If you have done some reading on the immune system lately, you know that immunity involves a complex network of specialized cells and organs that evolved to defend the body against attacks by foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and other parasites. The two basic kinds or types of immunity are termed innate and acquired. Innate immunity, also known as genetic or species immunity,represents a wide range of immune protective factors that a person is born with. In contrast, acquired immunity becomes part of the host defenses by means other than heredity. Within this category, immune protection can be acquired naturally or artificially.
Natural acquired immunity is developed through the recovery from a specific infectious disease while artificial acquired immunity occurs when the host receives a vaccine or antitoxin. This category can be further subdivided by using the terms active (the host actively produces antibodies in response to a solution of antigens such as those in a vaccine) and passive (the host passively accepts preformed antibodies present in products such as an antitoxin). When our immune system malfunctions, the consequences can range from microbial infections to cancer. Many nutritional supplement ingredients are effective in supporting immune system health. Some of the more popular and scientifically substantiated ingredients include:
1. Echinacea has been shown to stimulate the immune system by increasing the activity of certain immune cells and by promoting the release of cytokines (cellular communication and regulatory molecules) from these immune cells (1).
2. Elderberry contains flavonoid derivatives called anthocyanidins that appear to have immuno-modulatory effects. These compounds in elderberry extract have been found to bind to viruses and block their ability to invade host cells (2). In this way, elderberry is thought to reduce the severity of viral flu symptoms.
3. Vitamin D3 has been known for quite some time as being important in supporting bone health. However, recently Vitamin D3 has also been shown to be a key component in enhancing the immune system.
Sophisticated experiments have demonstrated that Vitamin D3 is essential for the activation of immune cells needed to seek out and destroy infectious invading microbes (3). Without this activation, infections such as influenza and the common cold appear to be more severe and longer lasting.
4. Scientific studies on ingredients such as zinc, Korean ginseng, Vitamin C, beta-glucans and arabinogalactans show that all of these enhance and improve the effectiveness of the immune system by increasing the protective activity of certain immune cells. Macrophages, neutrophils, NK (natural killer) cells and T-cells (T-lymphocytes) are responsible for attacking and neutralizing foreign, disease-causing microbes. Without the proper function of these immune cells, infectious diseases such as colds and the flu usually occur more frequently, are more severe, and have a longer duration. As a pharmacy student and during my graduate school days, I was always interested in the concepts of immunology. However, back in those days, the association of immune function and the gut was either not mentioned or was discussed very superficially. Now that we understand how important a properly functioning gut is to the immune system, I’m fascinated by reading the many excellent scientific papers on this topic. A particularly intriguing aspect focuses on how gut bacteria may influence various disease processes while being involved with their beneficial role in digestion and metabolism. In a previous Hot Topic paper, I described how the “Western diet”—high in fats and simple sugars—can reshape the gut microbial community (microbiome) and predispose humans to obesity and all of the health problems that accompany the obese state. Dietary fibers escape host digestion, but resident microbes in the distal gut (large intestine) metabolize these indigestible leftovers to yield short-chain fatty acids such as acetic, propionic and butyric acids. Not only do these acids contribute about 10% to our daily energy supply but they also impact the immune system. Gut microbe-generated acetate interacts with immune cells to quiet an overactive immune system while propionic acid appears to promote the acquired immune response by acting on T-lymphocytes (4). Butyric acid is known to serve as an important energy source for gut endothelial cells thereby enhancing innate immunity.
We’re all familiar with the benefits of the polyphenolic antioxidants. Recently, it has been found that the well-known ellagic acid, present primarily in berries and nuts, is metabolized by gut microbes to a class of compounds known as the urolithins. Specific urolithins are thought to reduce inflammation and thus protect against cancer (5). We have focused on a few important aspects of gut health as they relate to a properly functioning immune system. However, keep in mind that our gut microbes have long been known to be part of other processes such as food digestion and the production of essential micronutrients. On the downside, our gut bacteria can be directly linked to medical conditions such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and cancer. Therefore, I believe that it’s imperative that we continue toward a better understanding of this huge population of microbes that live in our gastrointestinal tract and other parts of our body. Another way of looking at this situation is that we are outnumbered. Believe it or not, the vast majority of cells that make up the human body are microbial cells.
1. Echinacea. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 8th ed. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2010. p. 605.
2. Elderberry. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 8th ed. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2010. p. 615.
3. Von Essen MR, et al. Vitamin D controls T cell antigen receptor signaling and activation of human T cells. Nature Immunology. 2010; 11(4):344-349.
4. Fukuda S, et al. Bifidobacteria can protect from enteropathogenic infection through production of acetate. Nature. 2011 Jan 27;469(7331):543-547.
