Category Archives: immune system

Probiotics and Children’s Immunity

A recent placebo-controlled trial has found that a combination of probiotics and vitamin C helps to prevent cold infections in young children.

The study, published last month in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved 69 preschool children who each received either a placebo supplement or a chewable probiotic and vitamin C supplement for a period of six months. The study was double-blind, meaning that neither the researchers nor the children or their parents knew whether each child was taking the supplement or a placebo.

The results at the end of the six month period were promising. The children who received the probiotic and vitamin C supplement had experienced fewer upper respiratory tract infections (ie common colds), and as a result had fewer absences from preschool and fewer visits to the doctor. The probiotic and vitamin C group were also less likely to have taken antibiotics, painkillers, cough medicines or nasal sprays compared with those children in the placebo group.

Both probiotics and vitamin C are known to modulate the immune system. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, reverses oxidative damage caused by infection. It is also believed to support production of phagocytes, cytokines and lymphcytes – cells that battle infection.
Healthy probiotic bacteria ramp up the body’s production of antibodies and lymphocytes, defending the body against infection (2).

In fact, around 70% of the body’s immune system resides in the digestive system which is home to around 100 trillion (about 3lbs) bacteria.

This particular study used 50mg of vitamin C alongside Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium lactis strains of probiotics. Other strains of probiotics have also been linked with increased resistance to infection, though more research needs to be done in order to determine which particular strain is most effective. Hopefully this study will pave the way for larger trials to be carried out. In the meantime, probiotics have repeatedly been demonstrated as a safe supplement for children, and so trying a probiotic supplement with vitamin C would seem a sensible measure for parents of children who seem to have one cold after another.

Ideally, all children should all eat a diet which is rich in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, and encourages growth of healthy bacteria. This means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding foods that deplete levels of healthy bacteria such as sugar and white grains. Unfortunately children’s sugar intake is consistently above the maximum recommended amount, and only around 10% of children in the UK manage to eat their ‘5-a-day’ requirement of fruit and vegetables (3).

Especially good sources of prebiotics – foods which feed and therefore boost probiotic bacteria – include leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus and bananas. Natural probiotic yoghurt can also help to support children’s levels of healthy bacteria. Most added sugar comes from breakfast cereals and soft drinks, and so parents should look out for these items in particular, and read labels to check from hidden sugars.

Boosting vitamin C intake and reaching the 5-a-day recommendation means adding fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks – for children, small changes such as adding blueberries to breakfast or pureeing vegetables into pasta sauces are simple changes that can make a huge difference, ensuring that children are happy and healthy both in and out of school.

  1. Garaiova, I. et al (2014) Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  2. Resta SC. Effects of probiotics and commensals on intestinal epithelial physiology: implications for nutrient handling. J Physiol. 2009. 587:4169-4174.
  3. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: results from Years 1 to 4 (combined) of the rolling programme for 2008 and 2009 to 2011 and 2012. Public Health England and Food Standard Agency. 14 May 2014
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Probiotics, our friends inside

The human intestinal tract is home to trillions of “friendly” bacteria that are crucial in maintaining good health. These bacteria are instrumental in protecting against tummy problems, supporting digestion and absorption of nutrients. The balance of this gut micro flora is also intrinsically linked with immunity, ensuring a positive balance of beneficial gut bacteria will give your immune system a fighting chance of beating off the majority of opportunistic pathogens.

Antacids, antibiotics and low fibre refined diets all disrupt this delicate balance. This is possibly why an estimated 1 in 5 adults in the UK suffer from gastrointestinal complaints. Rebalancing the gut micro flora through the diet or by taking a “probiotic” supplement containing strains of friendly bacteria has been shown to help maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid digestion, reduced bloating and the establishment of a regular bowel habits.

A change of food may upset a sensitive tummy

Our immune system is used to dealing with bacterial or viral challenges on a regular basis, but when we travel we can encounter different or possibly more pathogenic strains that then cause us to become ill. A change of food may also upset a sensitive tummy, as well as traveller’s diarrhoea people may also suffer from bloating or discomfort. You can reduce your chances of falling ill by giving your immune system and gut flora extra support by taking a probiotic supplement before jetting off to exotic destinations. Closer to home evidence continues to grow that probiotic supplements are a key element in the management of IBS, a combination of L.plantarum and L.acidophilus has been found to be especially effective.

