Stress of daily life, sleep deficiency, lack of regular meals and physical activity are the factors that decrease the probability of refuting the attack of microbes. Therefore, proper supplementation with the preparations increasing organism’s immunity to infections is essential. There is the whole range of such on the pharmaceutical market. Among them there are herbal and synthetic preparations as well as the products composed of chemical substances isolated from plants. There are also products prepared on the basis of fish oils. How do they work and what is their mechanism of activity that fights infections?
Omega-3 are fatty acids essential for the proper development of the organism, which it cannot produce on its own. Therefore, they need to be provided with food. Omega-3 acids along with omega-6 acids are called unsaturated essential fatty acids (EFAs). The following chemical compounds belong to the group of omega-3 fatty acids:
- alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), also called ;
- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA);
- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The preparations containing omega-3 fatty acids (especially EPA and DHA) were proven effective in improving immunity in people with infections of the respiratory tract. They should be applied by people with insufficient function of the immune system, especially in the period of increased incidence rate of flu and cold. Omega-3 compounds also have the ability to considerably inhibit inflammatory processes taking place in the organism, as a result of infection development.
Scientific studies carried out, i.a. in Poland prove considerable decrease of the production of inflammatory mediators after the previous application of fish oils containing omega-3 acids at the dose of 1000 mg per day for 30 days. Supplementation with these preparations caused the drop in the concentration of the substance called arachidonic acid in the organism (it is omega-6 acid), which has a strong pro-inflammatory effect.
Apart from the positive influence on the immune system, these acids also cause slowing down aging of cells and influence the inhibition of cancer processes. Regular application of these fatty acids causes considerable decrease of the concentration of triglycerides in blood, which prevents the development of atherosclerosis. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the proper development of the nervous system of the fetus and new-born baby.
Shark liver oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in mono-ingredient products and also in fish oils (constituting – next to vitamins A, D and E – yet another ingredient of the preparation). They may also be found in the supplements containing shark liver oil. In the latter, they constitute ca. 5% of all ingredients. However, lipids constitute a considerable part of these products, the so-called alkylglycerols and squalene.
The former appear in blood-forming organs (bone marrow, liver, spleen, lymphatic organs) and the organism may produce them only at the amount of 10 mg per day. Daily need of an adult human being for alkylglycerols is ca. 600 mg per day. Supplementation with the preparations containing shark liver oil causes the growth of the activity of the immune system by especially fast proliferation of the so-called NK cells (Natural Killers). These cells are responsible in the organism for the co-called natural cytotoxicity. It means that they kill the cells of microbes even before the human organism manages to produce antibodies in response to antigens (in this case – microbes). Moreover, these cells detect cancer cells in the organism, which enables fast regeneration of the organism in order to destroy them. Alkylglycerols also stimulate other cells of the immune system – macrophages – to the so-called phagocytosis, i.e. the process of “destroying” bacterial cells. These lipids also stimulate bone marrow to the production of blood cells (the so-called hematopoiesis). Squalene, on the other hand, demonstrates antifungal, antibacterial and strong antioxidant properties. It also takes part in the process of wound healing.
In Scandinavian countries, shark liver oil has been used for years in the treatment of respiratory tract and digestive system infections. Its effectiveness in immune system disorders was also proven, e.g. in lymphadenopathy, when considerable enlargement of lymph nodes takes place, as a result of the activity of antigens (bacteria, viruses, disease-causing fungi, cancer cells). While omega-3 fatty acids influence the inhibition of inflammatory processes, lipids contained in shark liver oil cause influence on the final phase of the inflammatory reaction (they intensify the so-called pro-inflammatory reaction, activating some components of the immune system).
Clinical studies confirm the effectiveness of the preparations from shark liver oil in such ailments as:
- recurring mouth ulcers,
- bacterial infection of respiratory tracts,
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