The first priority in ensuring your immune system is functioning well is to support it with the sort of diet already outlined and a supplement containing optimum levels of a comprehensive range of nutrients.
However, there are times when further support is advisable. In the section Immune System Threats I have examined the increased danger posed by such issues as the over-prescription of antibiotics, the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the pending avian flu epidemic. There is, in addition, some evidence that our immune systems may well be less active now than in the past.
In particular I make the point that the Immune System is really two immune systems in one.
Your second line of defence is the Acquired Immune System. This ‘remembers’ past infections and creates antibodies that attack the same bacteria or virus when it re-appears. That is why you do not get the same cold twice. It’s also how vaccination works – they give you a tiny dose of a dead or 'tamed' pathogen and your immune system creates antibodies to repel future attacks. Vaccination is one of the great triumphs of medical science.
One problem with vaccination, however, is that a vaccine can only be made once the pathogen causing a particular disease has been identified, and cultured. In the case of flu viruses, these can mutate so rapidly that vaccines which worked one year may be far less effective the following year. And so we come to the pending flu epidemic. Once the virulent viral strain emerges scientists will race to identify it, culture it, and to produce vaccines to protect the public. But this process will take between 4 and 6 months, and in that time it is possible - even probable - that very large numbers of people will die.
That’s why your first line of defence is so important. And that’s your Innate Immune System. Your Innate Immune system is the one that recognises general threats from bacteria and viruses – and cancer cells – and which fights and eliminates the majority of them them before they can cause illness.
There is one natural substance that has been proven to be a powerful modulator of the Innate Immune System in shrimp, fish, mice, pigs, chickens and in humans: 1-3, 1-6 beta-glucans.
1-3, 1-6 Beta-glucans are derived from yeast cell walls and is rated in tests by the Department of Defence of a major NATO country as the top ‘immuno-modulator’ ie. immune enhancer.
Essentially 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans primes several key elements in the Innate Immune System. It helps increase the production of white blood cells in the marrow including macrophages and neutrophils (the most abundant of the immune cells) and primes them to work at a higher level of activity. (See Immune System Threats in this site for a clear description of how this happens)
My recommended dose per day would be 250mg of 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans (at a 75% active level). At that level the immune system should begin to function significantly more actively within 48 hours. Indeed tests on the source of 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans that I recommend*, have indicated that neutrophil effectiveness is increased by 30% +.
As a pre-winter immune boost, or when specifically facing higher risks – like a hospital admission or flu or illness – I believe that the 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans are fantastically useful. Use it for at least three months – but it is safe to use for much longer periods.
* I think that Uni-Vite Immuno-Shield is a good choice as it combines ingredients that are safe and are patented, because they have been extensively researched. They are also a fair price – though there are others on the internet.