Building Your Immune System
If you want to maintain your health, increase your longevity, and minimize your risk of many illnesses, you must boost your immune system. It is not important to build your immune system just to protect yourself from cancer, age related diseases, or autoimmune disorders either. Your garden variety flu is responsible for some 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide each and every year1--about 36,000 in the US alone2--each and every year. In fact, of the some 1,700 bacteria and viruses known to cause disease, historically, the flu virus has been the leading cause of death -- only recently being surpassed by the AIDS virus!
The bottom line is if you're looking to stay healthy--it's worth optimizing your immune system. Scientists have known for years that it is possible to improve the functioning of your immune system. The conventional medical approach has been to use expensive, proprietary drugs, including concentrated cytokines such as interleukin and interferon. Holistic healers, on the other hand, have adopted a more nuanced approach using natural substances to:
- Stimulate and strengthen the immune system
- Fight infection
- Strengthen tissue against assault by invading microorganisms
- Stimulate macrophage capability
- Increase T-cell production and protect helper T-cells
- Complement the action of interferon and interleukin-1
- Promote increased production of cytokines
- Assist the cell-mediated immune response
With that in mind, let's take a look at some natural immune boosters. Not only are they safer than their pharmaceutical counterparts, but they have fewer side effects and are, surprisingly, often more powerful-- at least up to this point in time. First we'll look at the ingredients I use in my own immune system support formula. As a formula, they are designed to complement each and boost your immune system across the board. After that, we'll take a look at some other useful immune enhancers that can be taken separately. The reason they are not included in the formula is that, although they are very powerful, they need to be taken in larger amounts--sometimes one or two capsules of just that one ingredient--to be effective and are, therefore, not suitable for inclusion in a multi-part formula.
A Multi-Part Formula for Building the Immune System
Under normal circumstances, your immune system responds to foreign organisms by producing antibodies and stimulating specialized cells which destroy the organisms or neutralize their toxic byproducts. A second major function of your immune system, though, is to watch over all of the cells of your body to ensure that they are not abnormal--in other words, cancerous. A properly functioning immune system is actually your first line of defense against cancer.
The secret to a good immune tonic is to:
- Select complementary herbal immune enhancers that build immunity across the board, in multiple ways.
- Use meaningful doses of a select number of herbs, not miniscule doses of a large number of herbs. You want efficacy from each herb you use, not a large number of herbs on a label used at insignificant doses.
- Use only the highest quality herbs, not the cheapest. Formulators can buy ginseng for $5.00 a pound or $400-$600 a pound for high quality wild crafted or organic. Which do you think actually work? When it comes to your health and your immune system, you want only high quality ingredients used in any formula you use.
With that said, let's take a look at what actually goes into a good multi-part immune building formula.
There are several different ways that immune boosters can power up your immune system. One of the simplest is by presenting your immune system with what it perceives as a non-specific threat -- a foreign antigen -- that in actuality offers no real threat to the body. This false threat causes your immune system to "power up" its defenses. However, since the immune booster presents no actual threat to the body, the immune system has nothing to use its new found readiness against. And thus it waits, charged up, primed for some/any threat to manifest so that it can jump on it with a vengeance. One thing to keep in mind about this kind of immune booster is that the immune system can be fooled by a false threat for only so long before it says to itself, "Ah, you're just yanking my chain. I'm onto what's happening here -- time to stand down." And thus the effectiveness of the supplement begins to wane. When using immune boosters of this type, it's best to take regular breaks so your body forgets the false threat presented to the immune system. This works because since the threat is false, your immune system never actually gets to take the final step of "attacking" the immune booster, which is required for the cells of your immune system to memorize a response to an invader. Thus, you can pull your immune system's leg again and again, while keeping your immune system on high alert indefinitely. For Echinacea, it's best to use it for three weeks on and one week off.
Note: if someone is highly sensitive to the antigens presented by this type of immune booster, their immune systems can actually "kick over" into an actual allergic response to the immune booster and produce symptoms such as sneezing and watery eyes, for example. For sensitive people, then, this type of immune booster is not useful. It should also be noted that this type of response can be plant part dependent. With Echinacea, for example, more people are sensitive to supplements made with Echinacea flowers as opposed to Echinacea seeds and roots. Fortunately, the strongest bioactives are in the seeds and roots, not the flowers.
