How Cruciferous Vegetables Aid the Immune System

How does food behave as protective medicine? Exciting evidence demonstrates the immune stimulating power of cruciferous vegetables, and the value of greens supplements that harness that power.During a normal lifetime 60 tons of food passes through our gastrointestinal canal.  In a healthy state, the absorption of small sugars (e.g., glucose), fats, proteins and other essential nutrients proceed through the intestinal wall and circulate throughout our body.  Simultaneously, damaging substances from unhealthful bacteria, incompletely digested food, toxins, or chemicals are largely prevented from being absorbed.But here is the challenge to our health:  If we stretch out the GI tract membrane, it will encompass a surface area as large as one full tennis court!  That is a lot of area to defend, and adding more difficulty to a large space, the GI tract is only one cell layer thick—that is to say there is only one thin gut membrane between the outside world in your gut canal and the inside world of your body. For many years I have written about protecting the integrity of the gastrointestinal system the importance of protecting the integrity of the gastrointestinal system, and each year we become more knowledgeable of the complicated process and the different foods the body needs for protection against pathogens and toxins.Imagine this:  Skin is the surface that separates our bodies from the world. In the same way, the one cell layer thick membrane of the GI tract, like the skin of our body, separates the inside of the body from the content of the GI tract, which is part of the “outside world.”  On the basal surface, the GI membrane that faces the inside of our body, resides 70% of our immune system. On the apical side of our GI membrane, the side facing the lumen of the gut, reside 100 trillion microorganisms, mostly bacterial.  You might say that a healthy GI tract membrane is sandwiched between a healthy fully functioning immune system and a healthy and friendly bacterial population, together protecting the GI tract and enabling it to function well.

How do cruciferous vegetables help our body? 

New research has shown that some of the immune cells most intimately associated with our gut, the Intraepithelial Lymphocytes, have receptors (the Ah receptor) on their cell surfaces that are specifically designed, in a lock and key fashion, to receive a certain molecule derived from cruciferous vegetables (3,3-di-indolylmethane—DIM). When this type of molecules click into the receptors, the lymphocytes are turned on to stimulate other foot soldiers in the immune army to be alert for possible pathogens and toxins.

In this manner, cruciferous vegetables prime the immune system to be alert, ready, and able to neutralize or kill any possible pathogens and toxins that are accompanying the passing food through the GI tract. Greens supplements provide a powerful boost to this function when broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other members of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables do not feature regularly in our daily dining habits.

I was glad to see Dr. Greger bringing our attention into this favorite topic of mine in his NutritionFacts.org. Do watch “The Broccoli Receptor:  Our first line of defense,” a worthy topic and great information.

References from Dr. Greger’s talk:

  • Emmanuelle Moens and Marc Veldhoen, Epithelial barrier biology:  good fences make good neighbours, Immunology 2012 135:1-8.
  • Brian Sheridan and Leo Lefrancois , Intraepithelial Lymphocytes:  To Serve and Protect, Curr Gastroenterol Rep 2010 12:513-521
  • Hilde Cheroutre, IELs:  enforcing law and order in the court of the intestinal epithelium, Immunologic Reviews 2005 206:114-131
  • Elina Kiss and Cedric Vonarbourg, Aryl hydrocarbon receptor A molecular link between postnatal lymphoid follicle formation and diet, Gut Microbes 2012 3:6, 677-682.
  • Lora Hooper, You AhR what you eat:  Linking diet and immunity Cell 147, Issue 3, Oct 28, 2011 pages 629-640.

 

Clinical Notes:

When it comes to priming the immune system we have our Cruciferous Sprouts Complex. We suggest taking two capsules a day.  Cruciferous sprouts are particularly rich in glucosinolates the precursor molecule for the indole-3-carbinols which combine together to become 3,3 Di indolylmethane (DIM), the key to unlock the immune priming process.

Read more about the Cruciferous Sprout Complex here.

 

Taking care of the land, educating children, feeding ourselves in nutritious and delicious ways, and bringing communities together at the table:  this is the common language of Slow Food. It was the values of taste and pleasure that brought me into this movement, but it is the values of social justice and preservation of biodiversity that keep me engaged.  These are the values we need in order to live together on this planet.

(Alice Waters, Vice President, Slow Food International).

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