Choosing a probiotic supplement

The effectiveness of probiotics is linked to their ability to survive the transit from stomach to small intestine; to do so they must be able to resist both acidic and alkaline conditions.

To confer health benefits probiotic supplements must contain live bacteria capable of adhering to the intestinal lining and colonise in the colon. Always choose products by trusted and established manufacturers.

Lyophilised (freeze dried) bacteria are stable at room temperature so do not need refrigeration.

Look for a delayed release product, delaying the release of the bacteria until they reach the small intestine protects them against the acidic environment of the stomach and delivering them directly where they are needed.

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Beat the winter bugs with beneficial bacteria

As the weather worsens and the season of colds and coughs approaches, our thoughts turn towards ways in which we can support our immune systems to help keep us fighting fit throughout the winter.

A current theory in medicine, known as the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’, states that our obsession with household cleaners and overzealous hand washing with anti-bacterial agents may be to blame for a rise in infections, as well as conditions such as asthma.

Our immune system is designed to fight infection from bacteria, viruses and parasites as well as recognise foreign substances as allergens. As our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past, we no longer have to elicit an immune response. The theory indicates that bacteria can in fact be helpful for supporting our immune systems.

So, how can we use bacteria to help boost our immunity? Health experts suggest we should allow children to be children by letting them play outside in mud and with their friends, and worrying less about them coming into contact with dirt and germs. There is also an increasing body of evidence supporting the use of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) for immune support. Our digestive tract functions as a barrier against potentially harmful bacteria and food. It is known that supplementing with probiotics can help mediate our immune response, reducing inflammation and protecting us against exposure to potentially harmful bugs.

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OptiBac Probiotics contains beneficial probiotic strains

Here we explore some of the OptiBac Probiotics’ products and their potential benefits for immune health.

OptiBac Probiotics For daily immunity, a blend of probiotics and antioxidants, contains targeted probiotic strains to help support immunity. If you feel you catch colds too frequently, this is a product to consider, or for those who have lower levels of friendly bacteria such as the elderly and those who lead active, demanding lives.

OptiBac Probiotics For daily wellbeing is a daily supplement that promotes a healthy balance of friendly bacteria throughout the entire intestinal tract. For daily wellbeing is suitable for anyone seeking probiotic support on a daily basis (aged over 4 years and over).

OptiBac Probiotics For daily wellbeing EXTRA strength is dairy-free supplement extra strength formula with 20 billion live microorganisms per capsule. It may benefit those with a severe imbalance of good and bad intestinal bacteria, skin conditions, or those with particularly busy lifestyles.

OptiBac Probiotics For your child’s health is a natural symbiotic supplement to support digestion and immunity in infants and children, and pregnant & breastfeeding women. For your child’s health is suitable for babies and children from 6 months of age.

References

Cazzola, M. et al. (2010) Efficacy of a synbiotic supplementation in the prevention of common diseases in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study; Therapeutic Advances in Respiratory Disease 0(0) pp. 1-8

Rautava, S. et al (2002). ‘Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant’. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Jan Vol. 109 (1), pp. 119-121

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Back to School: Immune-boosting tips for kids

The start of the new school year is upon us, and this can cause worry for some parents whose children seem particularly vulnerable to illness. Coughs, colds, ear and chest infections are commonplace in schools, with the average child catching between 8 and 12 colds or flu viruses each year. This is not surprising when we consider that the school environment is the perfect breeding ground for infection – up to 90% of children with a cold are carrying the virus on their hands, and germs can survive up to three days on surfaces.

Fortunately there are some simple measures that can help support your child’s immune system, helping to lessen the duration of an infection or even avoid illness altogether.

