Monday, June 25, 2018

How to Improve Your Immune Function by Boosting Natural Killer Cells By Dr. Joseph Mercola

How to Improve Your Immune Function by Boosting Natural Killer Cells

How to Improve Immune Function by Boosting NK Cells

Story at-a-glance

  • Natural killer (NK) cells are a specific type of white blood cell. They’re an important component of your cell-mediated (innate) immune system and are involved in both viral diseases and cancer
  • NK cells are cytotoxic; they induce apoptosis (programmed cell death), which destroys the virus along with the infected cell
  • NK cells — which are not antigen-specific — contain the infection while your adaptive, humoral immune response generates T cells containing antigen-specific cytotoxins to clear the infection
  • KLRD1 is a receptor gene found on the surface of NK cells, and the level of KLRD1 found in a person’s blood prior to exposure to the influenza virus can predict whether that individual would contract the flu with 86 percent accuracy
  • People whose immune cells consisted of 10 to 13 percent NK cells remained disease free after exposure to the flu virus, whereas those below 10 percent became ill
By Dr. Mercola
Natural killer (NK) cells, a specific type of white blood cell, are an important component of your innate immune system. Your immune system consists of two different branches — cell-mediated immunity (innate) and humoral immunity (adaptive). When you contract a viral disease, the pathogen enters your body and infects your cells.
The subsequent disease process involves your cell-mediated immune response, which activates your NK cells, along with chemicals that attract them to the site of infection, where the white blood cells basically chew up and spit out the infected cells. This process clears the virus and rejuvenates the gel-like water inside your cells.
During recovery, your humoral immune system kicks in and starts generating antibodies against the virus to help prevent the same kind of disease process and symptoms from occurring again, should you be exposed to the same virus later on. As long as your cell-mediated immune system is activated first and the humoral immune system is activated second, you will have long-lasting immunity against that pathogen.
On a side note, naturally acquired herd immunity in a population comes into play when a very high percentage of individuals have gone through this sequence of cell-mediated and humoral immune response. This sequence is not followed during vaccination, which is why vaccine-induced “herd immunity” is a misnomer.

NK Cells Protect Against Viral Disease and Tumors

NK cells are involved in both viral disease and diseases such as cancer and autoimmune conditions. As explained in one 2008 paper on the functions of NK cells:1
"NK cells are effector lymphocytes of the innate immune system that control several types of tumors and microbial infections by limiting their spread and subsequent tissue damage … NK cells are also regulatory cells engaged in reciprocal interactions with dendritic cells, macrophages, T cells and endothelial cells. NK cells can thus limit or exacerbate immune responses.
Although NK cells might appear to be redundant in several conditions of immune challenge in humans, NK cell manipulation seems to hold promise in efforts to improve hematopoietic and solid organ transplantation, promote antitumor immunotherapy and control inflammatory and autoimmune disorders."
NK cells are cytotoxic, meaning they're capable of killing cells. Tiny granules in the cytoplasm contain granzymes — special proteins such as perforin and proteases. Perforin, hinting at the functional basis of its name, perforates the cell membrane of the cell targeted for elimination, allowing the proteins and other chemicals to enter, thereby inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) that destroys the virus along with the infected cell.
In this manner, NK cells — which are not antigen-specific — contain the infection while your adaptive, humoral immune response generates T cells containing antigen-specific cytotoxins to clear the infection. Put another way, the NK cells keep viral replication in check while the adaptive arm of your immune system "learns" the properties of the virus and creates antibodies to match.
Research confirms that when you are deficient in NK cells, you're far more susceptible to viral infections, and likely tumor formation as well.2 NK cells also help regulate your immune system by producing cytokines, signaling molecules that stimulate and regulate other immune system cells.
Since NK cells have the ability to differentiate between normal, healthy cells and abnormal cells, such as those infected by a virus or that have turned cancerous, scientists are looking for ways to enhance NK cell function as a way to improve the effectiveness of cancer treatments.3,4 The good news is there are many ways to boost the number and function of your NK cells, which I'll review below.

