immune system

  1. Benefits of vitamin C—happier hospital stays

    Ideally, you'll never have to spend even a single night in a hospital bed. But if you happen to wind up there, even if it's just for one night, make sure to take along your vitamins. Vitamin C in particular is a MUST.  A new study shows that the benefits of Vitamin C may also include keeping your mood afloat during your hospital stay.

    You see, vitamin C is the essential vitamin REQUIRED for all new growth or repair in the body. In fact, another benefit of vitamin C is that it boosts collagen production. And collagen is the main protein responsible for repair in the body. It repairs your tissues, tendons, bones, muscles, organs and even your brain. Want your post-op scar to heal faster? Make sure you've got plenty of vitamin C...because without it, your body can't repair anything.

    Second, vitamin C is critical to your immune system. It boosts the production of interferon, a protein that helps shut down the growth and spread of bacteria, viruses, or tumors. And it's exactly what you need to have in abundance when you're entering the hospital and fighting infection at every turn.

    A third benefits of vitamin C is that it makes for a happier hospital stay. That's what surgeons from Montreal's Jewish Medical Hospital just discovered.

    Can more vitamin C make you happier?

    Canadian physicians selected 32 hospital patients to take part in this study. (Granted, that's a miniscule number. But for a hospital to dispense anything other than Percocet or Prilosec, it's a pretty big deal and essentially unheard of in 2010!)

    First off, the doctors divided the patients into two groups. One group would receive 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day for up to 10 days. The other group would receive 1,000 IU of vitamin D (as a placebo) twice a day for up to 10 days.

    The doctors also measured blood levels of vitamin C before and after treatment. Unfortunately, they found that 60 percent of the patients were vitamin C deficient at the study's outset.

    Next, the doctors asked their patients to answer questionnaires about their mood before vitamin treatment began and after at least five days of taking the vitamins.

    Here's what they found:

    • First off, in the group taking vitamin C, their blood levels of vitamin C more than tripled.
    • In addition, the vitamin C group experienced a 34 percent average reduction in mood disturbance.
    • In the vitamin D patients, their blood serum levels of D rose as well.
    • But the vitamin D patients experienced no improvement in mood.

    Clearly, vitamin C gave patients a nice boost in mood during their stay. In their report, the doctors didn't make any guesses why the vitamin C group fared so much better. But

    I've got an explanation: the benefits of vitamin C makes everything better.

    You see, when you're under stress--physical or mental (such as during a hospital stay)--your body's need for vitamin C increases exponentially. In addition, inflammation following surgery or illness depletes your body's absorption of vitamin C. So by giving your body more of what it needs, you heal faster and you're happier.

    Add vitamin C to the top of your "To Pack" list

    There's no doubt the benefits vitamin C will help you recover from any hospital visit. Not only will it boost your mood, but it will also help you thwart infection. And we all know that's a huge concern even in the best hospitals. Plus, vitamin C helps flush out any drugs or anesthesia you may have received during your hospital stay.

    Bottom line? Prevent potential problems and supplement with extra vitamin C before you enter the hospital. And definitely pack a bottle of it during your hospital stay. Just don't count on your nurse to add it to your little cup of pills. In fact, you may have to sneak it in between hospital rounds. (I've done that a few times myself!)

    If you're recovering from an illness or preparing surgery, take 1,000 mg of C three times a day. That's quite a bit more than the Canadians used in their study. But if you're recovering from an illness or surgery, you'll need it. It's essential as your body repairs itself and returns to optimal health.

    Plus, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so any extra your body doesn't need will get flushed.

    For normal vitamin C maintenance, take 1,000 mg of C twice a day. But don't go for time-released preparations as these are a waste of money. Vitamin C only stays in your body for a few hours at a time.

  2. "Prep" your body NOW for flu season with a tiny vitamin that packs a wallop

    I know that getting the flu is probably the furthest thing from your mind right now. But believe it or not, now's the time to "prep" your body against next winter's flu virus.

    A new study published in the Clinical Journal of Nutrition shows that one tiny vitamin may cut your risk of getting the flu by 40 to 74 percent. But it also takes time to build up in your system...so you need to start now, so you ARE ready in time for flu season to hit!

    Now, I know you may wonder, "Can't I just get a flu shot in November, like always?" And sure, you could do that and hope for the best. But it's not the smartest decision, especially if you're over 65. Here's why...

    Flu shot fails for men and women over 65...

    If you're over 65, I bet that your primary doctor urges you to get a flu shot every fall. And his intentions are in the right place; the flu can be very harsh on older men and women. In fact, adults over 65 account for about ¾ of the flu deaths every year.

    But your well-intentioned doc may be leading you astray.

    According to a new report by the Cochrane Collaboration, there's very little solid proof that flu vaccines effectively protect older adults. In fact, Cochrane scientists found that 74 out of 75 vaccine studies were biased and of poor caliber. Plus, according to Dr. Tom Jefferson (lead researcher and vaccine expert), the data that gets reported in the press is just plain wrong.

