3 Myths About Herb Supplements for Immune System Boost

Herbs are a proven and effective way to support your immune system. Herbal Supplement use is projected to increase by 30 percent to reach $107 billion in sales by 2017, according to Global Industry Analysts. Despite increasing acceptance from the healthcare community and the public, several myths still surround herbal supplements for immune system support.

Myth: Herbal Supplements Are Not Adequately Researched

In fact, millions are spent each year to research Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), including herbal supplements.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Cancer Institute spent nearly $89 million to study various alternative therapies in 2004. The U.S. government’s research powerhouse, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, spent about $33 million researching CAM in 2005.

Myth: It’s Difficult to Know If Herbal Supplements Will Interfere with My Doctor’s Existing Treatments

 Over the counter and prescription medications can adversely interact with a number of substances, even food.

However, a simple step could greatly reduce your chances of adverse interactions with your doctor’s treatments. According to a paper published in American Family Physician, only 70 percent of patients who use alternative therapies tell their doctors.

And doctors are more accepting of alternative treatments. A study published in Health Services Research determined 83 percent of doctors and nurses use CAM themselves.

Myth: Herbal Supplements Are Too Complicated to Use

Indeed there are approximately 7000 species of edible or medicinal plants, according to Plants For A Future, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustainable food production.

Plants for a Future offers a searchable database (http://www.pfaf.org/user/plantsearch.aspx) with information about all 7000 edible and medicinal plants. After you sign up for a free account on Medscape, you can view a table listing common adverse interactions between herbal supplements and prescription medications here (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/409518_5).

When you learn about herbal supplements, you’re doing more than getting smarter—you’re improving all areas of your life.

Stanford University reports that patients who participated in a program to self-manage their health spent less time in the hospital, experienced fewer limitations on their activities and saved money.

Supplements that combine the herbs and vitamins you need to boost immune system function make it easier to incorporate herbs into your lifestyle. In just one bottle, you are getting everything you need to for your immune system. Herbal supplements are enhanced when they combine with the right vitamins.

With increased use of herbal supplements, breaking through myths is easier than ever.

Even better, people who are self-educated about their health exercise more, enjoy more energy and have a stronger immune system. Herbal supplements are intrinsic to achieving that healthy lifestyle.

Best Vitamins for Boosting Immune System

Your immune system suffers when you’re surrounded by sniffles and coughs or feeling frazzled by all of life’s demands. Exercising and eating well are great immune system enhancers, but take time and discipline to implement. With countless meetings, errands and infected door handles, how do you boost your immune system quickly and effectively?

Whether you’re scrambling to get out the door or skipping your workout for an early morning meeting, immune boosting supplements offer a quick and easy boost. Several vitamins play key roles in boosting immune system function. Make sure your supplements for boosting immune system function contain the following vitamins.

Vitamin A

According to research by Harvard Medical School, vitamin A has an “unexpected and crucial effect on the immune system.” Specifically, vitamin A metabolizes into retinoic acid as well as other chemicals that are natural immune system boosters. Retinoic acid performs several roles in the immune system.

First, retinoic acid enhances the immune system’s cytotoxicity, which is its ability to kill antigens. Antigens are anything—from viruses to cancer cells—that can potentially make you sick.

Retinoic acid makes your immune system better able to kill these antigens by increasing the activity of dendritic cells and enhancing the production of T cells. Dendritic cells capture antigens and produce chemicals called cytokines to stimulate your immune system. T cells respond to this chemical activation by performing a number of functions. One of these functions is to destroy antigens.

While retinoic acid makes T cells and dendritic better at what they do, another vitamin A metabolite, retro-retinoids, actually increases the number of B cells your body produces. B cells differ from T cells in that they produce antibodies to fight infection rather than directly attacking antigens.

By metabolizing into retinoic acid and retro-retinoids, vitamin A has a powerful effect on the immune system. Vitamin A influences T cells, B cells and even little-known, but powerful, dendritic cells, making vitamin A one of the essential vitamins for boosting immune system function.

Vitamin D

Like vitamin A, vitamin D metabolizes into several compounds to boost immune system function. In the form of these metabolites, vitamin D plays a crucial role in the formation of suppressor T cells.

