Tag Archives: Immune System

Cheering You on to Immune-beneficial Exercises

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Exercise n Immune_Trainer.aeWe are at the beginning of March. If you made a New Year’s resolution about health and have made some progress, cheers! If you don’t have a resolution or it fell off the wagon by the end of February, it’s time to get back on track. I’m here to help you by breaking down how a few types of exercise may boost your immune function.

Note that we are not talking about strenuous physical exercise (e.g., an Ironman race) performed by well-trained athletes. We will examine doable exercises for ordinary folks like you and me. The key is that you need to choose types of exercise that are appropriate for your particular situation.

Let’s start with moderate regular exercises.

This can be walking 20-30 minutes a day, yoga or pilates, stretching, dancing, and even badminton—physical activities that can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Moderate, regular physical exercise is considered to be associated with many health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, reduced weight gain, improved glucose tolerance, better sleep, and increased immunity to fight infection.

A few studies by the Kagawa group showed that walking at a forest park increased human “natural killer” cell activity and the level of anti-cancer proteins, with the effect lasting at least seven days. Because “natural killer” cells are a part of the immune response to cancer, the research provided an intriguing perspective despite the small samplings of human subjects in the studies.

Resistance exercise (weight training)

Resistance training ranges from push-ups and squats to weight lifting and weight machines in order to build strength. Maximal resistance exercise increases the acute immune response, which is measured by changes in circulating levels of leukocytes and inflammatory molecules (i.e. cytokines).

To avoid impairing the immune system, allow your body and your immune system the time to recover. For instance, give your muscles 48-72 hours to rest between resistance trainings.

Endurance exercise (aerobic, cardio training)

Aerobic exercise can stimulate the immune system. At the cellular level, research reveals that acute aerobic exercise greatly enhances a cellular signaling protein (G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2) that is involved in the regulation of hypertension and heart failure. The protein also regulates an inflammatory response, measured by activities of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (e.g. lymphocytes, a critical component of immune system), which was also stimulated by the aerobic exercise.

In a human study, eight weeks of endurance exercise also changed the blood levels of some inflammatory cytokines in a beneficial way in an elderly population and people with certain inflammatory diseases. In contrast, poor exercise capacity in patients even without heart failure is independently associated with markers of chronic inflammation, which may lead to infections following surgery.

Overall, how exercises improve immune function can be explained in the following ways: 1) Exercise may facilitate to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, which may help prevent upper respiratory tract infection (e.g. cold). 2) Exercise may make disease-fighting antibodies and immune system cells circulate faster so that they could detect illnesses earlier. And 3) Exercise may reduce the release of stress-related hormones, by which the power of immunity is enhanced and the chance of illness, lowered.

Study note:

The issue of exercise and its benefits in regard to alteration of the immune system is a complex one and a matter of delicate balance. It depends on whether the population is healthy or diseased, and even within unhealthy groups, the effect on cancer patients may differ from that on diabetic individuals. It also depends on types and workloads of exercise, parameters measured (e.g., hormonal, chemical factors, or proteins), transient versus sustained change, age groups studied, size of sampling, time-bound periods, and other factors.

To sum up –

Despite the fact that too much exercise can have a contrary effect and reduce immunity, exercises in various proper forms at all ages are AAA (triple A) – Actionable, Advantageous, and Awesome!! Therefore, keep doing exercise or getting more physically active one day at a time, and you’ll reap the benefits toward transforming your health and life.

 

Image credit: www.trainer.ae

New Angle on Cervical Cancer Risks

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

NEW Right Angle Tree_sFirst, you’ve gotten a key to cervical cancer awareness. Cervical cancer is preventable, and the best preventative strategy is to combine regular cervical screening with HPV vaccination. What else is new about cervical cancer?

HPV is not the only cause.

Although HPV is the major culprit of cervical cancer, a large number of women infected with HPV have never developed cervical cancer. So what additional factors contribute to the progression of a pre-cancerous lesion to invasive cancer?

  • Genetic factor
  • Smoking
  • Oral contraceptive use
  • Hormone replacement (may modulate the immune response to HPV)
  • Immune suppression

Obviously, cervical cancer development is a multi-factorial process and involves genetic, environmental, hormonal and immunological factors in addition to HPV. Of note, smoking appears to be the most significant environmental risk factor.

The immune system is a protector, but not danger-proof.

A wealth of research information reveals that a weakened immune system plays a role in cervical cancer, because -

  • Women with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection are subjected to a higher incidence of cervical cancer.
  • HPV-infected individuals with smoking history are susceptible to cervical cancer.
  • Persistence of HPV infection, in the presence of altered or suppressed immune system, can increase the incidence of cervical cancer.

