The common cold. The flu. Ulcers. Broken bones. Burns. Even cancer. How strong are our bodies to heal from and ward off these types of injuries and diseases? Is there anything we can do to make ourselves more resilient to illness and injury?
Research has uncovered many essential nutrients that play important roles in tissue healing, maintaining and stimulating the immune system and in generating growth and lean body mass. The immune system is positively impacted by protein, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins A, C and E, the B-complex vitamins, as well as the minerals zinc, manganese, iron, selenium, copper, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, iodine and chromium. Some nutrients play more significant roles than others in sustaining the body’s dynamic equilibrium, but all are valuable.
Arginine: An Amino Acid of Emerging Importance
Found naturally in the body, arginine is an amino acid with many noteworthy functions. More than just a structural component of protein, arginine plays specific roles in the anabolic process, tissue healing, and the immune system, giving further evidence to the interrelationship among these diverse physiological components. Using arginine to stimulate immune response is garnering much interest in the area of supplementation. Arginine has been shown to cause a positive effect on the immune system and to promote wound healing. Studies have clearly demonstrated that arginine supplementation successfully impacts the healing process – helping people mend from gastric ulcers, bone fractures, diabetic foot ulcers, second-degree burns, radiation enteritis, and ulceractive lesions of the small intestines.
Arginine is an important factor in the body’s cell-mediated immunity, significantly increasing natural killer cell activity. Arginine supplements activate your immune system, thereby enhancing the cellular process that digests dead tissues, degenerated cells and bacteria cells, leading to a positive nitrogen balance (anabolic state) and suppressed tumor growth. Why is being in an anabolic state so important? This is known as the “building up” phase, where our bodies are repairing and building muscle tissue.
Burn victims, for example, often have a negative nitrogen balance. And omitting an essential amino acid from our diets can also result in a negative nitrogen balance. Multiple studies have revealed arginine to be a consistent and potent stimulus for growth hormone release. When the effects of arginine were studied on the metabolism of healthy, nonsmoking, elderly volunteers over a two-week course of supplementation, test subjects showed an improved and positive nitrogen balance with no adverse effects.
Additional studies have also brought to light that arginine helps to generate nitric oxide, which has a multitude of attributes, including its ability to help heal tendons, intestinal mucosa, burns and other cellular damage. Nitric oxide relaxes smooth muscles, prevents the formation of blood clots, helps the brain send messages, and assists white blood cells in destroying tumor cells and bacteria.
In the human skeletal muscle, Insulin Like Growth Factor (IGF-I), an important component in muscle growth, exerts both growth hormone-like (increases protein synthesis) and insulin-like (decreases protein degradation and increases glucose uptake) actions, and augments forearm blood flow. A study evaluating the effects of nitric oxide, IGIF-I, and arginine on factors related to muscle protein synthesis found that IGF-I increases blood flow through a nitric oxide dependent mechanism (nitric oxide is produced in the conversion of arginine). Total blood flow did not affect the insulin-like response of muscle to IGF-I.
Zinc: A Fundamental Mineral for our Immune System
Unlike arginine, most people are familiar with the central role zinc plays in the immune system. This mineral affects virtually all aspects of our immune system, from the nonspecific barrier functions of the passive immune system (skin, mucous membranes, etc.), to the specific lymphocytic functions of the active immune system. Zinc is needed for the development of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) and other natural killer cells in the nonspecific immune defense, and also offers vital support for other specific immune defenses. Antibody production, particularly immunoglobulin G, is negatively impacted by a zinc deficiency. Zinc functions as an antioxidant and a membrane stabilizer. Its many roles in basic cellular functions, such as DNA replication, RNA transcription, cell division and activation are key to the activities of vital immunologic mediators. Zinc is involved in all four immune defense components: nonspecific passive, nonspecific active, cell-mediated, and antibody mediated.
Zinc Stimulates Growth
Zinc plays a critical role in growth – both on a physical and pituitary level. There’s a complex relationship between zinc, growth hormone, gonadal function and the pituitary growth hormone, known as IGF-I axis. Zinc deficiency leads to a decrease in growth hormone production and a decrease in IGF-I levels. Zinc controls growth hormone synthesis and secretion, but has been shown to also have effects on physical growth that are separate from this pituitary effect. Zinc supplementation causes significant increases in liver synthesis of IGF-I, which is known to influence the growth of certain body tissues. But when zinc is lacking, this action is much reduced, demonstrating there are cases when the pituitary gland plays a lesser role in regulating growth.
Chronic zinc deficiency can result in reduced physical growth, a result of the liver producing less IGF-I. Zinc deficiency also inhibits the direct growth effects of growth hormone on long bone and the growth-inducing action of circulation IGF-I. Furthermore, a zinc deficit impairs the metabolism of thyroid, androgen, and growth hormones. Zinc supplementation makes it possible, in certain cases, to overcome resistance to growth hormone treatment. All of this evidence further supports zinc’s involvement in growth functions extending outside the pituitary level.
The Healing Hand of Zinc
An avid healer of wounds, zinc plays an essential role in the tissue healing process. For situations like those seen in surgical stress, decreased plasma and zinc skin levels can have a negative impact on the healing of wounds. The use of zinc has been shown to promote the repair process of damaged vascular tissue and speed the healing of gastric ulcers, while a deficiency in zinc delays such healing.
Zinc is also earning recognition as a beneficial mineral for the prostate. In one study, researchers tested the effects of a substance referred to as neutralized zinc (zinc arginine and gluconate). Results showed significant reduction of prostate weight, 5 alphareductase activity, and total protein and DNA concentrations in treated epididymis and seminal vesicles, having no significant effect on progeny and blood testosterone levels. This suggests that neutralized zinc (zinc arginine chelate or zinc glycinate chelate) may offer a new approach to treating prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) without affecting spermatogenisis.
Zinc Arginine – the Albion Chelate
Albion Human Nutrition has combined the powerful healing and immune-strengthening properties of zinc and arginine into one unique supplement. Using our patented chelate technology, we’ve developed a totally reacted, nutritionally functional mineral chelate known as neutralized zinc arginine. This organic version offers numerous advantages over inorganic forms of zinc, which are known to cause various tolerance problems. Short-term side effects of inorganic zinc can include nausea and mild gastric upset. Long-term use can give rise to gastric erosion (a side effect especially prevalent at higher doses of zinc, 45 mg elemental or higher). Arginine, as a free amino acid, is strongly alkaline. Any time one ingests a strongly alkaline substance, the stomach responds with large amounts of hydrochloric acid to neutralize the alkalinity. The acid-rebound leads to some gastric distress and excess gas formation.
Both zinc and arginine are much less likely to produce gastric intolerance when formed into a nutritionally functional chelate. Plus, amino acid chelated forms of zinc are proven to absorb at a far greater rate than inorganic forms. Albion’s patented Zinc Arginine amino acid chelate gives you all the benefits of both zinc and arginine together in a single supplement, but without the upsetting side effects.