Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

By Katherine Foreman on November 11, 2015

With cold and flu season starting to rear its ugly head, it’s more important than ever to keep healthy and germ-free, beginning with the basics—your immune system. Since all sickness starts with a little (or a lot) immunity deficit, providing your body with the TLC it needs to remain in top shape is essential to keep from coughing and sneezing all over your holiday season. As with anything, it’s the little lifestyle adjustments that make the biggest difference, so we’ve rounded up seven simple, yet powerful, everyday immunity boosters to keep you happy, healthy and prepared to ward off those pesky winter germs.

immunity boosters

1. Don’t ignore your gut feelings

It may feel like your nose and throat are the immune system headquarters (headquarters, see what we did there?), but the majority of it (70 percent!) actually has its home in your gut, where probiotics flourish to help prevent infection. This “good bacteria” is important to keep strong and plentiful, and that can be accomplished through a well-balanced, clean diet, and even eating fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi to build resistance strength.

2. Add a little spice to your diet

Many herbs and spices like garlic, ginger and turmeric have been used for years as anti-inflammatory agents with boosting antioxidant properties and a healthy list of other added benefits. It doesn’t hurt that they make for the perfect dish garnishes, so start implementing more into your daily food intake to maximize the benefits.

immunity boosters


3. Zinc is the answer

While it is ultimately very important to consume a lot of vitamin C when times are tough healthwise, zinc has also been proven to reduce the duration of colds by a few days. The anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, antibiotic agent can be digested in foods like spinach, pumpkin seeds, nuts, beans and oysters. Doctors say adding 25 mg of zinc to your diet for a couple of days if you start feeling under the weather is a sure-fire way to ensure you aren’t down and out too long.

4. Antibiotics are not necessarily your friend

For as long as you can, taking the natural route and finding organic ways to fend off germs is actually the most effective way to remain well. Antibiotics often help do the trick, but have also been shown to suppress the normal immune functioning and attack the good bacteria your body needs to stay well. Drinking lots of water—particularly infused with the health-boosting properties of things like lemon, honey and ginger—is an easy and effective way to get the benefits you want without detracting from your body’s natural manufacturing process.

5. Get those endorphins flowing with plenty of exercise

Even exercising as little as a couple of times a week helps to keep stress at bay, improve the quality of your sleep, and strengthen your body. Making the time to get that workout in, especially if it’s outside and can expose you to all that good vitamin D, will be well worth it when you don’t bring the flu home with you.

immunity boosters

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6. Sleep, sleep, sleep

We know—the thought of getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night seems like a big laugh in today’s hectic world, but doctors emphasize that budgeting for at least that amount of sleep each night is one of the most integral ways to support a thriving immune system. Along with a host of other benefits, it’s an excellent method of regulating stress levels, which, if too high, seriously impair the immune system’s ability to function properly. If you can’t swing spending that amount of time sleeping each night, try supplementing with 20-minute power naps during the day. You’ll definitely be glad you did.

immunity boosters

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7. Lay off the processed foods

Avoiding a large sugar, gluten and processed food intake is essential in keeping healthy and strong throughout the year. Doctors and nutritionists advise making your diet as colorful as possible to boost immunity. Leafy greens, an abundance of berries, sweet potatoes and the like are key elements of the infallible health regimen.


No Alcoholics / Kein Alkohol Logo

Naturopathic Physician
Posted June 27, 2012

When it comes to the health of a recovering addict/alcoholic, the approach of natural medicine can positively alter the course of treatment — and definitively increase chances of getting and staying sober. In the first part of this series, I talked about withdrawal and insomnia, two of the most crucial problems that lead to relapse. I support my patients from several perspectives, encompassing mental, emotional, spiritual and physical. Detoxification, 12-step meetings, group and individual therapy, carefully prescribed medications, and family involvement are all integral to the success of a recovering addict in putting down his drink or drug of choice. But I’ve also found that the proper diet, along with targeted vitamin supplementation, can work miracles in the lives of early recovering addicts and alcoholics.

