~Immune Enhancement, Part 3 - Supplements

SUPPLEMENTS

  • Echinacea
  • Grape Seed-Skin Extract
  • Rice Bran Extract(Mgn-3)
  • Whey Protein
  • L-Carnitine
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • DHEA
  • Melatonin And Kh3
  • Biostim


Echinacea. Echinacea is also known as purple coneflower and is a member of the daisy family. Echinacea's ability to fight cold viruses and respiratory infections has long been known. In vitro studies have shown that echinacea increases antibody production, reduces inflammation, and enables white blood cells to migrate to the infection site.

Orally, echinacea is commonly used for treating and preventing the common cold and other upper respiratory infections. Echinacea is also used orally as an immune stimulant and as an anti-infective for a variety of other infections, including urinary tract infections and vaginal yeast infections (Broumand et al. 1997). When used orally for reducing symptoms associated with influenza-like infections, such as the common cold and flu, evidence generally indicates that echinacea preparations can decrease the severity and duration of symptoms associated with these viruses if started when symptoms are first noticed and used for 7-10 days.

Generally, high doses are not recommended to be used as a preventive, and the formulation and species that might offer the most benefit is unclear (Melchart et al. 2000; Percival 2000). Studies to date have used a variety of preparations, including extracts of Echinacea purpurea herb, combination root and herb extracts, and root extracts of Echinacea pallida, Echinacea augustifolia, and Echinacea purpurea. Studies have also used echinacea compound herbal teas (Lindenmuth et al. 2000). Collectively, the data indicate that E. purpurea, at least, and possibly other plant compounds, appear to contain phytochemicals capable of stimulating production of NK cells, as well as augmenting their cell breakdown function in animals of advanced age (Currier et al. 2000).

Grape Seed-Skin Extract. The effects of the proanthocyanidins found in grape seed-skin extract on immune dysfunction were studied in mice. The proanthocyanidin enhanced in vitro interleukin-2 production and natural killer cell cytotoxicity. In vitro, grape seed-skin extract has been shown to have antioxidant action 50 times greater than vitamin E and 20 times greater than vitamin C (Bagchi et al. 1997). The antioxidant protection of grape seed-skin also extends across the blood brain barrier to the brain and spinal nerves (Bagchi et al. 1998).

Rice Bran Extract (MGN-3). MGN-3 is a complex containing arabinoxylane as a major component. It is produced by hydrolyzing rice bran using enzymes from mycelia of certain mushrooms. Some studies suggest it might improve immunity by, among other things, enhancing natural killer cell activity and production of tumor necrosis factor alpha. Some evidence suggests that MGN-3 has activity against HIV. Results from three small studies of healthy individuals and individuals with cancer suggest that MGN-3 also enhances natural killer cell activity. Most studies have been either in vitro or small human studies (Ghoneum 1995; 1998; Ghoneum et al. 1996).

In research at the Department of Otolaryngology of Drew University of Medicine and Science, MGN-3 was examined for its effect on human NK cell activity (Ghoneum 1998). During 2 months of supplementation, NK activity was shown to have increased significantly, leading to the conclusion that MGN-3 could be used as a new biological response modifier with possible therapeutic effects against cancer. More research is definitely needed into the benefits of this supplement.

Whey Protein. Whey protein isolate dramatically raises glutathione levels (Micke et al. 2001). Glutathione protects immune cells and detoxifies harmful compounds in the body and is intimately tied to immunity. Reduced glutathione levels have been associated with AIDS and other viral diseases, and raising glutathione levels appears to be one way of modulating immunity.

In one study, glutathione in animals was raised to higher-than-normal levels by whey protein better than by other proteins, including soy. A study involving HIV-positive men fed whey protein concentrate found dramatic increases in glutathione levels, with most men reaching their ideal body weight (Bounous et al. 1993). Whey protein improves immune function and fights infections. Immune response also was dramatically enhanced in animals fed whey protein concentrate when exposed to immune challenges, such as Salmonella, Streptococcus pneumonia, and cancer-causing chemicals. Again, this effect on immunity was not seen with other proteins.

Studies have examined the impact of whey protein concentrate on preventing or treating cancer. When different groups of rats were given a powerful carcinogen, those fed whey protein concentrate showed fewer tumors and a reduced pooled area of tumors (tumor mass index). The researchers found that whey protein offered "considerable protection to the host" over that of other proteins (McIntosh et al. 1995). It should be noted that not all whey protein concentrates are created equal. Processing whey protein to remove the lactose and fats without eliminating its biological activity requires special care by the manufacturer. The process must use low temperature and low acid conditions so as not to "denature" the protein. Maintaining the natural state of the protein is essential to its biological activity. Immune-suppressed patients should consider taking 30 grams a day of specially designed whey protein concentrate.

