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Righting A Listing Ship: Immune Health Support

immune health
DaVinci Laboratories

Modern lifestyle factors continue to unbalance immune function—here’s how to utilize supplements to help your clients/patients align immunity for healthy functioning.

Reality TV competition (talent) shows often reward each episode’s challenge winners with the phrase, “You have immunity and cannot be eliminated next round.” The judges are unquestioningly linking “immunity” with “safety.”

It’s a relevant phrase, as when immunity is functioning optimally, there is a higher degree of health “safety.” When the immune system is challenged, it results in the individual feeling as though he or she is a ship listing to one side, not quite capsizing (unsafe) but unable to progress fully forward.

Insidiously, a sporadic or stressed immune system results in a host of mild to moderate annoying physical and mental distressors, yet if left unattended, increases risk of disease onset.

And unlike a condition such as being overweight, having osteoarthritis, etc., an immune insufficiency is not as clearly presenting or prominently considered.

For Amy Rothenberg ND, president of the Massachusetts Society of Naturopathic Doctors, and Clinician at Naturopathic HealthCare, Connecticut, the most prevalent immune-related conditions she encounters among her clients are allergies, asthma, eczema and chronic infections, as well as autoimmune ailments like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and iritis.

Although he rarely sees cases of acute illness, Adam Killpartrick, DC, CNS, Private Practice, New Hampshire, and chief science officer at DaVinci Labs in Vermont, noted, “If I have patients who tend toward illness during the year, I craft a customized, proactive plan for them that aims to address their specific needs. If someone usually suffers from some influenza-like symptoms every year, I look at increasing D levels, monolaurin and an optimized delivery system of vitamin C such as the liposomal delivery. If they tend to suffer from upper respiratory issues, I tend to recommend curcumin, NAC and bromelain.”

But for anyone who presents with immune stress, he emphasized, there are internal and external factors to consider when looking at conditions and management. The internal component relates to the strength and integrity of our immune system. He addresses support by recommending supplements for probiotic balance, overall digestive function and nutrient intake, as well as specific phenolic compounds to provide immune support. “Externally, I look at exposure to microbial and environmental challenges and reactive foods (specific foods that cause an immune reaction),” Dr. Killpartrick said.

In her practice, Dr. Rothenberg evaluates the individual, and when immune compromise seems present, she first starts with tools “that address diet and exercise, addressing the leaky gut, and stress reduction/stress management. After that, we recommend supplements, based on individualizing health assessment factors. To encourage healthy immune response, I think about fish oils, probiotics and astragalus.”

Dr. Rothenberg is a big believer in fortifying the gut with probiotics to empower the immune system, and Natalie Lamb, technical advisor for Bio-Kult Probiotics/Protexin of the United Kingdom agreed. She explained, “A healthy immune system is primed to provide a defense mechanism against invading pathogens and their toxic by-products that could otherwise cause infection. Up to 70 percent of immune cells are located in the gut and heavily influenced by the gut microflora. The rationale for the use of probiotics to improve the function of the immune system is supported by their potential to influence and stabilize the composition of the gut microflora, enhance resistance to potential pathogens and modulate immune function parameters.”

Lamb added that probiotics have shown positive influences on immune challenges from the common cold to more serious allergic diseases (eczema, asthma, food allergies) and inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis). “Not surprisingly,” she asserted, “alterations in intestinal microbiota have been detected in individuals experiencing these conditions.”

Dr. Killpartrick believes that general support provided by a multivitamin is key in broad range support of the immune system, and that the preferable multi should include biologically active forms of B vitamins and the absorbable forms of minerals. “Direct immune system support in terms of specific nutrients include vitamins C and D, zinc, probiotics and compounds such as beta glucan (preferably from Saccharomyces cerevisiae), monolaurin, olive leaf extract and arabinogalactan,” he detailed. “Incidentally, these additional compounds are used by many people with autoimmune issues without exacerbating symptoms as they all exhibit immunomodulatory capabilities.”

Overuse of antibiotics is an under-recognized threat to immune wellness, too.