With Enough NK Cells, You Become Impervious to Influenza

Researchers recently made a very interesting discovery: With enough NK cells in your system, you will not contract influenza.5,6 As reported by Live Science,7 a specific gene called KLRD1 "could serve as a proxy for a person's levels of natural killer cells." KLRD1 is a receptor gene found on the surface of NK cells, and the level of KLRD1 found in a person’s blood prior to exposure to the influenza virus was able to predict with 86 percent accuracy whether that individual would contract the flu.
According to senior study author Purvesh Khatri, associate professor of medicine and biomedical data science at Stanford University School of Medicine,8 KLRD1 is "the first biomarker that shows susceptibility to influenza, across multiple strains." As reported by Eurekalert:9
"[O]n the whole, those whose immune cells consisted of 10 to 13 percent natural killers [NK cells] did not succumb to the flu, whereas those whose natural killer cells fell short of 10 percent wound up ill.
It's a fine line, Khatri said, but the distinction between the groups is quite clear: Everyone who had 10 percent or more natural killer cells stood strong against the infection and showed no symptoms. Khatri said his findings could help health professionals understand who's at the highest risk for flu infection."

Ways to Boost Your NK Cells

While the researchers hope their findings may help develop more effective flu vaccines, you don't need drug intervention to boost your NK cells and hence your protection against virtually all viruses and malignancies. NK cells tend to lose functionality as you age, leaving you more susceptible to disease, including viral infections such as influenza and cancer. The medical term for this degeneration is "immune senescence." The good news is you can counteract this decline in a number of different ways, including the following:
Get regular exercise
In one study, moderate exercise improved NK cell function in cancer patients.10
Quit smoking
Quitting smoking will also help, as smoking impairs NK cell function.11
Enzymatically modified rice bran (EMRB)
EMRB is produced by exposing rice bran fiber to enzymes isolated from the shiitake mushroom. In one 2013 study, a rice bran product called MGN-312 increased NK cell activity by as much as 84 percent in patients with multiple myeloma after three months of treatment.13 In an earlier study, old mice injected with EMRB had a fivefold increase in NK cell activity within two days.14
Cardamom
A relative of turmeric, known for its potent immune-boosting benefits, cardamom increases NK cell activity.15,16 A 2007 study17 found cardamom inhibited colon cancer by preventing cellular damage caused by the accumulation of toxins and various waste products in the colon.
This tasty spice also has strong antioxidant and antimicrobial activity, effectively inhibiting E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the latter of which is a common source of hospital-acquired infections.
Black pepper
Like cardamom, black pepper has also been shown to enhance the cytotoxic activity of NK cells and promote healthy immune function.18
Colostrum
Colostrum is milk produced within the first 24 to 48 hours of giving birth. Colostrum from cows is very similar to human colostrum, and colostrum products are typically derived from cows. The colostrum contains an array of immune and growth factors required by the offspring.
In a 2012 study19 on mice, oral administration of skimmed and concentrated bovine late colostrum was shown to activate the immune system and protect against influenza infection by boosting NK cell activity.
Another 2014 animal study20 concluded that, "Colostrum supplementation enhanced NK cell cytotoxicity and improved the immune response to primary influenza virus infection in mice." Colostrum-supplemented mice that did contract the flu also had less severe infection and a lower viral burden in the lungs compared to controls.
An earlier study,21 published in 2007, found treatment with oral colostrum for two months prevented influenza infection three times more effectively than influenza vaccination. According to the authors, "Colostrum, both in healthy subjects and high-risk cardiovascular patients, is at least three times more effective than vaccination to prevent flu and is very cost-effective …"
Mushrooms
Mushrooms such as shiitake, maitake and oyster mushrooms,22 also boost NK cell activity courtesy of beta-glucans, a polysaccharide known for its immune-boosting and cancer-fighting activities. As noted in a 2007 study in the journal Medicina:23
"[B]eta-glucans … increase host immune defense by activating complement system, enhancing macrophages and natural killer cell function.
The induction of cellular responses by mushroom and other beta-glucans is likely to involve their specific interaction with several cell surface receptors, as complement receptor 3, lactosylceramide, selected scavenger receptors, and dectin-1 (betaGR). Beta-glucans also show anticarcinogenic activity.
They can prevent oncogenesis due to the protective effect against potent genotoxic carcinogens. As [an] immunostimulating agent, which acts through the activation of macrophages and NK cell cytotoxicity, beta-glucan can inhibit tumor growth in promotion stage too."
Active hexose correlated compound (AHCC)
AHCC is a commercially available fermented mushroom extract that supports healthy immune function, primarily by enhancing NK cell activity. As noted in a paper published in the Natural Medicine Journal:24
“Supplementation studies with AHCC have demonstrated positive effects on immune function in humans and animal models, including decreased tumor formation, increased resistance to viral and bacterial infection; enhanced NK cell activity … increased T-cell proliferation, including altered T-cell activity; altered cytokine production … increased nitric oxide release by peritoneal cells; and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects …
Overall, AHCC has been suggested to enhance prognosis and quality of life in a variety of cancers, as well as to elicit potentially positive changes in cytokine production and lymphocyte populations — most notably increased NK cell activity.”
Probiotics
Beneficial bacteria found in traditionally fermented foods also boosts NK cell activity,25 and those with low NK cell levels tend to experience greater benefits from probiotic supplementation than those with healthy levels of NK cells.
Ginseng
Panax ginseng augments NK cell activity and boosts cytokine production that lowers inflammation via a polysaccharide called ginsan.26
Melatonin
Melatonin, a neurohormone produced by your pineal gland, is a well-recognized modulator of cancer risk. As noted in a 2006 paper on melatonin's role in immune system enhancement and its applications in cancer:27
"Physiologically, melatonin is associated with Thelper 1 (Th1) cytokines, and its administration favors Th1 priming. In both normal and leukemic mice, melatonin administration results in quantitative and functional enhancement of NK cells, whose role is to mediate defenses against virusinfected and cancer cells.
Melatonin appears to regulate cell dynamics, including the proliferative and maturational stages of virtually all haemopoietic and immune cells lineages involved in host defense — not only NK cells but also T and B lymphocytes, granulocytes and monocytes — in both bone marrow and tissues."
A 2005 paper28 also stressed the importance of NK cells in aging and longevity, noting that “Longer life in centenarians has been associated with increased NK cell number,” and, ”The cytotoxic capacity of NK cell is well preserved in peripheral blood of the centenarians."
This paper also discusses the immunoregulatory action of melatonin on your innate immune system, and that exogenous melatonin (melatonin supplementation) "augments NK cells and monocytes in both the bone marrow and the spleen with a latency of 7 to 14 days."