    In a New York Times interview, Dr. Jefferson stated, "What you see is that marketing rules the response to influenza, and scientific evidence comes fourth or fifth." Jefferson also stated that "until we have all available evidence, it is hard to reach any clear conclusions about the effectiveness of influenza vaccines in older people."

    But this really isn't new news. About five years ago, another analysis of 64 different studies uncovered basically the same thing. That time scientists found that flu shots--at best--reduced an elderly person's risk of hospitalization by only 27 percent.

    Bottom line here folks is that the flu shots--although they're heavily marketed to older adults--probably don't protect you very much.

    But here's the good news: Even if a vaccine can't protect you from the flu, something else can.

    Tiny vitamin packs a wallop against flu...

    Vitamin D is one of your best defenses against the flu. And it's always been a favorite among nutritionists like me. Vitamin D is the power vitamin that kicks your T cells into action. And these cells track down and kill foreign invaders, especially bacteria and viruses.

    Recently, a study showed that vitamin D also packs a wallop against the flu. For this study, scientists divided healthy patients into two groups. One group received 1200 IU of D3 (the most active form of D) each day for four months. The other group received a placebo.

    During the four-month period, 40 percent fewer participants taking D3 got the flu compared to the placebo group. Plus, the patients going into the study with the lowest levels of D got the biggest protection. These patients experienced a 74 percent reduction in the incidence of the flu. Interestingly, the researchers also found that the D3 patients with asthma experienced fewer asthma attacks compared with patients in the placebo group.

    And these results only stem from a period of four months! I have a feeling that these results would have been even better had the participants received vitamin D supplements all year long. You see, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that gets absorbed into your body through your intestinal tract. Plus, your body can store it for up to 60 days.

    So really--even though spring is here--now's the time to kick your immune system into high gear and "prep" for flu season. I recommend taking up to 5,000 IU of D3 a day. And if the temperatures are warming up in your neck of the woods, spend some time outside without sunscreen. Just 30 minutes of sunshine will give you 20,000 IU of vitamin D. This limited amount of sun exposure is not only safe, but it's also healthy and will give you some added ammunition against next year's flu!

  3. Slash your risk of illness with the secret ingredient hiding in one of todays forgotten miracle fruits

    Before you spend a fortune on one of today's exotic, super-fruit darlings, researchers have discovered a host of immune-boosting benefits in one of the most affordable, yet underrated fruits in the produce section... Apples. In fact, researchers recently discovered that the soluble fiber found in apples— called pectin—delivers an incredible boost to the immune system in more ways than one. Not only does it help fight off infection faster, it shows valuable anti-inflammatory properties, which can help stop some of today's most deadly diseases. Researchers divided mice into two groups. One group received a dose of the soluble pectin fiber each day for six weeks. The other group received insoluble fiber. Then, researchers gave the mice bacteria to make them sick. The mice given pectin only got half as sick as the other mice. Plus, they recovered from the illness in half the amount of time. Why the faster recovery? The mice given the apple pectin produced more of an anti-inflammatory protein called interleukin-4 (IL-4). Anything that helps your body produce more IL-4 is a good thing, because it kicks your immune system into high gear and stimulates the production of white blood cells. Scientists have begun to study IL-4 for its role in fighting cancer in humans, as it has such great anti-inflammatory power. Inflammation can also contribute to major health problems such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. But that's not all... A healthy immune system begins in the gut Another recent study shows that apple pectin also improves digestive health. In the study, scientists fed rats a diet rich in apples. And what they found is that pectin boosted the amount of "friendly bacteria" in the rats' intestines. Additionally, it helped to produce butyrate, a chemical that helps feed cells in the intestinal wall. Not too bad for one of the most underrated fruits in the produce section! So the next time you've got the munchies...skip the chips and go for an apple instead. Just be careful what kind of apple you buy... Pick up a regular apple in the grocery store and it's probably got more pesticides on it than just about any other item in the produce section. That's because most apples at the grocery store have been sprayed with pesticides 10 to 20 times before you bite into one. In fact, each year, a non-profit organization called the Environmental Working Group analyzes data from the federal government to come up with its "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticides. This year, the apple is #2 (just below peaches). You can get the complete list of "dirty" fruits and veggies, on the EWG's website at www.foodnews.org. To avoid the pesticides found on most regular apples, you could certainly remove the peel. But that would mean you're missing out on another important part of the apple: the skin. Apple skins contain insoluble fiber that helps wipe out harmful bacteria and toxins in your gut. Some people rely on produce washes to wipe away pesticide residue. But I've read reports that show these products aren't any more effective than soapy water and don't really remove pesticide residue anyway. The only really safe option is to choose organic apples whenever possible. Yes, they will be more costly. But it's well worth it. Plus, here's a bit of good news... The Environmental Working Group website also contains a list of "clean 15." These fruits and veggies carry the smallest pesticide load, so you can probably get away without buying them organic. For the tech savvy reader, the organization even has a free application you can download to a smart phone to have their lists handy when you're shopping for produce. Just remember to keep your apples organic. And eat them often. You'll probably skip all those nasty bugs your friends seem to get every year.
  4. Douse inflammatory disorders without drugs

    You may ease your symptoms of colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and other inflammatory disorders without taking drugs. That's what new scientific research out of Australia suggests.