5. González-Sarrías A, et al. NF-kappaB-dependent anti-inflammatory activity of urolithins, gut microbiota ellagic acid-derived metabolites, in human colonic fibroblasts. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010 Aug;104(4):503-12.
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that occurs in nearly one in 100 Americans, but only about 150,000 people have been diagnosed formally. It is triggered by an autoimmune response to a protein in wheat, barley and rye called gluten, and affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients in the small intestine.
Research into the causes of celiac disease indicates that this disorder develops when a person exposed to gluten also has a genetic susceptibility to celiac disease, and an unusually permeable intestinal wall. The symptoms of celiac disease were documented as early as the first century A.D. by a Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia. British physician Samuel Gee is credited as the modern father of celiac disease. Although he surmised that errors in the diet may be a cause, identification of gluten as the trigger didn’t occur until after World War II. Dutch pediatrician Willem-Karel Dicke noticed that a war-related shortage of bread in the Netherlands led to a significant drop in the death rate among children affected by celiac disease. Following this observation, other scientists discovered that gluten was the culprit in celiac disease.
Celiac disease is associated with higher rates of numerous nutritional deficiencies.B vitamin supplements were shown in a study by a team of Dutch researchers to be effective in increasing the levels of vitamin B6, folate and vitamin B12 in individuals with celiac disease.1 Regular supplementation with B vitamins also resulted in lower levels of plasma (blood) homocysteine.1 Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. Epidemiological studies have shown that too much homocysteine in the blood is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.2
Currently, gluten avoidance is recommended to eliminate symptoms of celiac disease. However, supplements to support good general digestive health are suggested.
Digestive enzymes such as protease, amylase and lipase support optimal digestion in the small intestine. Betaine HCl helps to support digestion that occurs in the stomach as well as in the small intestine by supplying diluted hydrochloric acid. The stomach manufactures hydrochloric acid required for digestion. However, hydrochloric acid levels often decline with age. Supplementing with HCl helps maintain optimal digestion.
By the time food reaches the large intestine, it is mostly composed of indigestible material and water. Here excess water and any residual minerals are absorbed.Fiber aids this process by promoting the movement of the remaining debris through the intestine and easing the passage of waste also known as stool. In addition to promoting elimination, fiber also helps to support friendly bacteria.
About 100 trillion bacteria reside in the digestive system. Friendly bacteria, or probiotics, perform several essential functions. They promote good digestion, support the immune system, inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms, and produce vitamins such as vitamin K and biotin. Research by Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Mucosal Biology Research Center and the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, indicates that the microbiome, or the community of bacteria living in the digestive tract may have an effect on gluten sensitivity and intolerance.3 Future research may determine which probiotics are involved in delaying the onset of celiac disease. Until then, supplementing with probiotic products is a wise choice for supporting digestive health.
- Hadithi M, Mulder CJJ, Stam F, Azizi J, Crusius JBA, Peña AS, Stehouwer CDA, Smulders YM. Effect of B vitamin supplementation on plasma homocysteine levels in celiac disease. World J Gastroenterol 2009; 15(8): 955-960.
- American Heart Association. Available at:http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=535
- Scientific American. Available at:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=celiac-disease-insights
Protecting brain health is imperative for meaningful and healthy aging. Scientific and medical wisdom suggest that some degree of cognitive decline is part of the aging process. The possibility of living longer and healthier lives is within reach, but brain health must be preserved while achieving this goal. For this reason, it’s quite encouraging to learn that scientists have discovered that neurological structure and function can be preserved and even restored. We can now offer scientifically substantiated approaches to enhancing our cognitive health with brain health supplements.
Various factors contribute to the gradual decline of mental acuity as we age. Recent studies suggest that inflammation, high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, obesity, arterial inelasticity and a condition known as metabolic syndrome are all risk factors and can lead to a decline in brain health. Anxiety and depression can also predispose an individual to a deterioration of brain health. A good strategy for preserving brain health starts with preventing illnesses that are known to contribute to cognitive decline. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” definitely applies here. Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are obviously beneficial to brain health and a great place to start. A healthy neurological system is also dependent on keeping blood pressure and body weight in check, avoiding diabetes and its precursor metabolic syndrome, as well as treating depression and anxiety disorders.
A number of well-known dietary supplement ingredients support brain health. Nerve cells (neurons) have a high energy demand, and hence free radicals are abundant due to a high level of oxidative metabolism within neurons. Antioxidants scavenge these free radicals and thus minimize neuronal damage and support brain health. Alpha-lipoic acid is quite valuable for neuronal protection because of solubility characteristics that allows considerable free radical neutralizing activity within nerve cell mitochondria. Inflammation is implicated in a wide variety of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. Ginkgo biloba leaf extract (GBE) is well-known for its neuroprotective effects mediated through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action. GBE has been used extensively for memory enhancement as well as in a wide variety of dementias. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been used quite frequently to combat neurological damage, inflammation and deteriorating brain health. Phosphatidylserine (PS) and related phospholipids are integral components of every cell membrane and are particularly abundant in brain neuronal membranes. In Europe and Japan, PS is sold as a prescription drug to remedy memory loss and learning deficits.
