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Prescription 2014: Stronger Immunity

February 27, 2014 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Nobody wants to be slowed down by a cold, flu or any host of infectious diseases we hear about in the news or meet firsthand in our daily lives. But, finding reliable information about natural ways to bolster immunity isn’t always easy. Conventional doctors are often clueless, and anecdotal remedies from family and friends can certainly be hit-or-miss. Fortunately, there really are some scientifically proven changes you can make to your diet, lifestyle and supplement regimen that can strengthen your resistance to communicable diseases.

Let’s begin with something most of us do several times a day: eat. A review in the December 2013 issue of Frontiers in Immunology reveals that one of the best ways to support immune function is via the gut. That can be accomplished by eating more foods and/or taking supplements containing prebiotics such as fructo-oligosaccharides, inulin and probiotics, including Bifidobacterium sp. and Saccharomyces bolardii. Kefir, kimchi and yogurt are several cultured and fermented foods which up your intake of these beneficial bacteria (probiotics) and beneficial bacteria promoters (prebiotics). In addition, two recent studies report that eating cranberries and strawberries stimulates the proliferation of immune cells that protect against viral infections and shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms.

Many people are justifiably skeptical about immune boosting claims made by supplement manufacturers. I want to single out a few evidence-based supplements that can be taken with confidence. The first is a daily multivitamin containing 30 milligrams of zinc. New research indicates that zinc supplementation enhances the activity of monocytes – a type of white blood cell that is vital to an active immune response. To be sure, zinc has long been associated with immunity. However, of late, it’s fallen out of favor because of mixed findings in trials evaluating the efficacy of zinc lozenges versus the common cold. Nevertheless, ensuring adequate dietary and/or supplemental zinc is a wise approach that can be safely utilized over the long term. Another supplement worthy of consideration is beta glucan, an extract derived from baker’s yeast. 250 mg daily of Wellmune WGP, a patented beta glucan extract, has been shown to increase mucosal immunity and reduce the number of cold and flu symptom days in high-risk individuals.

Any holistic approach intent on establishing and maintaining a robust immune system should take into account the mind-body connection. To that end, making time to laugh out loud and reducing stress by getting or giving yourself a massage enhances resistance to infections. And, perhaps most impressively, much of the published research has focused on populations that are highly susceptible to infections, such as cancer patients. I also highly recommend spending a little extra time in so called “green spaces” (gardens, nature reserves, parks, etc.) whenever you need immunological improvement. This last tip comes directly from a recent review appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper in question explains that a variety of immune related disorders are likely influenced by a decline in the amount of time we spend in nature. It’s a highly plausible theory. So, go take a hike! Smell the roses! Go on a walk with a funny friend! Get outside, laugh and stay well!

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in Inducing Gut Immunity (link)

Study 2 – Lactobacillus P. DK119 as a Probiotic Confers Protection Against (link)

Study 3 – The Effect of Kefir Consumption on Human Immune System: A Cytokine … (link)

Study 4 – Consumption of Cranberry Polyphenols Enhances Human Yδ-T Cell (link)

Study 5 – Dietary Strawberries Increase the Proliferative Response of CD3/CD28 (link)

Study 6 – Zinc Supplementation Improves Anticancer Activity of Monocytes in (link)

Study 7 – Baker’s Yeast Beta Glucan Supplementation Increases Salivary IgA and (link)

Study 8 – A Trial of Improvement of Immunity in Cancer Patients by Laughter (link)

Study 9 – Effectiveness of Aromatherapy with Light Thai Massage for Cellular (link)

Study 10 – Regulation of the Immune System by Biodiversity from the Natural … (link)

Self-Administered Foot Massage Improves Immunity

Source: Korean Acad Nurs. 2012 Oct;42(5):709-718. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Nutrition, Nutritional Supplements

11 Comments & Updates to “Prescription 2014: Stronger Immunity”

  1. Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP,

    In my judgment, this gem article should be in the daily reminder of anyone that wishes to fend off those maladies we can prevent, among them some forms of cancer!