You might wonder how cancer immunity works. It lies on two folds: one is so-called cancer immune surveillance, and the other, cancer immune escape. Simply speaking, cancer immune surveillance, the immune response, functions like a security camera that can identify a dangerous signal (e.g. bacteria, pathogen, or cancerous cells), in conjunction with groups of helpers (i.e. T cells) and warriors (i.e. Natural Killer cells) that can fight off or destroy cancer cells.

On the other hand, cancer immune escape implies that cancer behaves like a sneaky criminal using various means to get around your immune system, i.e. to escape cancer immune surveillance. As a result, the immune system is unable to eliminate cancerous cells, and cancer growth becomes non-stop. So, can you see what a critical role the immune system plays in fighting the cancer war?

Final words on HOPE and ACTION:

While we anticipate potential future therapy to stop cancer immune escape, we can do our best to strengthen cancer immune surveillance so that it doesn’t allow cancer to get out of control.

How to boost the immune system? See 25 Unbeatable Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System

 

Image Credit: By fPat

25 Unbeatable Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System

Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against diseases. Its functions range from fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses to destroying potentially cancerous cells. However, our immune systems are under attack in our daily lives from a variety of sources such as free radicals in the body, bacteria, UV radiation, environmental pollutants, and stress. It’s critical not only to ensure your immune system is always healthy but to maximize its natural defense function. Luckily, there are actions we can take to achieve this goal. This post shows you how.

1.  Eat a healthy diet. Mindfully include immune-boosting foods to everyday meals.
2.  Exercise and be physically active, from all-body workouts, running, walking, and dancing to gardening. The key is to keep moving.
3.  Cultivate a new hobby that’s physically demanding, makes your heart beat faster, and your blood circulate better. As a result, you’ll become more fit.
4.  Practice quietness. A quiet mind may promote inner peace and relaxation.
5.  Take a hot bath or shower. Soaking in a warm bath is another way of relaxation.
6.  Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation can impair immune system function.
7.  Reduce stress. Everybody gets stress from different areas of life. There can be a long list of stress management tips, but not all work for everyone. Have fun discovering and developing whatever works for you.
8.  Be kind. According to a good friend of mine who is an experienced oncologist, my dad’s prolonged life was certainly attributed to his extraordinary kindness, which made this doctor want to learn more about my dad’s kindness.
9.  Appreciate the “little things” in life and always maintain a positive and grateful attitude. Research found that individuals who have a negative frame of mind have difficulty properly recruiting their immune response and thereby pose a higher risk for illness compared with those with a positive attitude.
10.  Get outdoors. Whether you walk, ski, bike or hike, the combination of enjoying the beauty of nature and a dose of exercise boosts the immune system.
11.  Maintain a clutter-free home and workplace, because clutter is a stress-trigger. Clear those mental clutters, too.
12.  Laugh and smile often. Laughter boosts your immune system at no cost. The more folks laugh, the less depression they experience. If you have any difficulty laughing, seek “Laughter Yoga”, by checking out a local group that practices it.
13.  Have a sense of humor. Yes, some people have more of a funny bone than others. Yet, many people just don’t foster their funny side, a dimension that almost everyone possesses in some ways.
14.  Practice deep breathing and stay calm. Count 1,2, 3… before any anger takes over.
15.  Nurture your emotional well-being and be happy. If you don’t promote emotional health, your physical body will pay the price. Emotions are intimately involved in the initiation and progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and HIV.
16.  Take time off, and take breaks during the day.
17.  Eat a healthy breakfast, not just any breakfast. Skipping breakfast is even worse.
18.  Take whatever it takes to maintain a healthy weight. Remember, it could be a fun marathon, rather than an overnight remedy.
19.  Stop eating sugar. Sugar suppresses the immune system; even a teaspoon of sugar can reduce the activity of your body’s natural killer cells for hours. There are many wonderful foods that help boost your immune function, explore them and replace sugar.
20.  Eat more soups, especially chicken soup.
21.  Drink a lot of water. If possible, filter your drinking/cooking water.
22.  Drink more tea, especially green tea.
23.  Get plenty of fresh air; in particular, keep your indoor air clean and fresh.
24.  Deal with any health concern even a pain or an unusual spot as soon as possible. Fix any small problem for the optimal function of the big machine – your body.
25.  Develop good relationships around you. A strong family bond, a happy marriage, and good friendships can help you during good and tough times.

Bonus: Take multivitamin and mineral supplements to ensure an adequate supply of the essential nutrients that are needed by your body yet lacking from your diet. However, make sure you take a quality-controlled supplement rather than “just another supplement” or “cheap supplement” (see the tips on our website).

Our immune system is effective most of the time. Following the above tips will remarkably boost your immune system and promote your happiness.

