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Indoles are some of the most potent phytonutrients present in vegetables and plants. Indoles are widely used for the beneficial effects on cancer and other disorders.
The effect of the phytonutrient on the immune system has been researched and it was noted that indoles do offer certain benefits. Commonly present in high amounts in cruciferous vegetables, indole supplements are proposed to have anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-atherogenic properties. Phytonutrients such as indole may exert such effects either by direct or indirect methods. Furthermore, many of the phytonutrients are shown to direct their actions by exerting a regulatory effect on the immune system. Regulation of the immune system while maintaining its function is considered quite essential in the control of many disorders.

Indole supplements are widely being marketed as anti-cancer agents who bring about their effects based on a wide range of actions. Indoles may act directly on cancer cells or may influence the actions of immune cells inducing them to attack any abnormal cells. The administration of indoles was associated with modifications in the cell response, natural killer cell (NK) activity and proliferation of immune cells. However, the effects were of the same range when compared to other treatments.Nevertheless, it was noted that indoles do have an effect on the immune system. The immune system plays a vital role in controlling the growth of cancer cells, and modifications in the functioning of immune cells can hasten the spread of cancer.

Indoles and Their Effects on the Immune System

The supplementation of indole in autoimmune disorders such as lupus may improve the survival rates of affected individuals. Autoimmune disorders are generally characterized by an abnormal increase in the activity of immune cells. The immune cells begin to attack healthy cells and cause the release of various chemicals that result in inflammation. Yan and colleagues reported that indole supplementation significantly decreased the progression of lupus and increased survival rates in rats. This benefit was noted due to the suppression of the abnormal production of the B and T lymphocytes following the administration of indole supplements. Indole helped in regulating the production of these lymphocytes thereby reducing the inflammatory response. Further, the expression of different chemicals that initiate the inflammatory changes in the cells and tissues was also reduced significantly. The administration of indole supplements may help individuals suffering from severe types of autoimmune disorders by reducing the severity of the symptoms and regulating the adverse effects of inflammation.

These effects of the phytonutrients such as indole may help in the prevention of numerous disorders such as infections, autoimmune disorders and cancers. The effects on the immune system may need to be reviewed more thoroughly before advising the use of indoles in general population to enhance the immune activity.

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  • 2. Exon JH, South EH, Magnuson BA, Hendrix K. Effects of indole-3-carbinol on immune responses, aberrant crypt foci, and colonic crypt cell proliferation in rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2001 Apr 6, 62(7):561-73
  • 3. Yan XJ, Qi M, Telusma G, Yancopoulos S, et al. Indole-3-carbinol improves survival in lupus-prone mice by inducing tandem B- and T-cell differentiation blockades. Clin Immunol. 2009 Jun, 131(3):481-94. Epub 2009 Mar 10
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