“Over 80 percent of upper respiratory infections are viral,” stated Sarath Malepati, MD, medical director of California-based PPC Group and creator of EZC Pak. “However, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that U.S. prescribers dole out 258 million antibiotic prescriptions for a population of 310 million Americans annually in the outpatient setting alone. That works out to over eight antibiotics being written for every 10 Americans.”

Further, anywhere from 46 to 86 percent of antibiotics prescribed for upper respiratory infections do not meet clinical criteria for an antibiotic—a WebMD survey noted that up to 95 percent of U.S. providers admit to writing antibiotics when unclear of their necessity. “In my own practice, the number of cases of C. diff colitis has risen dramatically,” Dr. Malepati related. “This is an unnecessary and increasingly aggressive complication driven in large part by inappropriate antibiotic prescribing practices.”

Supplements to Consider

Beyond the basic tried-and-true, there are quite a few innovative dietary supplements with compelling research to consider for your patients/clients.

American BioSciences

New York-based American BioSciences’ ImmPower PRO is a practitioner only supplement that contains the fermented mushroom extract, Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC), in a microencapsulated form intended to increase adherence to Peyer’s Patches in the gut, according to David Wales, president. AHCC has been the subject of more than 50 articles in medical journals that show it supports NK (natural killer) cell activity, which in turn helps support the function of other white blood cells. AHCC acts on Peyer’s Patches, concentrations of dendritic cells, that activate NK cells.

NK cells provide a cytotoxic function; they are white blood cells that identify and kill non-self cells. NK cells also provide a regulatory function; helping to coordinate the interaction of other elements of the immune system, and with the nervous and endocrine systems. NK cell activity declines with age, and in response to emotional and physical stress and injury. Low NK cell activity is associated with more frequent and severe infectious and non-infectious diseases, and people with low NK cell activity tend to have fatigue, anxiety and depression. Studies with ImmPower’s ingredient show improvement in NK cell activity, which provides health benefits in the context of many serious health challenges, and the every day and seasonal health challenges also.

In addition, American BioSciences has focused intensively on research, manufacture and sales of Fermented Wheat Germ Extract (FWGE) since 2004. “The research on this ingredient is extensive,” Wales asserted. More than 40 articles have been published describing hundreds of studies with FWGE in cell lines, in animals and in clinical trials, showing improvement in cell metabolic regulation and in regulation of immune system activity and improvement in a broad range of health challenges. “Research shows that FWGE supports oxidative glucose metabolism, and inhibits non-oxidative metabolism in ‘transformed cells,’ and supports regulation of Th1/Th2 cytokine balance.”

AvéUltra is FWGE in an instant drink mix form that provides 5.5 g of FWGE, the same quantity as used in clinical trials. In tandem, Metatrol PRO is a dietary supplement that contains FWGE-SC, a highly concentrated and gluten-free FWGE. Two Metatrol capsules providing 41 mg of FWGE-SC is bioequivalent with each 5.5 gram AvéUltra packet.

American BioSciences products are available to practitioners through Emerson Ecologics, Natural Partners and other distributors.

Boiron USA

Christophe Merville, DPharm, director of education and pharmacy development at Boiron USA, Pennsylvania, recommends two best-selling homeopathic medicines for clients and patients with both early symptoms and acute symptoms: Oscillococcinum and Coldcalm.

Oscillococcinum is meant to be taken at the first sign of symptoms to nip symptoms in the bud.

The clinical studies show that Oscillococcinum shortens both the severity and duration of flu symptoms. “The latest published study found that when patients took Oscillococcinum within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms nearly 63 percent showed ‘clear improvement’ or ‘complete resolutions’ within 48 hours. That’s why practitioner clients and patients need to travel with Oscillococcinum and be stocked up to be able to take quick action against crucial early symptoms,” he said.

Meanwhile, Merville added, “There are some people who actually choose to wait until they feel sick enough to use heavier and sedating medications designed to mask full blown symptoms.

Some homeopathic medicines are designed to treat full-blown symptoms, too. For example, Boiron’s Coldcalm contains a blend of homeopathic medicines for three phases of a cold: the onset, established and resolution phases.”

