Nutrients boost the immune response after strenuous exercise

athletes playing soccer

About mucosal immunity

Mucous membranes are lined with cells that secrete a protective antibody— immunoglobulin  A or IgA—which plays a key role in mucosal immunity; the first line of defense against infection. The body secretes less IgA with age, stress, and in nutritional deficiencies. Strenuous  exercise suppresses mucosal immunity for up to 24 hours, increasing chances for upper respiratory tract infections.


In this study, 109 young sedentary men and women took 250 mg of beta- glucan per day or a placebo. After 10 days, participants walked or jogged in intervals on a treadmill for 90 minutes in a hot, humid environment to trigger a stress response in the body.

Doctors  measured IgA levels in saliva before and after exercise and found higher levels in the beta-glucan group compared to placebo. Discussing the findings, doctors said even a small amount of exercise can reduce the immune response, and that beta-glucan can support key immune functions to keep people healthy.


Doctors in this study gave 40 trained soccer players 4 mg of the antioxidant carotenoid astaxanthin per day, or a placebo. The athletes participated in a controlled weight, resistance, cardio, and flexibility training program for 10 to 15 hours per week.

After 90 days, doctors measured higher saliva IgA and lower oxidative stress levels in the astaxanthin group compared to placebo. The placebo group also had higher white blood cell counts and increased high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels—both inflammatory factors—while the astaxanthin group remained at unelevated levels.

Reference: National Strength and Conditioning Association; Final Report, July, 2015
Natural Insights for Well Being November 2015

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