    I bet you can even expand on this topic of such paramount interest to baby boomers!

    Keep up your great work!


  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Paul! More to come!

    Be well!


  3. rob Says:

    What do you thinks a good amount for Zinc supplementation? I hear its easy to overdo? Im taking about 15mg every other day or so

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Rob,

    It depends on your diet, health priorities and size. Generally speaking, zinc is considered to be safe. However, if you consume higher amounts in a supplemental form, it’s important to ensure adequate copper intake as well. Personally, I get 30 mg in my daily multivitamin/mineral.

    Be well!


  5. rob Says:

    Yes, Ive heard of the copper and zinc going hand in hand. Thanls

  6. JP Says:

    Updated 08/29/15:


    J Med Food. 2015 Aug 18.

    Cordyceps militaris Enhances Cell-Mediated Immunity in Healthy Korean Men.

    Cordyceps militaris is a mushroom traditionally used for diverse pharmaceutical purposes in East Asia, including China, and has been found to be effective for enhancing immunity through various types of animal testing. The aim of this study is to determine the efficacy of C. militaris for enhancing cell-mediated immunity and its safety in healthy male adults. Healthy male adults were divided into the experimental group (n = 39), given 1.5 g/day of ethanol treated C. militaris in capsules, and the control group (n = 40), given the same number of identical placebo capsules filled with microcrystalline cellulose and lactose for 4 weeks from February 13 to March 14, 2012; the natural killer (NK) cell activity, lymphocyte proliferation index (PI), and T-helper cell 1 (Th1) cytokine cluster (interferon [IFN]-γ, interleukin [IL]-12, IL-2, and tumor necrosis factor [TNF]-α) were measured, along with stability test, at weeks 0, 2, and 4. The C. militaris group showed a statistically significant greater increase in NK200 (P = .0010), lymphocyte PI (P ≤ .0001), IL-2 (P = .0096), and IFN-γ (P = .0126), compared with the basal level, than the placebo group. There was no statistically significant adverse reaction. C. militaris enhanced the NK cell activity and lymphocyte proliferation and partially increased Th1 cytokine secretion. Therefore, C. militaris is safe and effective for enhancing cell-mediated immunity of healthy male adults.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 1/16/16:


    Aged Garlic Extract Modifies Human Immunity1,2,3

    J Nutr. 2016 Jan 13.

    Garlic contains numerous compounds that have the potential to influence immunity. Immune cells, especially innate immune cells, are responsible for the inflammation necessary to kill pathogens. Two innate lymphocytes, γδ-T and natural killer (NK) cells, appear to be susceptible to diet modification. The purpose of this review was to summarize the influence of aged garlic extract (AGE) on the immune system. The author’s laboratory is interested in AGE’s effects on cell proliferation and activation and inflammation and to learn whether those changes might affect the occurrence and severity of colds and flu. Healthy human participants (n = 120), between 21 and 50 y of age, were recruited for a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel-intervention study to consume 2.56 g AGE/d or placebo supplements for 90 d during the cold and flu season. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated before and after consumption, and γδ-T and NK cell function was assessed by flow cytometry. The effect on cold and flu symptoms was determined by using daily diary records of self-reported illnesses. After 45 d of AGE consumption, γδ-T and NK cells proliferated better and were more activated than cells from the placebo group. After 90 d, although the number of illnesses was not significantly different, the AGE group showed reduced cold and flu severity, with a reduction in the number of symptoms, the number of days participants functioned suboptimally, and the number of work/school days missed. These results suggest that AGE supplementation may enhance immune cell function and may be partly responsible for the reduced severity of colds and flu reported. The results also suggest that the immune system functions well with AGE supplementation, perhaps with less accompanying inflammation.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 01/05/17:


    Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:6134593.