For a long time it’s been known that declining levels of the essential neurotransmitter acetylcholine is responsible for a wide range of cognitive deficits (1). By boosting acetylcholine levels in the brain, cognitive deficits are reversed. One approach to increasing brain acetylcholine levels involves inhibiting acetylcholine esterase, the enzyme responsible for acetylcholine metabolism or breakdown. Many of the prescription drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias act as cholinesterase inhibitors. A naturally occurring cholinesterase inhibitor sold as a nutritional supplement is called huperzine A. This alkaloid is isolated and purified from extracts of the Chinese club moss, Huperzia serrata. Huperzine A has been found to be both potent and effective in elevating brain levels of acetylcholine (2).
I have always thought of progesterone as having an important role in female health. It has been known for quite some time that progesterone is also produced by males but at much lower levels. Recently, it was discovered that progesterone is synthesized in the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves from the precursor molecule pregnenolone (3). I was surprised to learn that within the brain, and the nervous system in general, progesterone offers neuroprotection and is intimately involved with the formation of myelin sheaths. These findings suggest that progesterone, now referred to as a neurosteroid, has the potential to preserve cognitive functions and overall brain health because of these neuroprotective and promyelinating effects. Very recently, animal studies revealed that progesterone inhibited the inflammatory response and enhanced the recovery from traumatic brain injury and stroke (4). At this point, the conclusion is that progesterone supports brain health and combats neurodegeneration that may occur during the aging process.
The brain, like any other organ or system in the body, is subject to the aging process. During this process, physical and biochemical changes in brain cells can lead to various degrees of cognitive impairment. This loss of brain function as we age is not inevitable. Scientific research has demonstrated mechanisms that explain cognitive decline as well as nutrients/supplement ingredients that can slow and even reverse the progression of age-related brain health degeneration. Brain health supplements containing some of these key ingredients provide a smart option for maintaining brain health throughout life.
Created by Dr. William J. Keller
- Bartus RT, Dean RL, Beer B, Lippa AS. The cholinergic hypothesis of geriatric memory dysfunction. Science. 1982 Jul 30;217(4558):408-14. Abstract available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7046051
- Jellin, JD. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 2010. pp. 926-929.
- Schumacher M, et al. Local synthesis and dual actions of progesterone in the nervous system: neuroprotection and myelination. Growth Hormone IGF Research. 2004 Jun;14 Suppl A:S18-33. Abstract available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15135772
- Wang J, et al. The protective mechanism of progesterone on blood-brain barrier in cerebral ischemia in rats. Brain Research Bulletin. 2009 Aug 14;79(6):426-30. Abstract available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19477244.
H1N1 Flu Scare Isn’t OverH1N1 Flu Scare Isn’t Over
•People are upset they can’t get a vaccine
•Local schools are having vaccination days
•A weakened virus is used in nasal vaccines and is contagious for several days afterwards
•The vaccin is not effective or has unknown side effects
•The rate sickness spreads is alarming
•Winter isn’t the only time of year we have problems with illness –Fall, Spring and Summer bring problems as well!
Building Your Immune Defenses
•NSP has a variety of options to build your immune defenses
•Today we’ll talk about two products we haven’t heard a lot about recently:
–High Potency Garlic
Main Parts of the Immune System
–White blood cells, acid and digestive enzyme secretions, the skin and chemical compounds in the blood that attach to foreign organisms and neutralize them.
2.Acquired (natural) Immunity
–It is powerful
–It is what we “build up”
–It is activated by antigens
–It is governed by the body’s lymph system
How Do We Acquire Natural Immunity?
1.We are exposed to trillions of organisms from which we do not get sick.
2.We acquire immunity from exposure to antigens (chemical compounds unique to an invading organism or toxin) from which our bodies build up antibodies.
3.Antibodies give the body memory to protect against toxins previously exposed to.
•Childhood illnesses and even adult exposure to antigens build our immune system and make us more resistant to illness.
•This is especially true when illness is treated with natural means rather than with chemical/synthetic medications.
What Can Hinder Proper Building of Our Immune Defense?
•Fluoride in oral hygiene items
What Can Hinder Proper Building of Our Immune Defense?
•Injected toxins that bypass the natural immune response
•Ingestion of harmful things
•Unnatural and resistant strains of organisms from labs
•Presence of heavy metals
•Neuro-toxic substances such as MSG and mercury
•Low fat/unhealthy fat diets
•Too much exercise -especially for an already unhealthy person
Olive Leaf Extract
•The olive tree lives a very long life and is resistant to viruses, fungi, insects and bacteria
•Olive Leaf contains a chemical called Oleuropein.