The link between sugar and alcoholism is not to be denied. The active alcoholic often typically consumes 50 percent or more of his or her total calories in the form of alcohol. Remaining calories are often in the form of junk foods: empty calories that actually deplete the body’s stores of essential nutrients.

Alcohol affects the body’s relationship with nutrition in several ways. First, it influences the cells of the midbrain that regulate sensations of appetite by suppressing desire for food while encouraging alcohol intake. [1] Second, it provides a lot of calories without essential nutrients so energy provided is short-lived and leaves the body without proper nutritional stores to draw on. And third, after the initial rush of energy provided by alcohol, there’s a severe drop in blood glucose levels that leads to fatigue, depression, and loss of energy and the subsequent consumption of more sugar and refined carbohydrates, as well as caffeine, to swing the body’s energy back up. Because of this my patients who are recovering addicts often think they need sugar and caffeine to feel good — to even feel normal.

I encourage a diet free of sugar and all its forms. This is a departure from average recovery wisdom that tells recovering addicts to eat all the candy and ice cream they want. But this kind of sugar consumption leads to prolonged cravings, fatigue, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, diabetes and simply a new form of dependence. To stabilize blood sugar, I have my patients focus on eating complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest and therefore provide longer and more stable sources of energy with fewer cravings. My prescription is frequent small meals to regulate blood sugar: three moderate meals a day with two sizeable snacks in between.

The diet I endorse is 45 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent fat and 25 percent protein. The best complex carbohydrates grains are: brown and wild rice, oats, amaranth, millet, spelt, beans, and lentils. People often don’t think of vegetables and fruits as sources of complex carbohydrates but they are some of the best we have available. All of this fiber helps cut alcohol cravings, as well.

For my patients, I can’t stress the importance of protein enough. Proteins helps the body repair tissue and the alcoholic/addict needs this in abundance to help restore organs affected by chronic abuse including the liver, pancreas, kidneys, heart, and brain. Protein is also necessary for blood sugar stabilization. Eggs, lean red meats, chicken, fish, and turkey are all to be eaten in abundance. Nuts are the protein snack of choice among my patients. Proper and adequate intake of fats is essential for absorption of vitamins and nutrients and for cellular repair. Olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, butter, and avocado are good sources. These oils are vital, too, to provide essential fatty acids. Deficiency of these leads to a host of problems, particularly for the recovering alcoholic, most notably depression. [2]

Because it overstimulates the nervous system causing increased anxiety and insomnia, caffeine consumption is to be minimized if not completely eliminated. I ask my recovering addicts and alcoholics to try herbal coffee substitutes like Pero or Cafix to get the taste fix. If elimination is impossible, I recommend no more than two cups of caffeinated beverages per day. Decaffeinated coffee, which still contains some caffeine, is preferable.

I urge people in recovery to eat nothing artificial to ease the load on the liver, which has to struggle to break down chemicals and preservatives. Foods should be in as close to their natural state as possible. I have found great success in cutting alcohol cravings by eliminating common food allergens, most notably wheat and dairy.

B vitamins are essential during detoxification from alcohol and drugs. Supplementing with vitamin B1 (thiamine) is essential, ensuring proper brain function and decreasing fatigue, brain fog and poor memory. Wernickie-Korsakoff syndrome, or alcoholic encephalopathy, is a pronounced form of thiamin deficiency. [3] Research has shown that vitamin B3, or niacin, helps alcoholics detox from alcohol. [4] Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, helps support adrenal function and also helps rid the body of alcohol. For the recovering alcoholic suffering from insomnia and anxiety, vitamin B6, pyridoxine, is crucial for the production of serotonin and melatonin. Commonly, I give my recovering addicts/alcoholics a high quality B-complex supplement, along with vitamin A and vitamin C, which they are usually deficient in.

It’s my goal, as a doctor, to facilitate a physical recovery so that the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of recovery have a better chance of succeeding. Food is a crucial medicine in restoring this balance of health. The sooner a newly-sober person feels great, I’ve found, the sooner he or she will begin to accept a life free of crippling attachments to substances — the life they are truly are meant to live.