Enzyme Science

Proteases (proteolytic enzymes) are the most well studied enzyme, according to Amy Pereira, national educator, for Florida-based Enzyme Science. This is primarily because many health challenges involve an absence, overabundance, deficiency or misshaping of protein—and proteases are used in vivo to assist the immune system in the breakdown or alteration of proteins that have been tagged for removal. “Research validates that orally-ingested/exogenous proteases are able to enter the bloodstream in active and intact form and bind to endogenous immune system components known as alpha II macroglobulin (a2M) plasma proteins. Together, the a2M-protease complexes are known to address protein-based challenges in the blood.

Aging often causes a decline in enzyme production of enzymes. Enzyme Science offers several enzyme formulas designed to fortify the immune system with the catalytic abilities. Enzyme Defense Pro provides the powerful proteolytic support of serratiopeptidase, mucolase, catalase and a protease thera-blend along with vitamin D3 and lysine to assist the immune system in its protective role.

Telomere Pro contains no proteases yet provides a number of immune supportive ingredients such as astragalus, vitamin D, broccoli seed extract and rhodiola which also double as telomerase enzyme activators and may serve to ultimately protect cells of not only the immune system but of all bodily systems.

Pereira emphasized that our bodies create and use proteases to naturally support the immune system although production slows with age. Enzyme deficiencies may, in part, explain why some individuals seem to be more challenged in addressing immune system issues and maintaining wellness.

PPC Group

EZC Pak from California-based PPC Group is a physician-formulated five-day tapered immune support supplement pack designed to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions for upper respiratory infections.

He summarized how the key ingredients in the formula work to build and sustain healthy immunity. Echinacea has been shown to stimulate T-cell activity, as well as IL-10 antiviral immune response. Zinc is an essential trace metal with a wide range of critical functions in the human body. These include fundamental biological processes such as metabolism, gene expression, and enzyme function. As such, zinc is involved in virtually every aspect of the immune system’s function. Vitamin C has been shown to modulate the activity of several types of immune cells involved in clearing viruses and bacteria; it also increases production of IL-1, TNF-, IFN-, all of which are involved in stimulating immune response to pathogens.

According to Dr. Malepati, the most convincing data on echinacea use is for the species Echinacea purpurea and science supports its use within the first 48 hours. “EZC Pak is one of the very few products that utilizes whole herb certified organic Echinacea purpurea,” he noted.

“EZC Pak also utilizes the most bioavailable form of zinc, zinc acetate, which has the strongest level of data supporting its use. The most positive data on the subject suggests that zinc acetate supplementation initiated within the first 24 hours can decrease the duration and reduce the severity of illness.”Dosage in supportive studies has ranged from 50-100 mg daily, generally over a five-day period.”

Progressive Labs

Kyl Smith, DC, director of education of the Texas-based company, explained that “Glucans are highly conserved carbohydrates and represent a group of chemically heterogeneous polysaccharides with immune enhancing properties. Maitake glucans (-glucan rich polysaccharides fractions) are among the most studied and substantiated glucans in science. MaitakeGold 404 (available to practitioners as Maitake Blend), a patented, clinically tested extract of Maitake mushroom fruit body, provides highly effective, all natural immune support due to its patented extraction process, which increases the concentration of immune-enhancing bioactives.”

Maitake is known as a host defense potentiator, activating and enhancing the actions of macrophages and other immune cells, which are vital to an optimally functioning immune system. Maitake beta-glucan bioactives bind to receptors on human immune cells such as macrophages, neutrophils, T cells, and NK cells, resulting in their multiplication and increased activity. Both pre-clinical research and human clinical trials have confirmed these immune enhancing properties of Maitake as well as the underlying beta-glucan/receptor binding mechanism. Maitake is also recognized as an important cellular protection enhancer.

