Your immune system is a marvel: it protects against potentially dangerous invaders, including bacteria and viruses. It is your chief line of defence against disease and infection.
And just as your immune system protects you, you should do your best to take care of it.
Leading a healthy lifestyle—eating natural whole foods, getting enough sleep, being active, and minimizing stress—is key to a strong immune system. Ensuring your body has all the nutrients it needs, including vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, comes part and parcel with that.
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Certain dietary factors, including omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, have been shown to have particular benefits to your body’s immune functions. Omega-3s can help regulate immune cells and reduce inflammation, making them a truly essential part of your body’s immune strengthening arsenal.
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The immune system–inflammation connection
Inflammation is the body’s response to trauma, whether from tissue injury, toxins, bacteria, virus, or infection. The onset of inflammation is your immune system at work: immune system cells travel to the site of injury or irritation and cause inflammation by widening blood vessels, encouraging swelling, and causing fluid and immune cells to course into affected tissue. Those cells are working to protect you and destroy the invaders.
In acute situations, inflammation subsides when the injury heals, or the trauma is removed. Chronic inflammation, however, is long-term, can affect the whole body, and is linked to conditions including joint pain, arthritis, heart disease, asthma, and even some cancers. When inflammation doesn’t subside, blood vessels and other organs can become damaged.
The suite of omega-3s (DHA, EPA, and particularly DPA) found in seal oil have been shown to down-regulate the production of pro-inflammatory molecules (cytokines) within the body, thereby assisting immune system function.
Omega-3s also help support endothelial cell migration, a process of restoring vessel integrity. DPA is especially powerful, requiring just 10% of the amount of EPA required for blood vessel repair.
DPA has another amazing property: it boosts the levels and integration of EPA and DHA in the body, making sure your omega-3s are at their most accessible. Seal oil is a rare source of these three omega-3s—in fact, mother’s breast milk is the only other good source of DPA.
Unlike fish oil or plant-based sources of omega-3s, seal oil is derived from a mammal and is therefore easier for the human body to absorb.
Omega-3s against cold and flu
Care for a little seal oil with your chicken soup?
Maybe not … but consider adding seal oil to your diet, year-round, to help fortify yourself and your immune system against cold and flus. As mentioned above, omega-3s have amazing health-boosting properties. Studies also indicate that omega-3s can dissolve the envelopes of certain viruses, helping our bodies combat viral invasion.
Another interesting study, conducted at Emroy University in Georgia, suggested that babies whose mothers supplemented with omega-3 during pregnancy and while breast-feeding were less susceptible to colds than those that did not. It all points to the advantages of regular seal oil supplements.
The effects of omega-3s on the immune system have been studied for at least three decades, and exciting research is ongoing. The overwhelming result: omega-3s positively active cells in both the innate and adaptive immune system, though the exact mechanisms are only just being understood.
Choi, M., Ju, J., Suh, J. S., Park, K. Y., & Kim, K. H. (2015). Effects of omega-3-rich harp seal oil on the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in mouse peritoneal macrophages. Preventive nutrition and food science, 20(2), 83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26175994
Collins, Nick. (2011). Omega-3 can reduce risk of colds in babies. The Telegraph. August 2011. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/8671525/Omega-3-can-reduce-risk-of-colds-in-babies.html
Gutiérrez, S., Svahn, S.L., & Johansson, M. E. (2019). Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Immune Cells. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(20), 5028. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20205028
Thormar, H., Isaacs, C.E., Brown, H.R., Barshatzky, M.R., & Pessolano, T. (1987 ). Inactivation of enveloped viruses and killing of cells by fatty acids and monoglycerides. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy, 31(1), 27-31.
Toshie Kanayasu-Toyoda, et al. Docosapentaenoic acid (22:5, n-3), an elongation metabolite of eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5, n-3), is a potent stimulator of endothelial cell migration on pretreatment in vitro, 1996.