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Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression

Intense exercise is known to be associated with an increased rate of sickness and reduced immune cell count, and supplementation is sometimes thought to reduce this rate of loss and thus preserve immunity. These effects are conditional on exercise being conducted.

Kamal
Research analysis lead by Kamal Patel
All content reviewed by Examine.com Team. Published:
Last Updated:

Human Effect Matrix

The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (it excludes animal and in vitro studies) to tell you what supplements affect exercise-induced immune suppression
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The mo re evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-b Vitamin C - High See all 6 studies
More evidence suggests no significant effect than a possible protective effect, although the latter is possible
grade-c Echinacea Minor - See study
Possible effects, but study assessed salivary IgA (biomarker of immunity) and not sickness rates; hard to assess potency.
grade-c Pelargonium sidoides Minor - See study
Although rates of sickness were not assessed, the alterations in the cytokine/immunoglobulin profile (increase in Immunoglobulin A, suppressing of IL-6 and IL-15) suggest less immunosuppression from exercise.
grade-c Colostrum - Very High See 2 studies
The limited studies assessing sickness in athletes during exercise have not found a significant reduction in sickness rates relative to control protein sources (whey).
grade-c Fish Oil  
grade-d Blueberry  

All comparative evidence is now gathered in our ​A-to-Z Supplement Reference.

The evidence for each separate supplement is still freely available ​here.