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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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