A Boost Can Be Yours!
• What Is The Immune System?
– The Lymphatic System?
– The Gut’s Microbiome?
• How Do They Interact?
• Which Supplements Can Help?
How Can You Boost Your Immune Response?
TOPIC: IMMUNE RESPONSE
CDC Information About Ebola: Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with a strain of Ebola virus.
The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. The risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the U.S. is very low.
What you need to know: Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood and body fluids of a person infected by and already showing symptoms of Ebola. Ebola is not spread through the air, water, food, or mosquitoes.
No secret: The purpose of the immune system is to keep us healthy. Our every act – including our every thought – supports, enhances, or detracts from the power of our immune response. Building and maintaining a powerful immunity is the pathway to radiant health.
A weakened immune system leaves us susceptible to illness. According to Balch and Balch, getting “significantly more than one or two bouts of colds or other infectious illness is a sign of an impaired immune function” (Prescription for Nutritional Healing).
Other signs include fatigue, listlessness, inflammation, allergic reactions, slow wound healing, chronic diarrhea, and systemic infections such as chronic vaginal yeast infections.
The intent of this issue of Nutrition News is to increase your knowledge about your immune system, present ways you can strengthen your immunity, and inspire you to take actions that can optimize your health.
The immune system is not like any other system in our bodies. It isn’t only a group of physical structures like the respiratory or circulatory systems.
Rather it consists of many organs, structures, and substances interacting in a complex way. Besides exposure to environmental toxins and to those in the food supply, other factors can weaken immune function. These include:
• poor diet
• unhealthy lifestyle habits (e.g., insufficient sleep, lack of exercise)
• extended periods of stress
• lack of emotional sustenance
• dramatic changes (divorce, death)
• genetic predisposition
The Wizard Within
We are not born with a fully functioning immune system. As infants, our only protection is the physical barriers of the body. Called innate immunity, the skin, mucous membranes, mucous secretions, saliva, tears, stomach acid, and the gastro-intestinal tract protect us.
Our skin, for example, actually secretes antibacterial substances. (This is one reason we don’t wake up in the morning with a layer of mold growing on us.)
As we mature, our bodies develop adaptive immunity. In this system, certain cells learn to repel microorganisms that
get past the innate natural barriers. Importantly, this system retains a memory of all the invaders it has faced. This is why childhood contagious diseases, such as chicken pox, generally occur only once.
FYI: “The more bacteria the children were exposed to, the healthier they were.” This is the conclusion of a number of studies.
The phenomenon was revealed in the early 1990s by German pediatrician Erika von Mutius. Von Mutius, interested in childhood allergies and asthma, found that children raised in the dirtiest conditions (e.g., farm kids) had the fewest allergies and asthmas. Maybe protecting our children so assiduously against common germs and normal childhood diseases is not the best idea.
Breast feeding helps a newborn early on by promoting adaptive immunity. One reason for this is that colostrum from mothers’ milk contains disease fighters. These are passed on to the infant during the first few days of nursing. Mothers who choose not to nurse are often encouraged to do so for the first few days of life. Or, as an alternative, express colostrum-rich milk and bottle feed.
The adaptive immune system is far more intricate than the innate immune system. Having a precursory understanding can support our care of it.
First, we look at the lymphatic system, then precede to antibody-mediated and cell-mediated responses. Plus, we consider the connection between immunity and gut bacteria (microbihome).
Immune cells circulate throughout the body within the fluid of the lymphatic system. Lymph fluid travels passively with the contraction of our muscles. The components of this system are lymph vessels, lymph nodes (once called “glands”), bone marrow, and two glands: the spleen and the thymus.
The nodes store immune cells. The spleen, located near the liver, is similar to a lymph node but larger. It serves as a blood reservoir and works to filter both the blood and lymph fluid that flow through it. The thymus is located in the area of the heart. Its job is discussed below.
White blood cells, leukocytes, are the basic cellular components of the immune system.
All white blood cells are formed from stem cells in the bone marrow. Then they are differentiated into B- and T- cells. B-cells are those that mature while in the Bone marrow. Other white blood cells are carried to the thymus. There, the Thymus secretes a hormone (thymosin) that causes white blood cells to mature into T-cells.
Adaptive immunity has two sets of reactions. The B-cells defend against invading viruses and bacteria, keeping them from starting an infection. This is called “antibody-mediated immunity”.
The other reaction is controlled by T-cells. It occurs when cells have already been infected by viruses and bacteria. This called “cell-mediated immunity”. T-cells protect against parasites, fungi, and other microbes as well as killing cancerous body cells. Amazingly, the immune cells also learn to recognize beneficial bacteria and don’t interfere with the functions of these helpful microbes.
All cells and even viruses carry an identifying protein code called an antigen. It is the job of the immune response to determine the dangerous antigens.
However, the word antigen is generally understood to refer only to those we want the body to attack. While maturing in the bone marrow, each B-cell becomes specific for one of the millions of antigens we may encounter in our lifetimes. Once mature, the B-cells locate in the lymph nodes.