Suppressor T cells prevent the immune system from overreacting. When you get sick, your immune system goes into action. Dendritic cells secrete chemicals that act as a call to arms. Cytotoxic T cells respond by directly attacking antigens in a way that amounts to hand-to-hand combat. Like a soldier overtaken by adrenaline, these cytotoxic T cells may not know when to stop attacking. Yet if they continue their assault, you could develop a disorder in which your immune system begins attacking your own body’s cells.1 Using chemicals called lymphokines, suppressor T cells halt cytotoxic T cells before they destroy your own body’s cells and cause an autoimmune disease.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one such autoimmune disease. Many researchers, including those at the University of Wisconsin, hypothesize that vitamin D deficiency plays a crucial role in the development of MS. They say that this hypothesis would explain why MS occurs in locations away from the equator, but is nearly nonexistent in equatorial areas, where sun exposure stimulates vitamin D production. Recent studies suggest that vitamin D’s role in activating suppressor T cells may explain this phenomenon.2

With its role in activating suppressor T cells that regulate your immune system, Vitamin D is a natural immune booster that aids in the prevention of autoimmune disorders.

Vitamin C

Researchers in Switzerland report that vitamin C is one of the vitamins that play “important roles in immune function” and reduce the “risks, severity, and duration of infectious diseases.”3

Vitamin C is a natural immune booster several ways. First, it improves natural killer (NK) cell activity, which is essential in a natural remedy for cold sore outbreaks. NK cells help defend your body against viruses and are essential for preventing cold sore outbreaks. NK cells release special proteins that restrict viral infections while your body is producing the cytotoxic T cells it needs to heal itself.6

Vitamin C also contributes to the increased production of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells produced in the bone marrow that go on to become either T cells or B cells.

Vitamin C also improves the chemotaxis quality of immune system cells. Chemotaxis refers to the cells’ ability to move in response to chemical stimulus. Essentially, the success of your immune system depends on the abilities of its cells, such as B cells and T cells, to move toward infections.

Your body uses vitamin C to fight infections in a surprising number of ways and may be a natural remedy for cold sore outbreaks. From improving NK cell activity to increasing white blood cells to helping cells find their way through your bloodstream, Vitamin C is a natural immune booster.

Vitamin E

Researchers in Japan say that vitamin E is a “potent antioxidant” and is an “important nutrient” for immune system support. Much of vitamin E’s significance lies in its impact on T cells as they mature in the thymus.4

White blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. A subset of these white blood cells travels to the thymus where they are “educated” to become T cells. Within the thymus, each T cell learns a specific job. Helper T cells support other cells of the immune system. Cytoxic T cells destroy infected cells during an immune response. Memory T cells are responsible for long-term immunity such as against chicken pox. Suppressor T cells keep the immune system in check, preventing allergies and autoimmune disorders. As we age past puberty, our thymus significantly reduces its output of T cells.5

The researchers in Japan found that vitamin E supplementation “markedly improved” this “decreased cellular immunity with aging” and is a natural immune booster. They found that supplementing with vitamin E actually improved the process by which T cells matured to their specialized roles.4

While good nutrition and exercise are important immunity boosters, taking vitamins for boosting immune system function is part of a comprehensive healthy lifestyle, especially when they include vitamins that are natural cures for cold sores. Studies have shown that the above vitamins are especially important for immune system health and are in the best immune supplements.

 

1 Mora JR, Iwata M, von Andrian UH. Vitamin effect on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Retrieved January 19, 2012 from

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2906676/?tool=pubmed

2 Hayes CE, Cantorna MT, Deluca HF. Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis. Retrieved January 19, 2012 from

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9316607

3 Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Immune-enhancing role of vitamin C and zinc and effect on clinical conditions. Retrieved January 19, 2012 from

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16373990

4 Moriguchi S, Muranga M. Vitamin E and immunity. Retrieved January 20, 2012 from

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10714244

5 Clermont College Biology Course. Immune System. Retrieved January 20, 2012 from

http://biology.clc.uc.edu/courses/bio105/immune.htm

6 Science Daily. Science Reference. Natural killer cell. Retrieved January 25, 2012 from

http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/n/natural_killer_cell.htm

 

Stress Management May Be One Of The Best Immune System Boosters For Health

Your immune system is a powerful collection of organs and cells that wards off illness and keeps you healthy. But what immune system boosters are best for your health? And what commonly weakens your immune system?