A good night’s sleep
Children need more sleep than adults, with primary school children needing at least 9 hours each night. Any less than this can compromise the immune system. Sleep deprived children have lower levels of germ-fighting T-cells, leaving them vulnerable to infection (1). Tips to improve sleep include keeping a regular bedtime routine, ensuring that televisions are kept out of the bedroom and reducing sources of caffeine such as chocolate and sodas.

Immune-boosting antioxidants
Another way to help support your child’s health is to ensure that his or her diet provides plenty of immune-boosting antioxidants. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C boost production of interferon, helping to prevent infection from taking hold (2). Vitamin E and carotenoids help to increase production of natural killer cells, B cells and T cells, increasing antibodies against specific germs (3).

Fruit-Bowl
Kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost.

Finally, nutrients called bioflavonoids actually work to block cell receptors so that germs cannot get access to cells. Present in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, flavonoids have been shown to exert both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity (4). Flavonoids are not easily absorbed from foods we eat. For the best sources of well-absorbed flavonoids, make sure your child eats plenty of blue and purple fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and red grapes.

If infection has already taken hold, then steps to reduce the length of an infection can be helpful. During an active infection, the body’s requirement for Vitamin C is increased dramatically. A fruit salad made with oranges, kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost. During an active infection, taking a vitamin C supplement 3-4 times daily can also be a helpful measure to speed up recovery.

Protective probiotics
Probiotic supplementation offers a further protective measure for children who suffer with repeated infections. Probiotics reduce the risk of allergies, tummy upsets and diarrhoea, and have recently been found to prevent the common cold (5). They give the immune system a boost by increasing natural killer cell activity and phagocytosis, both important mechanisms for protecting against infection. In children in particular, probiotics work to ramp up levels of mucosal immunoglobulin A, the first line of defence against harmful pathogens that enter the body (6).

Probiotic supplements designed especially for children offer a safe way to support your child’s immune system. Adding some probiotic yoghurt to fruit salad or breakfast muesli can help keep your child’s levels of immune-boosting bacteria topped up.

While children can’t be shielded from every bug in the classroom, these simple measures can help ensure that your child building blocks of a strong immune system and feels fit for the new school year.

References

1. Diwakar Balachandran, MD,  director, Sleep Center, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

2. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (Review) Hemilä H, Chalker E, Douglas B. Cochrane Review. 2010. Issue 3.

3. Hughes DA: Antioxidant vitamins and immune function; in Calder PC, Field CJ, Gill HS (eds): Nutrition and Immune Function. Wallingford, CAB International, 2002, pp 171–191.

4. Middleton E (1998) Effect of Plant Flavonoids on Immune and Inflammatory Cell Function. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Volume 439, pp 175-182.

5. En-Jin Kang et al (2013) The Effect of Probiotics on Prevention of Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trial Studies. Korean J Fam Med. 2013 January; 34(1): 2–10.

6. Lomax & Calder (2009) Probiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence from studies conducted in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 15(13):1428-518.

7. Image courtesy of vanillaechoes.

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Serrapeptase: 5 Main Health Benefits

Serrapeptase, technically called Serratio Peptidase, is a proteolytic enzymes, meaning that it dissolves or digests protein. Serrapeptase was first found in silkworms, as it is this enzyme that silkworms use to dissolve their cocoons. It is now produced as a nutritional supplement through fermentation of plant-grown enzymes.

How does it work?
The reason that serrapeptase has such valuable therapeutic potential is that it dissolves only non-living tissue – tissues that can be a barrier to healing and optimal health. This special enzyme also helps reduce swelling after injury and inhibits the release of chemical messengers that cause pain. Its unique properties have led to a number of studies investigating its therapeutic benefits.

