Boosting Your Immune System

Why is boosting your immune system important?

You are exposed to thousands of germs everyday- bacteria and viruses that are dying to get inside you and take over. Your only defense against them is your immune system- a complex army of warriors that protects you. MOST of the time. When it breaks down, you get sick. Then, you come to see me in all your misery hoping I can give you something magical to make you feel better…
Here’s the thing: it works way better to boost your immune system and keep it working at peak efficiency all the time to PREVENT infection than to try and take something to jumpstart it once you’ve already gotten sick.
A fringe benefit: Boosting your immune system isn’t just for colds and flus. Not a lot of people know this, but boosting your immune system is one of the best ways to prevent cancer too. One of the major functions of some of your immune cells is to seek out and destroy cancer cells- that way the disease never really gets going.

Unfortunately, as you age, there is a noticeable drop in your immune function, especially by your 70’s & 80’s. You actually produce as many immune cells as you always have, they just don’t work as well anymore. (Kind of like everything else as you get older right?) The simple reason for this is that your immune system is also the victim of free radical damage.
Boosting your immune system is pretty tough when you have constant destruction from free radicals.
There are many ways the free radicals thwart your system:

  1. The immune cells themselves (T-cells, natural killer cells, etc) are damaged.
  2. Next, they knock out the cytokine pathways (communication between immune cells)- they can’t operate properly without communicating.
  3. And last, but not least, it upsets the delicate balance of free radicals that macrophages use to work. Macrophages actually release their own free radical, nitrous oxide, to destroy bacteria, parasites and viruses. If the free radical/antioxidant balance is out, the nitrous oxide ends up destroying the macrophage also.

So the best way of boosting your immune system is to load up on free radical fighters- antioxidants!

How Some Antioxidants Help in Boosting Your Immune System:

(Warning! This is pretty specific and somewhat technical. For techie-minded people like me only! If the last paragraph bored you, move along to another page…)

  1. Vitamin C

    Of course! There has been more research on vitamin C and it’s role in boosting the immune system than any other nutrient. Specifically, it increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies. It also increases interferon, which basically coats your cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses.

  2. Vitamin E
    It boosts your immune system by increasing the production of natural killer cells- important for destroying germs AND cancer cells. It also increases B cells, which are responsible for making antibodies to fight specific germs. Supplementing with vitamin E has been shown in many studies to reverse some of the decline in immune response that is seen in aging.
  3. Carotenoids (The most famous being B-carotene, but there are many others.) These increase production of natural killer cells and helper T-cells
  4. Bioflavonoids (There are lots of these, especially in fruits & veggies) Your cells have receptor sites, which are like parking spaces that allow germs and other toxins into the cell. Bioflavonoids take up these “parking spaces” so the germs won’t have access to your cell.

Children Need More Dirt to be Healthy

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, have found that children who are too clean are at a higher risk of developing inflammation and disease. Normal skin bacteria that act to balance immune response protect the body from overreacting to cuts and other injuries. Excessive cleanliness is actually impairing children’s natural healing function and putting them at an increased risk for disease.

Published in the online edition of Nature Medicine, findings are confirming that germ exposure is beneficial to young children who need it in order to build immunity and prevent the onset of allergies. Being too clean is now implicated in causing increased allergies in developed countries around the world.

Staphylococci, the bacterial species studied by researchers, was found to play a vital role in blocking inflammation. It creates a molecule called lipoteichoic acid (LTA) that keeps skin keratinocytes balanced and prevents them from creating too much inflammation. As a result, a simple cut or scrape will not get overly swollen in the presence of staphylococci.

Overuse of skin soaps, body washes, and hand sanitizers is eliminating this important bacteria, leading many researchers to question hygiene methods that have become commonplace. Children are being restricted from “dirty” outdoor activities in the name of keeping them safe from germs, when in fact these restrictions are causing them more harm than good.

Several groups in the United Kingdom, including Parents Outloud and Allergy UK, believe that the research proves that children are being overprotected from germs and that exposure to elements like dirt and sand is a good thing for them. Since allergy rates have tripled in the UK over the past ten years, advocates of germ exposure hope that the findings will cause many to reevaluate their ideas concerning childhood health.

A rapid rise in allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and serious inflammation diseases are also being seen in the United States where the sanitation craze has also taken hold. Science has shown that the human body maintains health because of the presence of trillions of different microbes that keep each other in check. Antibacterial products and other sanitation products can cause the growth of super-bacteria that can cause serious problems.

Children who grow up on farms and are exposed to all sorts of bugs, worms and natural elements have demonstrably less allergies and autoimmune problems than urban children who spend most of their time indoors. Playing outside barefoot every now and again and digging in the dirt more often would do wonders for the health of today’s youngsters.

