Updated: Apr 30, 2020
The immune system is an unsung superhero. The body's first and last line of defense when combatting disease, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses. Comprised of organs, cells, and chemicals, the immune system is built off white blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and bone marrow.
With the world coming to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus and the deadly COVID19 disease it causes, many organizations including health organizations, governments, and media outlets are urgently trying to put out information and education to help us determine best practices and safety procedures for ensuring that we aren't harmed by this virus.
Listening to these organizations talk about social distancing, "flattening the curve," and other common buzzwords is often in regards to behavioral changes. No crowds of 5 or more people. Maintain 6-10' of distance. Wash your hands. Wear a face mask.
The list of do's and dont's is quite long, and very well understood. But what is often forgotten, or at the least rarely mentioned, is the biology behind how our bodies are naturally designed for fighting off, defending from, and adapting to a world filled with contagions, toxins, diseases, and viruses - all of which contain antigens. The coronavirus is not the first virus to wreak havoc on humanity. And it won't be the last. The beauty of our biology is that we come preconditioned with a defense mechanism.
We believe in the health benefits tea provides. And the facts are resolute, tea is a tasty way for us to take control of our health, specifically boosting our immune systems. If you are concerned about contracting the coronavirus or other bacterias and diseases, if you suffer from an autoimmune disease, or simply want to find new and tasty ways to improve your health, then this blog post is for you!
Today, let's take a look at what the immune system is, and how tea is actually a scientifically proven immune system booster.
What is the Immune System?
Our bodies have three forms of an immune response. Innate immunity, acquired immunity, and passive immunity.
Innate immune processes include coughing, skin, mucus, and acids.
Acquired immunity includes antibodies in your immune system learning what new viruses and diseases look like for identification and elimination purposes.
And the passive immune system is the immunity that is created outside of the body, and then transferred into the body. This process occurs when babies are born and receive antibodies from the mother. Another form of passive immunity is immunizations.
For this blog post, we will be looking specifically at acquired immunity. How the body utilizes our immune system to combat diseases and viruses.
The immune system is comprised of organs, cells, and chemicals that are designed to recognize and destroy antigens. According to medlineplus.gov, an online library provided by the National Library of Medicine, antigens are substances, usually proteins that exist on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi or bacteria. Antigens can also exist on nonliving substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles.
The job of the immune system is to recognize these antigens, attack these antigens, eliminate these antigens, all while allowing the rest of the body to continue to function as normally as possible. While you may feel weak, sick, or have other symptoms while fighting off diseases or viruses, you still typically maintain brain, liver, heart, and other organ functions to ensure your survival. This entire process is carefully orchestrated by your immune system.
3 Ways Tea Helps Boost the Immune System
Antioxidants are molecules that can be introduced into our bodies through food, supplements, and you guessed it...tea! In fact, tea is loaded with antioxidants.
These molecules serve a very specific role in boosting our immune systems. Because our immune system relies heavily on the efficient functioning of cells, specifically lymphocytes, neutrophils, and monocytes, also known as white blood cells, it's imperative to keep these cells strong and healthy.
One molecule that wreaks havoc on our immune systems, and leads to diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, asthma, diabetes, dementia and other degenerative diseases is known as a free radical.
In order to properly explain free radicals, we must first outline complex chemistry. But we'll do this in an understandable way. According to Live Science, our bodies are "under constant attack from oxidative stress." Oxidative stress is where oxygen in the body is split into a singular atom containing unpaired electrons. Free radicals seek out unpaired electrons from oxygen in our bodies and affix themselves to the electron causing damage or death to our cells, proteins, and DNA.
And the damage free radicals create is quite significant.
How do we get free radicals in our bodies?
Largely, we introduce free radicals into our system through the food we eat, medicines, the air, and water. The most commonly known ways of acquiring the most damaging free radicals are through fried foods, alcohol, tobacco, pesticides and pollutants.
