About Immune System and Immune-Boosting Supplements

Why some immune system suppliments can trigger a rosacea flareWhen your body is invaded by bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that  might be harmful, it mounts an immune response to help combat infection. Your  immune system protects your body against antigens, which are any substances that  trigger the production of antibodies and can include chemicals, drugs, fungi, food toxins and  other foreign particles in addition to bacteria and viruses. Most antigens are complex proteins that can be attached to and destroyed by these immune cells.  The immune system also helps to reduce inflammation throughout your body and can help break chronic inflammatory cycles such as asthma, joint inflammation, respiratory disorders, allergies, stomach disorders, age-related inflammation and inflammatory skin disorders.  A healthy immune system is crucial to your long-term health and prevention of disease.

Nutritional supplements have long been used  to boost your immunity. 

Nutritional experts use supplements along with immune-boosting superfoods to improve the health and function of your  immune system, including acidophilus, beta-1,3-D-glucan, bovine colustrum,  coenzyme Q10, essential fatty acids, garlic, glutathione, kelp, L-arginine,  L-ornithine, cat’s claw, AHCC, goldenseal, elderberry, lecithin granules, extracts from maiitake, reishi or shiitake  mushroom extracts, astragalus, manganese, quercetin, bromelain, selenium, superoxide dismutase and  vitamins A, C and E.

[message_box title=”Boosting Your Immune System May Have Adverse Effects” color=”red”]Most rosacea sufferers are under the impression that their immune system is “weak” or “ineffective” and this idea may play a role in the progression and treatment of their rosacea.  The primary reason for the publication of this article is due to the fact that many rosacea sufferers are taking multiple immune system boosting supplements  in the belief that this will help their rosacea — when in fact — they may be contributing to their rosacea progression.  As you will read below, in most cases, opting for natural source anti-oxidants and super foods  plus avoiding  immune system boosters that contribute to rosacea-affected skin flare ups and progression is the best treatment — not sending more immune cells to the inflamed site.[/message_box]

The Immune System and Rosacea

Under normal conditions the immune system protects the human body from foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses and other harmful microorganisms.  However, in certain inflammatory skin disorders such as rosacea, immune cells can do more harm than good.  It is important for rosacea sufferers and physicians to understand that rosacea is not an autoimmune disorder and that most rosacea sufferers have a perfectly healthy immune system.

How triggering an increase in the immune system response aggravates rosacea.

  • In rosacea, chronic facial flushing and skin inflammation cause the immune system to become over-reactive.
  • The immune system sends over-whelming numbers of immune cells into the facial skin.
  • These immune cells then set up camp around facial blood vessels, releasing inflammatory substances that can trigger dilation, weaken blood vessel walls and cause inflammatory papules/pustules.

Then why can loading up the immune system trigger rosacea flare ups?

In rosacea sufferers, the immune system is simply over-reacting to facial inflammation and chronic bouts of flushing.  Basically creating a false-positive response. Over time, the immune system due to over stimulation response becomes exaggerated and counterproductive to rosacea skin types.

Increasing Immune Cells To Skin Dilate Facial Blood Vessels

After being delivered to the facial skin, immune cells penetrate through the blood vessel walls and set up camp around facial blood vessels in surrounding tissue.  At this strategic point, immune cells can guide other cells into the area of inflammation by releasing dilator substances onto local blood vessels — increasing blood flow into the respective area of facial skin (flushing & redness).  Over time, this immune response increases facial inflammation.  The exact reason why immune cells gather in areas of chronic facial flushing is not known at this time, but it is thought that increased facial blood flow, increased facial heat and damaged facial blood vessels all play a role in this exaggerated immune cell response.

How Over Active Immune Cells Damage Facial Blood Vessels through the Release of Inflammatory Substances and Free Radicals

Immune cells that set up camp in the skin can release damaging substances such as enzymes and free radicals, directly onto blood vessels.  Release of these substances is a normal function that is important in protecting and destroying microorganisms; however, this response is not helpful in rosacea because microorganisms are not involved in rosacea.  This response is, in fact, counterproductive to rosacea skin types because the enzymes and free radicals released without the “microorganisms” will in-turn  damage facial blood vessels.  These enzymes and free radicals falsely released can cause extensive damage to the entire blood vessel wall resulting in functional and structural changes.

Immune Cells Falsely Activated To Rosacea Skin Types Can Cause Papules and Pustules

After substantial recruitment of immune cells into the facial area, some immune cells migrate into the superficial layer of the skin resulting in inflammatory papules (tiny red bumps).  Immune cells that migrate into areas of skin with sebaceous glands can cause inflammatory pustules (tiny bumps with pus).