Echinacea (purple coneflower) was "discovered" in the late 1800's by a traveling salesman named Joseph Meyer, who learned about it from the Plains Indians while roaming out West. He brewed it up as an alcohol tincture and sold it as a cure all -- demonstrating its effectiveness by drinking his tonic and letting rattlesnakes bite him. Needless to say, he never got sick, from whence comes the phrase "snake oil."
How does Echinacea work? In addition to tricking the immune system to ramp up, Echinacea has a number of bioactives that help in several other ways. First, E. angustifolia and E. oallida roots contain echinacoside, a natural antibiotic comparable to penicillin in effect, which can kill a broad range of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.3 And all three varieties contain cichoric and chlorogenic acids, as well as cynarin, which all work to charge up the immune system by stimulating phagocytosis. In addition, Echinacea contains high molecular weight polysaccharides such as heteroxylan, arabinogalactan, and fucogalactoxyloglucansm, which stimulate macrophages and possess anti-inflammatory activity.
As a result, Echinacea is invaluable in wound healing and in the treatment of infectious diseases. Research has also reported Echinacea's efficacy in treating colds, flu, bronchitis, and tuberculosis. And Echinacea contains echinacein, which along with echinacoside protects against germ attack by neutralizing the tissue-dissolving enzyme hyaluronidase, produced by many germs.4 Among the many pharmacological properties reported for Echinacea, the one demonstrated most convincingly is macrophage activation -- by increasing production of interferon gamma.5 In addition, one study showed that Echinacea extracts can boost T-cell production by up to 30 percent more than pharmaceutical immune boosting drugs.6 And finally Echinacea also increases production of the chemokines interleukin-8 and MCP-1, which enhance the migration of immune cells to the site of infection.
There are two primary varieties of Echinacea: purpurea and angustifolia. And depending on the country you're in, you may also find E. pallida used in your formula. They are similar, but also have complementary properties. Formulas that use at least two of them (especially purpurea and angustifollia) are more likely to be effective. It's also worth noting that potency runs from seed to root to leaf to least in the flower. And of course herb quality is paramount.
Over the last few years, there have been several studies that claimed to debunk Echinacea's ability to boost the immune system and fight colds. Suffice it to say that the studies were either flawed in design (reviews of previously flawed studies), used the wrong parts of the Echinacea plant (flowers and leaves rather than roots and seeds), or used it at the wrong strength. More disturbingly, a more recent study (2010), conducted using good quality Echinacea at a significant dose, found little benefit to using Echinacea in terms of reducing the length of a cold.7 Not surprisingly, the press jumped all over it, proclaiming Echinacea was now proven to be little more than a placebo. However, two aspects of the study's protocol negate the results.
- Dosing with Echinacea commenced at the onset of symptoms. This is too late to capitalize on Echinacea's primary ability to ramp up the immune system in preparation for any pathogenic invasion. Once symptoms start, your immune system is going to be responding to the antigens presented by the cold virus itself so adding Echinacea will provide little added immune benefit at that point. (Remember, the key to Echinacea is ramping up the immune system "before" the invader arrives. And studies have shown that when used in that way, Echinacea can decrease your odds of getting a cold by 58%.8) After that, any benefit will come from its germ killing properties, which although real, are secondary. And even at that, the study showed that Echinacea did indeed shorten the duration of colds -- just not by that much. Once again, the major benefit of Echinacea is in ramping up your defenses before an invader attacks--not shortening the duration of an illness after an attack. For that, you need an anti-pathogenic formula.
- If you are going to wait until the last second, you have to intervene during the incubation phase at the latest, before symptoms fully manifest. And, at least with Echinacea, you have to use a liquid extract for quicker absorption. Once you hit the incubation phase, it's only a matter of hours before the virus kicks into full gear. Waiting for an Echinacea pill to dissolve and make its way through the digestive tract takes too long.
Forget the negative studies. Echinacea still stands as a powerful immune booster. And as an interesting side note, a study published just a few weeks ago found that echinacoside protects against beta amyloid fibril-induced neuronal cell death. For those of you who don't remember, beta amyloid protein depositions play a crucial role in a variety of degenerative disorders, especially Alzheimer's.
Pau d'arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa) is a broad-leaf evergreen tree that comes from the rain forests of Brazil and other areas of South America. It is the inner bark of the tree that provides the medicinal function.