In many ways, healthy lifestyle choices are the best immune system boosters. A healthy lifestyle is a natural immune booster that can protect you from common immune suppressors from germs to stress. But the stress that wreaks havoc on our bodies can also prevent us from making the healthful choices that serve as great immune system boosters.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), America is an “overstressed nation.” The APA’s report, “Stress in America Finding,” says most Americans experience moderate stress in their daily lives. Another 24 percent report feeling a great deal of stress.1

Without a stress management plan that acts as a natural immune booster, this stress negatively impacts our health. According to The American Institute of Stress (AIS), stress is an archaic response our bodies experience to survive saber-tooth tigers, not take on our bosses.2

When you feel stress, your brain receives an increased supply of blood so you can make life-saving decisions quickly. You get more fuel thanks to increased blood sugar. Your arms and legs get a boost of strength as your body diverts blood from your digestive system to your legs and arms. The AIS goes on to say that, without the benefits of a natural immune booster, prolonged stress impacts the sympathetic nervous system and results in increased levels of stress-related hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.2

Although we are well past the Ice-Age, we still experience mammoth-hunting levels of this physical response. This results in heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems and a weakened immune system.

Researchers illustrated our need for a natural immune booster that counteracts the impact that stress has on the immune system when they performed a study on medical students. Researchers found that the students’ natural killer cell activity (an important marker in immune function) declined during exam time.3

While a good run across the savannah and a lulling campfire were enough for our ancestors, we need a more comprehensive solution to our stress. Your stress management plan should include a natural immune booster plan that includes numerous immune system boosters such as quick stress relief techniques, a time-management plan, and an exercise plan.

Quick stress relief techniques are immune system boosters that can halt the cascade of hormonal and other physical reactions to stress. WebMD suggests deep breathing because it triggers a relaxation response in the brain. To trigger this response, let your stomach rise as you breathe air deeply into your lungs several times.4

The APA found lack of time to be the primary reason people don’t follow a stress management plan.1 Yet, the Mayo Clinic says that “effective time management is an effective means to a less stressful life,” making it a natural immune booster. The Mayo Clinic suggests stress-busting immune system boosters such as planning your day, keeping a time diary and learning to say no to tasks that don’t align with your goals.5

People who consider themselves even slightly unhealthy are more likely to feel stress and its physical symptoms than people who live healthy lifestyles, according to the APA’s report.1 Research suggests that exercise is a natural immune booster that enhances the brain’s chemicals, especially norepinephrine, a chemical that helps you deal with stress effectively. Also, when you exercise, your central and sympathetic nervous systems and your cardiovascular system “practice” working together, making your body more efficient when dealing with actual stress.6

Immune system boosters that combat stress can protect you from degenerative diseases and airborne infections. According to the APA, most of us already value the importance of stress management and healthy living.1 Yet these techniques take time before they become habits.  While you are implementing these strategies for immune system support, consider taking supplements for boosting immune system function.

 

1 Anderson, N., Nordal, K., et al. (November 2010) American Psychological Association. Stress in America Findings.

2 American Institute of Stress (AIS). America’s No. 1 Health Problem. Retrieved January 17, 2012 from

http://www.stress.org/americas.htm

3 Kiecolt-Glaser JK (Jan-Feb 1984). Psychosocial modifiers of immunocompetence in medical students. Retrieved January 13, 2012 from

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6701256

4. Romito, K., Weinstock, L. (May 2010) WebMD. Stress Management Health Center. Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation. Retrieved January 17, 2012 from

http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-breathing-exercises-for-relaxation

5 Mayo Clinic. Time Management: Tips to reduce stress and improve productivity. Retrieved January 17, 2012 from

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/time-management/wl00048

6 American Psychological Association. Exercise fuels the brain’s stress buffers. Retrieved January 17, 2012 from

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/exercise-stress.aspx

Widespread Unpaid Sick Leave Means You Need Immune System Boosters

You have a higher chance of getting sick thanks to an epidemic of workers with unpaid sick leave. Even if you are not part of the 40 percent of American workers who lose wages when they or their children get sick1, you are still affected by the diminishing worker benefits plaguing the nation. Studies show if taking time off means not paying the rent, sick employees are more likely to go to work. Studies also show widespread unpaid sick leave increases influenza outbreaks─and your chance of getting sick-by up to 34 percent each year.

From healthcare coverage to paid sick leave, workers in the private sector are forced to make due with less. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that access to health insurance is lower than 2008 levels. The 69 percent who do have health coverage are paying more for it. Employees with family coverage now foot 31 percent of the premiums compared to just 29 percent in 2008. But it isn’t just health coverage that’s more expensive. Sneezes and sniffles mean dwindling income for the 40 million American workers who don’t get paid sick leave.1,2

The hit these families take when a bout of flu strikes isn’t small change. According to the Economic Policy Institute, missing just three and half days of work costs the average family their entire monthly food budget. For a family with a single parent and two kids, missing three days of work also puts them in jeopardy of falling below the poverty line.3

Rest is one of the ideal immune system boosters. But convalescence simply isn’t a luxury these workers—who typically earn $10 per hour—can afford, especially when the family’s dinner is on the line. Many of them make the difficult choice of going to work ill or sending their sick kids to school. A survey conducted by Walgreens found that up to 80 percent of employees go to work while still symptomatic and contagious. Fully aware their presence is no immunity booster for their co-workers, 60 percent of these sick workers were concerned about making others ill.5

What Does Unpaid Sick Leave Mean For You?