Meanwhile in the thymus, each T-cell also learns to recognize a single one of over a million antigens. When the B-cells sense an invading antigen, they signal same antigen T-cells. Activated T-cells secrete a chemical messenger telling the B-cells to do their special function of producing antibodies (also known as immunoglobins). Antibodies have the capacity to stop or slow down many different invaders, including cancer cells and viruses.1
Once an antibody has been produced, the body remembers and is forever able to protect us against that specific antigen.
Vaccination is a way of causing B-cells to create immunity. In this case, a weakened or killed strain of a virus or disease-causing bacteria is introduced into the body. Not strong enough to cause illness, the vaccine stimulates the B-cells to produce antibodies to protect us against a potential encounter with the germ. Diseases such as polio, tetanus, whooping cough, and smallpox have nearly been eradicated using vaccination.2
Unlike B-cells, T-cells live for 60 to 65 years. The thymus begins to atrophy once its job is complete. This is one of the reasons we are more susceptible to illness as we age. The thymus produces three different kinds of T-cells: helper, suppressor, and natural killer (cytotoxic) cells.
The Wizard Within
1 Viruses are not alive. They are a fragment of genetic material encapsulated in a coating of protein or fat. They are able to invade living cells and turn them into virus replicating factories.
Viruses are the most common and frequent invaders of the body. They are so minuscule that 5 billion viruses can exist in a drop of blood. Read Nutrition News, “Nature Vs The Virus”.
2 The word vaccination comes from the Latin vacca for cow, after the cowpox material used by Edward Jenner in the first vaccination.
Supplement Your Immune Response
The supplements discussed here can help to maintain wellness and to recover from illness. They can even help if one persists in an unhealthy lifestyle.
However, to experience optimal health, nothing can replace the foundation afforded us by a whole foods diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (organic if possible), regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and a lot of laughter.3
Vitamins & Minerals
Taking a daily multiplevitamin-mineral is the first act of prevention. Studies show that after 65, people taking an MVM formula have a reduced risk for colds and flu. We can safely extrapolate this information to other at risk groups: infants, children (to age 17), pregnant women, and those already suffering from disease.
With the exception of powdered MVMs (which contain high amounts of nutrients), additional amounts of vitamins and minerals should be added to equal the following quantities: vitamin C (1-3 grams), D3 (1000-5000 IU, depending on dark winter days where you live), complete E (200-400 IU with tocotrienols and tocopherols), and K2 (45-90 mcg). Also add magnesium chelate (200 mg), selenium (200 mcg), strontium (a bone builder, 500 mg), fish oil (1 gram EPA+DHA), and an adaptogen (See Astragalus, this page, right column.)
Vitamin C – The protective white blood cells use 4-6 times more vitamin C during an active infection. In one study, participants ingesting 1gm or more of vitamin C daily reported an overall 40 percent reduction in the symptoms and severity of colds. Two meta-analyses involving a total of 37 controlled studies showed that vitamin C decreased the symptoms and severity of the common cold.
• Take 1000-3000 mg of vitamin C daily.
Vitamins A, E, & D – Studies have long shown that a deficiency of vitamin A impinges on immune system function. One reason is that A is necessary to the integrity of skin and mucous surfaces, both part of the body’s first line of defense. Plus, a lack inhibits the ability of antibodies to attach to antigens (invaders). Thus, with too little vitamin A, it is easier for viruses to attach to the mucous membrane cells of the respiratory system.
• Take 10,000-25,000 IU/d of vitamin A during illness.
Low levels of vitamin E have also been associated with poor immune response. With enough vitamin E, there is a reduction in the occurrence of the common cold in those over 65.
• Take 200-400 IU’s of complete E daily.
“Vitamin” D is actually a hormone. As such, it signals the genes to make hundreds of enzymes and proteins crucial to maintaining health and fighting disease. Vitamin researchers speculate that all degenerative disease may be related to vitamin D deficiency.
• Take 1000-5000 IU/d of vitamin D.
Zinc chelate – Increased zinc works best when used at the first sign of a viral infection – the first throat tickle, sneeze, or cough. Zinc sprays and lozenges work by preventing cold viruses from adhering to the tissues of the nose and throat and multiplying. Zinc also has a role in maturing T-killer cells in the thymus. Not enough zinc and the thymus can’t do its job.
• Zinc is found in many cold and flu formulas. Follow the label instructions. The RDA for zinc is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men. (I take 15 mg per day.)
Supplement Your Immune Response
3 According to the Cooper Institute of Aerobic Research, being out of shape is akin to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.
Herbal research has shown that scores of herbs have disease-preventing qualities as well as powerful adaptogenic and antioxidant effects. Together, these properties help the immune system destroy invading bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
– An extract of black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) inhibits flu virus by keeping it from entering the host cell. It does this in two ways: coating the piercing spikes of the virus and weakening the enzyme the virus uses to pass through the cell wall. As a result, elderberry makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the virus to reproduce.