    Herbal Medicine Cordyceps sinensis Improves Health-Related Quality of Life in Moderate-to-Severe Asthma.

    Moderate-to-severe asthma has a substantial impact on the health-related quality of life (HR-QOL) of the patients. Cordyceps sinensis is a traditional Chinese medicine that is evaluated clinically for the treatment of many diseases, such as chronic allograft nephropathy, diabetic kidney disease, and lung fibrosis. In order to investigate the effects of Cordyceps sinensis on patients with moderate-to-severe persistent asthma, 120 subjects were randomized to receive Corbin capsule containing Cordyceps sinensis for 3 months (treatment group, n = 60), whereas the control group (n = 60) did not receive treatment with Corbin capsule. Inhaled corticosteroid and as-needed β-agonists were used in the treatment of both groups. HR-QOL was measured with the Juniper’s Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ). The incidence of asthma exacerbation, pulmonary function testing, and serum measurements of inflammatory mediators were also evaluated. The results showed that the treatment group indicated a significant increase in AQLQ scores and lung function compared with the control group. The expression levels of the inflammation markers IgE, ICAM-1, IL-4, and MMP-9 in the serum were decreased and IgG increased in the treatment group compared with the control group. Therefore, the conclusion was reached that a formulation of Cordyceps sinensis improved the HR-QOL, asthma symptoms, lung function, and inflammatory profile of the patients with moderate-to-severe asthma.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 06/27/17:


    Nutrients 2017, 9(7), 669

    Preventive Effect of Cow’s Milk Fermented with Lactobacillus paracasei CBA L74 on Common Infectious Diseases in Children: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial

    Background: Fermented foods have been proposed to prevent common infectious diseases (CIDs) in children attending day care or preschool.

    Objectives: To investigate the efficacy of dietary supplementation with cow’s skim milk fermented with the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei CBA L74 in reducing CIDs in children attending day care or preschool.

    Methods: Multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on healthy children (aged 12–48 months) consuming daily 7 grams of cow’s skim milk fermented with L. paracasei CBA L74 (group A), or placebo (maltodextrins group B) attending day care or preschool during the winter season. The main outcome was the proportion of children who experienced ≥1 episode of CID during a 3-month follow-up. Fecal biomarkers of innate (α- and β-defensins, cathelicidin) and acquired immunity (secretory IgA) were also monitored.

    Results: A total of 126 children (71 males, 56%) with a mean (SD) age of 33 (9) months completed the study, 66 in group A and 60 in group B. At intention to treat analysis, the proportion of children presenting ≥1 CID was 60% in group A vs. 83% in group B, corresponding to an absolute risk difference (ARD) of −23% (95% CI: −37% to −9%, p < 0.01). At per-protocol-analysis (PPA), the proportion of children presenting ≥1 CID was 18% in group A vs. 40% in group B, corresponding to an absolute risk difference (ARD) of −22% (95% CI: −37% to −6%, p < 0.01). PPA showed that the proportion of children presenting ≥1 acute gastroenteritis (AGE) was significantly lower in group A (18% vs. 40%, p < 0.05). The ARD for the occurrence of ≥1 AGE was −22% (95% CI: −37% to −6%, p < 0.01) in group A. Similar findings were obtained at PPA regarding the proportion of children presenting ≥1 upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), which was significantly lower in group A (51% vs. 74%, p < 0.05), corresponding to an ARD of −23% (95% CI: −40% to −7%, p < 0.01). Significant changes in innate and acquired immunity biomarkers were observed only in subjects in group A.

    Conclusions: Dietary supplementation with cow’s skim milk fermented with L. paracasei CBA L74 is an efficient strategy in preventing CIDs in children.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 1/10/18:


    Front Immunol. 2017 Dec 12;8:1443.

    Effects of Soluble Corn Fiber Alone or in Synbiotic Combination with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and the Pilus-Deficient Derivative GG-PB12 on Fecal Microbiota, Metabolism, and Markers of Immune Function: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study in Healthy Elderly (Saimes Study).