1. Xiao, et al. “Effect of ethanol on midbrain neurons: role of opioid receptors.” Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2007 Jul; 31(7): 1106-13.

2. “Deficiency of Dietary Omega-3s May Explain Depressive Behaviors.” Science Daily. Jan 30, 2011. https://www.

3. Martin, et al. “The Role of Thiamin Deficiency in Alcoholic Brain Disease.: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. July 2004.

4.Cleary JP. Etiology and biological treatment of alcohol addiction. J Neuro Ortho Med Surg 1985;6:75-7.

For more by Maura Henninger, N.D., click here.

For more on natural health, click here.

April 5 2012 | Circulatory System

As technology advances, we learn more about the human body and how it works. We also gather details about how supplements are utilized in the body. This type of advancement can lead to innovative change and newer, better products, like our  Co-Q10 50 mg softgels.

Co-Q10 vital for cellular energy, cardiovascular health and Longevity

Co-Q10 is a vitamin-like substance present in every cell in the body. It is vital for cellular energy, cardiovascular health and longevity. Co-Q10 helps reduce oxidative stress in all cells throughout the body and especially contributes to the health of the heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas. Usually after age 30, the body’s production of Co-Q10 declines, which creates a need for supplementation in some people.

Co-Q10 material is often found in a crystalline state, which is less-absorbable by the body and not as likely to have the optimal cellular energy, cardiovascular health and longevity benefits.  Some manufacturers begin their processes with a crystalfree form of Co-Q10. But after processing, the Co-Q10 re-crystallizes inside their softgel capsule. To avoid this, certain manufacturers use solvents in their products. But these solvents may interfere with absorption or cause other issues.

Nature’s Sunshine’s patented lipid blend

Nature’s Sunshine’s new formula uses a patented lipid blend to keep Co-Q10 from crystallizing and yields maximum bioavailability. Therefore, giving you the most cellular energy, cardiovascular health and longevity for your money.  Take 1 softgel with a meal daily for circulatory support.

Our Most Bioavailable Co-Q10 Yet!

Ours is up to eight times more absorbable than the crystal version! A double-blind human clinical trial showed that Nature’s Sunshine’s Co-Q10 50 mg was at least eight times more readily absorbed than competing products. Our 50 mg crystalfree liquid is equivalent to 400 mg of co-Q10 powder. Are you getting your money’s worth?

Practicing physician, author and leader in integrated medicine.
Posted: 01/31/2012 2:22 pm

Has winter blindsided you with a cold or flu?

Did holiday shopping and spending leave you stressed out?

Have chilly days and nights kept you stuck indoors?

If it feels like the perfect storm has hit your immune system this time of year, you’re right.

So now is a perfect time to see how stress impacts immunity and find out what to do about it.

Stress and Immunity

Scientists have known for years that major and minor life stresses interfere with immune function and contribute to disease. Stressful life events increase your susceptibility to several types of infections, from the common cold to tuberculosis and to auto-immune disorders, in which your body’s immune system attacks its own cells.

A study of medical students found that taking final exams produced a measurable decline in the type of immune function that protects against viral infections.

The death of a spouse or a child causes a profound drop in immune function, which may explain why the death rate among men soars by almost 40 percent during the six-month period after losing a wife.

Although you may not be able to control all the stressors in your life, there are many steps you can take to build your immune resistance in the face of stress.

Read Overcoming Anxiety.

Immune Boosters

1) Clear Thinking

The emotional impact of a stressful event is determined by the way you think about it. There is a tendency to overreact to relatively small setbacks, giving them more weight than they deserve.

Cognitive restructuring” is the name given to a psychological strategy that allows us to reevaluate our stressors and gain perspective. Cognitive restructuring forms the psychological basis for all the great religions and is central to the philosophy of Buddhism.