Boosting Your Innate Immunity Is Your First-Line Defense Against Influenza and Other Diseases

I've often stressed that boosting your natural immune function is a key component of health and disease prevention, and this is particularly true during flu season. As recently discovered, once your NK cells reach a certain threshold, which appears to be right around 10 percent, you will not get the flu even if you're exposed to flu viruses.
Augmenting your NK cell function also becomes increasingly important with age, as levels tend to naturally decline over time if you don't exercise and eat foods that help maintain NK cell levels and function.
This is in large part why seniors are more prone to influenza and other infections. They're also more susceptible to cancer, and NK cells play a very important role in tumor prevention as well. So, in addition to optimizing your vitamin D, consider eating more of the NK cell-boosting foods listed above. Doing so could go a long way toward circumventing influenza and other infections.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

New MRI research reveals cancer cells thrive on sugar

New MRI research reveals cancer cells thrive on processed sugar

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: cancer cellsprocessed sugarresearch
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(NaturalNews) Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, your dietary habits could be significantly adding to your risk of developing cancer. New research published in the journalNature Medicine has confirmed that processed sugar is one of the primary driving forces behind the growth and spread of cancer tumors, so much so that the future of cancer screening could rely on scanning the body for sugar accumulation.

Scientists from University College London(UCL) in the U.K. made this discovery after experimenting with a new cancer detection method that involves utilizing a unique form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). After sensitizing an MRI scanner to look specifically for glucose in the body, it was revealed that cancer tumors, which feed off sugar, light up brightly as they contain high amounts of sugar.

"The new technique, called 'glucose chemical exchange saturation transfer' (glucoCEST), is based on the fact that tumors consume much more glucose (a type of sugar) than normal, healthy tissues in order to sustain their growth," explains a recent UCL announcement, noting that tumors appear as "bright images" on MRI scans of mice.

Traditionally, cancer screenings have involved the use of low-dose radiation injections to identify the presence of tumors, which makes sense as radiation is another known cause of cancer. The things that trigger and promote cancer development and spread, in other words, can also be used by doctors to detect it inside the body. And now sugar can officially be added to this list.