People Have Used Olive Leaf Extract for the Following:
•The relief of arthritic inflammation
•Diabetes –reducing the need for insulin
•The elimination of chronic fatigue
•The creation or restoration of abundant energy
•Normalization of heart beat irregularity
•Improvement of blood flow
•Lessening of pain from hemorrhoids
•Attenuation of toothaches
•Antioxidant quenching of free radical pathology
•Obliterations of fungal infections such as mycoticnails, athlete’s foot, jock itch
•Permanent relief from malaria, dengue fever,
other exotic and deadly tropical diseases
•Excellent to take for protection when traveling
•Garlic will strengthen and build the liver
•Contains allicin–gives garlic the “anti-infection” properties
•Has volatile compounds so it can spread rapidly throughout the body
•Useful for hard to reach parts such as the inner ear
Garlic Has Amazing Components Germanium
•Positive effects against radioactivity
•Inhibiting multiplication of abnormal cells
•Activation of natural killer cells and macrophages
•Tumor inhibiting activity
•Increase the body’s ability to absorb calcium
•Improve stamina and endurance
•These are only a few!
Nature's Sunshine Products Available
High Potency Garlic
Olive Leaf Extract
With the cold-weather settling in, it is important to keep the immune system in optimal shape. The immune system is a versatile and complex network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to counteract the effects of foreign invaders. However, immune function may decline with age, inadequate nutrition and stress. During the cold and flu season natural alternatives for immune system support help target unwanted invaders.
Olive leaf extract is used to enhance the immune system, and has antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. The active component in olive leaf extract is called oleuropein. Present throughout the olive tree (wood, fruit, leaves, roots and bark), this compound protects the tree form insect and bacterial predators and imparts numerous benefits when taken in supplement form.1,2
For over 2,500 years black elderberry has treated influenza, coughs, and colds.3 Elderberry juice is said to “activate the body’s powers of resistance”,4 enabling the body to keep and restore good health. Elderberry extract is supported by scientific studies in its effects against influenza through a heightened immune system response.5
Goldenseal is a Native American medicinal plant introduced to early settlers by Cherokee Indians who used it as a wash for skin diseases, wounds, and for sore, inflamed eyes. Goldenseal has acquired a considerable reputation as a natural antibiotic and as a remedy for various gastric and genitourinary concerns. The alkaloids hydrastine, berberine, canadine, and canadaline are the principle active constituents in goldenseal. The berberine constituent is most noted for its antimicrobial effects.6
Tea tree oil extracted from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree native to Australia has been used by Australian aborigines for several centuries. Topically, tea tree oil is commonly used for skin and skin surface infections such as acne, athlete's foot, and ringworm.
Pau d’arco has been used since the time of the Incas as a healing plant. The component of pau d’arco that seems to have the most significance is a naphthoquinone derivative known as lapachol, shown in studies to have activity against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.7
Garlic is rich in a variety of sulfur-containing compounds including allicin and ajoene. While these compounds are responsible for garlic's pungent odor, they are also the source of many of its health-promoting effects. In addition to antifungal benefits, garlic is also reported to have antibacterial, anthelmintic, and antiviral effects.8
A combination of herbs described by Chinese herbalists as having “metal-enhancing” properties includes indigo, bupleurum, scute, and Thlaspi arvense. These herbs create a favorable environment for microbial balance and overall health, support detoxification and promote a healthy respiratory tract.
1. Walker, M. Olive Leaf Extract. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp. 1997.
2. Pasquale, A.D.; Monforte, M.T.; Calabro, M.L. “HPLC Analysis of Oleuropein and some
Flavonoids in Leaf and Bud of Olea Europaea L.“ IIFarmaco 1991: 46(6):803-815.
3. Mumcuoglu, M. Sambuco; Black Elderberry Extract, a break through in the treatment of influenza.
Skokie, IL:RSS Publishing, Inc. 1995.
4. Dahlow, M. Healing Plants. Hong Kong:Barron’s Educational Series 1993.
5. Zakay-Rones, Z.; Varsano, N.; Zlotnik, M.; Manor, O.; Regev, L.; Schlesinger, M.; Mumcuoglu, M.
“Inhibition of several strains of Influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry
extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of Influenza B Panama.” Journal of Alternative and
Complementary Medicine 1995;1(4):361-369.
6. Amin AH, Subbaiah TV, Abbasi KM. Berberine sulfate: antimicrobial activity, bioassay, and mode of
action. Can J Microbiol 1969;15:1067-76.
7. Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal, 4th ed., Binghamton, NY: Haworth Herbal Press, 1999.
8. Ankri S, Mirelman D. Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic. Microbes Infect 1999;1:125-9.