There are five main health benefits associated with serrapeptase:

  1. It is often used for its pain relieving benefits. Serrapeptase decreases pain by blocking the release of bradkinin and other ‘pain messengers’ from inflamed or damaged tissue (1). Because of this it is often used as an alternative to common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and is especially favoured by those concerned about side effects of long term NSAID usage such as ulcers bleeding in the digestive tract.
  2. Serrapeptase has been studied for its anti-inflammatory benefits (2). The supplement is believed to improve symptoms related to a whole host of inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, migraine and others due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
  3. The supplement is an effective mucolytic, meaning that it thins mucous. It shows promise as a treatment for those with chronic sinusitis (3). Ear, nose and throat problems also involve uncomfortable symptoms linked with increased mucous secretion. Serrapeptase has also been studied as a potential treatment for these conditions (4).
  4. Serrapeptase also appears to play a role in healing injury. The supplement has been used to support post-operative recovery, as well as speeding recovery from sprains and other injuries. For example, in a group of patients undergoing knee surgery, those taking serrapeptase supplements showed a 50% reduction in swelling compared to controls (5). Injured joints, ligaments or muscles are coated with fibrin which works to support the injured tissue while it regenerates. Sometimes excess fibrin can form unwanted scar tissue, inflammation and pain. This fibrin takes up valuable space in which living tissue should grow, reducing the motion of muscles and joints. Therefore by dissolving fibrin, serrapeptase offers potential to enhance recovery after injury.
  5. Because of its ability to dissolve fibrin, serrapeptase has also been used to dissolve arterial plaque, fibrous blockages in clogged or hardened arteries. As serrapeptase only dissolves dead or damaged tissue, this could enable the dissolution of harmful atherosclerotic plaques without causing any harm to the inside of the arteries.
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Serrapeptase may help in supporting injuries and has anti-inflammatory benefits.

Studies of serrapeptase supplementation have found positive benefits with a dosage of around 10mg, taken after meals three times daily. No long-term studies of this supplement have yet been conducted, although studies to date suggest that supplementation for a period of 4 weeks seems safe (1,2).

Although preliminary research looks promising, many of the studies have been small or uncontrolled and much of the supporting evidence is anecdotal (6). Serrapeptase does appear to show promise as an agent for reducing pain and inflammation and support recovery. Clearly more research is needed to determine the role and value of serrapeptase in medicine, though studies to date suggest it has some clinical potential.

References

1. Mazzone A et al (1990) Evaluation of Serratiapeptidase in acute or chronic inflammation of torhinolarygology pathology: a multi-centre, double-blind randomized trial versus placebo. J Int Med Res 18:379-88.

2. Tachibana M, Mizukoshi O, Harada Y, et al (1984) A multi-centre, double-blind study of serrapeptase versus placebo in post-antrotomy buccal swelling. Pharmatherapeutica 3:526-30.

3. Mizukoshi D et al (1982) A double-blind study of Danzen tablets in the treatment of chronic sinusitis. Igaku Ayumi 123:768-778.

4. Mazzonie C et al (1990) Evaluation of serrapeptase in acute or chronic inflammation of otorhinolaryngology pathology: a multicentre, double-blind randomized trial versus placebo. J Int Med Res 18(5):379-388.

5. Esch VP et al (1989) Reduction of postoperative swelling. Objective measurement of swelling in upper ankle joint in treatment with serrapeptase – a prospective study (german) Fortschr Med 107(4):76-8.

6. Bhagat S et al (2013) Serratiopeptidase: a systematic review of the existing evidence. Int J Surg 11(3):209-217.

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Top 5 Benefits of Aloe Vera

Boasting immune boosting, anti-microbial and wound-healing properties, the therapeutic uses of aloe vera are surprisingly diverse. Here are my top 5 uses for this versatile supplement.

1. Digestive Support
Aloe vera is often used by those with digestive complaints. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis are marked by long-lasting inflammation within the digestive tract. The natural anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera have led to a number of studies investigating the possible benefit of this plant for these conditions.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of aloe vera in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis demonstrated improved symptoms in patients taking aloe vera compared to those in the placebo group (1). Similar benefits have been reported in patients suffering with ulcerative colitis (2).

2. Immune Support

Aloe vera contains a special type of sugar molecule called acemannan which boosts the activity of macrophages. Macrophages (from the Greek, meaning ‘big eaters’) are white blood cells which function to destroy or ‘eat up’ pathogens. Alongside this action, acemannan also enhances T-cell function and interferon production. This type of immune enhancement is evident in studies which show that consumption of aloe vera gel is effective in combating candida infection (3).

