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5 Ways to Improve Immunity This Winter
by Alan Joel

With cold and flu season here, we are reminded that the best defense is to improve immunity to protect ourselves from these nasty bugs. The stronger our immune systems are, the less likely we are to catch a cold or flu. There are many ways to improve immunity and get our immune systems in tip top shape. Here are a few tips that can help.

1. Mushrooms
Certain types of mushrooms have been found to be a great natural source to improve immunity. They increase white blood cells and increase their activity which gives a boost to the immune system. There are a wide variety of mushrooms and some have been found useful in killing off bacteria, viruses, and yeast and even useful in fighting cancer. The type of mushrooms called polypores appear to have the most antiviral ability. There is even a polypore variety that has been found helpful in combating smallpox. Research has found the mushroom Agaricon effective in fighting off flu. Various mushrooms have been found beneficial in improving blood flow, balancing cholesterol and blood sugar, regenerating nerves, supporting the kidney and liver, and reducing the risk of heart disease as well as many other functions that can improve health.

Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms seem to be the most effective to improve immunity. Here are a few reasons each of these mushrooms and a few others are particularly suited to improve immunity.

Shiitake - Lentinan is found in shiitake mushrooms. This polysaccharide is known for its antitumor properties and has been used effectively in the treatment of cancers, stomach problems such as ulcers and hyperacidity, and in liver support. Eritadenine is also found in these mushrooms and is used in lowering cholesterol. Shiitake mushrooms have been found to have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. This is especially helpful to improve immunity during cold and flu season with a variety of bacteria and viruses around to catch. This nutrient dense mushroom is rich in beta glucans, polysaccharides, glycoproteins, B vitamins, and ergosterol. Research is currently focused on its benefits for the immune system, cardiovascular system, immune modulation, liver function, cholesterol, and cellular oxidation.

Reishi Ganoderic acid found in reishi mushrooms is used as a treatment for lung cancer, leukemia and other types of cancer. The reishi mushroom shows properties of antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antifungal abilities. It has been shown useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, balancing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reducing the prostrate related urinary symptoms in men. This mushroom is high in beta glucans, polysaccharides, and has 130 identified triterpenoid compounds. It is a complete whole food rich in proteins, enzymes, minerals, and complex polysaccharides. Research with this mushroom is currently focused on benefits to the cardiovascular system, liver function, circulation, cholesterol, inflammation, stress response, oxidative stress, immune modulation, cellular damage and immune system support.

Maitake - This gourmet culinary mushroom has excellent nutritional value through a variety of beneficial phospholipids, unsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides, antioxidants, beta glucans and plant sterols such as ergosterol. Scientists currently are studying it for its benefits for the immune system, liver function, endocrine system, circulatory system, bone and skeletal system, blood glucose, skin, immune modulation and cardiovascular system.

Cordyceps - This mushroom is rich in proteins, plant sterols, polysaccharides, antioxidants, and nucleoside derivatives. Scientific research currently is interested in its benefits for immune system, liver function, sports performance, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, circulatory system, immune modulation, cellular oxidation, blood glucose and kidney function. It has been found useful for endurance and strength and in warding off effects of aging. Cordyceps has been found to have anti-tumor properties, increase blood flow, balance cholesterol levels, give protection to liver and kidneys and there are indications it has antidepressant qualities.

Turkey Tail This mushroom contains PSK and PSP which are both polysaccharide-protein complexes that are water soluble and contain polysaccharides, beta glucans, and protein. This mushroom is of special interest to the scientific community in regards to fighting cancer. Research on Turkey Tail revolves around benefits to immune modulation, digestive system, circulation, lymph system, immune system, liver function and cellular system. A 2011 study of women with breast cancer found Turkey Tail mushroom to improve immune system function. There is also interest in it for fighting infections such as HIV, Herpes, E. coli, candida albicans, and many others.

A simple way to get the immune boosting power of all these mushrooms and more is through a supplement. This particular mushroom supplement combines reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitake, Turkey Tail, and Agaricus blazei, with astragalus, beta glucan and bluegreen algae for support to improve immunity.

