As the number of immune health issues in the U.S. rises, natural practitioners stress the importance of patient education.
Cold and flu season can wreak havoc on the immune system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , Americans get approximately one billion colds each year, while influenza affects approximately 60 million Americans annually. The immune system is a network of cells, organs and tissues that unite to protect the body from any pathogens that try to invade the body. And while it works hard to do its job during the winter months, the immune system functions far beyond just helping a person from catching a cold or coming down with the flu, as it also functions to shield the body for a number of other issues including allergies and autoimmune diseases.
“People in general tend to ponder their immune status when a cold hits, or a cold sore pops out, as they know that their immune system at that point has been underperforming,” said Donna Noonan, executive vice president of Mushroom Wisdom, Inc., a New Jersey-based supplement manufacturer. “Consumers are then driven to ‘immune-boosting’ supplements, but tend to take them only short term.”
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that at least 80 human diseases are caused primarily or secondarily by an autoimmune response (new diseases are frequently being added to the list). NIH also estimates that five to eight percent of Americans have an autoimmune disorder, while according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, autoimmune disorders affect more than 23.5 million Americans and are a leading cause of death and disability.
“Over one quarter of Americans likely have problems associated with immune health, and this is a rising epidemic, which will likely represent the most important area of health problems for the coming 50 years,” said Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, director of the Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Practitioners Network and author of the free iPhone & Android application “Cures A-Z,” as well as several books, including the best-seller From Fatigued to Fantastic!.
Keeping the immune system in “fighting shape” year-round is ideal, but unfortunately proves to be a difficult task for many Americans as busy lives, poor diets, and a Lack of exercise and sleep are all among the factors that lead to poor immune health. In addition, a number of people are dealing with excessive amounts stress; according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), seven out of 10 adults in the U.S. say that they experience stress or anxiety on a daily basis.
In addition, Guy Devin, PhD, CCN, CHHC, AADP, points to chemicals used in the food supply as another cause for poor immune health. “What is great though is the natural product industry has been like the canary in the coal mine blowing the whistle on big agriculture for their use,” he said. “Another big area is stress and the chemical cocktail the body releases when we are stressed out. These chemicals cause metabolic inflammation, which then up regulates our immune systems, which then keeps this cascade of poor immune health in place.”
According to Dr. Devin, because of the overuse of chemicals in the food supply, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in particular, as a nation, Americans are getting sicker despite modern technology. Further, he noted that the antibiotics, which are among traditional treatments in regard to immune health are now overused and are no longer as effective. “We have now awakened to the fact that [what] we need to change are our lifestyles—eating organically and moving our bodies.”
Practitioners agree that the first step to naturally improve the immune system is to make lifestyle changes. According to Kathy Dorsey McIntee, communications director for Patient One MediNutritionals Research LLC in New York, adopting general healthy living strategies, include eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and limiting stress, help give the immune system the “upper hand.”
“The immune system can only be as strong as the blocks it is built on,” added David Barton, director of education for Florida-based Enzyme Science. “Good nutrition is key to a strong immune system … Eat the best/cleanest foods available to you for the benefit of your long-term health.”
According to Barton, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep are also factors in maintaining a healthy immune system.
“Sleep is integral to recovery of health. For example, better sleep plays a role in recovering from fever more effectively,” he said. “Meanwhile, not getting enough sleep has been linked to severe emotional and health disorders, and sleep deprivation seems to suppress immune system function.”
In addition to advising patients to make positive lifestyle changes, Dr. Teitelbaum noted that dietary supplementation can help support immune function. He offered suggestions for practitioners to recommend to their patients:
• Increase omega-3 essential fatty acids to decrease inflammation.
• Add plant-based digestive enzymes to improve digestion. Also add betaine Hcl or other means of improving stomach acid effect.
• Treat gut infections—especially candida— to help heal leaky gut.
• Educate the public and practitioners about the dangers of using acid-blocker medications long-term, and teach about natural ways to treat indigestion.
• Replace the use of anti-inflammatory medications, which are estimated to kill more than 30,000 Americans each year, with herbal anti-inflammatories such as curcumin.
While echinacea, zinc as well as vitamins A, C, D and E are among the long-standing ingredients utilized in supporting immune health, probiotics and enzymes are growing in popularity as the public is learning about the link between immune and digestive health—approximately 70 percent of the immune system is located in the digestive tract.
In fact, in a study published in January 2013 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers discovered that when those suffering from allergies take probiotics, they not only have lower levels of inflammatory markers, but their symptoms of hay fever reduced as well.
Products Addressing Immune Support
Introduced in August 2013, Flora Maintenance from Patient One is a DNAVerified** 10-Strain probiotic that supports immunity by providing enhanced ability to Resist infection and helps regulate inflammatory response, according to the company. Flora Maintenance also supplies 10 compatible bacteria combined with FOS prebiotic for optimal intestinal flora balance, has a guaranteed potency of 13 billion live bacteria cultures, and is supplied in enteric coated capsules for optimal absorption.
