The cold and flu season we are facing this year will likely be unlike any other we have experienced in this lifetime. As September begins and children return to school and university classes, the threat of contracting a virus increases.
Children bring home from school more than just homework, since schools act as “amplifying sites” for the spread of infectious diseases, outbreaks, and pandemics.1 In one trial conducted between November 1, 2001 and April 30, 2002, researchers studied 3,771 children less than 14 years of age with no chronic medical conditions who presented with respiratory tract infections.2 Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected for the isolation of influenza viruses and viral RNA detection. Information was also collected concerning respiratory illnesses and related morbidities among the study children and their household contacts. Influenza virus was demonstrated in 352 cases. One of the findings of the study was that in comparison with the influenza negative children, those who were influenza positive were more often attending day care centers or schools. Furthermore, their parents and siblings had more respiratory illnesses, received more antipyretics and antibiotics, needed more medical visits, missed more work or school days, and needed help at home to care for the ill children for a longer period of time.
When children return to school it is an ideal time to begin a proactive immune support program. This will lay the foundation for optimal wellness throughout the winter months. The following natural strategies are often used in clinical practice to support immune health at this time of year, in preparation for when our immune systems are particularly challenged.
Mushrooms and Immunity
A special formula (known as ImmunoMax 24/7™) combines six mushrooms hybridized to bring out the most potent aspects of their immune enhancement properties. This allows the mushrooms to possess greater potential than any other mushrooms grown elsewhere today, including wild crafted varieties. This new formula has emerged as one of the most important ways to support immunity.
The mushrooms contained in the formula possess a high degree of immune-modulating activity thanks to polysaccharides known as 1-3 beta glucans. It is these 1-3 beta glucans that are mandatory for proper immune system function.
The mushrooms Agaricus blazei, Cordyceps sinensis, Grifola frondosa, Ganoderma lucidum, Coriolus versicolor and Lentinula edodes enhance nonspecific immunity, improve the secretion of IGA, and increase the function of monocytes-macrophages and the activity of natural killer cells. These mushrooms also are able to increase immunological balance and stability and increase the ratio of the Th/Ts immune cells.3
Researchers have investigated the role that mushrooms can play in modulating immunity. In one in vitro study of Grifola frondosa (maitake mushroom) extract, researchers stimulated a macrophage cell line from mice with extracts from Grifola frondosa then noted the effects on the growth of influenza A virus in canine kidney cells. The results indicated that Grifola frondosa reduced virus yields and increased the production of TNF-alpha, an antiviral cytokine. The researchers concluded that components of Grifola frondosa might induce the production of certain factors, including TNF-alpha, which are responsible for the inhibition of viral growth in vitro.4 Grifola frondosa also has been found to regulate the immune system in humans.5
Other studies have looked at the antiviral activity of Cordyceps sinensis, one of the most valued Chinese medicinal mushrooms. In 25 patients with chronic hepatitis B, 3 months of using Cordyceps resulted in an improvement in immunity as indicated by the fact that CD4 and CD4/CD8 ratio increased significantly compared with the controls.6
Animal studies also have shown that Cordyceps can regulate cellular immunity, enhance production of spleen lymphocytes and increase production of IL-2 from splenocytes. IL-2 (interleukin-2) is a cytokine, a protein released by white blood cells, which plays an important role in immunity by enhancing natural killer cell function and the production of T cells.7
Ganoderma lucidum extract, known as Reishi mushroom, was found to increase the immune responses of patients with advanced stage cancer and to significantly increase the mean natural killer cell activity compared to baseline along with improving other aspects of immunity.8
Another mushroom, Coriolus versicolor, restored immune responses to normal levels in tumor-bearing animals with suppressed or enhanced immune responses. In these animals, the killer T cell activity was augmented by intraperitoneal or oral administration of Coriolus versicolor.9
Lentinula edodes (Shitake), another well-documented immune modulator, has been found to stimulate immunomodulating cytokines in vitro10 and to enhance the ability of macrophages to phagocytize (or “eat”) foreign invaders in rodents.11
Combining the mushrooms mentioned above with EGCG, the polyphenol compound found in green tea, is potentially the most important aspect of the ImmunoMax 24/7 formula.12-13 A number of studies have investigated EGCG’s activity against various strains of the flu. In one published report, two catechins from green tea, EGCG and ECG, were found to be potent inhibitors of influenza virus replication in cells and this effect was observed in all influenza virus subtypes tested, including A/H1N1, A/H3N2 and B virus. EGCG and ECG also suppressed viral RNA synthesis in the cells.14
An earlier in vitro study tested EGCG in cells infected with adenovirus, which is responsible for 5–10 percent of upper respiratory infections in children, as well as many infections in adults. Adding EGCG to the medium of infected cells reduced virus yield by two orders of magnitude.15
According to the researchers, “We conclude that the anti-adenoviral activity of EGCG manifests itself through several mechanisms, both outside and inside the cell, but at effective drug concentrations well above that reported in the serum of green tea drinkers.”
A purified form of EGCG is used within the formula ImmunoMax 24/7. The EGCG is suspended in a time-released matrix so that it doesn’t break down in stomach acid, allowing much more of this virus-blocking compound into the blood stream than can be obtained by drinking green tea.
