Tag Archives: Immune system

Hopes for a New Breast Cancer Vaccine

English: pink ribbon

In closing out this month of breast cancer awareness I wanted to uncover some new developments in the area of prevention; and, lo and behold, I came across information on an actual breast cancer vaccine that is making good strides in the research and trial phases. Thus far, this vaccine has shown a promising ability to reduce the amount of disease recurrence, and it seems to be well tolerated by its recipients. Presently known as AE37, the vaccine teaches our immune system to identify the prominent tumor promoting cancer protein HER2 as a definitive threat warranting attack by the body.

Leading researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Department of Surgical Oncology believe the best way to develop the vaccine is to introduce it to women who have already had breast cancer. Like other vaccines, the AE37 actually contains a small portion of the offensive HER2 protein along with other proteins. And in studies the vaccine has been uniquely paired with an immune system stimulant that is rapidly recognized by the human body’s most aggressive defenders, the CD4+T cells, that ” prompt components of the immune system to seek and destroy tumor cells.”*

As with so many other clinical trials of experimental cancer treatments, the initial studies were done on groups where the disease had already progressed and metastasized. Though it was not expected to yield dramatic improvements in these cases, it could be an effective way to gauge the vaccine’s potential and limitations and determine any possible side effects. And in AE37’s case, as anticipated, it proved to be more beneficial as a preventive measure to disease recurrence than as a treatment for an active and progressing cancer. Subsequent trials supported this, with data results indicating a possible 40% reduction in the risk of disease recurrence along with the vaccine’s ability to be effective against various levels of the HER2 protein. Additionally, the side effects experienced were as minimal as pain and redness at the injection site and only as extreme as bone pain and flu-like symptoms.

These preliminary results are of the caliber needed to advance to the later phase trials and studies, and that certainly offers a ray of hope, not only to those researching ways to enhance cancer immunity, but for all current and future survivors. No doubt much work still needs to be done, but thankfully some very thoughtful and innovative science is being practiced so that the notion of preventing this disease may actually become a reality. It can never ease the pain felt as we reflect on the plight of those loved ones lost too soon; but maybe, when we find ourselves worn by the grief, it can pick our heads up and reset our sights on all that is still possible in the world of prevention and healing.

To read more about the progress of this and other potential breast cancer vaccines, please visit:

*http://www.mdanderson.org/newsroom/news-releases/2012/hybrid-vaccine.html

Until Next Time,

Be Hopeful and BeWell

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Stress Buster, Gut Blaster, Mind Mender-What Doesn’t Rhodiola Do?

Greetings folks, during last week’s post I proclaimed  Resvitale’s  Cocoa Energy Restore my little holiday secret, not only for its energizing and mood enhancing powers but also for its inclusion of three highly regarded adaptogenic herbs- Schisandra, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola. Quick study break:

“Adaptogens deliver minute shocks of mild stress that condition your physiology to respond to more major stresses in a favorable way. Adaptogens exert a normalizing effect, allowing organisms to increase healthy functions that are impaired by stress, and to decrease unhealthy responses that are triggered by stress, without any risk of ‘overshooting’ and creating an unbalanced response…adaptogens simply enhance the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis and fight age-inducing stress.”*

So, as the season of giving rolls in, I’ve been paying particular attention to how much I give in to anxiety and lack-luster energy. I haven’t researched the exact stats, but I’d venture to say that this time of year is at least one of the most marred by those annoying, albeit momentarily, incapacitating little illnesses.  AND I REFUSE TO GO DOWN LIKE THAT!!!  Sorry to be so aggressive in my declaration, but I am extra determined this year. Anyhoo, in my quest for efficient and cost-effective ways to stay healthy, invigorated and yet still at Level 2 (as my friends say), I’ve directed my attention to the class of nutrients most qualified for the job. Now, I admit that I tend to fall fast. Frankly, I first developed a serious infatuation with Schisandra and Ashwagandha because their names are so dog gone cool. And now, I am seeing that Rhodiola too is a genuine keeper. Let’s get started.