L-Carnitine. Carnitine is an amino acid complex primarily known for its ability to transport fat across the cellular membrane and for the breakdown of fat within the cell. It is found mainly in meats. A number of papers have described the potential use of carnitine in HIV/AIDS. Carnitine levels are often low in AIDS patients, particularly those on AZT analogues for treatment and prevention of transmission of infection. High-dose carnitine (6 grams a day) seems to have the ability to increase some immune parameters, such as NK cell activity. Its effect on immunity in other diseases has not been researched (De Simone et al. 1982; 1993; 1994; Franceschi et al. 1990).

Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an important antioxidant produced in the body and found in small amounts in some foods. CoQ10 is found in high concentrations in the healthy heart, where it plays an important role in initiating cell-produced energy. Studies have documented its effectiveness in improving the quality of life in people with advanced heart disease, congestive heart failure, angina, and arrhythmia. It has been found to increase a number of immune parameters, including IgG, T4 cells, and the ratio of T4/T8 lymphocytes (Folkers et al. 1982, 1985, 1993).

Because of its immuno-stimulatory potential, CoQ10 has been used as an adjuvant therapy in patients with various types of cancer. CoQ10 has also shown promise in clinical trials on breast cancer patients in which tumor spread and mortality rate were significantly lowered with trial dosages (Lockwood et al. 1994a; 1994b; 1995). Austin (1997) has written an excellent review of the use of CoQ10 in the treatment of metastatic disease and has critically evaluated the papers by Lockwood et al. (Austin 1997). Although CoQ10 may show indirect anticancer activity through its effect(s) on the immune system, there is evidence to suggest that analogs of this compound are able to suppress cancer growth directly. Additional research is needed to determine long-term toxicity in cancer treatment.

DHEA. Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, as it is more often called, is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal gland. DHEA levels are known to fall precipitously with age, falling 90% from ages 20-90. DHEA is like the hub of a wheel and is the central hormone that is a precursor to the numerous steroid sex hormones (including estrogen and testosterone). Although there is an apparent lack of any direct hormone action for DHEA, it has been suggested that it may serve the role of a buffering hormone, which would alter the state-dependency of other steroid hormones. Although the specific mechanisms of action for DHEA are only partially understood, supplemental DHEA has been shown to have antiaging, antiobesity, and anticancer influences, as well as significant immune-enhancing functions. DHEA has demonstrated a striking ability to maintain immune system synchronization. Oral supplementation with low doses of DHEA in aged animals restored immuno-competence to a reasonable level within days of administration. DHEA supplementation in aged rodents resulted in almost complete restoration of immune function.

DHEA has been shown in numerous animal studies to boost immune function via several different mechanisms (Danenberg et al. 1995; Loria et al. 1996; Solerte et al. 1999). Only limited human studies have been done to measure DHEA's effect on the immune system, and there are side effects to this potent hormone.

In a 1997 study, scientists proposed that the oral administration of DHEA to elderly men would result in activation of their immune systems: Nine healthy men with an average age of 63 were treated with a placebo for 2 weeks followed by 20 weeks of DHEA (50 mg a day). After 2 weeks on oral DHEA, serum DHEA levels increased by three- to fourfold. These levels were sustained throughout the study. Compared to the placebo, DHEA administration resulted in:

  • An increase of 20% in IGF-1. Many people are taking expensive growth hormone injections for the purpose of boosting IGF levels. IGF stands for insulin-like growth factor and is thought to be responsible for some of the antiaging, anabolic effects that DHEA has produced in previous human studies.
  • An increase of 35% in the number of monocyte immune cells
  • An increase of 29% in the number of B-cells and a 62% increase in B-cell activity
  • A 40% increase in T-cell activity even though the total numbers of T-cells were not affected
  • An increase of 50% in interleukin-2 (IL-2)
  • An increase of 22-37% in number of NK cells and an increase of 45% in NK cell activity
  • No adverse effects were noted with DHEA administration, but this was a short study with few subjects


The scientists concluded: "While extended studies are required, our findings suggest potential therapeutic benefits of DHEA in immunodeficient states" (Khorram et al. 1997).

A study in the Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine demonstrated that when old female mice were treated with DHEA, melatonin, or DHEA plus melatonin, splenocytes (macrophages) were significantly higher as compared to young mice. B-cell proliferation in young and in old mice significantly increased. DHEA, melatonin, and DHEA plus melatonin helped to regulate immune function in aged female mice by significantly increasing Th1 cytokines, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and interferon-gamma and significantly decreasing Th2 cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and interleukin-10 (IL-10), thus regulating cytokine production (Inserra et al. 1998).