Non-religious methods have been developed and popularized by psychologist Albert Ellis (Rational Emotive Therapy) and psychiatrist Aaron Beck (Cognitive Behavior Therapy).

Learn How to Relax.

2) Social Networks

Isolation can be a killer, increasing the death rate from infection, heart disease and cancer. Involvement with others builds immunity.

A California research team studied people suffering from melanoma, a highly malignant form of skin cancer. They found that involvement in a cancer support group improved survival and increased the activity of a group of white blood cells called natural killer cells, which are an important component of the body’s defense against cancer.

Harvard researchers found that students could improve immune function simply by watching a video about Mother Theresa‘s compassionate work among the poor of Calcutta.

3) Exercise

Exercise of modest intensity, like brisk walking 30 minutes a day, appears to improve immune function. Both your level of activity and your general level of fitness are important.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a quarter million deaths per year in the U.S. can be prevented by regular physical activity at this level of intensity.

4) Sleep

Your sleep is an active time during which your body restores itself. Sleep deprivation of experimental animals increases susceptibility to viral and bacterial infection, and, in humans, insomnia reduces natural killer cell activity. Healthy young men awakened from sleep between 3 and 7 a.m. show a 30 percent dip in natural killer activity the next morning.

The natural sleep requirement of adults varies from as little as six to as much as 10 hours per day, with most people needing seven to nine hours, preferably without interruption. Daytime relaxation also has important health benefits. A period of quiet meditation each day may lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety, improve nighttime sleep and decrease the discomfort of chronic headache and other painful conditions.

5) Nutrition

The leading cause of immune deficiency, worldwide and within the U.S., is poor nutrition. Study after study has found that vitamin and mineral supplements improve immune function among the elderly and among children with recurrent infections. The specific nutrients with the most profound effects are the omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are found in flax seed and in fish, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, selenium and iron.

Learn How Omega-3 Fats Reduce Stress.

Restricting unhealthy dietary fat is also important for building resistance. The activity of natural killer cells is enhanced by low fat diets and diminished by high fat diets.

6) Herbs

If you are highly stressed and prone to developing repeated infections, immune-stimulating herbs may be a helpful addition to a nutritious diet. These include Echinacea species (a native American herb), and Astragalus root (a component of traditional Chinese medicines.

Learn More: Herb Guide.

Clear thinking, supportive social relationships, moderate exercise, adequate sleep and immune-boosting nutrients can keep you from becoming a victim of stress.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Are you stressed out?

Notice any impact on your immunity?

Have you tried anything that helps?

Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Best Health,

Leo Galland, MD

Important: Share the health with your friends and family by forwarding this article to them and sharing on Facebook.

Leo Galland, MD is a board-certified internist, author and internationally recognized leader in integrated medicine. Dr. Galland is the founder of Pill Advised, a web application for learning about medications, supplements and food. Sign up for FREE to discover how your medications and vitamins interact. Watch his videos on YouTube and join the Pill Advised Facebook page.

References and Further Reading

Power Healing: Use the New Integrated Medicine to Cure Yourself. Leo Galland, 384 pages, Random House, (June 1, 1998)

The Fat Resistance Diet Leo Galland, M.D. ( 2005)

Superimmunity for Kids : What to Feed Your Children to Keep Them Healthy Now, and Prevent Disease in Their Future, Leo Galland with Dian Dincin Buchman, Dell (August 1, 1989)

This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) or the creation of a physician — patient relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.

For more by Leo Galland, M.D., click here.

For more on personal health, click here.

Author, ‘War of the Worldviews’; Founder, The Chopra Foundation
Posted: 02/ 1/2012 8:29 am

Wellness seems to have reached a plateau in America and other wealthy industrialized countries. The information about how to prevent many kinds of lifestyle disorders, including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, has been widely distributed. Longevity steadily increases. Advanced research on incurable diseases moves forward, if only by small increments.

You might think that the picture of health is clear. All we need are two things to achieve wellness for almost everyone: more compliance and a major leap in genetics.

