Nutritional Discovery Fights Flu

 By: Paul Clayton
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

Every year, on average, 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; more than 40,000 people in the UK are hospitalized from flu complications; and approximately 7,000 people die from the disease. The flu causes over 7 million missed school days and more than 4 million lost workdays each year.

Some people are at high risk for serious flu complications; these include older people, young children, and people with certain specific health conditions, including pregnancy. In the view of most doctors, the best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine "shot" each fall. Unfortunately, there's a severe shortage of vaccine this winter.

Consequently, health authorities are "rationing" the vaccines, making them available only to those at highest risk, who include children 6-23 months old, people 65 and older, and people with under-lying or chronic medical problems. But the available vaccine will still not be sufficient to protect all of even the high risk groups.

Beta glucan provides natural protection against flu, colds, and other pathogenic challenges

1-3, 1-6 Beta glucan is a supplement derived and purified from the cell wall of common baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Research has shown that this type of beta glucan provides powerful support for our immune systems, and helps our bodies defend against a wide range of viral and bacterial infections. This is especially important in the case of those with compromised immune systems, since vaccines work better with a healthy immune system.

The efficacy of beta glucan has been demonstrated against a broad range of 'pathogens', a definition that includes virus, fungi and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Laboratory studies have shown beta glucan's effectiveness against heavy and previously lethal doses of the influenza virus, with survival rates increasing from zero in the control group, to better than 50 percent in the group receiving the beta glucan.

How Beta Glucan Works

1-3, 1-6 beta glucan provides protection against diseases by enhancing four key immune responses.

First, it primes the main elements of the immune system - the macrophages, neutrophils and natural killer (NK) cells - to defend the body against a broad range of foreign challenges (called pathogens). These are the immune cells which are chiefly responsible for destroying pathogens and tumour cells.

Second, it enhances the ability of these cells to move from the peripheral circulation of the body to the specific site of the attempted "invasion" by a pathogen. The 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans do this by binding or 'locking onto' the surface of neutrophils and 'priming' them - in the way that a weapon may be primed. The neutrophil is then able to seek out and destroy any pathogen - be it a virus (flu) or bacteria or even a cancer cell.

Third, beta glucan enhances the ability of these innate immune cells to phagocytize, or "eat" pathogens.

Finally, beta glucan enhances the ability of natural killer cells to release their chemicals that kill pathogens.

The end result of this four fold action is a significant enhancement of the body's ability to fight against pathogenic challenges - whether microbial, fungal, viral or cancer-related.

Not all beta glucan supplements are created equal

Biothera is a world leader in research on beta glucans, and is the manufacturer of a patented source of 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans, WGP 3-6. It is their beta glucans that is being tested by the US Government as a protective measure against nuclear radiation.

Biothera's research shows that beta glucan needs to be highly purified in order to be effective. Essentially, the outer layers of the yeast cell need to be removed to expose the beta glucan, so that it can bind to the receptor sites of the innate immune cells.

The purification process should also remove proteins and yeast residues. These can cause adverse effects in many people, and also reduce the overall effectiveness of the beta glucans. This purification process is costly; however, so unfortunately, some brands of beta glucan take some short cuts in this area, and are minimally purified, at best.

Who should take beta glucan?

The general answer is that anyone who wants to maintain or enhance the effectiveness of their immune system. That includes anyone who experiences daily stress (which lowers the immune response), and people who are susceptible to infectious diseases, or experiencing slow and incomplete healing.

Additional circumstances for use would include people entering hospital - who are at greater risk of infection - as are long distance air travelers, who are exposed to a higher levels of UV radiation than normal.

An obvious time for many people to consider the use of an immune booster is in the pre-flu season. And a smaller but specific group would be athletes who should also derive health benefits since strenuous exercise actually lowers the immune response.

Beta glucan can be taken as a daily supplement, because the immune system's viability fluctuates from day to day, due to direct and indirect environmental conditions. When the immune system is suppressed, weakened, or under stress, we become more prone to illness.

Also, the billions of innate immune cells which protect us have a life-span of only a day or two, so a daily intake of beta glucan will help to support the immune system on a constant basis. After all, the challenges to the immune system are constant, so we need to provide consistent support.

The research evidence for beta glucans is solid - but it can be used synergistically with another natural nutrient - beta sitosterol.

How beta sitosterols work

The nutritional plant extract beta sitosterol is one example of a group of molecules called sterols. They are regarded as the plant kingdom's equivalent of cholesterol. It is a natural immuno-modulator as it up-regulates certain aspects of immune function while down-regulating others. Beta sitosterol is present in a number of plant foods and especially seeds and nuts.

Beta sitosterol increases natural killer cell activity, thus their depletion leaves the cells under-active. This contributes to an overall degradation of the innate immune system. Hence, a diet rich in sterols can 'quieten' auto-immune responses and improve immune response generally.

All natural and safe -ImmunoShield

Food derived nutrients are, in principle, normally safer than artificially created pharmaceutical molecules, precisely because they are natural and have mostly been consumed for centuries. Since 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans is derived from baker's yeast, it is, prima facie, safe.
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According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 35 to 50 million people fall prey to influenza during the flu season (November to March), every year. Viral in nature, influenza is a respiratory disease that is highly contagious. In the year 1918, nearly 100 million people died in the influenza pandemic that spread across the world, including remote regions in the arctic and the pacific islands. It was the worst natural disaster the world ever saw.
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