating immune-related disorders and imbalances after the fact. Natural immunomodulators are less potent than prescription ones, meaning they’re also less likely to cause side effects.
Natural plant and fungi-based immunomodulators have been proven effective against bacterial infection, cancer, Hepatitis B, psoriasis, and eczema.
It’s believed that many of the active immunostimulating and/or immunosuppressive compounds in natural medicines work in conjunction with each other. For instance, ingesting the extraction of an entire medicinal plant/mushroom rather than isolating out one compound for medical use.
A Few Examples
Some of the most well-studied and common natural immunomodulators include:
- Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidium)
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
- Capsaicin (hot peppers)
- Resveratrol (found in the skin of grapes, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts)
- Moringa oleifera
The path to vitality is marked by prevention, discipline and patience. Finding a general sense of balance within, and homeostasis with your surrounding environment plays an integral part to a healthy life. Immunomodulators are no silver bullet but are here to provide a helping step along that path.