The first is certainly true. America’s obesity epidemic isn’t improving because the information about how to reverse it didn’t lead to motivation. The same is true for the other standard points of prevention, such as a reduced fat diet, less red meat, more vegetables, lower salt and sugar, and more fiber. The government can jiggle the food pyramid, but that won’t matter as long as Americans haven’t stepped on to the pyramid in the first place. The same goes for exercise, since only a small minority of adults get even the minimum amount to promote good health.

But this post isn’t a scolding about compliance. It’s the second part of wellness — waiting for genetics to deliver amazing cures and new wonder drugs — that is not a promise likely to be kept. If we want to rise above the plateau where we find ourselves, we actually have to reverse the promise of genetics. Instead of waiting for science, each of us must learn to influence our genes in a new way.

Ten years ago, with the map of the human genome in hand, researchers ran eagerly after magic bullets — that is, simple treatments for fixing damaged genes or “bad” genes that were causing everything from cancer and Type 1 diabetes to obesity and smoking, not to mention mental disorders like depression and free-floating anxiety, both of which are reaching epidemic proportions.

No one is talking about magic bullets anymore, for the genetic map, combined with imaging techniques like the MRI and CT scans, revealed the opposite of what everyone wanted to find. Instead of simple genetic connections, there are dozens and sometimes hundreds of genes involved in various disorders. Even to find fixed sets of these genes has proved elusive. Each individual seems to possess unique patterns of genetic influence. Now medicine realizes that breast cancer, for example, isn’t one disease but dozens. Faced with such unforeseen complications, the hope for genetic cures, while still alive, has become 10 times more complex.

Yet in a different way the human genome has opened the door for the higher health. We now realize that our genes are far more flexible, changeable and easily influenced by lifestyle choices. This post is too short for me to detail how such a revolutionary change occurred in genetic thinking, so I will only point to the findings of Dr. Dean Ornish, the country’s most respected advocate for heart prevention, which indicate that improving your diet, exercise and stress levels leads to improved genetic output from 400 to 500 genes.

This indicates that standard prevention has a real physiological basis, which is good news. Compliance is more than ever the wisest choice. But the new view of genetic flexibility points much further. You are in a constant conversation with every cell in your body, meaning that at the molecular level, every thoughts and action has consequences. It has become clear that genes are eavesdropping on every detail of life, including not just diet and exercise but your moods, beliefs and every experience that registers in the mind.

In other words, you can be the controller of your body’s trillions of cells, and the control switch lies in consciousness. Higher health depends on taking advantage of this breakthrough idea. Far beyond the placebo effect and psychosomatic illness, beyond faith healing and spontaneous remissions, the mind has unlimited potential for achieving a higher vision of wellness, as we’ll discuss in the next post.

(To be cont.)

List of U.S. state foods

Posted: 1/4/12 11:07 AM ET

Every year at this time I fall in love again — with apples. From mid-October and on into the winter I am a regular visitor to New York’s Union Square, where one of the nation’s largest green markets features a dazzling array of these once-forbidden fruits, many of them varieties that you will never find on the shelves of a supermarket. Eve would have a field day plucking apples at this Eden in lower Manhattan!

Shopping at greenmarkets offers a rare chance for city folks like me to meet farmers and learn how the foods that we enjoy get produced, so I had a chat with Jake Samascott, a fourth generation apple grower from Kinderhook in New York’s Hudson Valley. The Samascott family orchard grows 60 kinds of apples on 100 acres, including several old standbys like Macintoshes and Golden Delicious, as well as other more exotic heirloom strains such as the pink-fleshed Scarlet Surprise, and the oddly-ribbed Caville Blanc. They are adding new varieties each year, including two just developed by Cornell University and not yet named.

Not all of Jake’s fruits would be contenders in an apple beauty pageant. Some are gnarly, rough-skinned and have small, wheat colored blemishes on their skin, and that may be one of the reasons why most supermarkets won’t carry them. But when it comes to taste, they leave their store-bought competition trailing in the dust. Apple cognoscenti know that there is an inverse relationship between cosmetic perfection and taste. The uglier the fruits are, the more likely they are to be packed with nutrition and world class flavor. Apple varieties are as subtly flavored as fine wines, and with the price at Jake’s stand for most varieties $1.25 a pound, the tab for connoisseurship is a real bargain.

