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Chewing May Boost Immune System

By cwan | June 7th, 2017

The immune system serves to protect us. It performs a remarkable balancing act at barrier sites such as the skin, mouth and gut by fighting off harmful pathogens while tolerating the presence of normal friendly bacteria. Th17 cell is an important infection-fighting tool utilized by our immune system. For example, in stomach and skin, Th17 receives the signal to attack from friendly bacteria and recruits white blood cells to take up the fight against harmful pathogens.

However, scientists at the University of Manchester have found that Th17 seems to work a little bit differently in mouth. The Manchester team discovered that during the act of chewing, abrasions induce a chemical called interleukin-6 from the gum tissue, which in turn boosts the numbers of Th17 cells. For their study, the scientists demonstrated that they could stimulate higher amounts of Th17 cells in mice simply by altering the hardness of their food. The scientists concluded that the mouth stimulates Th17 cells, which in turn induces a protective immune response in our gum, not by bacteria but by mastication.

But before you go loading up on chewing gum, you should know that higher levels of Th17 aren’t always good news. For example, excessive numbers of Th17 cells can contribute to periodontitis and excessive chewing could exacerbate bone loss in periodontitis. The old saying — too much of anything is bad – still rings true here.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Dutzan N, Abusleme L, Bridgeman H, Greenwell-Wild T, Zangerle-Murray T, Fife ME, Bouladoux N, Linley H, Brenchley L, Wemyss K, Calderon G, Hong B, Break TJ, Bowdish DME, Lionakis MS, Jones SA, Trinchieri G, Diaz PI, Belkaid Y, Konkel JE, and Moutsopoulos NM. On-going mechanical damage from mastication drives homeostatic Th17 responses at the oral barrier. Immunity. 2017 Jan 6. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2016.12.010. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 28087239

Source: Informed Nutrition