How Lactoferrin can Help You this Flu Season

This year has been one of the most catastrophic years on record for flu, which is caused by the influenza virus. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that hospitals are at maximum capacity due to flu-like illnesses, which has led to nationwide shortages of antiviral drugs [1]. CDC also reported that between October 1, 2017 and February 3, 2018 there were a total of 17,101 influenza related hospitalizations [2].

Due to the extreme nature of this year’s flu outbreak, you should consider how to naturally boost your immune system to protect yourself. Commonly used options include vitamins (i.e. vitamin C), minerals (i.e. zinc) and herbals (i.e. Echinacea). However, these options have limited benefits on their own. Your body naturally produces its own powerful immune boosters, one of which is lactoferrin. In this post, we will briefly discuss how lactoferrin can help protect you this flu season, and why choosing the right lactoferrin supplement is so important.

What is Lactoferrin?

Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein that is naturally produced in our body. It is present in almost all bodily fluids that bathe our mucosal surfaces. Lactoferrin supports various vital functions including nutrient absorption/transport, host defense, prebiotic activity and more. Every day we produce and expend ~60 mg of lactoferrin (i.e. normal physiological turnover). However, factors such as stress, infection, poor diet, etc. can deplete lactoferrin in our body, leading to potential lactoferrin deficiency. Maintaining optimal levels of lactoferrin is crucial for healthy living. You can read more about lactoferrin here.

How does Lactoferrin Work?

Lactoferrin is natural (innate), safe and an effective immune booster. According to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), lactoferrin is considered one of the main defense proteins against pathogens including viruses and bacteria [3]. When infected with a pathogen, a human host can develop various types of infections such as the flu, common cold, herpes and many others. So, how does lactoferrin help combat pathogens? It does it in a variety of ways.

For example, lactoferrin blocks the attachment of a virus to the surface of host cells, thus preventing viral replication, and improving systemic immune health [4]. Lactoferrin also increases the number of Natural Killer cells (a type of white blood cell) within the host, while enhancing the Th1 Cytokine response cascade (protective immune response) [5]. Another way lactoferrin provides immune protection is by binding to iron and keeping it away from pathogenic bacteria, which is needed for their energy production [6]. The multi-functional role of lactoferrin makes it essential for the immune system.

Choosing the Right Lactoferrin Supplement

Now that you have a better insight on how lactoferrin can help protect you this flu season, it is important to remember that NOT all lactoferrins are created equal! As mentioned, lactoferrin is a protein. A protein’s function is linked to its 3-D (dimensional) structure. Most commercially available lactoferrin has been denatured (damaged) due to excessive heat and/or harsh chemical processing. If this occurs the lactoferrin supplement will likely be ineffective and may actually cause more harm than good to the body [7]. You can watch our video on how to choose the right lactoferrin supplement here.  

References:

[1] CDC Newsroom https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/t0202-flu-update-activity.html
[2] CDC Newsrooms https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm
[3] Wakabayashi H, et al (2014) Lactoferrin for prevention of common viral infections. J Infect Chemother. 20(11):666-71.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25182867
[4] Kruzel M, et al (2009) Lactoferrin as a natural immune modulator. Curr Pharm Des. 15(17): 1956–1973. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2915836/
[5] Donovan SM (2016) The role of lactoferrin in gastrointestinal and immune development and function: A preclinical perspective.
J Pediatr. 173S:S16-28.
http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(16)00295-X/pdf
[6] Intracellular niches of microbes: A microbes guide through the host cell (2009) Eds: UE Schaible, A Haas, John Wiley & Sons,
ISBN 3527629181.
[7] Schwenger V, et al (2001) Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs) as uremic toxins. Mol Nutr Food Res. 45(3) 172–176.
//onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/1521-3803(20010601)45:3%3C172::AID-FOOD172%3E3.0.CO;2-U/abstract

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bevi Edlund brings over ten years of journalism experience to bioQuad. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a degree in Communications (where she majored in Journalism). Bevi is passionate about writing about nutrition, health and lifestyle. Prior to joining the bioQuad team, Bevi had experience writing for various newspapers throughout Southern California. Bevi loves to connect with people through her blogs posts and articles.