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n International SportMed Journal - Exercise effects on mucosal immunity and risk of upper respiratory illness : review article
Objective : This review evaluates the impact of exercise-induced changes in local immunity and the role of monitoring salivary IgA to identify the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).
Data sources : Data was sourced from primary research published in referred journals between 1980 - March 2003. Unpublished data from our own research has been included where appropriate.
Study section : Only studies utilising salivary IgA (Sal-IgA) to monitor mucosal immune status and evaluate changes in Sal-IgA in response to exercise at various intensities, in individuals of differing ages and fitness levels, and following dietary interventions were included. The relationship between Sal-IgA and URTI was assessed.
Data synthesis : There is considerable analytical and biological variance in the measures of Sal-IgA. High intensity exercise-induced Sal-IgA suppression may persist for several hours or days. Repeated, high intensity exercise in some individuals can elicit long-term Sal-IgA suppression, which is reversible. Moderate exercise enhances local immunity, which is greater in aerobically fitter individuals. Lower levels of Sal-IgA are associated with an increased risk of URTI in elite endurance athletes of varying ages, sports and fitness. A role for monitoring Sal-IgA has only been demonstrated for the long-term prediction of URTI risk on an individual basis. Sal-IgA is only a marginal predictor of short-term risk due to a high degree of analytical and biological variability.
Conclusions : Moderate exercise has the potential to improve mucosal immunity, while repetitive intense exercise can be immunosuppressive. Monitoring of Sal-IgA can be useful in research and clinical settings, but requires consideration of the factors affecting mucosal immune status.
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