3. Detoxification

The detoxifying effect of aloe vera has been scientifically verified by lab tests of urinary indican levels. Indicans are molecules found in the urine, and they can be used to measure bacterial activity in the small and large intestine. Raised levels of indicans suggest compromised digestive health, including problems such as protein malabsorption and bacterial overgrowth (4). Aloe vera has been found to reduce urinary indican levels after just one week. This suggests that aloe consumption can improve protein digestion and absorption, or improve bacterial balance in the bowel.

Aloe-Vera-Gel
Aloe Vera Gel applied to the skin can help with 1st or 2nd degree burns

4. Skin Benefits
Applied topically, aloe vera can be used to help heal damaged skin. A recent meta-analysis, which examined studies involving a total of 371 patients, concluded that aloe vera may be considered effective in treating first and second degree burns. In fact the studies showed that topical application of aloe vera reduced healing time by an average of 9 days (5). It is thought that naturally occurring substances in aloe help cells to regenerate, speeding up healing.

Aloe is especially useful in the summer months owing to its cooling and soothing properties. A common ingredient in aftersun lotions, aloe vera is believed to act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Research is conflicting, although a recent randomised, double-blind trial found aloe vera to be more effective than hydrocortisone cream in reducing sunburn symptoms 48 hours after application (6).

5. Diabetes and blood sugar regulation

There have been several studies investigating the efficacy of aloe vera in the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One of the first studies involved a group of 3,000 diabetic patients who supplemented their existing treatments with a natural remedy containing aloe gel and psyllium seed husks. In 94% of these patients, fasting blood glucose levels fell to normal levels within two months (7).

In diabetic models, consumption of aloe vera has been found not only to reduce fasting blood sugar levels, but also to reduce levels of liver enzymes (a sign of liver damage), and cholesterol (8). Aloe’s high fibre content, glycoproteins and antioxidant benefits are believed to help the body to regulate blood sugar more effectively.

A further controlled study of 72 diabetic patients supports these benefits, showing that 2 tbsp daily of aloe vera resulted in a significant reduction in blood sugar levels over a period of 42 days (9).

Aloe appears to have a huge number of nutritional benefits and healing properties, making it a versatile nutritional supplement.

References

  1.  Langmead L et al (2004) Anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera gel in human colorectal mucosa in vitro. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:521–527
  2. Langmead L et al (2004) Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:739–747.
  1. Jackson JA et al (2000) Urine Indican as an Indicator of Disease. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 15, No. 1
  2. Sun-A Im et al (2010) In vivo evident of the immunomodulatory activity of orally administered aloe vera gel. Arch Pharm Res Vol 333:3, pp. 451-456
  3. Maenthaisong R et al (2007) The efficacy of Aloe vera used for burn wound healing: A systematic review. Burns. 33:713–18
  4. Reuter J et al (2008) Investigation of the anti-inflammatory potential of Aloe vera gel (97.5%) in the ultraviolet erythema test. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 21(2):106-110]
  5. Agarwal 0P (1985) Prevention of Atheromatous Heart Disease. Angiology. 36: 485-92.
  6. Okyar A et al (2001) Effect of Aloe vera leaves on blood glucose level in type I and type II diabetic rat models. Phytother Res.15(2):157-61.
  7. Bunyapraphatsara N (1996) Antidiabetic activity of aloe vera L. juice 11. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus patients in combination with glibenclamide. Phytomedicine. 3:245-248
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May is M.E. Awareness Month: Part 1

May is M.E. Awareness Month, a campaign aimed at promoting a greater understanding of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and the impact it has on the lives of sufferers. This year the campaign culminates in an international conference hosted by the charity ‘Invest in ME’ to be held in London at the end of the month (1).

Part 1 will look at the most common symptoms of M.E. along with common myths and misconceptions about this poorly understood disease.

What is M.E.?

Vitamin B12 may help with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Vitamin B12 may help with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) affects several of the body’s systems, including the immune and nervous system. The result is chronic exhaustion, cognitive problems, nausea, headaches and persistent aches and pains.

