When you think of supporting your immune system, you may think of consuming fresh foods, getting adequate sleep, or taking oral supplements like vitamin C, zinc, or probiotics. But did you know that you can quickly stimulate your immune system by targeting the immune tissue in your mouth? The soft tissue in your mouth that composes the inside of your lips and cheeks is known as buccal tissue and is a vital component of overall immunity! In fact, buccal tissue is capable of sending rapid signals to other parts of the immune system in a matter of minutes.
Compared to the deeper, more internal tissues, our mouths more frequently encounter the barrage of microbes present in the outside world. Luckily, our oral immune system is quick to respond and well-equipped to fend off foreign invaders. Saliva and buccal tissue are rich in immune cells, such as T lymphocytes and immunoglobulins, that remove pathogens before they have a chance to further invade our bodies.1
This oral immune system also sends messages to numerous other tissues in the body, preparing our internal defenses before the pathogen even arrives at these distant sites. This gives us an enormous head start in fighting infection! In addition, the buccal mucosa contains special gateways, always known as microfold (M) cells, which allow certain molecules to enter the bloodstream, while simultaneously guarding against pathogens.2 While other mucosal sites in the gut, lungs, and urogenital areas also contain M cells, the buccal tissue is the most permeable. This means that it rapidly absorbs beneficial compounds like probiotics, herbs, and some nutrients.