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is one of the pathogenic elements in inflammatory and age-related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, and late-onset B-cell neoplasia. "Higher circulating levels of IL-6 predict disability onset in older persons," according to their report in the June 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The authors suggest that IL-6 may cause a reduction in muscle strength or contribute to specific diseases, such as congestive heart failure, osteoporosis, arthritis, and dementia, which cause disability (Ferrucci et al. 1999).

DHEA has consistently been shown to boost beneficial IL-2 and suppress damaging IL-6 levels. IL-6 is overproduced in the aged, which contributes to autoimmune disease, immune dysfunction, osteoporosis, depressions in healing, breast cancer, and B-cell lymphoma and anemia. Chronic DHEA administration maintained immuno-competence in aged animals by boosting IL-2 and other beneficial immune components and by suppressing IL-6 and other detrimental immune components. Suppression of IL-6 with 200 mg a day of DHEA was shown to be effective against systemic lupus erythematosus (van Vollenhoven et al. 1998).

Researchers compared levels of IL-6 in 283 subjects with mobility or functional disability, with IL-6 levels in 350 adults without a disability. The investigators found that adults in the highest third of values of IL-6 had a 76% higher rate for mobility disabilities and 62% higher rate for inability to perform daily activities than subjects in the lowest third of values. "These data suggest that IL-6 is a global marker of impending deterioration in health status in older adults," writes a team led by Dr. Luigi Ferrucci (Ferrucci et al. 1999).

In a study by Inserra et al. (1998), DHEA was shown to restore normal cytokine production in immune system dysfunction induced by aging by suppressing the excessive production of cytokines (IL-6) by 75%, while increasing IL-2 secretion by nearly 50%, during a leukemia virus infection in old mice.

DHEA has potential benefits for the immune system, but caution is urged. Serum or salivary levels should be checked before starting any DHEA supplementation, and dosages should be monitored by your health care practitioner.

For DHEA dosing information and safety precautions, refer to the DHEA Replacement Therapy protocol.

Melatonin and KH3. Aging, cancer, AIDS, chemotherapy, and infectious agents can all stimulate excessive cortisol production from the adrenal glands, decimating immune function, and leading to immune system destruction and desynchronization. It is crucial to inhibit excessive cortisol production. (As has been noted in the HIV Infection (AIDS) protocol, there are 17 European studies showing that HIV causes the destruction of the immune system by stimulating excessive cortisol production.)

DHEA and melatonin work together to suppress cortisol levels. High doses of the European procaine drug KH3, taken at least twice a day, are suggested as a potential way of protecting against the effects of elevated cortisol levels so often seen in cancer, AIDS, and stressed-out patients. On an empty stomach, take 1-2 tablets of KH3 first thing in the morning and repeat the dosage 1 hour before dinner. It is difficult to test cortisol levels in the blood because adrenal surges of cortisol can occur erratically throughout the day, which is one reason why this important cause of immune system destruction has been largely ignored by American doctors. KH3 is legal only in the state of Nevada.

The most effective hormone therapy to protect and improve immune function is melatonin, which enhances the production of T-helper cells that are necessary to identify cancer cells, viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Melatonin enhances the production of other immune components, including natural killer cells, IL-2, IL-4, IL-10, gamma-interferon, and eosinophils (Lissoni et al. 1989; 1994; 1995; Maestroni 1993; Bubenik et al. 1998; Kostogloy-Athanassiou 1998).

The latest evidence suggests that melatonin is even more effective than nutrient antioxidants in suppressing immune cell-killing free radicals.

Biostim. Influenza and other infectious diseases tend to be more severe in older patients. Despite immunization, elderly people often lack the immune capacity to generate an antibody response to prevent infection from the influenza virus. As many as 69,000 Americans have died from influenza in a bad epidemic year. Biostim is an immunomodulator extracted from a bacterium called Klebsiella pneumoniae (strain O1:K2). In humans, it is able to reduce the number and duration of infectious exacerbations of chronic bronchitis. This has been demonstrated in many double-blind studies over the last 10 years. An examination of the published literature reveals that if Biostim were available in the United States, thousands of American lives could be saved every year. These studies also indicate that Biostim would dramatically reduce the need for antibiotic therapy, thereby saving untold millions of dollars in prescription drug costs.

A double-blind trial was conducted to evaluate the capacity of Biostim to diminish the frequency of infectious episodes in chronic bronchitis. The study duration was 9 months. Of the 73 subjects selected, 38 received Biostim, and 35 received a placebo. By the 9th month, the duration in days of infectious episodes was 60% lower in the Biostim group compared with the placebo group. The use of antibiotic therapy was reduced by 81% in the Biostim group compared with the placebo group. Prewinter administration of Biostim to subjects significantly diminished the frequency of infectious episodes and thus the consumption of antibiotics (Viallat et al. 1983).

