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flu

  • The strongest case for the use of nutritional supplements can be made, even to the typically skeptical mainstream medical community, when traditional pharmaceuticals have shown to be of limited efficacy. In such cases, the use of nutraceuticals as both preventive and therapeutic agents becomes very compelling. The need to consider and employ natural bioactive compounds is particularly strong in the field of infectious diseases.

    Infectious diseases remain a significant public health threat in the U.S. and throughout the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that five to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu, more than 200,000 are hospitalized and about 36,000 die on average from flu complications every year. This year the ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine was associated with an even more severe flu season. Furthermore, the pandemic threat from mutating influenza viruses such as the H5N1 virus, better known as “avian flu” or “bird flu,” is particularly worrisome given that the virus strain which caused human illness and death in Asia was found to be resistant to two antiviral medications most commonly used to treat influenza infections. Likewise, there is currently no specific treatment for the West Nile virus, although cases were reported in 43 states last year. Another health risk relates to opportunistic and often-drug-resistant infections. Such infections tend to occur at health care facilities and among immunocomprised patients but also occasionally affect healthy patients. (As was the case with “community-associated MRSA” that made the headlines in 2007.) So in this era of continued emergence of new or increasingly common infectious agents, not to mention the increasing threat of bio-terrorism in which infectious agents could be used as weapons, natural compounds that have the potential to modify the body’s response to acute infection must be considered.

    While there are plenty of nutritional supplements claiming immune boosting properties, very few compounds have undergone rigorous research and rarely are products studied in response to actual infectious diseases. Furthermore, studies on the most popular immune ingredients, such as vitamin C, ginseng or echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold, have produced mixed results. Finally, the mechanism of action of most of the ingredients is still unclear, making it difficult to infer their efficacy for conditions more serious than the common cold.

    One exceptional ingredient in this respect is AHCC (an acronym for Active Hexose Correlated Compound), a novel bionutraceutical developed in Japan that has been extensively studied and used as a countermeasure to infectious disease. Studies on the effects of AHCC on influenza, avian flu, West Nile virus, MRSA and opportunistic infections make it one of the most researched natural compounds for stimulating the immune response to viruses and infections. Manufactured using a proprietary process that entails enzymatic fermentation of hybridized subspecies of cultivated medicinal mushrooms, AHCC is rich in oligosaccharides (74 percent by dry weight). While most medicinal mushroom extracts tend to contain mostly beta-glucans, AHCC is rich with alpha-glucans (a different type of a complex sugar molecule) which have a low molecular weight of under 5,000 Daltons (as compared to >200,000 for most other well-known immune support ingredients).

    The body of research supporting the immuno-modulating properties of AHCC is vast and growing. Supported by over 80 studies, AHCC has been extensively studied by researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the affiliated Faulkner Hospital, Yale University School of Medicine, Drexel University Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology, and SUNY Binghamton’s Department of Biological Sciences, among many others.

    In addition to drawing significant interest in the academic community, AHCC has gained an impressive level of adoption in the medical community. Over 700 hospitals and medical clinics throughout Asia prescribe AHCC to patients as part of an immune enhancement maintenance regimen. Hundreds of doctors throughout the world have also used AHCC as an adjunct alternative therapy for cancer, hepatitis C and other chronic conditions. Consequently, AHCC has become the number one selling specialty immune supplement in Japan and has gained broad acceptance in the U.S., where it is available in most health food stores nationwide.

    Both human and animal studies have pointed to AHCC’s ability to enhance the activity of natural killer cells (“NK cells”). These cells provide a crucial first defense for the body, launching a rapid attack while the other cells of the immune system are still mobilizing. Researchers believe that although the ability of NK cells to destroy tumors and virus-infected cells is present at birth, NK cells have to be activated. Thus, agents that stimulate NK cell activity might be expected to enhance the control of tumors and virus replication.

    Activated NK cells are believed to help the body through two modes of action. First, they promptly secrete cytokines— chemical messenger proteins that “awaken the artillery” of the body’s immune system. Second, NK cells secrete substances that directly induce the destruction of tumors and virus-infected cells.