Like Echinacea, this amazing herb both stimulates the body's defense system and actively attacks pathogenic organisms, especially bacteria and fungi. It has been used for centuries to improve immune function, detoxify, and reduce pain throughout the body, especially in the joints. Research has shown that it contains lapachol, a natural antibacterial agent9 that has a healing effect on the entire body, cleanses the blood, and kills viruses. Pau d'arco has been used as a treatment for AIDS, allergies, infections and inflammations, anemia, asthma, arthritis and rheumatism, arteriosclerosis, bronchitis, cancer, candidiasis, colitis, cystitis, diabetes, eczema, fistulas, gastritis, gonorrhea, hemorrhages, Hodgkin's disease, liver disease, leukemia, lupus, multiple sclerosis, osteomyelitis, Parkinson's disease, prostatitis, psoriasis, skin sores, snake bites, ulcers, varicose veins, warts, and wounds.
The primary active biochemicals in Pau d'arco are the naphthoquinones: lapachol and beta-lapachone. Researchers have shown that lapacholhas antitumorous,10 antiedemic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral,11 bactericidal (even against MRSA),12 and antifungal activity13--not to mention being antiparsitic.14
Natives of the Amazon jungle have used suma root (Pfaffia paniculata) for at least the last 300 years. It wasn't until 1975, however, that Suma was first tested at the University Of São Paulo, Brazil. The studies concluded that although it was not a cure, suma nevertheless brought significant relief for cancer,15 diabetes, and gout sufferers, with no undesirable side effects. Since then, studies at the American College of the Healing Arts have indicated that consistent use of suma may help combat fatigue (including treatment of chronic fatigue and low-energy conditions), prevent colds and flu, speed healing, regulate blood sugar, and stimulate the sex drive. In general, suma is considered an energizing adaptogen, an herb used to normalize and regulate the systems of the body when the body is under severe stress or attack from pathogens. Specifically, it is used to boost the immune system. In fact, it is suma's ability to enhance non-specific immune and/or cellular immune systems that likely accounts for its anticancer abilities.16
The key working ingredients in suma are pfaffic acid (prevents the spread of various cell disorders), pfaffocides and other saponins (help stop diseases already in progress), the plant hormones sitosterol and stigmasterol (prevent cholesterol absorption and improve blood circulation), allantoin (helps accelerate healing), and germanium. Suma has one of the highest concentrations of organic germanium sesquioxide (Ge-132) of any plant known. Discovered about thirty years ago, Ge-132 works much like Pau d'arco in that it stimulates production of interferon gamma, while at the same time activating cytotoxic natural killer cells and macrophages.17 The net result is that it can invigorate the body, restore sexual function, protect against miscarriages, heal burns, reduce pain, treat circulatory disorders, and shrink cancers, in addition to being a powerful immunostimulant.18
Astragalus has been a foundational herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years. It is one of the important "Qi tonifying" adaptogenic herbs from the Chinese materia medica. Current research on Astragalus focuses on the immune stimulating capacity of its polysaccharides and saponins. It also appears to be useful in dealing with cancer,19 and in increasing stamina. First and foremost, though, it is an immunostimulant20 used in the treatment of chronic viral infections, hepatitis, edema, common cold, and flu. Astragalus increases the interferon response to viral infection and works synergistically with interferon. It also increases phagocytic activity and antibody levels and improves the functioning of natural killer cells.21
Cordyceps sinensis has properties similar to those of ginseng and has been used to strengthen and rebuild the body after exhaustion or long-term illness. It is one of the most valued medicinal fungi in Chinese medicine and has also been used traditionally for impotence, neurasthenia, and backache. Recent research with extracts of Cordyceps has yielded a protein-bound polysaccharide with activity against tumors, as well as being capable of up-regulating macrophage activity22, fn] Zhang J1, Yu Y, Zhang Z, Ding Y, Dai X, Li Y. "Effect of polysaccharide from cultured Cordyceps sinensis on immune function and anti-oxidation activity of mice exposed to 60Co." Int Immunopharmacol. 2011 Dec;11(12):2251-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22001898 and inducing the apoptosis (cell death) of human leukemia cells,23 while at the same time moderating overactive T-cell activation.24 In other words, Cordyceps functions as an immunomodulator--up-regulating depressed immune systems, but throttling back out of control immune systems. (More on this later.) Cordyceps is widely employed to treat upper respiratory problems, impotence, and weakened immune systems, and also by athletes to increase endurance.25, fn] Rossi P1, Buonocore D1, Altobelli E, Brandalise F, Cesaroni V, Iozzi D, et al. "Improving Training Condition Assessment in Endurance Cyclists: Effects of Ganoderma lucidum and Ophiocordyceps sinensis Dietary Supplementation." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:979613. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3995149/
Other Immune Boosters
Cordyceps is not the only immune boosting mushroom of note. In fact, compounds found in mushrooms such as reishi and maitake, as in cordyceps, are classified as host defense potentiators. It is believed that combinations of these compounds target and strengthen the human immune system, as well as aid in neuron transmission, metabolism, hormonal balance, and the transport of nutrients and oxygen. Through a host-mediated (T-cell) immune mechanism, they help the body regulate the development of lymphoid stem cells and other important defense responses.
