You want to stay healthy? Get plenty of sleep. Drink lots of water. Keep your stress in check – deep breaths, meditation, yoga, whatever floats your boat. It’s all about maintaining a balance of your health – after all, if you take a close look at it, disease really just means dis-ease. So harmony is key. Recent findings show that lack of sleep can send the bad-bacteria count in the gut through the roof.
For insurance when your lifestyle can’t keep up with these common-sense tips, take supplements.
The body’s cellular wellness is predicated on marshalling forces to repel invading pathogens. They do this through natural killer or NK cells, T cells and macrophages. Natural killer cells are the white blood cells of the immune system that are critical first responders. T cells are white blood cells responsible for the integrated response required for the body’s successful defense. Macrophages start the process of antibody production and directly destroy cellular invaders.
Nutrients for increasing immunity
Mushrooms are one of the best natural ingredients to kick the body’s immune system into gear. There are actually thousands of known mushroom varieties. Mushrooms contain a mixture of polysaccharides, amino acids, lipids and minerals. A small number have been found to boost immunity. They have specifically been shown to increase natural killer cells, T cells and macrophages.1
The more well-known mushrooms are reishi, shiitake, cordyceps and maitke. Maitake has been found to activate all three of T cells, macrophages and NK cells.2
In one study, NK cells were still pumped at an elevated level 20 days after the maitake was stopped.3
Zinc is another classic immune-enhancing mineral, and it’s the active ingredient in the homeopathic nasal swab product called Zicam (which was also found to eliminate some users’ sense of smell – who says homeopathic products don’t work?).
In one human study using 100 people with a cold, half were given zinc lozenges containing 13.3 milligrams zinc gluconate every two hours as long as they were awake. The other half got a run-of-the-mill sucker. Those taking the zinc recovered in an average of 4.4 days, compared to 7.6 days for those taking the placebo sucker.4
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is by far the most popular anti-viral herb. Studies have been uneven. But it’s not for nothing that in Germany echinacea is positively mainstream. The German Commission E Monographs represent the most accurate information on the safety and efficacy of all commercial botanicals. Root extracts of the purple cone flower, as it is known when it’s growing in your garden, appear to activate macrophages, and may also stimulate T cells. Several studies have revealed a 10-40 percent reduction in cold symptoms, though a few trials have negative results. Acute upper respiratory infections are another target.5 The best advice is it’s best taken at the start of cold symptoms. Plus, kids love the taste of echinacea tinctures!
Finally, the digestive system has been called the foundation of the immune system. The good bacteria in your intestines helps fight off the bad. So it is vital that one has a healthy supply of good bacteria – probiotics – in one's gut. You can find these in fermented milk products, such as kefir and yogurt, and in an increasing number of functional drinks such as Good Belly juice drinks. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of WellWise.org, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended to constitute personal medical advice.