According to Enzyme Science’s Barton, proteolytic enzymes can serve as valuable support in promoting optimal immune health. “Proteolytic enzymes work very differently from nutrients or other supplements. Whereas vitamins and minerals provide the building blocks for creating immune response, protease or proteolytic enzymes directly cleave or hydrolyze specific protein structures that the immune system deems as detrimental, such as immune complexes or damaged protein structures (i.e. physical injury),” he explained. “This hydrolytic action reduces the overall load put on the immune system supporting the endeavor of removal of waste products from the blood.”
Enzyme Defense from Enzyme Science contains a high-potency proteolytic enzyme blend formulated with vitamin D3, L-lysin and trace minerals to support and promote healthy immune function.*
Utilized for thousands of years in Eastern medicine, medicinal mushrooms are also well known for the positive effect they can have on the immune system. Mushrooms, in particular reishi and maitake, are very high in beta glucans, a derivative that can help boost a weakened immune system.
Mushroom Wisdom’s Maitake D-fraction consists of highly active beta-glucans (both 3- branched beta-1,6 glucan and 6-branched beta-1,3 glucan) and approximately 30 percent of the protein extracted from maitake mushroom fruiting body. The company’s Pro Maitake D-Fraction 4X is a professionalstrength Compact tablet for practitioners to recommend or sell. This supplement is an easy-to-swallow tablet that provides four times the strength/potency of standard Maitake Dfraction capsules, the company stated.
According to Noonan, active beta-glucans in Maitake D-fraction have unique polysaccharide structures and the degree of branching is greater than any beta-glucan found in any other medicinal mushrooms that demonstrate this similar immunestimulatory property. “Researchers believe that the complexity of branching makes Dfraction most potent for enhancing the immune system via oral administration, leading to the highest tumor reduction in proliferation in several animal studies,” she said.
Patient One’s NK-Immunoplex formula supplies Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC, a proprietary blend of mushroom mycelia extract, candelilla wax, cyclodextrin, and microcrystalline cellulose) along with Ai/E10 Refined Lacteal Complex (from whey). This combination stimulates and modulates immune activity, helping to increase or diminish immune responses as needed. NK-Immunoplex’s gentle, natural immune-supportive nutrition is presented in smaller serving sizes to help optimize patient compliance, according to the company.
“Patient One MediNutritionals offers three products in the immune health support category that are formulated to boost immunity: NK-Immunoplex, Andrographis Immune Complex and Flora Maintenance,” said McIntee. “Our formulas are designed to help maintain the body’s natural defenses— year round or at times when the immune system feels weak.”
Education: The Best Medicine
The time natural practitioners spend educating their patients on the importance of making immune-boosting lifestyle changes is vital, but while patients often have the best intentions, they can too often fall back on old habits. “The beauty is that practitioners understand this logic and impart it upon their patients,” said Mushroom Wisdom’s Noonan. “Compliance, however, is up to the patient, but can be monitored in a non-invasive way by the practitioner.
“Too often, it’s out of sight, out of mind until the next appointment,” she continued. “Patients need constant encouragement and knowledge. Also, if the practitioner has time, he or she should schedule a couple hours every week for a simple follow up call (rotating patients so that you call each once a month to ask: ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Any changes since we last met or spoken?’”
To best serve the patient, Noonan recommends that practitioners provide continued education and dialogue, such as e-blast newsletters or hosting an open online forum once a week to invite questions and share experiences.
Patient One offers practitioners educational support materials (both in print and online) including brochures, product information sheets and supporting studies, an order fulfillment services, etc.
“We provide educational materials on Patient One MediNutritionals for all health care practitioners to display in their waiting rooms that can be further discussed during consultation, said McIntee. “Practitioners of all types can use Patient One’s customized prescription-style pads when in consultation with patients. They can make products available in their offices and/or take advantage of the Patient One fulfillment service.”
“Natural is always better than drugs. The goal here is to live a healthy lifestyle, so education is key,” concluded Dr. Devin. “Education is the single most important natural remedy I use with my clients.”
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
* *Rosell probiotic strains that have been documented, registered and DNA-confirmed by the Pasteur Institute, France
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Enzyme Science, (855) 281-7246, www.enzyscience.com
Mushroom Wisdom, (800) 747-7418, www.mushroomwisdom.com
National Institutes of Health, www.nih.gov
Patient One, (631) 390-9669, www.patientoneformulas.com
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, www.womenshealth.gov
Healthy Take Aways
. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that at least 80 human diseases are caused primarily or secondarily by an autoimmune response.
. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), seven out of 10 adults in the U.S. say that they experience stress or anxiety on a daily basis.
. According to a study published in January 2013 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, when those suffering from allergies take probiotics, they not only have lower levels of inflammatory markers, but their symptoms of hay fever reduce as well.
. Proteolytic enzymes directly cleave or hydrolyze specific protein structures that the immune system deems as detrimental, such as immune complexes or damaged protein structures (i.e. physical injury).
As the number of immune health issues in the U.S. rises, natural practitioners stress the importance of patient education.