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Larry Newman is the Chief Operating Officer, Technical and Regulatory Affairs of Kirkman Group, Inc. (Kirkman). Contact Kirkman at 1-800-245-8282; 6400 Rosewood St., Lake Oswego, OR.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Immune Support 101

By Larry Newman

The immune system is a complex and dynamic network of many soluble components including cells, membranes, and a mini-circulatory system separate from blood vessels.  These entities all work together to 
protect us from infection by opportunistic microbes, bacteria, viruses, fungi and
parasites that abound in our environment.  The immune system also constantly scans our bodies for any signs of abnormal cell growth.

Our body’s first line of defense against unwanted intruders consists of our skin, our body enzymes, such as saliva and stomach acid, and our protective epithelial cells, which line our body’s mucosal surfaces.  These physical factors combined with specialized white blood cells make up our innate immune system, which is rather non-specific and broad-spectrum in nature.

More complicated is our body’s adaptive immune system, which is far more sophisticated and deals with specific fragments of any potentially harmful or foreign material.  These fragments are called antigens and they are dealt with in the immune system by antigen receptors.  Once an antigen receptor adapts to one of these invading fragments, it retains antigenic memory so that it may quickly neutralize that antigen if it invades the body again.

There are many specialized white blood cells that work together to coordinate overall immune response.  “T” cells are responsible for cellular NK Killer Cellsimmunity while “B” cells produce antibodies in response to antigens.  Then there are NK – natural killer - cells that kill off certain infected targets, granulocytes, which remove bacteria and parasites by releasing toxic compounds and macrophages that engulf and destroy foreign material.

There are two major types of T cells:  Th1 and Th2.  Th1 cells drive immunogenic responses, while Th2 cells drive antibody production by B cells and are especially important in responding to allergens.  Compromised immune systems usually display a Th1 to Th2 cell shift that causes an increase in food and environmental allergies.

The success of our immune system relies on an incredibly elaborate and dynamic regulatory/communications network composed of millions of cells and is a sensitive system of checks and balances.  Biological errors and environmental invasions can result in the immune process going terribly wrong.  Serious infections and other health consequences can result.

Frequently Asked Questions About Immune Support

How can I recognize signs of immune deficiencies?

The signs of an immune problem are often quite easy to recognize over time.  Persistence of the following conditions is key to suspecting immune deficiencies:

•    Frequent illness
•    Continuous food allergies or an increased number of such allergies
•    Inadequate detoxification as indicated by laboratory testing
•    Low glutathione levels as indicated by laboratory testing
•    Impaired methylation

Are some individuals more likely to have immune problems than others?
“Sensitive” individuals are especially prone to immune problems. In the case of children, parents’ observations conveyed to the physician are extremely important in helping the doctor recognize the problem, which is often hard to judge at an office visit.
What is the relationship between a toxic body burden and immune problems?
A toxic body burden makes the immune system work harder, which can make the system less effective against other body invaders.  Often, detoxifying the body improves the overall condition and returns the immune system to normality.
How do you help break the cycle of chronic immune dysregulation?
This is a very difficult question to answer because it depends on the causes of the dysregulation.  If it is nutritional, supplements can help, but if it is toxins, low glutathione levels or pathway problems, lab testing and a physician’s involvement will be necessary.
What can you safely do on your own, and when is it time to see the doctor?
It is safe to try certain nutritional supplements on your own such as the ones listed below, but when it comes to detoxification, pathway issues such as methylation or sulfation, or glutathione levels, a physician’s involvement is recommended.

Which nutrients support a healthy immune system?
There is a long list of nutritional products that support a healthy immune system including:
•    Zinc •    Vitamin A •    Vitamin C •    Vitamin E •    Selenium •    Beta Glucan •    CoEnzyme Q-10 or Idebenone •    N-Acetyl Cysteine •    Colostrum •    Super Cranberry Extract •    Garlic
•    Olive Leaf
•    Goldenseal
•    Reduced L-Glutathione
•    Dimethylglycine or Trimethylglycine
You may recognize some of the above nutrients as being present in the multi-vitamin/mineral you may be using.  To better support a compromised immune system, additional supplementation of the nutrient is recommended.  Increasing zinc to 50 mg. daily, vitamin C to 1000-3000 mg. daily, vitamin E to 200-400 IU daily, selenium up to at least 75 mcg. daily, and Coenzyme Q-10 up to 100 mg. daily may be beneficial.
Is it better to supplement with single nutrients or combination products?
There is no preference.  Just stay within the recommended dosages or follow your doctor’s orders.  Also, don’t try too many different products at once.  In case of a reaction or sensitivity, you want to know which product is causing a problem.

Do some products complement each other or need to be utilized together?
Some products work synergistically and, frequently, some need to be used together.  This can get very complicated, however, so talk to your doctor about this.  Generally speaking, the vitamin and mineral products work together well.

Are there any contraindications or upper limits for any immune boosters included in Kirkman's products, such as selenium, goldenseal, or echinacea?
There are some upper limits, but it can vary with individuals by age or weight.  Also some products should not be used indefinitely at higher dosages, such as goldenseal above 500 mg.  It is best to check with your doctor about this and follow label recommendations.  Some doctors will have different regimens and different upper limit requirements.

Can herbal immune boosters be taken in conjunction with probiotics?

For the most part, yes, but herbal preparations such as goldenseal, garlic and turmeric should not be taken at the same time as probiotics because the herbs have components that can kill off some of the organisms.

Are there any times when it is even more important for an individual to support their immune system, such as before travel?
During periods of high exposure such as crowds, travel, or during the winter season, immune support should be stepped up.

How can Kirkman® help?
Kirkman® can make some recommendations such as discussed in this guide and customer service representatives may offer some suggestions, but Kirkman® cannot give medical advice.  Your doctor is your best source of assistance.
In addition to individual vitamins or minerals listed above, Kirkman® carries additional immune support and combination products comprised of many of the above immune boosting nutrients.  Following is a list of Immune Support products offered by Kirkman®.