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By The Vitamin Trader
Herbal, homeopathic and other natural remedies for cold and flu abound – and can go far to alleviate your symptoms. But what if colds and flu were less potent? These nutrients are especially effective in boosting overall protection.
Astaxanthin - Antioxidants in general, and astaxanthin in particular, offer important protection against free-radical onslaught to preserve immune-system defenses. In the first human study examining astaxanthin’s effect on immune response, researchers from Washington State University divided 42 women into one of three groups: placebo, 2 mg astaxanthin, or 8 mg astaxanthin daily. After eight weeks of supplementation, blood levels of astaxanthin in both astaxanthin groups were found to be significantly higher and, not surprisingly, were highest in the subset of women taking the highest amount of astaxanthin. In addition, both levels of astaxanthin supplementation improved activity of natural killer cells, which target and destroy cells that have become infected with viruses.
Taking astaxanthin also raised levels of T and B cells, key cells of the immune system. This study also found that a marker of DNA damage was much lower in the astaxanthin groups, compared to the placebo group. In addition, C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) was also significantly lower in those supplementing with astaxanthin.
Iodine - Dr. David Derry of Canada says that dietary iodine found in iodized salt is below the amounts needed to fill mucus defense roles. To protect themselves, people wishing to boost their defense against infections should supplement their diets with iodine. While some believe high doses of iodine may have serious side effects only a small dose is necessary to kill influenza viruses. The physician, David Brownstein, M.D, concluded that: after testing over 500 patients, I found that 94.7% of my patients are deficient in inorganic iodine. I have concluded that because of the elevated levels of toxic halides in the environment and in the food supply, iodine levels have not only fallen but larger amounts of iodine are necessary to correct iodine deficiency as well as to promote a detoxifying effect of heavy metals (10-50mg per day).
Vitamin D - The so-called sunshine vitamin, which can be obtained from food or manufactured by human skin exposed to the sun, plays a key role in boosting the immune system, researchers believe. In particular it triggers and arms the body’s T cells, the cells in the body that seek out and destroy any invading bacteria and viruses. Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system – T cells – will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body. The researchers found that the T cells rely on vitamin D in order become active and they would remain dormant and unresponsive to possibility of threat if vitamin D is lacking in the blood.
Zinc - Zinc is an essential mineral, and one of the few nutrients for which a number of people are mildly deficient. Zinc deficiency is especially common in adolescents, infants, seniors and women in general. Certain drugs may increase the need for zinc supplements, such as ACE inhibitors, thiazide diuretics and medications that reduce stomach acid (Prilosec or Pepcid). Increasing the intake of zinc-containing foods or taking zinc, either alone or in a multivitamin and mineral, may be a prudent form of nutritional insurance.
The mineral zinc is effective against pathogens. Stomach flu is slowed down by the ingestion of zinc due to direct antimicrobial action of zinc in the GI tract. Zinc is the keystone molecule for thymic proteins, immune substances made in the thymus gland – without zinc there is no immunity. A review of the medical research on zinc from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews indicates that zinc even beats Vitamin C and Echinacea (the mainstays of natural health advocates). According to the Cochrane Review, when taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms of a cold (runny nose, headache, and sore throat – we all know what it feels like), zinc lozenges, tablets or capsules, or syrups can cut colds short by several days and sharply reduce the severity of symptoms The review found that not only did zinc reduce the duration and severity of common cold symptoms, but regular zinc use also worked to prevent colds, leading to fewer school absences and less antibiotic use in children.
Selenium - The essential trace mineral, selenium is of fundamental importance to human health. While selenium-deficiency diseases have been recognized for some time, evidence is mounting that less-overt deficiency can also cause adverse health effects and that extra levels of selenium may give additional protection from disease. Low or diminishing selenium status in some parts of the world, notably in some European countries such as the UK, is giving cause for concern. While deficiency has an adverse effect on immuno-competence, selenium supplementation appears to enhance the immune response. Selenium appears to be a key nutrient in counteracting certain viral infections; in a selenium deficient individual the influenza virus causes more serious lung pathology and HIV infection progresses more rapidly to AIDS. Findings have been equivocal in linking selenium to cardiovascular disease risk, although other conditions involving oxidative stress and inflammation have shown some association with selenium status. There is growing evidence that higher selenium intake is associated with reduced cancer risk. (When supplemeenting with selenium, do not exceed recommended dosage – more is not better –ed).
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