    It has also been shown in numerous studies that NK cells play a significant role in controlling virus infections, and the correlation between NK cell activity and the frequency of the common cold has been well established. So the clinical evidence that AHCC increases NK cell activity and the fact that NK cell activity helps the immune system fight viral infections suggests that AHCC is a potential agent to boost the NK cell response to viral infections. However, while this inference is compelling, direct research on the effect of AHCC on viral infections is required. And fortunately such research exists. AHCC has been the subject of several studies, which investigated its potential as a countermeasure to various infectious diseases, including the H1N1 influenza (flu) virus, the H5N1 avian influenza (bird flu) virus, West Nile virus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and several other opportunistic infections (Klebsiella pneumoniae, Candida albicans and Pseudomonas aeruginosa).

    The challenge of researching infectious diseases is there are no ethical, practical or reliable means of evaluating the human response to infectious agents, forcing researchers to rely on animal models. Therefore, the research strategy for AHCC has been to show efficacy in infectious diseases using animal models while conducting human clinical trials to demonstrate its ability to stimulate NK cell activity in immune compromised patients.

    Two published peer-reviewed human clinical studies (on 269 and 40 subjects respectively) evaluating advanced liver cancer showed extended survival, lower recurrence and improved quality of life among patients taking AHCC. Several other studies demonstrated the ability of AHCC to significantly increase NK cell activity in immune compromised patients.

    While these clinical studies support the efficacy of AHCC in humans, animal studies have been used to examine whether AHCC can be effective in fighting specific viruses and explore the mechanism or mechanisms for the observed effects. The most recent study published in the prestigious Journal of Nutrition examined the effect of AHCC on the influenza (flu) virus. The research found that mice supplemented with AHCC showed increased survival and maintained body weight during the infection compared to controls (indicative of a less severe infection). Supplementation with AHCC also resulted in enhanced NK cell activity in the lungs and spleen and rapid virus clearance from lungs. So the data clearly suggested that AHCC supplementation enhanced NK cell activity in response to influenza infection, which was associated with a decrease in lung virus titers, a less severe infection and increased survival.

    Another study looked at the effect of AHCC supplementation against infection with H5N1 avian influenza virus (bird flu). Mice were infected with 100 times the 50 percent lethal dose of the H5N1 influenza virus. The control mice that did not receive AHCC demonstrated 100 percent mortality at 12 days post-infection. In contrast, the group that was fed AHCC prior to infection demonstrated a 30 percent survival through 28 days post-infection. In a second study utilizing the same protocol, the effects of AHCC supplementation alone were compared to H5N1 vaccination (the flu vaccine) alone as well as the combination of AHCC supplementation and the flu vaccine administered together. Vaccination alone resulted in approximately 80 percent survival, while AHCC supplementation combined with vaccination resulted in 100 percent survival. This data suggests while AHCC supplementation alone offers some protection against mortality associated with highly-virulent avian influenza virus infection in mice, supplementation with AHCC may be even more effective as an addition to the flu vaccine.

    In another study, mice infected with a lethal dose of West Nile virus showed that mice supplemented with AHCC prior to the infection exhibited an increase in survival and a decrease in virus load in the blood at four days post-infection.

    Looking at “opportunistic” or hospital-acquired infections, the effects of AHCC supplementation on the resistance to Klebsiella pneumoniae (principally associated with bacterial pneumonia and urinary tract infections) was studied in both infected and stressinduced mice. Again, the AHCC-supplemented mice demonstrated increased survival, increased mean time until death, decreased susceptibility to infection and increased bacterial clearance from the blood. Studies on other types of opportunistic infections including methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Candida albicans and Pseudomonas aeruginosa provided similar results: AHCC overwhelmingly increased survival in immune compromised mice in response to infectious challenge.

    Given the abundance of preliminary positive results across different infections, AHCC supplementation demonstrates valuable and clinically-relevant potential as an immune-enhancing compound. Furthermore, since AHCC supplementation was shown in one study to be even more beneficial when used in conjunction with the flu vaccine, studies are underway to further evaluate the use of AHCC as a preventive during flu season. Finally, AHCC boasts a strong safety profile supported by a Phase I study conducted at Harvard, a 20-year history of use in Japan, its adoption by over 700 clinics and use by an estimated 70,000 people worldwide (including 20,000 in the U.S.). Thus, there is a strong case to be made for adding AHCC to a daily supplement regimen to support the body’s immune system, not only during the apparent times of increased infectious threat such as the flu season, but also all year long.