This is why antioxidants are so important for controlling and eliminating the effects of free radicals on our bodies. According to Medical News Today, antioxidants operate by neutralizing free radicals. Essentially, instead of pairing free radicals to our oxidized cells, antioxidants perform a multitude of tasks including:
Scavenging for free radicals and attaching themselves to the free radicals denying free radicals the opportunity of attaching to and damaging our cells
Donating Hydrogen to the body
Donating electrons to the body
Decomposing peroxide in the body
Inhibiting harmful enzymes
All of this means healthy cells, and healthy cells mean high quality of life.
So what does tea have to do with this?
Tea has been studied extensively by John Weisburger, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y. According to an interview he participated in for WebMD, the most commonly understood benefit of drinking black and green tea is the number of antioxidants they contain. In fact, studies have shown that tea contains up to 10x the amount of antioxidants as is found in fruits and vegetables.
The specific antioxidant found in tea leaves is known as a polyphenol. Basically, polyphenols seek free radicals. They are drawn to them. And once a polyphenol finds a free radical, it completely detoxifies it.
The significance means that not only can tea play a role in preventing degenerative diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and more, but tea can also play a role in minimizing the effects if you already have these diseases. That's an astounding discovery. And while science has yet to make the claim that yes, tea in fact prevents degenerative diseases, the reality is that tea has been factually discovered to destroy the molecule that is the reason these diseases exist.
But that's not all! Black and green teas also contain other antioxidants such as thearubigins, epicatechins, and catechins that are not found in fruits and vegetables. Each of these antioxidants is classified as a flavonoid, and tea contains mass amounts of these antioxidants. Flavonoids are antioxidants that specifically display anti-inflammatory and antiallergic properties, all of which provide great benefits to our immune systems and health in general.
What are T Cells, and What Does Tea Have to do with it?
T cells are a specific type of white blood cell, and there are two primary types of T cells.
One T cell type is the CD8 T cell. CD8 T cells are the soldiers of the immune system. Their job is to seek and destroy. As discussed above, CD8 T cells find antigens in our bodies and destroy them. But a recent study discussed on Nature.com suggests that the CD8 T cells can also help the immune system by inhibiting self-reactive CD4 T cells. I'll explain.
CD4 T cells are the second type of primary T cells in the body. CD4 T cells coordinate the response our immune system provides to antigens by stimulating other white blood cells such as macrophages, lymphocytes and CD8 T cells. They are basically the commander. When CD4 T cells say march, the other cells get to steppin'. CD4 T cells, while important, can also be the reason for diseases such as Lou Gehrig's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac disease, and other autoimmune diseases.
Essentially, autoimmune diseases exist when CD4 T cells, the commander, start telling the immune system to attack parts of the body that are necessary for life or create damaging inflammation.
For example, Multiple Sclerosis or MS, is the result of CD4 T cells creating immense inflammation in the central nervous system.
Another common example is Celiac disease - the reason for the sudden popularity of gluten-free products. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where CD4 T cells create an immune reaction to gluten that creates inflammation, damaging the lining of the small intestine. Celiac disease can also prevent the absorption of some nutrients.
This is where CD8 T Cells have been discovered to play a vital role in our immune systems.
The link referenced above at Nature.com outlines how a group of scientists led by Naresha Saligrama discovered that CD8 T cells can function as Regulatory T cells. Regulatory T cells are important for those with autoimmune diseases because of their ability to regulate the immune system. Regulatory T Cells "turn off" the immune system to prevent it from attacking the body. In laymen's terms, they can retrain the CD4 T cells so that the immune system no longer attacks the body.
In a recent study by Oregan State University, green tea was discovered to contain a special polyphenol called EGCG. This polyphenol is "believed to be responsible for much of [green tea's] health benefits, and has both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer characteristics." But most importantly for the immune system, EGCG found in green tea actually boosts the number of Regulatory T cells in the body. By regulating out of control CD4 T cells, the body is at far less risk of attacking itself.