The Three Main Players In The Immune Response

  1. Neutrophils are the most numerous type of white blood cells in the human body.  These cells constitute the first line of defense for the immune system.  Once an inflammatory response is initiated, neutrophils are the first cells to be recruited to the site of inflammation or damage.  The major role of neuttohils is to phgocytose (ingest), and destroy infectious agents.  Although neutrophils are essential to our defense system, over-activity of these cells can be detrimental to rosacea due to their ability to release dilator substances, damaging enzyme and free radicals.
  2. Cell Adhesion Molecules Inflammation of the skin is not a random, haphazard event.  It is a highly regulated, controlled event.  Cell adhesion molecules play a crucial role in regulating skin inflammation.  Cell adhesion molecules are a diverse set of substances that are found on the surface of virtually every cell in the body.  One of their main functions is to guide immune cells into sites of inflammation — guiding them into the inflamed area like direction gates.  Cell adhesion molecules play an important role in most inflammatory skin disorders and have been shown to contribute to facial flushing and rosacea.
  3. Cytokines Cytokines (site-O-kines) are small proteins that are produced by skin cells and blood vessels that normally aid the local immune response.  Under normal conditions, cytokines play important ‘housekeeping’ roles in the skin.  However, in inflammatory disorders, dilator cytokines are produced in abnormal numbers and due to their destructive nature when overproduced, these cells worsen the entire inflammatory state.  Dilator cytokines are intimately involved in all aspects of rosacea.

Immune-Boosting Supplements that may worsen Rosacea

Every rosacea sufferer should re-evaluate all immune-boosting supplements because many of them have powerful stimulating affects and most increase the three main immune cells involved in rosacea inflammation — e.g. Neutrophils, Cell Adhesion Molecules and Cytokines.  Everyone is unique, and some may not be affected by immune system boosters, but it would be wise to determine if these supplements are aggravating your rosacea by eliminating one product at a time for 30 days and recording any rosacea improvements or health changes.

Mushroom extracts are currently one of the most popular and effective immune boosting supplements on the market today.
They can be taken as a stand-alone supplement, liquid extract or be incorporated into multi-vitamins — so, please read your labels.  Mushroom extracts are notorious for worsening rosacea.

Below are some of the most popular mushroom extracts:

  • AHCC – Active Hexose Correlated Compound
  • Reishi Extract
  • Maitake Extract
  • Cordyceps Extract

Other Popular Immune System Health Supplements that may worsen rosacea:

  • Bovine Colustrum
  • Beta Glucan
  • Goldenseal
  • Elderberry
  • Echinacea (when taken for more than 7 to 10 days)
  • Cat’s Claw
  • Garlic (at high doses this is a potent flusher)

Antioxidants and “Superfoods” are Safer for Supporting the Immune System of Rosacea Sufferers without Triggering Inflammation and Flares

One of the best ways to keep your immune system strong without adverse effects mentioned above for rosacea skin is,  to shop your supermarket’s produce aisle.  Experts say a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help strengthen your  immune system and reduce inflammation. This is because super foods  contain antioxidants and a rich nutrient rich,  diet can deliver what you and your body needs verses over stimulating a immune response.

What are antioxidants?

They are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. Many experts believe this damage plays a part in a number of chronic diseases, including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), cancer, skin disorders and arthritis. Free radicals can also interfere with your immune system. So, fighting off damage with antioxidants helps keep your immune system strong.

Adding more fruit and vegetables of any kind to your diet will improve your health. But some foods are higher in antioxidants than others.

The three major antioxidant vitamins are:

  1. beta-carotene
  2. vitamin C
  3. vitamin E.

You’ll find antioxidants in colorful fruits and vegetables – especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. To get the strongest benefits out of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed; don’t overcook or boil as it decreases their nutritional value.

Beta-carotene and other carotenoids: Apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon

Vitamin C: Berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, orange, papaya, red, green or yellow peppers, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes

Vitamin E: Broccoli, carrots, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, and sunflower seeds

Other super foods that are rich in antioxidants include:

  • Prunes
  • Apples
  • Raisins
  • All berries
  • Plums
  • Red grapes
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Beans

Vitamins aren’t the only antioxidants in food. Other antioxidants that may help support a healthy immune system but not aggravate rosacea  include:

  • Zinc: Found in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, fortified cereals, and dairy products
  • Selenium: Found in Brazil nuts,  tuna, beef, poultry and fortified breads, and other grain products.*if you have food allergies,  dairy or gluten free or are plant based diet eater pick the best option for you or take a quality oral supplement.

   You may also want to read our article on anti-inflammatory diets, rosacea and your health.

Don’t get us wrong, while many immune system boosting supplements have helped revitalize many peoples health and wellness, what is good for one may not necessarily be good for another.

Supplements just like skin care, foods and weather can all trigger rosacea flares due to the way they interact within your bodies system. If you have a disorder such as rosacea, an underlying medical condition or are undergoing medical treatment your body may react differently to these supplements than those whose systems are not compromised.  Understanding  how certain supplements work and why they can possibly be counter productive specifically for rosacea  will help you to reduce that possibility and assist you in making educated choices when treating your rosacea skin.

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Have you taken any of the “immune system health supplements and noticed that it flared up your rosacea?