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Photo credit: By thephotographymuse

Infection Is a Risk Factor for Cancer

We have discussed the association of salmonella typhi with gallbladder cancer in the last post. Let’s look at more examples on this topic.

Helicobacter pylori is linked to both gastric cancer and MALT lymphoma (a form of lymphoma involving the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue, often in the stomach); Chlamydia pneumoniae to lung cancer; Streptococcus bovis and/or Enteroccocus faecalis to colon cancer.

Although research has shown that certain bacteria are associated with human cancers, their role in cancer is of complex. Convincing evidence links some species to the formation of cancer while others appear promising in the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of cancers. However, you might wonder how bacteria infection could lead to cancer. Here I provide you some insights.

Bacteria may cause cancer through:

1. Chronic infection. Some bacterial toxins can negatively impact the process that controls the normal cell cycle and cell growth, others disrupt the cellular signaling pathways that regulate normal cell death, consequently promoting cancerous growth. In addition, infection-induced immune response may release immune modulating substances from inflammatory cells, contributing to carcinogenesis.

2. DNA damage. Bacteria can produce free radicals – very unstable but highly reactive with other molecules. They can bind to DNA and cause DNA mutation, thereby altering the genes that control normal cell division and cell death. Cancer is initiated when uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells takes place.

3. Weakened or suppressed immune system. The immune system is an important line of defense for any toxins or diseases including cancer. Toxins or pathogens sometimes can get away from the host’s immune system to survive, and then modify one’s immune function. When its function is compromised, the immune system no longer recognizes and fights bacteria or toxins as foreign bodies, nor gets rid of them.

That being said, don’t panic. A majority of individuals will not develop cancer after infection by a cancer-causing agent. However, be conscious and alert. The facts are:

  1. Certain individuals are more susceptible to cancer-causing infections.
  2. Incidence of certain cancers may vary among populations or geographic regions.
  3. It often takes years or decades between acquiring the infection and getting cancer.

Take-home-message:

Chronic infection is a risk factor for cancer. Staying away from or treating the infection may prevent it.

Photo illustration: Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

How to Smile

Smile – Is it easy or not?

Everybody can smile, it’s an ability we’re born with — no need for training. Yet, in our modern world, it’s amazing how many people walk around with frowns.

In addition to allowing us to spread our happiness, smiling stimulates our immune system and relieves stress. When one’s life is overwhelmed with stress and negativity, it’s hard to smile.

Practicing these S-M-I-L-E tips will make smiling easy.

S- is for serve.  When you serve, give, or help others, you feel good inside and out, and end up smiling.

M- is for manage. Manage stress and control negativity, which will make you relax and smile.

I- is for inspire. Are we all inspired by people who are upbeat, positive, and passionate? Be the one!

L- is for love. Love people and lighten up the world. What comes back to you is mostly based on what you give out.

E- is for enjoy. Life is short, enjoy the moment, and enjoy whatever you do — read, play, or work.

S-M-I-L-E and you will end up smiling, gaining all the benefits— socially, mentally, emotionally, and physically. You will be on the road to health and happiness.

Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” – Dale Carnegie

Can you smile to ten people tomorrow?

Photo credit: By Nanagyei

Delicate Mushrooms Are Strong Supporters for a Healthy Immune System

Do you eat mushrooms? I love them, white button mushroom, Portobello mushroom, fragrant mushrooms (Shiitake in Japanese name) etc. are used in many of our dishes.

Immune function, particularly natural and cell-mediated immune response, is critical to preventing and controlling infection and tumor. Nutritional food is one of strategies to efficiently modulate the immune cell response. Mushrooms have been among foods that possess immune modulating properties.

The most common mushroom in the US is the white button mushroom found in every supermarket and available year round. Studies indicate that they can enhance natural and cell-mediated immune response, and promote efficient defense mechanisms against microbial invasion and tumor development.

Fragrant mushroom has always been one of my favorite ingredients added to our family cuisine – the taste is delicious! That’s why one of my must-packed items from my China trip is dried fragrant mushrooms. They have long been reserved as both a delicacy and medicinal food. Fragrant (or Shiitake) mushroom can strengthen immune system through its component called lentinan, which stimulates the production of T lymphocytes, macrophages, and natural killer cells, as well as interleukins, the biologically active modifiers of inflammation and immunity.

In short, various strains of mushroom (white button, shiitake, maitake, etc.) have strong immune impact, which contribute to their anti-tumor properties. They are available fresh in many U.S. supermarkets and oriental grocery stores. Plus they are easy to incorporate into your daily diet.

Advice: It’s always safe to clean mushrooms thoroughly and cook them before consuming them, in order to avoid carcinogens or toxic compounds from any pesticides and any pathogens on the surface of raw mushrooms.

Photo credits: by Bura ; by frankenstoen