"The method uses an injection of normal sugar and could offer a cheap, safe alternative to existing methods for detecting tumors, which require the injection of radioactive material," says Dr. Simon Walker-Samuel, lead researcher of the study from the UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI).

Interestingly, it was also noted by the study's senior author that the amount of sugar in "half a standard sized chocolate bar" is all it takes to effectively identify the presence of tumors using the glucoCEST method. This is astounding, as it suggests that even relatively low amounts of sugar have the potential to promote cancer proliferation.

Many cancer tumors respond directly to insulin produced by sugar consumption

The UCL study is hardly the only one to have identified a connection between processed sugar consumption and diseases like cancer. Other research, including that being currently being conducted by Dr. Robert H. Lustig, M.D., a Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), confirms that the bulk of chronic illnesses prevalent today are caused by sugar consumption.

You can watch a presentation from Dr. Lustig entitled Sugar: The Bitter Truth here:
http://youtube.com

As far as cancer is concerned, hormones produced by the body in response to sugar consumption also feed cancer cells. This means that every time you down a soda or eat a piece of cake, your body produces certain chemicals that tell cancer cells to not only start taking up sugar, but also to grow in size and spread.

"What we're beginning to learn is that insulin can cause adverse effects in various tissues, and a particular concern is cancer," says Dr. Lewis Cantley, head of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) at Harvard University, as quoted during an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes.

"If you happen to have a tumor that has insulin receptors on it, then it will get stimulated to take up the glucose that's in the bloodstream," he adds. "So rather than going to the fat or to the muscle, the glucose now goes into the tumor, and the tumor uses it to grow."

Sources for this article include:

http://www.mdtmag.com

http://cancerdefeated.com

http://youtube.com

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Your How to Guide for Growing Astragalus

Your How-To Guide for Growing Astragalus

Story at-a-glance

  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), a member of the pea family, is an adaptogenic herb with a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an immune strengthening tonic
  • Adaptogenic herbs such as astragalus root help your body adapt to physical, emotional or mental stress. Its immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties also lower your risk for infections and other diseases
  • For medical use, the astragalus root is made into powder, herbal decoctions, tea, capsules and ointments. The raw root can also be used in cooking for a medicinal kick
  • While the plant is easy to grow in zones 6 through 11, astragalus seeds have a poor germination rate, and the seeds need to be properly prepared before planting
  • Recipes and instructions for making your own homemade astragalus oil, tincture, tea and astragalus chicken soup are included
By Dr. Mercola
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), a member of the pea family, is an adaptogenic herb with a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an immune strengthening tonic, where it goes by the name of Huang Qi and Hwanqqi. Another English name for this shrub is milkvetch.
Adaptogenic herbs help your body adapt to physical, emotional or mental stress. The immune boosting, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of astragalus also lowers your risk for infections and other diseases. The most important part of the plant is its root, which has a distinct yellow color. For medical use, the root is made into powder, herbal decoctions, tea, capsules and ointments. The raw root can also be used in cooking.
Astragalus oil, which you can make yourself, also has both therapeutic and cosmetic uses. Taken internally, astragalus oil helps boost your immune response by promoting the production of antibodies. It also helps maintain your digestive health and can help alleviate ulcers by promoting the healthy balance of gastric juices and gastric acid in your stomach.
As most adaptogens, astragalus has a rather long list of potential uses. Products containing astragalus have been shown useful in the treatment of chronic weakness and fatigue, bloating, heart failure, night sweats, nephritis, urinary tract infections, allergies, and cold and flu prevention. To take full advantage of this medicinal plant, why not consider growing some in your backyard?1,2,3