    But before we get into the details, let's get a grip on how these problems take hold in the first place.

    Why your immune system goes rogue...

    A healthy immune system defends you against diseases, bacteria, and toxins. But sometimes, it becomes confused. It attacks the very stuff it's supposed to protect.

    So, for example, if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system strikes your joints. Your bones and cartilage also come under attack. Then, your body reacts with inflammation to fix the damage. As a result, your joints become swollen and sore.

    Now -- most conventional treatments for autoimmune disorders focus on drugs that suppress your immune system. So, for instance, if you've got RA, your doctor has probably told you to take a drug like Humira or Enbrel to ease the pain.

    And sure, these drugs may control your flare-ups. But, remember, they also suppress your immune system. And this comes with its own fair share of problems. In fact, new evidence suggests that taking these drugs (called TNF blockers) may increase your risk of getting a certain type of skin cancer by 50 percent.

    Scary stuff, I know. But, according to new research out of Australia, you may be able to bring your symptoms under control without resorting to drugs.

    Control your inflammation with food

    Australian scientists found that mice that eat plenty of insoluble fiber have healthier immune systems with less inflammation.

    Sounds too simple, I know. But stick with me.

    Insoluble fiber comes from fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds. Your body converts the insoluble fiber you eat into 'short-chain fatty acids.' Scientists believe these fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body. In fact, previous studies have shown that these compounds ease the inflammation of colitis.

    Sure, that makes sense. Eat more fiber and your colon problems settle down. No big surprise there. But what about other inflammatory disorders? Does insoluble fiber work on them too? Turns out, it does!

    In fact, it appears insoluble fiber has a calming affect on your immune system. That's because short-chain fatty acids bind with a molecule in your body called GPR43. And according to the new research, your immune system needs GPR43 to function properly.
    But if your body doesn't make enough GPR43, your immune system goes haywire, attacking its own tissues and creating inflammation. The good news is, by getting more insoluble fiber, you make more GPR43 available to your body.

    According to Professor Charles Mackay, one of the study authors:

    "The notion that diet might have profound effects on immune responses or inflammatory diseases has never been taken that seriously. We believe that changes in diet, associated with western lifestyles, contribute to the increasing incidences of asthma, Type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases. Now we have a new molecular mechanism that might explain how diet is affecting our immune systems."

    Immune health starts in your gut

    According to the new research, there's one other factor critical to keeping your immune system toned down. And that's healthy bacteria. You've got to get plenty of it.

    According to Kendle Maslowski, the other lead author in the study, "Changing diets are changing the kinds of gut bacteria we have, as well as their by- products, particularly short chain fatty acids. If we have low amounts of dietary fibre, then we're going to have low levels of short chain fatty acids, which we have demonstrated are very important in the immune systems of mice."

    Now, I'm the first to admit it. Mackay's research is just a drop in the bucket. And they used mice, not humans.

    Nevertheless, I'm a believer. And that's because naturopaths have preached this same stuff for decades. Your gut is the frontline of your immune system. And certain foods help tame an inflamed immune system. Mackey's just added the scientific proof.

    My advice?

    If you've got an autoimmune disorder, go ahead and boost your intake of insoluble fiber (good sources include: dark greens, beans, broccoli, zucchini, celery, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and the skins of fruits). And take a daily probiotic with billions of active units of healthy bacteria. What's it going to hurt? And besides, if Mackay's research is on target (and I think it is), it just might help tone down your symptoms.

  5. Update on HPV vaccines

    Gardasil is used to protect young girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV), a cause of cervical cancer and genital warts. But it’s way too soon to give any stamp of approval to this so-called “cancer” vaccine. Here’s why… Last week I told you that a batch of Gardasil had been pulled off the market in Spain due to bad reactions in two young girls. I raised serious concerns about the safety and effectiveness of this so-called “cancer vaccine.” Upon further research, it seems that Charlotte J. Haug, M.D., Ph.D. of the New England Journal of Medicine has similar concerns. In a paper published in the Journal last year, she asked, “Since most HPV infections are easily cleared by the immune system, how will vaccination affect natural immunity against HPV, and with what implications?” In other words, why are we giving a vaccine for something the body naturally clears up on its own? Furthermore, how will it affect a girl’s immune system if we’re giving a vaccine for something the body is supposed to do itself? Will the immune system go into overdrive…or will it stop working altogether? Haug also points out that it may take decades to know if Gardasil (or GlaxoSmithKlein‘s Cervarix) can really prevent cervical cancer. Why, you ask? Well, you see, it takes many years for cervical cancer to develop in a woman. There’s no way to determine if the vaccines are really effective at preventing cervical cancer because they simply haven’t been around that long. Gardasil and Cervarix went through a few years of clinical testing. And, yes, they have been on the market for another couple of years. But that isn’t enough time to determine their effectiveness in preventing a disease that may take 10 years to develop. In fact, Haug believes we won’t know the truth about Gardasil for “decades.” In the meantime, here’s a link to her report, in case you or anyone you know is interested in further reading: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe0804638

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