The anti-cancer26 and immune-enhancing effects27 of the reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidumi) are thought to be largely due to its mucopolysaccharides, which the body incorporates into cellular membranes, making them resistant to viruses and pathogenic bacteria and the triterpenes, which induce tumor necrosis factor production. The polysaccharides also appear to activate macrophages that "consume" viruses, bacteria, and other large particulate matter.28
Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa, also known as Sheep's Head and Hen of the Woods) have a very high concentration of a unique polysaccharide compound called beta-1,6-glucan, which researchers consider to be one of the most powerful immune stimulants and adaptogens known. One study showed that maitake produced a 64 percent inhibition of breast cancer and tumor activity and a 75 percent inhibition of skin cancer and tumor activity.29 Also, laboratory studies conducted at the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Japanese National Institute of Health showed that maitake extract kills the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and enhances the activity of helper T-cells.30 In fact, the NCI researchers reported that the maitake extract was as powerful as AZT (a commonly prescribed AIDS drug) but without the toxic side effects.31
Research has demonstrated that maitake stimulates the production of a variety of immune cells, including macrophages, NK cells, and T-cells, and it increases their effectiveness by increasing the production of interleukin-l, interleukin-2, and lymphokines.32 It also stimulates the bone marrow to produce stem cells and granulocytes by stimulating production of the cytokine granulocyte colony stimulating factor.33 Further, maitake has been confirmed to have a multifaceted benefit for treating cancer and tumors: it protects healthy cells from becoming cancerous, helps prevent the spread of cancer (metastasis), and slows or stops the growth of tumors.34 Maitake works in conjunction with chemotherapy by lessening the negative side effects (by as much as 90 percent).35
Incidentally, maitake is not the only source of beta glucan. Beta-glucan is a natural complex carbohydrate (polysaccharide) found in cereal grains such as oats and barley. But it is found in its greatest concentration in medicinal mushrooms as described above and in the cell walls of yeast. Beta glucan as a purified supplement, particularly Beta- 1,3/1,6 glucan extracted from yeast cell walls, is a potent and proven immune response potentiator and modulator. It has been shown to stimulate anti-tumor and antimicrobial activity by binding to receptors on macrophages and other white blood cells and activating them,36 while at the same time throttling back overactive parts of the immune system.
AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound) is a proprietary dietary supplement derived from mushrooms that is rich in polysaccharides and fiber. Some 20 human clinical studies and more than 100 pre-clinical and in vitro studies have shown that it can be effective in stimulating the production of NK cells, killer T-cells, and cytokines (interferon, interleukin-12, and TNF-alpha). In Japan, it is used extensively in hospitals in combination with chemotherapy treatments to reduce the adverse side effects of those treatments.37
The polysaccharide component of aloe vera, acemannan, possesses significant immune-enhancing and antiviral activity. Supplementing with acemannan has been proven to increase lymphocyte response to antigens by enhancing the release of interleukin-I. In addition, acemannan has been shown to increase macrophage levels and have a positive effect on T-cell activity and dendritic cell maturation.38 In addition, acemannan has various medicinal properties such as being osteogenic (promotes bone repair), anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial, which accelerate the healing of lesions. Also, in vivo studies have shown that acemannan has antiviral and antitumor activities through activation of immune responses.39 Look for whole leaf aloe extract, which is two to three times more potent than gel/juice. Why? The greatest concentration of active ingredients is at the interface of the rind and the inner gel. If your extract doesn't come from the whole leaf, you lose half to two-thirds of the active biochemicals.
