Those were the fun days -- focusing on health for wellness and personal well-being instead of preparing yourself for a pandemic-ready immune system. Since COVID-19, supporting a healthy immune system has become a top priority and a sign of the times.
We expect our immune system to act predictably on the tasks of fighting off harmful things like disease-inducing changes in the body, harmful environmental factors, and dodging pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. But we have to give our bodies the continual resources to function optimally. The concept of "boosting your immunity," according to Harvard Health, doesn't make much sense scientifically because there are so many diverse immunity cells and contributing factors. Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle is the key, and your collective health efforts contribute to the many factors that we know support a healthier immune system.
While the human immune system is vastly intricate and still being studied, some agreed-upon basics contribute to a robust immune system, like:
- A plant-based diet
- Reducing stress
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Drinking alcohol in moderation
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding infections
A common by-product in a majority of these healthy-immune actions listed above is the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide allows for optimizing some of our body's most basic functions, such as blood flow.
As we age, we witness two factors. 1) Our body's ability to produce nitric oxide declines about 50% by middle age and, 2) Our immune system functions begin to weaken. You may have wondered about the role nitric oxide plays in building a robust immune system. Let's take a look at some of those key roles NO plays in healthy immunity.
What role does nitric oxide play on a healthy immune system?
Nitric oxide plays a few direct roles in activating your immune system when a threat like a virus or bacteria is detected. Here are a few examples of those essential processes NO is a part of.
Transportation of immune cells
Immune cells originate from stem cells in our bone marrow and become various types of what we know as white blood cells. White blood cells are the Olympic athletes of the immune system. White blood cells race through blood and tissues, searching for foreign pathogens like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. When an immune cell locates a pathogen, it begins to create antibodies that will stick to the pathogen and destroy them.
A critical factor in this process is a healthy circulatory system, whereby blood flow is adequate and can transport white blood cells through the body to do their job. Having ample nitric oxide levels in the body allows for this relationship to work its best. Nitric oxide relaxes smooth muscles over arteries and blood vessels, allowing white blood cells to move more efficiently within the body.
Immune cell oxygen
Research from the University of Edinburgh shows that oxygen can affect how immune cells behave in the body. Hypoxia, a state of low oxygen in our cells, is observed when there's an increased need for oxygen but a low supply. Hypoxia triggers the body to induce nitric oxide production for increasing oxygen movement to our cells.
Increased blood flow
When your white blood cells detect a threat, the L-arginine pathway is activated to produce nitric oxide. L-arginine is the amino acid that delivers the materials necessary for the production of nitric oxide. In this pathway, increased nitric oxide levels increase blood flow, allowing our immune systems to take charge and operate on those key functions we expect to take place.
Vitamin C and nitric oxide production
There's never a lack of mention of the antioxidant Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) when discussing a healthy immune system. From our parents to our children, friends, and health care professionals, most of us are familiar with this recommendation to increase our Vitamin C intake when we feel a health blip. There are plenty of studies that discuss the vast array of Vitamin C effects. One of Vitamin C's primary functions is that it aids in metabolizing many essential immune-supporting functions, like nitric oxide synthases (NOS). Studies are beginning to uncover the relationship between Vitamin C and increased metabolism of nitrates into nitric oxides via NOS.
How can beets support a healthy immune system?
Beetroot contains many bioactive immune-supporting components, including:
- Ascorbic acid
Beetroot contains vital vitamins and minerals we are familiar with, such as:
- Folate (vitamin B9)
- Vitamin C
When it comes to immune system support, beetroot components that improve blood flow make this root vegetable a powerhouse for building a robust immune system.
Where to find the highest concentrations of beetroot for nitric oxide benefits and immune support
The best place to source immune-boosting components is through nutrition. As expressed by Heather Moday, MD., “One of the most foundational things you can do to improve your immune resilience is to eat a diet that supports healthy immunity.” Heather Moday is an immunity expert, medical doctor, trail runner, and leader in functional medicine.
Plant-based diets deliver vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals that your body needs to process those nitrates into nitric oxide. A plant-based diet will provide the full spectrum of benefits that isolate supplements alone cannot compete with. However, sometimes you can’t pack in the amount of leafy green poundage necessary to get the adequate amount of plant-based nitrates and replenish nitric oxide levels. That’s where high-quality nitrate-rich produce that is dried into concentrated powder form comes in.
From Olympic athletes to baby boomers looking to maintain ample NO production, you can replenish healthy, well balanced plant-based nitrates with Beet Boost and Spin Boost. Both are formulated with the highest quality beets and red spinach to help support everyday health and immune functions.