The great viral inhibiting properties of elderberries came from Israel nearly 30 years ago. In a classic double blind study conducted during a flu outbreak, 90 percent of those given elderberry recovered completely in 3 days! Meanwhile, those given the placebo took twice as long, at least 6 days, to recover.
In the details, 20% of the elderberry group showed dramatic improvement in fever, muscle pain, and respiratory symptoms within 24 hours when only 8% of the placebo group had begun to recover. By the second day 75% had improved compared with 16% among those on the placebo.
• Take 1t of elderberry extract every 3-4 hours at the first sign of the flu. Continue for 10 days.
– Considered by the Chinese to provide “deep defense”, astragalus is considered “one of the best herbs in the world for enhancing the protective effects of the immune system”. Like ginseng, astragalus is an adaptogen, such herbs improve the body’s response to stress by giving adrenal support. (See Nutrition News, “Adaptogens: Bring Your Life Into Balance”.)
Astragalus increases the levels of certain immune cells that fight viruses and other microbial pathogens, plus it activates natural killer cells. Astragalus also stimulates the secretion of interferon, a powerful antiviral chemical that prevents viruses from replicating. In addition, astragalus supports bone marrow, home of white cell production, and boosts antibody levels.
Importantly, studies have reported that astragalus promotes regeneration of cells in the lungs following a viral infection. Potentially, this could help with the lingering phase of bronchial weakness during recovery from colds and influenza.
• Take 1000-2000 mg of astragalus daily or 1-4 droppers of extract for acute conditions. Otherwise, take 2/500 mg caps daily or 2 droppers of extract.
– The Great Plains is the only place on earth where the purple cone flower grows in the wild. And, this American native is the most widely used medicinal herb in the country. Taken continually, it loses its edge. Instead, echinacea should be taken at the first sign of an infection, when it temporarily stimulates the immune response. Research shows that it increases the body’s ability to ward off viral invasions and fight infections when they occur.
Echinacea stimulates white blood cells to help fight infection; enhances the body’s ability to dispose of bacteria, infected and damaged cells, and harmful chemicals; stimulates the growth of healthy new tissue; has an anti-inflammatory effect; activates increased protection against viral and other infections; promotes general cellular immunity; stimulates killer T cells; inhibits tumor growth; fights candida overgrowth; and fights viruses.
When purchasing echinacea: 1) look for standardized contents; 2) the active ingredients of the plant are not soluble in alcohol. Therefore, look for extracts in a non-alcoholic base.
• Use for acute conditions, take 1000 mg or 2 droppers of echinacea every 2 hours for 4 doses daily for 14 days only.
Other effective herbs include olive leaf, St. John’s wort, and larch. Don’t forget medicinal mushrooms. These can be taken daily to maintain a powerful immune system. They can be taken immediately and every few hours for acute conditions. (See Nutrition News, “Mushrooms: Magic, Myth, and Medicine”.)
Natural Medicine Cabinet
Here is a list of substances to keep at hand.
A daily defense formula, containing herbs, adaptogens, and mushrooms. Several remarkable formulas are available in the natural product store.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that populate the intestinal tract. When we consider that everything we eat passes through the intestines, it is not so surprising that 60 percent of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut. Our bodies contain 4-5 pounds of probiotics which function in an organ-like manner, producing some B vitamins, helping with digestion, and producing natural antibiotic substances that kill harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. Take either: Lactobacillus GG, 1 capsule or L-acidophilus, 1t of powder. If you have digestive problems, you may want to add this to your daily regimen. Otherwise, take when illness is “going around”.
Colostrum from cows (bovine) is used as a supplement. There are over 4,000 studies on the use of colostrum to treat dozens of different maladies. Individual immune components are used to fight cancer, chronic viral infections, autoimmune diseases, and other diseases such as chronic fatigue, candidiasis, Crohn’s disease, MS, parasites, and rheumatoid arthritis.
• Take 2 (480 mg) capsules on an empty stomach or an equal amount of powder mixed in water.
Coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant produced in every cell in the body, until we reach 40. Known for the health of the heart and the gums, it is essential for energy production. This can be a problem when we are ill (or aging or athletes). Take 100 mg.
7 KETO DHEA is a special form of DHEA. It delivers many of the advantages of the hormone DHEA without the side effects. Its effects on immune function include stimulating the production of T-cells and NK cell activity. Caution: Before taking any hormone product, have your hormone levels checked. Here 25-50 mg are recommended, depending on blood tests.
As you know, I only mention totally unique products by name. Here are two for your Natural Medicine Cabinet:
Thymic protein A (as Proboost) augments T-cell production. This is useful because of the normal slowdown of the thymus after puberty. Take 1-2 packets daily when illness threatens. At our house, we are never without
Oscillococcinum (“Oscillo”). This homeopathic remedy is a miracle. Take at the FIRST SIGN of a sore throat. (We just don’t get the flu around here.) However, Oscillo is not a cold remedy. For colds, keep a homeopathic cold remedy available. To Your Health!