Astragalus Growing and Harvesting Guide

Astragalus is a perennial plant with hairy stems that can grow up to 4 feet tall, producing small yellow flowers that eventually turn into egg-shaped beans. Flowering season runs from midsummer through late fall. It grows well in zones 6 through 11. Seeds will germinate in three to 10 days following a three-week-long cold period. However, seed germination rate tends to be low, and should you store seeds, be sure to use them within two years. After that, they may no longer germinate at all.
Once your seeds have been cold stratified, rub the seed on fine sandpaper to rough up the outer shell. Just don’t rub too hard, as you don’t want to damage the inside. This procedure may seem onerous, but will help accelerate and improve germination. Next, soak the seeds in water for a few hours or overnight. Now, the seeds are ready for planting. Start out by planting the seeds in a small pot or starter tray, using high quality seed starting mix.
Press the seeds about one-quarter inch to 1 inch into the soil and cover. Keep soil moist but not soggy until seeds start to sprout. Keep the pots on a window sill or in an area that receives morning sun. Once the seedlings have grown a few inches tall, transfer them to larger pots or straight into your garden, provided there’s no risk of frost.
Contrary to many other plants, astragalus prefers dry, sandy soil, and needs partial shade to full sun. Ideal pH is around 7. If you plant more than one, space them at least 15 feet apart. Since sandy soils tend to dry out quickly, you may need to water more regularly than other plants until it’s established.
Whether you’re growing it in a pot or in the ground, make sure the root ball stays moist. This is particularly important during the summer. Mulching around it will help retain water by slowing down evaporation. Every few months, apply compost or rotted manure around the plant. Avoid all synthetic, inorganic fertilizers and pesticides if you intend to use the root medicinally. Keep in mind that astragalus has a tendency to get invasive if it’s in an ideal spot, so prune annually to maintain the desired shape and size.
The medicinal root can be harvested after two to three years. Two years is generally considered the minimum, or else the rootstock will not be adequately large to make something out of. To harvest the root, use a garden fork or needle-nose spade to loosen the soil around the plant to where you can pull up the taproot.

How to Make Astragalus Oil

Once you’ve harvested the root, there are a variety of ways you can use it. As mentioned earlier, you can make your own astragalus oil for topical or internal use. Here’s how:
Materials
  • Astragalus root
  • Carrier oil (serves as your base; popular choices include sweet almond, coconut oil and olive oil)
  • Spoon for mixing
  • Unbleached cheesecloth, muslin or fine gauze
  • Double boiler or a crockpot
  • Glass jar for storage
Procedure
  1. Combine the root and the oil in the double boiler. The ideal ratio would be 1 cup of carrier oil to every 1/4 ounce of astragalus
  2. Heat slowly over low heat (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for six to eight hours.
  3. When done, strain the mixture and transfer it to a glass jar or container of your choice

How to Make Astragalus Tincture

Another alternative is to make a tincture, which can be taken internally as needed. Heather Harris with The Homesteading Hippy provides a simple 1-to-5 tincture recipe on her site, summarized here. She suggests placing the tincture in capsules if you don’t like the flavor. For more details and dosage suggestions, see thehomesteadinghippy.com.4
  • Pour 10 grams of shredded astragalus root into a large bottle or jar
  • Add 50 milliliters (ml) — 3.38 tablespoons — of 80 proof vodka (if using smaller amounts, use 1 gram of astragalus root for every 5 ml of vodka)
  • Cap the bottle or jar and let the herbs soak for 30 days
  • After 30 days, strain out the root and store the tincture in a glass eyedropper bottle. Stored tightly capped in a cool, dark place, the tincture’s shelf life will be several years

How to Make Astragalus Tea

For an immune-boosting beverage, try making an astragalus tea, made from either fresh or dried root. A simple recipe by Leaf.tv is as follows:5
  • In a pot, add 4 ounces of fresh astragalus root, or 3 to 5 tablespoons of dried root, to 1 quart of water
  • Boil the root for three to four minutes
  • Strain to remove root and debris
  • Serve hot or cold

Astragalus Immune-Boosting Soup Recipe

Last but not least, fresh astragalus root can also be used in your cooking. Chicken soup is known to help speed up the recovery process when you’re sick. By incorporating the astragalus herb, you’re giving it an added medicinal kick. Here’s a sample recipe from homemadechinesesoups.com.6
Ingredients
  • 1 free-range organic chicken thigh
  • 4 slices of astragalus root
  • 8 red dates
  • 1 tablespoon goji berries
  • 500 ml water (17 ounces or a little over a pint)
Procedure (for double-boiling jar)
  1. Wash and clean the chicken thigh. Trim away excess fat and skin.
  2. Parboil the chicken thigh.
  3. Soak the astragalus, red dates and goji berries for a short while.
  4. Cut the red dates into halves and remove the seeds.
  5. Place all the ingredients into the double-boiling jar.
  6. Pour enough cold water into the jar to cover the ingredients.
  7. Place the jar into a deep pot and fill the pot with water until the jar is half submerged.
  8. Bring the pot of water to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about one hour.
  9. Add salt to taste before serving.