Even if your family isn’t directly impacted by unpaid sick leave, you are still more likely to get sick due to these families’ hardships. When Denver, Colorado was considering a bill that would require paid sick leave for all workers, Human Impact released a report detailing the impact that unpaid sick leave has on the community. It stated that offering all workers the opportunity to nurse themselves and their children back to health without financial repercussions could reduce the incidence of influenza by 15-34 percent.4

These sick employees aren’t just relegated to office cubicles. Chances are their germy presence is in the vicinity of your food, as well. Research sponsored by the restaurant industry says that 63 percent of restaurant workers, from servers to cooks, have gone to work while sick. The Human Impact report goes on to say that at least 25 percent of the 227 incidents of disease outbreaks in Denver involving the food service industry were traced to food handlers who went to work while sick.4

The problem of unpaid sick leave has also infected nursing homes and schools. The Human Impact report says that unpaid sick leave leads to significantly higher outbreaks of communicable disease in nursing homes.4 And Walgreens Flu Impact report says that kids miss 32 million school days due to the flu that spreads quickly in part because working parents send sick kids to school.5

While kids might take more time to weigh the pros and cons of missing a day of school due to the flu, for most of us a sick day makes us sick with worry. The misery of being ill is compounded by the prospect of facing backed-up housework and paperwork, not to mention the glare of an annoyed boss.

Protecting Yourself And Your Family

How do you avoid the flu? Since a sneeze can travel 12 feet and the flu virus can live on a myriad of hard surfaces for up to eight hours, actually avoiding the virus would require self-imposed isolation on the scale of Thoreau’s Walden. But there are some things you can do to boost immune system function and stay healthy during the flu’s peak season, which is around February.

Brace yourself for the easiest exercise plan a doctor will ever recommend. WebMD says that 20 minutes of exercise five days a week will increase the infection-fighting white blood cells to give your immune system support. And you don’t need to work up a drenching sweat. A brisk walk is a great immune booster.6

Laugh it up. If your child’s umpteenth knock-knock joke doesn’t tickle your funny bone, laughter provides two great immunity boosters that will inspire you to howl at even the most tepid punchline. Laughter decreases your stress hormones to boost immune system function and also provides immune system support by increasing those infection-fighting white blood cells.6

Take immune system supplements. Think your multivitamin delivers the immunity boosting goods? Think again. While RDA levels found in most multivitamins are great for curing pirates of scurvy, recent research indicates that your immune system declares mutiny on such low rations. High-quality vitamins for boosting immune system function contain nutrients and herbs that have been clinically proven to prevent respiratory illnesses. Some are even an effective cold sore treatment.

Every year, 40 million people have to choose between staying home to recover from the flu or paying the rent. The difficulties associate with unpaid sick leave increases the effect of influenza by up to 34 percent. No matter your benefits situation, everyone is affected by the decrease in paid sick leave benefits. Protect yourself and your family from the flu with moderate exercise, stress-relieving laughter and supplements for boosting immune system support.

 

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011). Benefits in the United States—March 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2012 from

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ebs2.nr0.htm

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008). Employee Benefits in the United States—March 2008. Retrieved January 30, 2012 from

http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/sp/ebnr0014.txt

3 Economic Policy Institute. The Need For Paid Sick Days: The lack of a federal policy further erodes family economic security. Retrieved January 30 , 2012 from

http://www.epi.org/publication/the_need_for_paid_sick_days/

4 Human Impact (2011). Paid Sick Days Will Improve The Health of All Denver Residents. Retrieved January 30, 2012 from

http://www.humanimpact.org/component/jdownloads/finish/17/134/0

5 Walgreens (2011). American miss 100 million work days and suffer nearly $7 billion in lost wages during flu season. Retrieved January 30, 2012 from

http://news.walgreens.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=5467

6 WebMD. Cold and Flu. 10 Immune System Buster and Boosters. Retrieved January 30, 2012 from

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/10-immune-system-busters-boosters