2. Beta Glucan
Simply put beta glucan is a simple sugar that can come from yeast, bacteria, fungi or grains like oats, barley and rye. Not all beta glucans are the same however. They vary in structure and in the benefits they can provide. Beta glucan from yeast has been found to bind macrophages and stimulate them, thus benefiting the immune system function. The type of beta glucan found in baker's yeast is the most effective for immune system support. Grains such as oats and barley have a type of beta glucan found to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Beta glucans in general are known to help fight off bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics, release chemicals that support immune cells, reduce cold symptoms, and help regulate the immune system. Beta glucans are not something the body produces naturally. We have to get them from food or supplement sources. Wheat, shiitake mushrooms, rye, barley, oats, baker's yeast or our favorite mushroom with beta glucan supplement are all good sources of beta glucan.

3. Algae
Another natural way to support the immune system is with algae. We love this algae supplement (Wild Water) that combines 9 different types of algae for full spectrum nutrition. Here is how each of these algae types have been found to help in improving immunity.

Dulse - A dark red sea algae rich in phytonutrients and pigments, high in plant-based protein, with important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B6, B12, and A, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese.

Ecklonia Cava - A rich source of bioactive derivatives, mainly phlorotannins, including triphlorethol-A. These phlorotannins are strong antioxidants as well as a source of other benefits for supporting healthy living.

Fucoidan - A seaweed compound derived from brown sea algae and is a sulfated polysaccharide.

Kelp - A wild algae that occurs naturally in all the oceans of the earth and is a rich source of micronutrients and minerals including vitamins C and E, calcium, magnesium, boron, and trace elements that are necessary for strong bones and muscle function.

Bladderwrack - A brown algae found in the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans that is rich in vitamins and minerals and contains the sulfated polysaccharide fucoidan.

Dunaliella Salina - A sea microalgae with high carotenoid content (beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein), antioxidants, and important vitamins.

Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) - A variety of bluegreen microalgae that is rich in chlorophyll, phycocyanin, a broad spectrum of minerals and phytonutrients, and vitamins A and K, and provides a complete protein profile.

Chlorella - A strain of green microalgae grown through freshwater aquaculture that is rich in nucleic acids, amino acids, peptides, polysaccharides, and minerals.

Bluegreen Algae - A bluegreen algae that is the only edible freshwater bluegreen algae in the world that grows abundantly in the wild, and is considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth. This algae is rich in phytonutrients, plant-based proteins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, as well as a wide spectrum of micronutrients.

4. Garlic
Allicin, found in garlic and released when crushing or chopping garlic, has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It has been found to improve immunity and useful in fighting off colds. One study showed participants given a garlic extract for 12 weeks were two-thirds less likely to catch cold than those that were not given the garlic. Most sources indicate that cooking reduces the effectiveness and that using raw garlic is the best to improve immunity.

5. Tea
Tea has also been found to have the ability to improve immunity. Research has shown that tea can help boost the immune system in preparation for fighting off infections. One such study at Harvard reported participants drinking 5 cups of black tea daily for 2 weeks showed a significant boost in the interferon system's ability to fight off viruses. This could be explained by the amino acid L-theanine being found in black and green tea. The antioxidants found in tea have been found to reduce the risks of cancer and heart attack. Tea has antimicrobial properties and has been found beneficial in reducing the risk of diabetes, weight loss, and mental alertness. Teas that have been found to offer a variety of health benefits include green, black, white, Oolong, Pu-erh, Chamomile, and Echinacea.

So don't wait until you get the cold or flu this winter, get started now to improve immunity and help your immune system get prepared.

Sources:
http://www.prevention.com/food/food-remedies/9-power-foods-boost-immunity
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/31/organic-mushrooms-for-immune-support.aspx
http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2009/dec2009_The-Immune-Enhancing-Benefits-of-Beta-Glucans_01.htm

 

 

 

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