Horseman’s Health: Is Your Immune System Ready for Winter?

Madalyn with horseHere we are again with cold and flu season upon us and the need to remember that giving your immune system a boost is the best way to defend yourself against catching colds and flu. A strong immune system means less illness, less time missing out on the winter fun, less time feeling miserable, and less interference with work and family schedules. To get your immune system ready for winter here are some suggestions of natural solutions you can use.

There are various types of mushrooms found to be great at boosting immunity. By increasing your number of white blood cells and their activity level, your immune system is made stronger. Various types of mushrooms have been identified as having properties that work to kill bacteria, viruses, and yeast and some that are even useful in fighting cancer. Polypores are a type of mushroom that seem to have the most antiviral ability and one variety of polypore has been found able to fight against smallpox. For the flu, research shows the mushroom Agaricon as the most effective. Mushrooms have also been found to have benefits in improving blood flow, balancing cholesterol and blood sugar, regenerating nerves, supporting the kidney and liver, and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Other mushrooms that have been found to be particularly good at boosting the immune system include shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms. Here are some of the top mushroom contenders in the fight for improving immunity to fight off illnesses:

  • Shiitake mushrooms contain a polysaccharide called lentinan that is known for its antitumor properties and has been used effectively in the treatment of cancers, stomach problems such as ulcers and hyperacidity, and in liver support. They also contain eritadenine good for lowering cholesterol. Shiitake mushrooms have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties making them an excellent choice for boosting your immune system when getting ready for cold and flu season.
  • Reishi mushrooms contain ganoderic acid that has been used in treating cancers such as lung cancer and leukemia. These mushrooms have been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties and there is research showing they are useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, balancing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reducing the prostrate related urinary symptoms in men.
  • Maitake mushrooms provide lots of nutrition with beneficial phospholipids, unsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides, antioxidants, beta glucans and plant sterols such as ergosterol. Scientists currently are studying it for its benefits for the immune system, liver function, endocrine system, circulatory system, bone and skeletal system, blood glucose, skin, immune modulation and cardiovascular system.
  • Cordyceps mushrooms are a good natural source of proteins, plant sterols, polysaccharides, antioxidants, and nucleoside derivatives. Research indicates they are useful for endurance and strength and in warding off effects of aging. Specific benefits identified from cordyceps mushrooms include its antitumor properties, ability to increase blood flow, balance cholesterol levels, give protection to liver and kidneys and there is research indicating it has antidepressant qualities.
  • Turkey Tail mushroom contains the water soluble polysaccharide-protein complexes PSK and PSP as well as beta glucans, and protein. Research is especially interested in the use of this mushroom in fighting cancer. One study in 2011 looking at women with breast cancer found Turkey Tail mushroom to improve their immune system function. Research is also interested in this particular mushroom as it shows promise in fighting such infections as HIV, Herpes, E. coli, and candida albicans.

If you don’t have access to all these various mushrooms or just don’t care for the taste of mushrooms, you can still get all the immune system benefits mushrooms provide with supplements such as this one that combines reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitake, Turkey Tail, and Agaricus blazei, with astragalus, beta glucan and bluegreen algae.

Beta Glucan
Beta glucan is a simple sugar that can be derived from yeast, bacteria, fungi or grains like oats, barley and rye. Beta glucans, according to the source they come from, vary in structure and their beneifts. Beta glucan that comes from yeast has been found to be particularly helpful for boosting immune system function by binding and stimulating macrophages. The most effective type of beta glucan for immune system support is the type found in baker’s yeast. Generally, beta glucans have properties to help fight off bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics, release chemicals that support immune cells, reduce cold symptoms, and help regulate the immune system. Our bodies don’t produce beta glucans naturally so we have to get them from food or supplements. Some of the best food sources for beta glucan include wheat, shiitake mushrooms, rye, barley, oats, baker’s yeast or this supplement with mushrooms and beta glucan.

A well-nourished, healthy body also equals strong immunity and you can’t beat the nutritional punch you get from AFA bluegreen algae. For an extra algae boost, this algae supplement gives you 9 different types of algae in one product. The benefits you get from this 9 algae combo include:

  • Dulse is a dark red sea algae high in plant-based protein and vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B6, B12, and A, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese.
  • Ecklonia Cava is a rich source of bioactive derivatives, mainly phlorotannins, including triphlorethol-A, that are strong antioxidants.
  • Fucoidan is a sulfated polysaccharide seaweed compound derived from brown sea algae.
  • Kelp is a type of wild algae found in the ocean and is a rich source of micronutrients and minerals including vitamins C and E, calcium, magnesium, boron, and trace elements necessary for strong bones and muscle function.
  • Bladderwrack is a brown algae from the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans and is rich in vitamins and minerals as well as the sulfated polysaccharide fucoidan.
  • Dunaliella Salina is a sea microalgae with high carotenoid content (beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein), antioxidants, and important vitamins.
  • Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a type of bluegreen microalgae rich in chlorophyll, phycocyanin, a broad spectrum of minerals and phytonutrients, and vitamins A and K; that provides a complete protein profile.
  • Chlorella is a strain of green microalgae grown through freshwater aquaculture. It is rich in nucleic acids, amino acids, peptides, polysaccharides, and minerals.
  • Bluegreen Algae is considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth as it is rich in phytonutrients, plant-based proteins, vitamins minerals, and essential fatty acids, as well as a wide spectrum of micronutrients.

A Few More Immune Boosters
If you are looking to boost your immune system this winter, consider adding garlic and green or black tea to your meals. Garlic has allicin that is released when you chop or crush the cloves and has been found to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, boost immune function and help ward off colds. There are many research studies to support these claims including one in which participants were given a garlic extract over a twelve week period. The participants taking the garlic extract were shown to be 2/3 less likely to contract a cold than those that did not take garlic.

There has also been much research supporting the use of black and green tea to improve immunity. A Harvard study concluded that participants who drank 5 cups a day of black tea over a two week period had a significant increase in the interferon system’s ability to fight off viruses. This could be attributed to the L-theanine, an amino acid, both black and green tea contain. In addition, they both have antioxidants to help fight off free radical damage that can be done to cells causing inflammation and lowering immunity. Research has also been done indicating tea has antimicrobial properties and can be of benefit in reducing the risk of diabetes, weight loss, and increasing mental alertness.

Now is the time to start preparing your body for cold and flu season this winter by getting a jump start on boosting your immune system. No one wants to spend the winter missing out on fun activities and holiday festivities, so make sure you give yourself the advantage with strong immunity to fight all those nasty germs going around with some of these tips for improving immune function.

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