In Beating Chronic Fatigue, Dr Kristine Downing-Orr describes CFS as “the body’s inability to recover following a biological or psychological trigger” (2). Essentially the body’s very healing mechanisms break down, leaving sufferers in a state of chronic ill health.

It is thought that 250,000 people in the UK have this illness, with women between the ages of 25-50 being most commonly affected (3). However, men, women and children of all ages can develop ME/CFS.

Myths and Misconceptions

Myth 1. Chronic Fatigue is all in the mind
ME is a genuine medical illness recognised by the World Health Organisation as a neurological disease. Sufferers of CFS/ME show abnormalities in both the immune system and nervous system. It is not a psychological condition. It is not depression. Nor is it ‘attention seeking’ or a ‘cry for help’.

Myth 2. Chronic Fatigue is caused by the Epstein Barr Virus.
It is true that some cases of CFS/ME develop after an infection. However, the cause of CFS/ME is still unknown. Other theories link the disease to hormone imbalance, immune problems or psychological trauma. It is quite possible that sufferers are genetically predisposed to the disease, leaving them vulnerable if they are exposed to ‘triggers’ such as infection or stress.

Myth 3. Counselling or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can ‘reverse’ CFS/ME
Psychological interventions can indeed help CFS sufferers to cope with their symptoms. However, this type of approach cannot ‘cure’ the illness (4).

Myth 4. Exercise can cure CFS/ME
Unfortunately exercise will not cure CFS/ME. Well meaning healthcare providers can sometimes recommend exercise for CFS/ME patients using guidelines intended for healthy people. In fact, increasing physical activity can worsen symptoms for sufferers. However, if undertaken in the right way, carefully monitored exercise programmes can be helpful for patients (5).

Myth 5. CFS/ME is difficult to diagnose
This is untrue. There are clear NICE guidelines regarding the diagnosis of CFS/ME. More recently, the Canadian criteria is being recognised as the standard diagnostic tool, and reflects the growing understanding of CFS/ME as a biological illness. This includes the following symptoms: Muscle fatigue or malaise following exertion; poor quality sleep; soreness and aches affecting different parts of the body; brain disturbances such as sensory problems or feelings of confusion (6).

Creating a greater awareness and dispelling myths about CFS/ME is essential. After all, effective treatment and management of CFS/ME depends on a clear understanding of the disease. In Part 2 we will look at some natural approaches to managing symptoms. This includes dietary recommendations and vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements designed to provide the body with the resources it needs to support healing and recovery.

References

1. 8th Invest in ME International ME (ME/CFS) Conference 2013. More information at http://www.investinme.org/IiME%20Conference%202013/IIMEC8%20Home.html Accessed 25/04/13.

2. Beating Chronic Fatigue: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Complete Recovery. Dr Kristina Downing-Orr. London: Piatkus. 2010.

3. Action for M.E. http://www.actionforme.org.uk/get-informed/about-me/who-does-it-affect Accessed 25/04/13.

4. Van Hoof, E. (2004). Cognitive behavioral therapy as cure-all for CFS. Journal of Chronic Fatigue  Syndrome, 11, 43-47.

5. Edmonds, M., McGuire, H., & Price, J. (2004). Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 1-22.

6. Carruthers, B.M., Jain, A.K., DeMeirleir, K.L., Peterson, D.L., Klimas, N.G., Lerner, A.M., Bested, A.C., Flor-Henry, P., Joshi, P., Powles, A.C.P., Sherkey, J.A., & van de Sande, M.I. (2003). Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome: Clinical working case definition, diagnostic and treatments protocols. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 11, 7-115.

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Omega-3 supplements may prevent skin cancer

The many benefits of omega-3 supplementation, from heart health to anti-inflammatory effects in conditions such as arthritis, are well-known. A new study conducted by researchers at Manchester University has now investigated the potential of omega-3 to protect against skin cancer (1).

Skin cancer is a growing concern in the UK, where rates of malignant melanoma have increased significantly over the last 30 years. In fact, according to Cancer Research UK, incidence rates of this type of cancer have increased more rapidly than any other type of cancer (2). And it is not just a concern for the elderly. In the UK, more than 700 young people between the ages of 17 and 34 are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.