    Background: The aging process leads to a potential decline in immune function and adversely affects the gut microbiota. To date, many in vitro and in vivo studies focused on the application of synbiotics (prebiotics combined with probiotics) as a promising dietary approach to affect gut microbiota composition and improved functioning of the immune system. However, studies using synbiotic preparations often have the limitation that it remains unclear whether any effect observed is a result of the prebiotic or probiotic or a synergistic effect of the combined supplement.

    Objectives: We investigated the effects of a probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and pilus-deficient L. rhamnosus GG-PB12 combined with Promitor™ Soluble Corn Fiber (SCF, a candidate prebiotic) on fecal microbiota, metabolism, immunity, and blood lipids in healthy elderly persons. A prospective, double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized, single-centered, crossover study in 40 healthy elderly subjects (aged 60-80 years) was carried out. Volunteers were randomized to consume either probiotic and prebiotic as synbiotic, prebiotic or placebo (maltodextrin) during 3 weeks. Three-week washout periods separated all the treatments. We assessed effects upon blood lipids, glucose, cytokines, natural killer (NK) cell activity, phenotype, and intestinal microbiota composition. SCF decreased IL-6, which was not observed with the synbiotics.

    Results: Consumption of L. rhamnosus GG combined with SCF increased NK cell activity compared to baseline in females and the older group. In the fecal microbiota analyses, the strongest community shifts were due to L. rhamnosus GG combined with SCF and SCF treatments. L. rhamnosus GG combined with SCF and L. rhamnosus GG-PB12 combined with SCF significantly increased the genus Parabacteroides. L. rhamnosus GG combined with SCF and SCF increased concentrations of Ruminococcaceae Incertae Sedis. Oscillospira and Desulfovibrio slightly decreased in the L. rhamnosus GG combined with SCF group, whereas Desulfovibrio decreased also in the L. rhamnosus GG-PB12 combined with SCF group. L. rhamnosus GG combined with SCF reduced total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol in volunteers with initially elevated concentrations. C-reactive protein significantly decreased during L. rhamnosus GG-PB12 combined with SCF intervention compared to baseline.

    Conclusion: In conclusion, the synbiotic combination of L. rhamnosus GG with SCF showed a tendency to promote innate immunity by increasing NK cell activity in elderly women and in 70 to 80-year-old volunteers and decreased TC and LDL-c in hypercholesterolemic patients. In addition, L. rhamnosus GG-PB12 combined with SCF demonstrated an increase in NK cell activity compared to SCF alone in older volunteers. We also found significant positive effects on the immune response, evidenced by a decrease of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6. Therefore, dietary intervention with L. rhamnosus GG combined with SCF could be of importance in elderly as an attractive option for enhancement of both the microbial and immune systems.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 03/05/18:


    Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2018 Mar 2:1-8.

    Cha-Koji, comprising green tea leaves fermented with Aspergillus luchuensis var kawachii kitahara, increases regulatory T cell production in mice and humans.

    Green tea leaves fermented with Aspergillus luchuensis var kawachii kitahara (Cha-Koji) are a health food containing live A. luchuensis. In this study, we examined the effects of Cha-Koji on the immune system and the enteric environment. First, we designed a clinical trial; after ingesting Cha-Koji daily for 28 days, blood parameters and the fecal composition of the participants were analyzed. Similarly, mice were administered (oral administration) with Cha-Koji suspension or its vehicle for 14 days. Thereafter, both humans and mice were examined by analyzing their immune cell phenotypes and intestinal microbiota. Regulatory T cell (Treg) numbers were significantly increased after administering Cha-Koji. An increase of Clostridium subcluster XIVa, that were known to be rich in butyrate-producing bacterium, was observed in human feces, but not in mice. These results suggest that Cha-Koji has the ability to increase Treg production in both humans and mice, irrespective of the presence of enteric butyrate.

    Be well!


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