Sources for this story include:…

Fish oil during pregnancy may slash infant allergy

Supplements of omega-3-rich fish oils during pregnancy may reduce the risk of food allergy and eczema in children, according to a new study from Sweden.

The occurrence of eczema and food allergies was 16 and 13 per cent lower, respectively, in infants of mothers receiving the fish oil supplements during pregnancy and the early months of breast-feeding, compared to placebo, according to findings published in the journal Acta Paediatrica.
“This randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study shows that omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and lactation may reduce the risk of developing allergic sensitization to egg, IgE-associated eczema and food allergy during the first year of life,” wrote the authors, led by Catrin Furuhjelm from Linkoping University.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is the predominant antibody associated with an allergic response.
The new study adds to the ever-growing list of studies supporting the potential health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA. Much of its healthy reputation that is seeping into consumer consciousness is based largely on evidence that it can aid cognitive function and may help protect the heart against cardiovascular disease.
From mother to child
Furuhjelm and her co-workers recruited 145 pregnant women with allergies, or with partners or other children with allergies. Starting at the 25th week of their pregnancy, and continuing for between three and four months of breastfeeding, the women were randomly assigned to receive either daily fish oil supplements providing 1.6 g of EPA and 1.1 g of DHA (Bio Marin capsules from Pharma Nord, Denmark), or placebo.
Using a range of tests, including clinical examination, skin prick tests, and blood tests for IgE, the researchers observed a 2 per cent prevalence of food allergy in the omega-3 group, compared to 15 per cent in the placebo group.
Furthermore, the incidence of IgE-associated eczema was only 8 per cent in the omega-3 group, compared to 24 per cent in the placebo group.
“Our findings suggest that the mechanisms leading to sustained IgE antibody production early in life may be inhibited by the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA,” wrote Furuhjelm.
What’s happening?
Commenting on the mechanism, the Linkoping-based scientists proposed several possibilities. Both DHA and EPA may produce changes in the fluidity of the membranes of immune cells, and reduce the levels of the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA). By inhibiting the metabolism of AA, the formation of the less inflammatory eicosanoids is favoured, which may be linked to lower allergic sensitization in the children, said the researchers.
“Additional anti-inflammatory effects of EPA andDHA in early immune development through bioactive lipids, lipoxins, neuroprotectines and resolvins, have been discussed but it is not clear whether those are plausible explanatory mechanisms regarding our findings,” they said.
Food allergy rises
The number of allergic disease has also been rising, with an estimated eight per cent of children in the EU suffering from food allergies, according to the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations.
The most common food allergen ingredients and their derivatives are cereals containing gluten, fish, crustaceans, egg, peanut, soybeans, milk and dairy products including lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphites.
Source: Acta Paediatrica
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2009.01355.x
“Fish oil supplementation in pregnancy and lactation may decrease the risk of infant allergy”
Authors: C. Furuhjelm, K. Warstedt, J. Larsson, M. Fredriksson, M. Fageras Bottcher, K. Falth-Magnusson, K. Duchen

The danger with many Omega-3 fish oils available on the retail shelves is the risk of mercury and other heavy metal contamination. Make sure that you purchase a pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement which is guaranteed to be mercury free.

Swine Flu Outbreak – What can you do to protect yourself?

There isn’t a newscast which doesn’t talk about the spread of the swine flu and the mounting death tally. There is a lot of scare, but what can you do to protect yourself beside locking yourself up in your house?

There are the usual recommendations which every other newscast recommends: Washing your hands, not traveling to areas of Mexico, not coming into contact which someone who is infected, etc. But if you do catch the swine flu, or any other infectious disease including the common cold, then it is up to your own body to wage war against the invading virus, at best the antiviral drug Tamaflu can help.

It was said on the news several days ago that the best defense against the Swine flu is to strengthen your immune system, but they didn’t say how. The how is actually pretty straight forward. If your body is as healthy as it can possibly be, then your immune system will be very strong. So eat well, exercise, and follow all the other recommendations for leading a healthy lifestyle, but you also need optimal amounts of all the vitamins, minerals, and phyototchemicals that your body needs to build strong cells and a strong defense system. Unfortunately you just can’t get optimal amounts from food. It has been estimated to get the optimal amounts from food alone you’d have to consume about 22,000 calories per day. That is just unreasonable – You probably couldn’t eat that much in a day, let alone ever day! You’d be the next contestant on the Biggest Loser!

Taking a full spectrum top quality multivitamin can provide the optimal levels of nutrition though – without the extra 20,000 calories a day!