The study is the first of its kind to test the protective benefits of omega-3 on human volunteers. The volunteers were given either a 4g dose of omega-3 or a placebo supplement. They were then exposed to the equivalent of either 8, 15 or 30 minutes of summer midday sun through the use of a light machine.

Fish is the richest food source of omega 3, with mackeral, trout and herring being the strongest source
Fish is the richest food source of omega 3, with mackerel, trout and herring having the highest source of omega 3

This study measured the amount of damage to the immune system, or ‘immunosuppression’ caused by sunlight. Sun exposure and sunburn can actually suppress the immune system, and repeated exposure can cause long term damage to the immune system, making your body more susceptible to skin cancer. The results of this study showed that immunosuppression was 50% lower in those who took the supplement compared to those who were given a placebo.

The beneficial effects were noted in those who were exposed to 8 and 15 minutes of sun, but were not seen in those who underwent 30 minutes of exposure.

Professor Lesley Rhodes at the University’s Photobiology Unit, said this was the first time a study such as this has been carried out on humans. “This study adds to the evidence that omega-3 is a potential nutrient to protect against skin cancer. Although the changes we found when someone took the oil were small, they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking omega-3 could reduce the risk of skin cancer over an individual’s lifetime.”

Other nutritional lines of defence from the sun’s UV rays include antioxidants, which ‘mop up’ some of the oxidative damage caused by the sun. For example, previous research suggests that skin damage from the sun can be reduced by taking 2000mg of Vitamin C alongside 1000IU Vitamin E (3). Citrus fruits are the most obvious choice for those wanting to increase their Vitamin C intake, although green peppers, broccoli and green leafy vegetables are similarly beneficial. Garnishing your meals with chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts or a drizzle of olive oil will also give Vitamin E levels a boost.

While omega-3 oils and antioxidants are no substitute for suncream, these studies suggests it may provide helpful support alongside our usual protective measures. Research into the nutrition’s protective benefits for the skin continues, and Professor Rhodes’ team are currently continuing their investigations with omega-3 at Salford Royal Hospital.

Reference

1. S. M. Pilkington et al. (2013) Randomized controlled trial of oral omega-3 PUFA in solar-simulated radiation-induced suppression of human cutaneous immune responses. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 97 (3): 646 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.112.049494

2. ‘Skin Cancer Incidence Statistics’ Cancer Research UK http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/skin/incidence/uk-skin-cancer-incidence-statistics

3. Eberlain-Konig B et al (1998) Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid and d-alpha tocopherol. J Am Acad Dermatol 38:45-8

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Natural Immune Support for Children

Children frequently pick up and pass on common bacterial and viral infections, often through interaction with others at school which can manifest into sore throats, colds, flu, sinusitis and more. Unfortunately large numbers of these children are prescribed antibiotics repeatedly. With the current concern over antibiotic resistance, it is natural to want to avoid having your child take antibiotics if possible.

There are a number of natural ways to reduce the risk of your children picking up illnesses. The very best insurance to help prevent you and your children getting ill is to support the immune system through diet, nutrients and lifestyle.

Here are 5 ways to boost children’s immunity naturally:

1. Wash hands but don’t be a germaphobe: Good hygiene at school and at home is important to help reduce the spread of germs. Washing hands is particularly easy and effective. However, extreme hygiene practices may have a negative effect on your child’s maturing immunity.

Strawberry's, melons and berries are all high in Vitamin C
Strawberries, melons and berries are all high in Vitamin C

2. Eat foods packed with immune-boosting nutrients: Serve nutrient-dense foods to help boost your children’s immunity. A few nutrients can be essential to supporting a balanced immune system. Vitamin C can be found not only in citrus fruits, but also in broccoli, kale, green beans, berries, cantaloupe, strawberries, melons and zinc, which supports immune cell function. Foods such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and seafood are all rich in zinc. Probiotic foods such as natural organic yogurt balance gut flora and are essential to a well functioning immune system.