But price is not the only reason to stock up on apples — another is health.

You know that squeaky clean feeling you get after you have eaten a fresh picked apple? Your gut may be telling you something important. Nutritionists have learned that the soluble fiber called pectin, as well as insoluble fibers in the meat of the apple are powerful brooms that can sweep away lots of bad stuff like LDL cholesterol from the digestive tract and liver. So marked is this cleansing effect that apple pectin was used after the Chernobyl nuclear accident to reduce the traces of radioactive cesium and Strontium 90 in Ukrainian schoolchildren.

And that’s not all. There is growing evidence that apples are rich in cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Research by Cornell toxicologist Rui Hai Liu found that eating apples inhibits tumor growth in rats, and may do the same in humans as well.

A Hong Kong study has shown that antioxidants in apples known as polyphenols, which combat cellular deterioration due to aging, may help to prolong our lives and reduce the risk of heart disease. Other research has demonstrated that flavonoids in apples protect the central nervous system and may lessen the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. And there is good news about the therapeutic effects of several other compounds in apples, which combat a whole range of illness including asthma, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. One Brazilian study even showed that eating three apples a day significantly boosted the weight loss of women on a diet.

But there is one catch. Apples regularly show up on the USDA’s top 10 list of the most contaminated fruits. And it may not be enough just to rinse them off. Even after being peeled, most conventionally grown apples contain traces of up to 10 different pesticides that are suspected to cause nervous system damage, cancer and hormone disruption.

One of the worst offenders is called chlorpyrifos, a known neurotoxin and carcinogen. This pesticide, marketed by Dow Chemical, was banned by the EPA, then quietly reauthorized during 2007 as a result of industry pressure, despite the fact that the EPA’s own scientists acknowledged that children were particularly at risk for getting sick from exposure to chlorpyrifos. This sneak reauthorization was also bad news for farm workers, who spray the poison in commercial orchards from backpack hose sprayers.

Given the dangers from pesticides, I asked Jake Samascott whether he used them in his orchard. They do spray their trees at least once, Jake told me, generally during the blossom stage in the spring. But unlike large-scale commercial growers, they keep their chemical use to a bare minimum. He said that the “organic” grower next door to him also sprays — far more often then he does — with copper and sulfur-based compounds deemed “natural.” So an organic label does not insure that the apples will be free from toxic chemicals. Better to know your growers, Jake Samascott recommends, whether organic or conventional, and ask them how they operate.

But not all of us have the luxury of shopping at greenmarkets from the people who produce our food. In that case, buying organic may be the best way of minimizing your risk from farm chemicals and enjoying one of nature’s tastiest and most healthful treats.

Created by Dr. William J. Keller

If you have done some reading on immune system health lately, you know that immune system support involves a complex network of specialized cells and organs that evolved to defend the body against attacks by foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and other parasites. The two basic kinds or types of immunity are termed innate and acquired.

Innate immunity, also known as genetic or species immunity, represents a wide range of immune protective factors that a person is born with.

In contrast, acquired immunity becomes part of the host defenses by means other than heredity. Within this category, immune system support can be acquired naturally or artificially. Natural acquired immune system support is developed through the recovery from a specific infectious disease while artificial acquired immune system support occurs when the host receives a vaccine or antitoxin. This category can be further subdivided by using the terms active (the host actively produces antibodies in response to a solution of antigens such as those in a vaccine) and passive (the host passively accepts preformed antibodies present in products such as an antitoxin). When our immune system malfunctions, the consequences can range from microbial infections to cancer.