    Dr. Fred Pescatore, M.D., MPH, is the Medical Director of Partners in Integrative Medicine and an author of several best-selling books on health and nutrition.

    Barry Ritz, Ph.D. is the Professor of Bioscience and Biotechnology at Drexel University, whose paper on AHCC and influenza was recently published in the Journal of Nutrition.

  • There has been a lot of publicity about the need for everyone to get a flu shot for protection from swine flu and seasonal flu. However, there are mixed reports surfacing on the efficacy of the existing vaccines.

    • "There is no evidence that any flu vaccine, thus far developed, is effective in preventing or mitigating an attack of influenza". Dr. J. Anthony Morris, former Chief Vaccine Officer, FDA.
    • In the October 2008 issue of the Archive of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine it was reported that vaccinating young people against the flu had no impact on flu related hospitalization.
    • A large-scale systematic review of 51 studies published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found no evidence that the flu vaccine is any more effective than placebo for children. The study involved 260,000 children.

    On the other hand, there very good evidence to support the use of a variety of natural strategies to deal with any flu. Some of these strategies include:

    • Avoid sugar, which lowers the immune systems strength.
    • Get plenty of sleep, which helps the body to regenerate and balance itself.
    • Avoid stress, which also lowers the strength of the immune system.
    • Wash your hands and use sanitizer cleansers, if washing is not possible.
    • Eat whole foods, no processed foods, especially plenty of vegetables.
    • Certain supplements have been shown to have a good impact on preventing the flu and lessening the symptoms. These include Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, Vitamin A, L-lysine, Garlic, Echinacea, Olive leaf extract and Elderberry.
    • The regimen used by the Bens family, and anyone who asks for help, includes:
    1. Vitamin D- 2,000-4.000 iu/day – Extremely effective at flu prevention.
    2. ACF Prevention-Immune Support from Buried Treasure. Potent anti-flu formula.
    3. Oregacillin from Physicians Strength. Clinically tested anti-viral formula.
    4. Oscillococcinum- Strong Homeopathic symptom relief.
    5. Olive Leaf Complex- Made by Barlean’s for bacterial and viral conditions.
    6. Vitamin C- If your condition moves into your lungs Dr. Andrew Saul recommends taking 2000 mg of vitamin C every 6 minutes until you get relief. Dr. Saul resolved his viral pneumonia in 3 hours with this approach.

    These natural flu prevention and treatment strategies have good scientific evidence as well as support from doctors in actual practice. They are not only effective; they have no side effects. Most of the flu vaccines not only have little scientific evidence, they also have numerous possible negative reactions including increased risk of asthma, autism, and neurological damage. The sooner you start the above treatment the better your results will be.

    A strong immune system appears to be the best way to combat any flu.

  • Olive leaf complex is quite simply one of the most useful natural compounds I’ve ever encountered. It’s a powerful health tonic that’s fantastic for general well-being and enhanced immunity.

    Let me explain.

    The olive plant is a rich source of such beneficial plant compounds as tocopherols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, sterols and polyphenols. “The real benefit of olive oil is that it delivers these amazing polyphenols,” says David Rubin, MD, MSc, an Israeli researcher and biochemist.

    What are Polyphenols, Anyway?
    Polyphenols are a group of valuable chemicals found throughout the plant kingdom primarily in berries, walnuts, olives, teas, grapes and other fruits and vegetables. They have a wide variety of health benefits. And the fresh leaves of some olive trees are loaded with them.

    These polyphenols also have antimicrobial activity against a wide variety of viruses, bacteria, yeasts and fungi.

    Scientific advances have shown there are at least 30 distinct polyphenols in fresh-picked olive leafs and that the full spectrum of these polyphenols in fresh-picked olive leaves gives a synergistic effect greater than any individual isolated compound alone. This is why the most bioeffective olive leaf products on the market today are always made directly from fresh-picked, whole olive leaves which provide the whole spectrum of natural polyphenolic antioxidants just as nature intended. This also enables them to work together in natural synergy to maximize the health benefits.

    How is Your Immune System Functioning?
    Immunity is one of the keys to good health. Think for a moment about the last time something was “going around” your office. Some people got really sick but others probably didn’t. And even among those who did, whatever “bug” was going around probably laid some people out for two weeks while others were back to work after a day or so.

    The difference? The performance of the Immune System.
    We can’t do much about the bugs and microbes we’re all exposed to—but what we can do is strengthen and support our immune system.