Mild Silver Protein (MSP) has been used since the 19th century as an anti-microbial agent, with a wide range of bactericidal, fungicidal and virucidal properties. Silver has been used to speed wound healing, purify water and preserve beverages.16 Silver was one of the mainstays of medical practice in Europe and America during the period from 1900 until the beginning of the modern antibiotic era, which began in the 1940s.
Historically, various forms of silver were used in literally hundreds of ailments, including pneumonia, tuberculosis and pleurisy,17 gonorrhea and syphilis,18 wounds, leg ulcers, pustular eczema, impetigo and boils.18 It has been used in acute meningitis and epidemic cerebro-spinal meningitis,17 Mediterranean fever, erysipelas, cystitis, typhus, typhoid fever, and tonsillitis,17 dacryocystitis, corneal ulcers, conjunctivitis and blepharitis,19 and various forms of septicemia, including puerperal fever, peritonitis and post-abortion septicemia.17, 20
Silver is unique among antimicrobial agents in its broad spectrum of action. It has been claimed to kill some 650 different disease organisms21 including 95 percent of 72 strains of herpes virus.22 Recently, it has been reported that intravenous mild silver protein caused a dramatic reduction in viral load of three patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV+).23
Silver can be used by adults to keep their defenses strong and to establish a proactive shield against viral attacks.
The activated form of vitamin D, 1,25(OH)2D, a steroid hormone, has been shown to have profound effects on human immunity. Vitamin D acts as an immune system modulator, preventing excessive expression of inflammatory cytokines and enhancing the activity of macrophages as they destroy viral invaders. In addition, vitamin D dramatically stimulates the expression of potent antimicrobial peptides that exist in natural killer cells, and in cells lining the respiratory tract where they play a major role in protecting the lung from infection. Vitamin D also reduces the incidence of respiratory infections in children.24
In addition to 5,000 and 1,000 IU vitamin D3 capsules, a liquid form of Vitamin D3, an ideal option for children, is available here.
EpiCor® and EpiCor® Junior
The yeast fermentation product known as EpiCor is an immune modulator and powerful antioxidant that causes a four-fold increase in the activity of natural killer cells, which play an important part in immune health. EpiCor was found to enhance the immune system and significantly reduce cold and flu symptoms.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, researchers studied 116 people recently vaccinated against the flu. Subjects received either daily supplements of EpiCor (500 mg) or a placebo. The scientists collected data on the subjects at the study’s start and after six and 12 weeks.
The researchers found that the subjects given EpiCor experienced significantly fewer cold and flu symptoms and significantly shorter duration of symptoms, compared to subjects taking the placebo. Among the 116 study participants, those who did have symptoms experienced a reduction in the duration of symptoms by 14 percent after taking EpiCor. The overall occurrence of cold and flu symptoms was reduced by 21 percent in the EpiCor group.25
The above study and a large body of evidence that shows EpiCor can enhance immunity, indicates EpiCor for adults and EpiCor Junior for children are viable options to enhance health.
Despite our best efforts to fend off a viral attack, our defenses sometimes are weakened and illness results. Specific plant-derived compounds have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for two thousand years to enhance immune health and are meant to be taken by adults at the first onset of illness. Concentrated extracts of Forsythia suspense fruit, Lonicera japonicus flower, Platycodon grandiflorum root, Mentha arvensis, Lophatherum gracile stem and leaf, Glycyrrhizae uralensis root, Schizonepeta tennifolia herb, Glycine max seed, Arctium lappa fruit and Phragmites communis rhizome (found in Fast Response formula) all have properties that can profoundly maximize immune health.
In immunized mice, Glycyrrhizae uralensis increased the production of splenocytes, white blood cells found within the spleen that are important in immunity, and increased antibody production.26 Platycodon grandiflorum, another immune stimulating herb, activates macrophages, which engulf and digest viruses and other pathogens, a process known as phagocytosis. However, unlike many other immune stimulating botanicals, platycodon activates B cells rather than T cells.27
Phragmites communis, in animal studies, reduces atrophy of the thymus and spleen both of which are critical to the body’s immune system.28 A new compound isolated from Forsythia in 2002 was shown to inhibit the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the most commonly identified cause of lower respiratory tract infections in young children. In the elderly, the virus can mimic a long and severe common cold.29
Platycodon grandiflorum, Arctigenin (a component of Arctium lappa) and Mentha arvensis have equally important effects on the respiratory tract. Platycodon grandiflorum is known to clear the lungs and reduce phlegm production.30 Arctigenin markedly improved lung health in mice with pneumonia caused by influenza virus infection. Arctigenin also prolonged the survival time of mice infected with flu virus.31 Mentha arvensis, an extract derived from mint, inhibits histamine release from mast cells in vitro.32
Fast Response also includes vitamin A and zinc, two nutrients important in building immunity.
When children return to school, immunity enhancement should return to the top of everyone’s priority list. Bolstering the immune system now can set the stage for a healthier winter. ImmunoMax 24/7, Silver Liquid, Vitamin D3, EpiCor and EpiCor Junior are all excellent ways to strengthen the immune system while Fast Response should be kept on hand for immediate action if the immune system fails.
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