Proteins are critical because they are the basic components of all cells, tissues, organs and enzymes in the human body. Certain proteins can help us maintain a healthy immune system by fighting off different infections. Along with albumin and fibrinogen, globulins are one of the major proteins in the blood. There are approximately sixty different types of globulins that help the body clot blood, fight infection, and carry other proteins in the body.
What Is Globulin?
Definition: The globulin proteins are blood serum proteins that are usually classified into four groups defined as gamma globulins (primarily associated with immune system function), beta globulins (primarily associated with hormone transport), alpha-1 globulins and alpha-2 globulins (primarily associated with clotting function).
Optimal Range: The optimal range for Globulin is 2.3-2.8 g/dL. The optimal range for Alpha Globulin is 0.2-0.3 g/L; the optimal range for Beta Globulin is 0.7-1.0 g/L.
Albumin/Globulin Ratio: The albumin/globulin ratio is the amount of albumin divided by the amount of globulin. The ideal ration is 1.7-2.2. An A/G ratio that is lower than 1.7 may indicate liver disease; a ratio higher than 2.2 may indicate decreased thyroid function, low globulin, or an excess of glucocorticoids.
What does Abnormal Globin Level Indicate?
High Globulin Levels. High serum globulin levels may be indicative of some chronic inflammatory or infectious disease or condition, leukemia or other bone marrow disease, an autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, liver or kidney disease, or carcinoid tumors.
Low Globulin Levels. Low serum globulin levels typically indicate liver disease, an inability to digest or absorb dietary protein, inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease, some sort of cancer, hemolytic anemia or kidney disease.
How to Increase Globulin Count
If your doctor suspects that your globulin count is low, you will probably be sent to the lab to have your blood drawn for testing. When the results come back to your healthcare provider, she may want to try diet or medication to increase your globulin level.
- High Globulin Foods. If your blood tests show low globulin levels, you may be able to increase them through your diet. Eat high protein foods that are also high in globulins. Make a mixture of hemp seeds, dried apricots, peas, prunes and raisins to sprinkle on a salad of mustard greens, spinach and kale. Red meat (beef and lamb) and seafood such as oysters, shrimp and sardines are high in globulin. Eggs and whole grains make a globulin-rich breakfast. In addition to being high in proteins and globulins, all of these foods are also high in the other vitamins necessary for a well-balanced diet. Don't forget dried fruits and vegetables as well as leafy green vegetables.
- Supplements and Medication. If increasing the globulin-rich proteins in your diet does not raise your globulin level, your healthcare provider may want to use medications or supplements to raise the level.
When to Use Immune Globulin
Antibodies in the blood serum are also known as immunoglobulins. When your body cannot create enough immunoglobulins to fight infection, your healthcare provider may prescribe doses of IV immune globulin to bolster your system. Some of the common uses of immune globulin include:
- Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn. If the Rh factor of the newborn contains an antigen and the mother's does not, the mother's body will identify that antigen as "foreign" and will mobilize antibodies that will remain in her body. If she becomes pregnant again and the fetus also carries the Rh antigen, the mother's antigens will begin to destroy the red blood cells of the fetus. To prevent this, IV immune globulin will be given to the mother during the first pregnancy to prevent antibody production.
- Snake or Spider Bites. Particularly for black widow and rattlesnake and coral snake bites, immune globulin is used with anti-venom to promote the immune system.
- Hepatitis B. IV immune globulin can be given to a person exposed to hepatitis B. The globulin provides immediate protection against the hepatitis B virus.
- Immunodeficiency Diseases. This class of diseases is characterized by some sort of deficiency in the immune system. IV immune globulin is often given when these deficiencies are detected.
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome. In Guillain-Barré syndrome, antibodies begin to attack nerves outside of the spinal cord. Typically beginning in the legs, this syndrome causes paralysis which moves upward in the body often affecting breathing. IV immune globulin counteracts the antibodies that attack the nerves so that the progression of the syndrome can be slowed or arrested.
- Kawasaki Syndrome. Although the cause of Kawasaki syndrome (KS) is not known, it affects young children by producing high fever, swollen hands and feet, swollen glands in the neck, coronary aneurysms, and rash and inflammation around the lips, mouth and throat. In the case of KS, IV immune globulin is helpful in preventing coronary aneurysms.
- Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). Affecting both adults and children, ITP is relatively harmless in children who generally recover without treatment. In adults, ITP causes the body to make antibodies that destroy platelets. Since platelets help in the clotting process, adults with ITP may have severe bleeding. IV immune globulin fights the antibodies that are destroying the platelets.