In another study, 314 elderly subjects admitted to hospitals were given either Biostim or a placebo. The subjects were regularly examined every 3 months for 1 year. The incidence of acute infectious episodes was evaluated in both groups. The number of subjects with infection in the group receiving the Biostim was significantly lower than in the placebo group. In the group receiving the Biostim, the number of infectious episodes was reduced throughout the 12 months of the trial. Finally, there was a significant decrease in the duration of antibiotic therapy. Biostim was well-tolerated. This study shows that Biostim is effective in protecting elderly, and therefore fragile, subjects against respiratory infections (Hugonot et al. 1988).

An evaluation of the safety of Biostim given with an antibiotic to treat acute infections was performed in three double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on fragile institutionalized or hospitalized patients. Two of the studies showed that in acute respiratory infections, Biostim was well-tolerated and resulted in a more rapid improvement. The third study showed that Biostim produced a more rapid improvement in the most severely ill patients. It was concluded that Biostim can be initiated safely during acute episodes occurring in subjects with recurrent respiratory infections and that it results in a faster improvement of clinical symptoms (Lacaille 1988; Minonzio et al. 1991; Fietta et al. 1992).

Biostim Therapy (3-Month Dosing Schedule): Take 2 tablets daily for 8 days, then stop for 3 weeks; 1 tablet daily for 8 days, then stop for 3 weeks; 1 tablet daily for 8 days, then stop for 9 months. Repeat Biostim therapy once a year. It is contraindicated in people with autoimmune disorders.

Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone

Aging, cancer, and AIDS often generate suboptimal levels of thyroid hormone production. Proper levels of thyroid hormones are crucial for optimal immune function. Blood tests do not always detect a thyroid hormone deficiency. One blood test is the TSH, a pituitary hormone that regulates production of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland. If your TSH is high, it may indicate a need for thyroid replacement therapy. Popular prescription thyroid replacement drugs are Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone, T4) and Cytomel (T3 thyroid hormone). You must be careful not to overdose on thyroid hormones, so the advice of a knowledgeable physician is important when you are considering thyroid hormone therapy.

Note: As of this writing, the FDA has begun an extensive review of Synthroid due to its history of problems and has ordered Abbott Laboratories to phase down distribution until the FDA review is complete.

The Life Extension Foundation recommends the use of Cytomel for thyroid underproduction, due to its metabolically active pharmacology.

Thymic Immune Factors

Thymic Immune Factors is a glandular compound prescribed by many alternative doctors that provides extracts of fresh, healthy tissue from the thymus, lymph, and spleen. These glands produce the disease-fighting cells of our immune system and the white blood cells that engage in life-or-death combat with invading organisms in our bloodstream under instruction of the thymus gland. The primary ingredient is immunologic tissue from the thymus gland.

Thymic Immune Factors has been used to amplify the immune-potentiating effect of DHEA replacement therapy. T-cells mature in response to hormones secreted by the thymus gland. The thymus gland shrinks with age, and the resulting reduction in the production of thymic immune factors could be a cause of the progressive decline in immune function that occurs with aging. By taking 2-4 capsules daily of Thymic Immune Factors, you may replace some of the thymic factors lost to aging.

EXERCISE

Japanese studies show that regular physical activity may enhance NK cell activity (Shinkai et al. 1997). However, too much of a good thing may actually decrease immune effectiveness. A very low fat diet (less than 15%) coupled with a heavy exercise schedule has been shown to decrease immune efficacy (Venkatraman et al. 1996; Konig et al. 1997). Given the many other health benefits, regular, moderate exercise should be on everyone's health agenda. There is research evidence that vitamin supplementation becomes increasingly important with exercise because physical activity raises oxygen demand, causing an increase in the formation of oxygen radical species. Many vitamins and cofactors are involved in energy metabolism and free-radical scavenging.

IMMUNITY, STRESS, AND EMOTIONS

For many years, the concept that our emotions can affect immunity has been bandied about. It was Carl Simonton, the radiation oncologist from Fort Worth, TX, who first noticed that meditation and visualization could impact the recovery of cancer patients. Since that time our understanding of how emotion can affect immunity has been increased by the knowledge of how brain cells "talk to" immune cells. Many articles and books have been published on this now accepted idea (Pert 1999). Immune cells carry receptor sites for neuromodulating substances such as dopamine and serotonin and thus are able to receive information about mood change via cell-to-cell signaling.

Salivary IgA, a known immune biomarker, has been found to increase in children given suggestion under hypnosis to simply "increase immune factors in your saliva" (Olness et al. 1989). Other studies show that chronic stress is a consistent down-regulator of immunity whereas acute stress increases immune response (Hucklebridge et al. 2000). Several studies on the survival of cancer patients have shown emotional support to have a significant impact on both quality and quantity of life (Spiegel et al. 1989).

Continued . . .


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