Alkylglycerols (AKGs) are lipids naturally manufactured in the body and found in mother's milk, the liver and spleen, and bone marrow. They play a major role in the production and stimulation of white blood cells. They also help to normalize bone marrow function. The immune-supportive effect of AKGs helps our bodies protect against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections through enhanced phagocytosis (eating up the bad guys) and antibody production.40 The most potent source of AKGs in the world is shark liver oil.
Colostrum and Lactoferrin
Colostrum is the clear, yellowish, pre-milk fluid produced from the mother's mammary glands during the first seventy-two hours after birth. It provides both immune and growth factors essential for the health and vitality of the newborn. Obviously, supplementation with human colostrum is not an option, but researchers have found that bovine colostrum (from cows) is virtually identical, except that the immune factors are actually several times more concentrated.
The immune factors in colostrum have been shown to help the body resist pathogens such as viruses,41 bacteria, yeast, and fungi. In addition, colostrum contains a number of antibodies to specific pathogens, including E. coli, salmonella, rotavirus, Candida, streptococcus, staphylococcus, H. pylori, and cryptosporidia. In addition, proline-rich-polypeptide, a component of colostrum, works as an immunomodulator, boosting a low immune system and balancing an overactive one. Another key component of colostrum is transfer factors, small molecules that transfer immunity information from one entity to another. In effect, they transfer immunity "memory," thereby giving you instant resistance to a number of diseases.
Colostrum is a potent source of lactoferrin, a globular iron-binding protein produced in the body. It is found anywhere that is especially vulnerable to attack, such as in the gut, eyes, ears, nose, throat, and urinary tract. Lactoferrin has been shown to inhibit virus replication42 (including AIDS and herpes viruses), limit tumor growth and metastasis, directly kill both bacteria and yeast (including Candida), and activate neutrophils. Supplementation with lactoferrin can significantly boost the immune system and help the body recover from any existing infection. Maintaining healthy levels of intestinal flora through the use of probiotic supplements allows the body to produce its own lactoferrin.
Look for colostrum obtained from organic, grass-fed dairy cows and standardized to 40% Immunoglobulins.
Glutathione is a tripeptide molecule found in human cells. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, glutathione works to support the active functioning of the immune system and is a key component of all lymphocytes. In fact, all lymphocytes require sufficient levels of intracellular glutathione to function properly. It also plays a major protective role against the damaging effects of the whole range of pathogens and carcinogens. For many people, glutathione supplements are upsetting to the stomach, and for that matter, it has been assumed for years that very little actually makes it out of the digestive tract when taken as a supplement, although at least one study may contradict that.43 Either way, it is possible to boost your body's levels of glutathione by supplementing with the glutathione precursors L-cysteine and L-glutamate and specially formulated whey products.
Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is a tropical evergreen tree whose fruit (and especially the hull of the fruit) contains a unique group of antioxidants called xanthones. Xanthones, particularly beta and gamma mangostin, work to maintain the immune system, support cardiovascular health, optimize joint flexibility, are naturally antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, and are some of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature. In addition, recent studies have confirmed that gamma mangostin is a potent COX inhibitor, an important factor in reducing inflammation, pain, and fever. Other studies have shown that alpha-mangostin can enhance the body's innate responses to viral infection.44 And as has been true with most of the other immune boosters we've looked at so far, mangosteen has also shown the ability to work as an anticancer agent. Specifically, the antimetastatic activity of alpha-mangostin has been demonstrated in clinical studies on breast cancer.45
Vitamin C is currently being pushed online as an Ebola solution. That may be a bit of a stretch. That vitamin C helps boost the immune system is pretty much a given. And it certainly has strong antiviral qualities in a test tube. But in real life, the results are more mixed. Forget Ebola or the flu, even when it comes to the common cold, results are mixed. As a 2013 Cochrane Report says, “Trials of high doses of vitamin C administered therapeutically, starting after the onset of symptoms, showed no consistent effect on the duration or severity of common cold symptoms.”46
However, the story doesn’t end there. What most studies evaluate as “high doses” is not even close to what Linus Pauling recommended. For most studies, we’re talking about 1-3 grams a day. Pauling himself took 18 g a day. At these levels, ascorbate has been shown to have specific antiviral effects in which it inactivates the RNA or DNA of viruses47, 48, 49 or in the assembly of the virus50. But it should be noted that even in these studies, the beneficial effect of vitamin C was moderate—not cure-all.