“Years of rigorous scientific research at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions have proven that MaitakeGold 404 is the most therapeutically bioactive Maitake extract yet developed for enhanced immune support, even at relatively small doses,” stated Dr. Smith.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Research Center found that MaitakeGold 404 enhanced several indicators of healthy immune function in a multi-phase, U.S. Government-funded human clinical trial. Research at the University of Louisville also showed that MaitakeGold 404 provides a high level of immune support particularly in phagocytosis. MaitakeGold 404 may be taken daily much like a multivitamin. This is important because year-round immune support is critical for optimum health and wellness. The chances of getting run-down and sick are not just seasonal events but can happen at any time during the year due to our bodies’ exposure to stress, environmental irritants, and poor nutrition, as well as close proximity to others who may be sick, such as at work, in the classroom, or on public transportation. In contrast, other natural immune products such as echinacea can only be taken for short periods.

Protexin (Bio-Kult)

It’s no secret, said Lamb, that probiotics figure prominently in immune health, and many studies show that different probiotic strains may differ in their effects; this then gives reason to support the use of a multi-strain product. “Our Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-strain formula is a unique probiotic with 14 strains of beneficial bacteria. The gut microbiota is of crucial importance to the correct development of an infant’s immune system. Our Bio-Kult Infantis is a scientifically developed, advanced probiotic formula for babies, toddlers and young children. Each sachet contains seven strains of live bacteria, preplex prebiotic (FOS and gum acacia), high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3 to contribute to the normal function of the immune system,” she explained.

The live bacterial strains used within the Bio-Kult product ranges have undergone extensive research, she underscored. A 2012 study revealed that there was significant antimicrobial activity of all 14 strains due to a reduction in pH (the probiotics produced acid). The study also showed the strains are not hemolytic and they have good cell adhesion properties, exerting the ability to colonize temporarily in the gut, to exclude unwanted pathogens. Despite concern that probiotic strains will inhibit each other, one study on Bio-Kult found that in many cases it was more effective at inhibiting pathogens than its component species when tested at equal concentrations of biomass.

Two further studies showed the Bacillus subtilis PXN 21, contained in the Bio-Kult Advanced, to show good colonization ability, to stimulate the innate immune system, and to attenuate the effect of Clostridium difficile infection in a murine model. Pereira added, “A number of successful clinical trials have also been conducted using some of the strains contained within the Bio-Kult product range, which clearly demonstrate their beneficial effects on the immune system. Namely significantly decreasing intestinal inflammation in cystic fibrosis, reducing symptoms of eczema and improving recovery from acute diarrhea and neonatal pneumonia.”

Vital Nutrients

Vital Nutrients, said Beth Baldwin-Lien, ND, director of medical affairs and educationof the Connecticut-based company, approaches immune health in a multi-targeted, synergistic blend of Western and Chinese botanicals with complementary actions.

Berry Well Immune Support is a concentrated botanical extract formula containing elderberry extract. According to Baldwin-Lien, studies have shown that the properties of elderberry extract and arabinogalactan maintain healthy immune function and promote well-being. “The larch arabinogalactan found in Berry Well is a prebiotic thought to support immune activity by increasing the release of normal immune compounds,” she said. Berry Well contains pineapple powder and xylitol, and it mixes easily in water and juice.

ViraCon is a combination of immune-enhancing herbal extracts that help to increase cytokine production in the body. Additionally, Baldwin-Lien pointed out, ViraCon helps support and maintain normal respiratory function and energy.

Herbal Biotic is Vital Nutrients’ blend of immune enhancing herbs, bioflavonoids, zinc, and vitamins A and C, all known for their roles in supporting normal immune function. The herbs and bioflavonoids provide high levels of antioxidant activity and support the body’s natural defenses. This synergistic formula also promotes upper respiratory and sinus health. In addition, some of the herbs, such as echinacea, in Herbal Biotic may promote healthy immune function and aid in healthy antibody production.

There are quite a few effective ways to right that listing ship of immune imbalance.

For More Information:
American BioSciences, (888) 884-7770, www.americanbiosciences.com
Boiron USA, (800) 264-7661, www.boironusa.com
Enzymedica, (888) 918-1118, www.enzyscience.com
PPC Group, (310) 749-8730, www.ppcgv.com
Progressive Labs, (800) 527-9512, www.progressivelabs.com
Protexin, +44 (0) 1460 243230, www.protexin.com, www.bio-kult.com
Vital Nutrients, (860) 638-3675, www.vitalnutrients.net