Many immune system supplement ingredients are effective in supporting immune system health. Some of the more popular and scientifically substantiated ingredients for immune health include:

  1. Echinacea has been shown to stimulate the immune system by increasing the activity of certain immune system cells1 and by promoting the release of cytokines (cellular communication and regulatory molecules) from these immune system cells (1).
  2. Elderberry contains flavonoid derivatives called anthocyanidins that appear to have immunomodulatory effects. These compounds in elderberry extract have been found to bind to viruses and block their ability to invade host cells (2). In this way, elderberry is thought to reduce the severity of viral flu symptoms.
  3. Vitamin D3 has been known for quite some time as being important in supporting bone health. However, recently Vitamin D3 has also been shown to be a key component in strengthening the immune system. Sophisticated experiments have demonstrated that Vitamin D3 is essential for the activation of immune system cells needed to seek out and destroy infectious invading microbes (3). Without this activation, infections such as influenza and the common cold appear to be more severe and longer lasting.
  4. Scientific studies on ingredients such as zinc, Korean ginseng, Vitamin C, beta-glucans and arabinogalactans show that all of these enhance and improve the effectiveness of a healthy immune system by increasing the protective activity of certain immune system cells. Macrophages, neutrophils, NK (natural killer) cells and T-cells (T-lymphocytes) are responsible for attacking and neutralizing foreign, disease-causing microbes. Without the proper function of these immune system cells, infectious diseases such as colds and the flu usually occur more frequently, are more severe, and have a longer duration.

As a pharmacy student and during my graduate school days, I was always interested in the concepts of immunology. However, back in those days, the association of immune function and the gut was either not mentioned or was discussed very superficially. Now that we understand how important a properly functioning gut is to a healthy immune system, I’m fascinated by reading the many excellent scientific papers on this topic. A particularly intriguing aspect focuses on how gut bacteria may influence various disease processes while being involved with their beneficial role in digestion and metabolism. In a previous Hot Topic paper, I described how the “Western diet”—high in fats and simple sugars—can reshape the gut microbial community (microbiome) and predispose humans to obesity and all of the health problems that accompany the obese state. Dietary fibers escape host digestion, but resident microbes in the distal gut (large intestine) metabolize these indigestible leftovers to yield short-chain fatty acids such as acetic, propionic and butyric acids. Not only do these acids contribute about 10% to our daily energy supply but they also impact immune system health. Gut microbe-generated acetate interacts with immune cells to quiet an overactive immune system while propionic acid appears to promote the acquired immune system response by acting on T-lymphocytes (4). Butyric acid is known to serve as an important energy source for gut endothelial cells thereby enhancing innate immune system strength.

We’re all familiar with the benefits of the polyphenolic antioxidants. Recently, it has been found that the well-known ellagic acid, present primarily in berries and nuts, is metabolized by gut microbes to a class of compounds known as the urolithins. Specific urolithins are thought to reduce inflammation and thus protect against cancer (5).

We have focused on a few important aspects of gut health as they relate to a properly functioning, strong immune system. However, keep in mind that our gut microbes have long been known to be part of other processes such as food digestion and the production of essential micronutrients. On the downside, our gut bacteria can be directly linked to medical conditions such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and cancer. Therefore, I believe that it’s imperative that we continue toward a better understanding of this huge population of microbes that live in our gastrointestinal tract and other parts of our body. Another way of looking at this situation is that we are outnumbered. Believe it or not, the vast majority of cells that make up the human body are microbial cells.

Created by Dr. William J. Keller


  1. Echinacea. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 8th ed. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2010. p. 605.
  2. Elderberry. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 8th ed. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2010. p. 615.
  3. Von Essen MR, et al. Vitamin D controls T cell antigen receptor signaling and activation of human T cells. Nature Immunology. 2010; 11(4):344-349.
  4. Fukuda S, et al. Bifidobacteria can protect from enteropathogenic infection through production of acetate. Nature. 2011 Jan 27;469(7331):543-547.
  5. González-Sarrías A, et al. NF-kappaB-dependent anti-inflammatory activity of urolithins, gut microbiota ellagic acid-derived metabolites, in human colonic fibroblasts. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010 Aug;104(4):503-12.