The bottom line on vitamin C is that large doses are useful as an immune booster but are unlikely to prove to be a cure-all for Ebola.
Colloidal silver is not an immune booster, but rather, an anti-pathogen. However, since it’s currently being promoted as a cure for Ebola, we’ll make mention of it here.
I like colloidal silver as an antibacterial agent, and studies support its effectiveness in this regard. However, studies do not consistently support its effectiveness against viruses.51 If you come down with Ebola, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to take colloidal silver; it just may not perform as promised. Note: when using colloidal silver, argyria (the permanent blue/graying of your skin) is always a back of the mind concern. The risk is extremely low and is almost always the result of foolishly high doses used over a long time, but it does happen. It should be noted that new versions of silver products, such as Silver Sol, claim to have eliminated the potential for argyria, but that claim has not been tested over time. That said, for anything other than very occasional use, I prefer ionic zinc, which has similar efficacy without the skin discoloration issues.
As we've mentioned several times so far, optimizing your immune system isn't just about boosting it. An over-amped immune system can be just as problematic as an underperforming one. Many autoimmune disorders are the result of your immune system doing too much, eventually attacking healthy cells and tissue in your body. In medical terminology, an immunomodulator is a drug or natural substance that adjusts the immune response to a desired level, through either immunopotentiation, immunosuppression, or induction of immunological tolerance (stopping it from attacking a particular antigen). In other words, as with most medical thinking, immunomodulation is not about balancing the immune system, but about forcing it to behave in certain ways.
In contrast, in the world of natural healing, immunomodulators are thought of as nutraceuticals that can "intelligently" regulate your immune system, boosting a weak system or calming down an overactive one. If a person with low immune function takes an immunomodulator, it will help raise their immunity. Likewise, if a person with a hyperactive immune system takes the same immunomodulator, it will tend to calm their immune system down and normalize it. It appears that natural immunomodulators accomplish this, at least to some degree, by naturally increasing the body's production of messenger molecules to regulate and correct defects in memory T-cells. In that sense, true immunoregulators are adaptogenic -- capable of modifying the immune system, either up or down, as needed. By using natural immunomodulators, you can retrain the immune system to respond more efficiently and to not overreact (as happens in the case of people with autoimmune disorders). Some of the better immunomodulators include:
- Cetyl myristoleate (CMO)53
- Wolfsbane/Monkshood (aconitum)57
Immune System Memory
Something to keep in mind is that your immune system has memory. If you are exposed to a pathogen (virus, bacteria, etc.), your immune system has memory of that pathogen and the defense it mounted to defeat it. Thus, it can protect you against it (and its close cousins) for years--and possibly for the rest of your life. That means that some people who never seem to get sick, were exposed to cold and flu germs previously that are similar to those currently circulating about. This gives them the appearance of invincibility. However, when exposed to a new pathogen, they quite likely will get sick as quickly as the next person.
There is a caveat to boosting your immune system. Under certain circumstances, having a maximized immune can be a two edged sword. Some viruses actually use your immune system to kill you through a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome in which the victims own immune system unleashes a cytokine storm that literally chews up their lung tissue, ultimately causing the victim to suffocate. In a cytokine storm, the immune system sees a virus that it has never seen before, and it goes nuts, whipping itself into a frenzy in response to the invading virus. A biochemical cascade of immune cells and immune system bio-chemicals such as interferon, interleuken, monokines and cytokines literally pours into the lungs. The subsequent damage to the lung tissue caused by these cells and bio-chemicals leads to the condition mentioned above called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The net result is that the victim suffocates as a result of their own disease-fighting chemistry.
