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Protein and Immunity: What’s the Link?

What’s the link between protein and immunity? Everybody’s thinking about immunity these days. But what exactly is it, and how do we boost it?

Well, it’s not all about vitamin C – let us introduce you to an unsung hero who it turns out can be super helpful too: protein.

In fact, the immune system is made up almost entirely of proteins – without protein, there wouldn’t even be a system at all.

What is our immune system?

A protein representing the immune system being blocked by a hand.

It’s essentially a network of complex chemical processes that our body creates to protect against potentially harmful bacteria, viruses parasites and other pathogens we come into contact with day to day.

It includes things such as white blood cells and antibodies, but also the acid in our stomachs, tears in our eyes, and even skin on our bodies, all of which serve to repel and destroy foreign invaders before they can do us any harm.

These substances and processes are all built and fuelled using the nutrients our body receives through our diet, so eating well is key to sustaining them.

Amino acids are the building blocks of many immune functions

Protein rich seeds and legumes spread across a surface.

Alongside well known immune-boosting nutrients such as Zinc and Vitamins C and A, protein is an essential ingredient in your body’s immune response.

When consumed it’s broken down into its constituent parts, amino acids, which are used by your body to produce white blood cells and antibodies. These together attack harmful foreign invaders in your body, keeping you safe, while also “remembering them” for next time so they can be dealt with extra quickly and efficiently the next time they appear. Amino acids also play an important part in regulating the chemical pathways through which your immune system detects infectious pathogens in your body and dispatches the white blood cells to deal with them.(1)

Not consuming enough of the protein your body needs has been shown to both increase the likelihood of infection as well as prevent your body from properly fighting and recovering from disease.(2)

Consuming Arginine and Glutamine in particular has been shown to improve white blood cell function, increase antibody production, reduce infection risk and accelerate healing and recovery time in patients recovering from surgeries or disease.(3) The Fit One shakes are extremely rich in both Arginine and Glutamine, containing a combined total of 6,050 mg per serving.

A high protein diet has also been shown to promote healing of damaged tissue in your body following injury and to speed up recovery from wounds and muscle damage(4), so remember to keep that shake handy if you’re recovering from a sports injury or surgery.

Weight and immune health

A woman measuring her slim waist.

Another important way eating more protein can boost your immune system is by helping with weight management and improving your body composition.

Being overweight is not only a well-known risk factor for all sorts of diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but it’s also been found to reduce the effectiveness of your white blood cells and increases your vulnerability to the flu virus(5). It also significantly increases the chance of severe infection and hospitalisation from COVID-19(6).

On the flipside, being underweight also has its risks. Not eating enough of the right nutrients deprives your body and immune system of the energy and nourishment it needs to defend itself. Balance is key.

There has never been a better time to get your weight and nutrition under control and protein is an essential tool to help you do that.

Probiotics and the immune system

probiotics and the immune system

Finally, probiotics need a mention too as they play an important role in boosting immune health. After eating them through food or supplements, these “good” bacteria make their way down through our stomach and into our intestine, where they contribute to and become a part of our microbiome, a metropolis of trillions of bacteria that live in our bodies.

In a pretty new and exciting field of study, these bacteria are increasingly found to play a critical role in the production of immune cells and in the regulation of our body’s response to certain diseases. Studies suggest that an improved and expanded microbiome can reduce our vulnerability to inflammatory, metabolic and infectious diseases.(7)(8)

For this and many other reasons we include a generous dose of probiotics, as well as the prebiotics they use as food, in our The Fit One shake.  

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