The study was conducted on mice, but due to the success of the study, human trials are on the horizon. But the fact that green tea introduces a plethora of Regulatory T cells alone has shown the powerful implications green tea has in boosting the immune system's ability to function efficiently, with potential for having significant benefits for preventing or managing autoimmune diseases.
What is L-Theanine and What Roll does Tea Play?
L-Theanine is an amino acid and is commonly taken in over the counter supplements, and is often prescribed to help with relaxation, focus, and sleep. L-theanine is most commonly found in tea leaves but has also been found in some mushrooms.
In a study conducted by Jack F. Bukowski, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical school, Jack and his team were able to isolate L-theanine from black tea.
And the results were significant.
What we do know about L-Theanine is that it boosts serotonin and dopamine levels, reduces chemicals in the brain known for causing stress and anxiety, and enhances alpha brain waves which are known for being the active chemical when we are feeling creative or daydreaming.
But the effects of L-Theanine on the immune system are starting to show some exciting and significant benefits.
In Jack Bukowski's study, his team isolated L-Theanine from black tea leaves and observed the reactions our bodies create in processing L-Theanine.
As stated in the study, "L-Theanine is broken down in the liver to ethylamine, a molecule that primes the response of an immune system element called the gamma-delta T cell."
In layman's terms, L-theanine triggers our immune system. As discussed above, T cells are the mind, body, and legs of our immune system. CD4 T cells decide what to do, and CD8 T cells get it done. But there is also another type of T cell called the gamma-delta T cell.
The gamma-delta T cell lives in our blood and is the first responder to bacteria, fungi, parasitic infections, and viruses. Viruses like the coronavirus. These T cells are also known for having some anti-tumor qualities.
In this study, Bukowski and his team drew blood from 21 volunteers, then had 11 of the volunteers drink five cups of tea per day, and 10 of the volunteers drink five cups of coffee per day. After four weeks, they drew more blood and introduced the samples to E-coli.
The results showed that the blood of the tea drinkers reacted significantly in attacking the E-coli, where the coffee drinkers samples changed in no way whatsoever.
Because this study found great significance in how L-theanine from tea triggers such a strong immune system response to deadly bacteria as E-coli, testing will now move into a larger sample size. But the expectations are huge that tea plays a vital role in defending and attacking bacterias, viruses, and diseases.
In the words of Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition specialist at Penn State University, "Bukowski's study adds to a growing body of evidence that tea is an effective disease fighter. This is potentially a very significant finding. We're seeing multiple benefits from tea."
Prior to this year, for most of us, the immune system was barely just a boring chapter in a high school textbook. But with the onslaught of the novel coronavirus, the importance of our immune system is front and center.
Our bodies are not designed, nor meant to be completely impenetrable. But it is designed to offer a complex and well-designed system for helping us to fight off diseases, bacterias, and viruses that threaten our life or quality of life. And much like losing weight, preparing your body and your immune system for battle is not something we should be waiting for. It is far better to boost our immune systems every day before we are introduced to harmful bacterias, diseases, and viruses than it is to boost our immune system after we have already contracted them.
Regardless, science is now putting significant effort into discovering the huge role tea plays in not only prepping our immune system for battle, but also for equipping it in times where we are either suffering from, or actively fighting bacteria, disease, and viruses.
Because of these studies and the truly amazing results they produce, it is becoming more clear every day the importance of putting good nutrients into our bodies. It just so happens that we sell tea. A product that absolutely improves our immune systems. We believe in our product whole-heartedly. And we believe you should too!
If you found this article to be interesting, or know someone who is either interested in learning more about the immune system, or suffers from an autoimmune disease that you think could benefit from this information, please share! You can also check out any of our green or black teas available here. All of our teas are grown in zone and region, and are sustainably grown, sourced, and packaged. This makes sure you're getting a tea with the best possible flavor, and the highest concentration and quality of nutrients.
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