Most common flu's do not produce cytokine storms. Most flu's kill people who have weak immune systems by eventually opening the door for pneumonia, which is what actually kills them. That's why health authorities specify that the very old and very young and those with weak immune systems are prime candidates for annual flu vaccines (even though they don't work very well). But swine flu, avian flu, and most notably, the great flu pandemic of 1918 are different animals. They don't kill through pneumonia. They kill you by unleashing a cytokine storm, which means that it is your own immune system that kills you. And this means that the most vulnerable are not the very old and the very young but healthy adults and pregnant women, people who have very strong immune systems. And that means that the stronger your immune system, the greater the danger -- the exact opposite of standard flu strains.
Does that mean that you should weaken your immune system to protect against these special viruses? Not at all! That would be silly. Strong immune systems are good for many, many reasons. However, it does mean that you want natural anti-pathogens on hand in your medicine cabinet to use at the first sign of a cold or flu. It will protect you against standard flu, and if you perchance catch a rogue strain of avian or swine flu, the anti-pathogens will kill enough of the virus to take your viral load down to the point that your immune system can do its job with no risk of being forced into a cytokine storm. You get the best of all possible worlds.
One thing to keep in mind is that there is likely to be a run on natural anti-pathogens at the first hint of a viral pandemic. We saw just such a run on Tamiflu during the avian and swine flu scares -- even though they provide little protection. And we saw a similar run on iodine tablets after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan. In other words, you might want to stock your medicine cabinet before you actually need the anti-pathogens.
We've talked a lot about building your immune system, modulating it, and complementing it with anti-pathogens, but there's an elephant in the room: what about all the other factors that impact your immune system indirectly?
- For instance, how good can your immune system be (taking all the supplements in the world) if your colon is packed with pounds of old fecal matter? There are skeptics who deny it and doctors who say they've never seen it, but the math is irrefutable: a significant percentage of people on a typical Western diet store pounds of old fecal matter in their colons. A substantial portion of your immune system then has to combat the effects of self-toxicity. Clean up your intestinal tract, and you free up your immune system.
- And then there are the beneficial bacteria that manufacture potent immune boosters such as transfer factor and lactoferrin (which we talked about earlier) right in your intestinal tract -- if those beneficial bacteria are actually present in your intestinal tract. In other words, using a good probiotic can substantially boost your immune system by increasing internal production of a number of powerful immune factors.
- Taking systemic/proteolytic enzymes between meals relieves stress on the immune system by helping to eliminate Circulating Immune Complexes from the body.
- Proper diet and nourishment boost your immune system. Each and every immune cell in your body is manufactured from the food you eat. A nutritionally deficient diet means functionally deficient immune cells. You can't build the same immune cells from chips and beer that you can from a balanced healthy diet.
- Full spectrum antioxidant formulas boost the immune system in multiple ways. Just one example is curcumin. A study published in Immunological Investigations proves that curcumin can increase white blood cell count by some 50% in just 12 days -- not to mention circulating antibodies by some 512 times in the same timeframe.59
- Cleaning out the liver with a good liver detox program improves your liver's ability to produce immune factors and remove bacteria from the blood. Cleaning out the blood with a good blood cleansing formula and balancing your blood's pH with alkalinizing formulas or high pH water also helps to improve immune function.
- And of course, as we've already discussed, along with immune boosting formulas, you'll want to use natural pathogen destroying formulas that are specifically designed to improve immune function and directly destroy invading pathogens.
- As explained in Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, what you think matters too. Negative thoughts can kill you. Likewise, practicing some mental relaxation techniques and visualizations can result in a dramatic increase in immune function -- virtually overnight.
- And finally, one of the primarily benefits of regular exercise is an optimized immune system.
The bottom line is that if you want your immune system running at peak level, you need to think holistically. Supplements are good and often necessary, but equally important is having all your body systems working in the background to move your immunity up or down as needed. No other program in the world works to enhance the immune system in as many ways as the Baseline of Health Program. It also works in the most targeted and efficient manner possible so that you don't have to take 100 supplements to get a result -- just deal with the major systems in the body. The bottom line is that you don't have to chase the next hot "magic bullet" to build your immunity as long as you have optimized all of your major body systems.
- 1. "Influenza: Fact Sheet No 211." WHO. March 2003. (Accessed 10 Oct 2014.) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/2003/fs211/en/
- 2. Kristina Duda, "Flu Deaths Per Year." about health. 27 Jun 2014. (Accessed 10 Oct 2014.) http://coldflu.about.com/od/flu/qt/fludeathsperyear.htm
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