    Olive Leaf Complex Can Help.
    Here are some of the questions you might ask yourself if you’re interested in evaluating just how well your immune system is functioning:

    • Do you get infections frequently?
    • Do you have frequent colds?
    • Do you get the flu?
    • Do you experience inflammation or infection in the
    • upper respiratory tract?
    • Do you suffer from bronchitis frequently?
    • Do you have recurrent skin infections?
    • Have you ever suffered from recurrent infections of
    • Candida or “yeast infections”?
    • Have you been diagnosed with Epstein-Barr or chronic fatigue syndrome?
    • Do you experience a reduction in stamina and resistance, especially when under stress?
    • Are your energy levels less than you would like them to be?

    Any or all of these can be symptoms of compromised immunity.

    What about Olive Leaf for Bacteria and Viruses?
    Your best defense against the potential damage of bacteria and viruses is to have a strong, robust immune system that will prevent them from taking root and doing harm in the first place.

    Fresh-picked olive leaf complex can be a powerful weapon in the battle between your immune system and invading microbes. The bitter substances in olive leaves—since identified as the polyphenols we’ve been talking about throughout this article (oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, caffeic acid, verbascoside, etc.) have been found to be particularly helpful in resisting bacterial damage. In fact, early research by the drug company Upjohn found extracts from olive leaves to be effective in treating infection caused by a large number of viruses as well as bacteria and parasitic protozoans.

    According to James R. Privitera, MD, these are some of the unique properties possessed by the olive leaf compound for the broad killing power:

    • Olive leaf has an ability to interfere with critical amino acid production essential for viruses.
    • Olive leaf has an ability to control viral infection and/or spread by inactivating viruses or by preventing virus shedding, budding or assembly at the cell membrane.
    • Olive leaf extract has the ability to directly penetrate
    • infected cells and stop viral replication.
    • Olive leaf can stimulate a process called phagocytosis, an immune system response in which cells act like little Pac-Man, ingesting harmful microorganisms and foreign matter.

    In vitro studies have found olive leaf extract is effective against over 50 common disease causing organisms including viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa such as herpes, influenza A, Polio 1, 2, and 3; Salmonella typhimurium, Candida Krusei and Coxsackie A21.

    Biochemist Arnold Takemoto, talking to the Townsend Newsletter for Doctors and Patients put it this way: “(I have) yet to discover another herbal substance that accomplishes antimicrobially what this substance achieves.”

    But not just any old olive leaf…

    One brand I particularly like is Barlean’s olive leaf complex. It’s made 100 percent from fresh-picked leaves; it’s never reconstituted, it has no artificial preservatives, no added sugar and it comes in a fast-acting, great-tasting liquid. Every batch has been thoroughly analyzed using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), the global standard to scientifically identify and measure the healing compounds in herbal medicines. In Australia, consumers already spend up to three million dollars a month on this incredible olive leaf product.

    Barlean’s olive leaf complex comes from trees that have been farmed naturally on virgin land in Australia. Organic vermiculture (worm created) fertilizers and pristine irrigation water are coupled with early morning harvesting and immediate transfer of the freshly harvested leaves to the processing plant.

    What dosage is best?
    Though there is really no “official” recommended dose for taking olive leaf complex, many experts recommend a basic maintenance dose for general use and a “therapeutic” dose for special cases. Generally, the consensus is one tablespoonful (15ml) one to two times a day taken right before eating is ideal for maintenance.

    For conditions such as the common cold, flu, sinus infections and basic respiratory tract infections, the recommended dose is 2 × 5ml teaspoons every six hours, says naturopath Jack Ritchason, ND. For acute infections such as sore throat, swollen glands or fever, Ritchason recommends three teaspoons (15ml) every six hours.

    On a personal note, I take a capful of olive leaf complex on a daily basis as a general tonic and immune system booster. Although this is hardly a scientific statement, I can tell you I rarely get sick and on the few occasions I do, it’s very mild and I’m back to my routine in record time. Apparently, I’m not alone in being a fan of olive leaf complex. Experts agree taking this wonderful supplement can be a valuable part of anyone’s health routine.

    Says Ritchason: “From all indications—research, case studies and widespread use—olive leaf extract appears to be an extremely safe supplement that can effectively aid the body in improving immune function and fighting infection by various microbes.”

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