3. Reduce refined carbohydrates and sugary foods: Refined carbohydrates like pasta, bread, biscuits and cakes and sugary foods like soda and candy can seriously tax the immune system. They feed bacterial growth and contribute to inflammation, which depletes and exhausts immune function.

4. Exercise: Research has shown that moderate exercise improves immune function for all ages. Turning off the TV, limiting the video games and getting the kids outdoors are great ways to boost children’s immunity naturally.

5. Try natural immune support nutrients and supplements: Bee Propolis is an immune boosting plant-based nutrient that is safe and effective for children. This resin is collected by bees, from tree and plant buds and has natural antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Olive leaf extract and black elderberry are also full of antimicrobial nutrients and are also safe for all ages. Bee Prepared Immune Support Daily Defence combines these ingredients and other equally beneficial nutrients which support immune health. Capsules may be swallowed or broken open and put into juices, smoothies or yogurt.

A practical, delicious and child-friendly way to include a few of these recommendations into your daily routine is with an immune boosting smoothie.

Immunity Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 1 apple, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 orange, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup filtered water or organic apple juice
  • 1/2 cup natural yogurt
  • 2 tsp manuka honey
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seed butter *optional
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
  • 1 capsule Bee Prepared Daily Defence (open capsule and use the powder)

Combine all of these ingredients in a blender, serve and enjoy!

References:
1. Image courtesy of Roger Kirby.

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Are you allergic to winter?

The cold winter months can actually increase allergic symptoms in some people, spelling months of misery. Summer allergies are often spotted and tackled early by sufferers. Winter allergies however are less well-known, and are often mistaken for colds or flu, meaning that they are not dealt with effectively.

For those who suffer during the colder months, it is important to know the difference between an allergy and a cold, to understand the most common triggers and to take action to eliminate the troublesome symptoms.

Spot the difference! Is it an allergy or a cold?

Sneezing
Is it just a common cold or is it an allergy?

Many people believe that they are suffering with a common cold when in fact they are experiencing allergy symptoms. After all, coughing, sneezing and a runny nose can be symptoms of either ailment. However, a cold should not last more than 10 days. If your symptoms persist over weeks or months, then it is far more likely that you are suffering with an allergy. Other allergy symptoms include itchy eyes or nose, watery eyes and dark circles under the eyes.

Winter allergy triggers

Spending more time indoors, with the heating on full blast, can mean weeks of misery for allergy sufferers. Common allergy triggers during this time can be:

  • Mould. Moist conditions caused by indoor heating can lead to the growth of mould. Bathrooms and kitchens are particularly susceptible to this problem. Steamy showers in small bathrooms can also be a culprit. If you notice condensation on your windows during the cold weather, then look out for mould.
  • Dust mites. Ducted heating indoors encourages dust to circulate throughout the house. Extra bedding and long-stored winter clothing can also be a breeding ground for troublesome dust mites.
  • Animals. During the winter time, it is more likely that both you and your pet will spend more time indoors. Contrary to popular belief, allergies to pet fur are uncommon. It is more likely that you are allergic to certain proteins present in pet dander and saliva.

Winter Allergy Action Plan

There are a number of natural measures that may help to fight off persistent allergy symptoms at this time of year.

  • Vacuum and dust more often during the winter months.
  • Wash pillows and sheets in hot water every week.
  • Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows and duvets.
  • Natural nasal sprays such as those containing salt can lessen inflammation and help keep the nasal passages clear.
  • Watch out for mould, especially in moist areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Clean the filters in your air-conditioning and heater units.
  • Try an air filter to reduce allergens in your home.
  • Don’t assume sniffles are the result of cold viruses, especially if your symptoms last more than a couple of weeks. Check with your GP if you are unsure.
  • Anti-inflammatory nutrients and natural anti-histamines such as Vitamin C and omega-3 fish oils may be helpful. For allergic symptoms, I often recommend a combination of potent anti-inflammatory nutrients quercetin and bromelain. You should always check with your GP before taking any new supplements, especially if you are already taking prescribed medications.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

Image courtesy of “evah” (Sebastian Smit).

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