Rhodiola Rosea typically grows in colder, mountainous environments and has been used for centuries by natives of Central Asia and Northern Europe to combat the resulting stresses in living with the colder temperatures and higher altitudes of those regions. The root of this flowering plant has and continues to be the more studied part and is therefore most commonly supplemented. There are many healthful nutrients contained within Rhodiola giving it the ability to serve in several different capacities including antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial. By definition, adaptogens work their magic in a number of different ways through various biological systems, but what I find most appealing and seasonally appropriate about this one is its ability to 1) reduce our production of the stress hormone cortisol 2) seemingly outwit anxiety and 3) prevent toxin induced stress to liver cells. Let’s be real, this time of year can usher in a serious case of the “I need a stiff one to take the edge off’s”, so (not suggesting a means to over indulge in unhealthy behavior) any assistance in the area of damage control is much appreciated.

Our #1 Frenemy 

Cortisol is the hormone released by our bodies when we encounter stressful situations. In short bursts for brief periods of time it helps us to survive what the mind perceives to be threatening circumstances. Remember the “stress response” cycle that kicks in gear when confronted with these scenarios– rush of adrenaline, increased heart rate and blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels. It serves our survival in the short-term, but can dramatically cut our life span in the long. Frequent, repeated release of cortisol with little to no recovery time between is a consequence of chronic stress, and the dangers of chronically elevated cortisol are weight gain in the abdomen (more work for the heart), hypertension, hyperglycemia and suppression of immune function. Rhodiola confronts the stress response cycle by acting directly on,” the brain – adrenal gland system to reduce cortisol production while enhancing stress resistance…”*

So, less cortisol without losing the ability to perform and overcome stress, I’ll take it.

Fear Factor

In studies conducted on actual human subjects (not that mice don’t have their problems too, but…), participants struggling with symptoms of general anxiety disorder-frequent, excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbances-experienced significant reductions in their symptoms after receiving 340mg of Rhodiola Rosea extract daily for 10 weeks.

Ok ten weeks, taking us through the New Year and straight into the recovery phase. Something to look forward to.

Liver Lover

The liver acts as our body’s filter. Macro and micro nutrients, hormones, supplements, medications, alcohol and an innumerable amount of other substances are processed by the liver. In many ways, our body’s health depends on our liver. As an antioxidant, Rhodiola protects the cells of the liver from damage by toxins and other stressors. It has also shown the capacity to reduce liver dysfunction and even restore the liver’s own natural antioxidants.

Whether you’re boosting your immunity with vitamins, your disposition with spirits, or your recovery with medication, you can’t go wrong caring for the liver.

And If That Weren’t Enough

Rhodiola is also known to:

  • Improve physical performance by increasing oxygen intake and decreasing muscle damage
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Protect and restore brain cells
  • Enhance immune function
  • Inhibit cancer cell growth
  • Slow the aging process

Rhodiola can be supplemented alone or in combination with other adaptogens. Beware of supplements that only contain extractions of the Rhodiola constituent Saldroside. Many manufacturers believe it to be the most healthful nutrient in the herb, and only supply that. Opt for the whole root extractions instead because there are many other beneficial nutrients within the Rhodiola herb. And, as with most herbs, the nutrients within are each naturally present in the most healthful amounts and balanced in a way that best compliments the other components. Choose a supplement that provides about 200-300mg of Rhodiola Rosea root extract per serving, standardized to supply the individual constituents of the herb in the amounts most consistent with the natural plant. Nature knows best. Trust in her and as always…

BeWell

*Jan Whiticomb, “Reducing the Risks of High Cortisol,” LifeExtension September/October 2011: 46 and 49.

Armed and Immune Part II: Allergies… Really?

Last week I wasn’t sure if my sniffling and scratching was due to allergies or the onset of a cold. This week, as I awake to puffy eyes and eagerly await the afternoon to see my face restored to its usual size and shape, I’m leaning more toward allergies as the culprit. And as I watched my dear friend rapidly progress from itchy eyes to a full-blown sneeze attack, any remaining doubt disappeared. Wait a minute though, allergies seem unlikely because the seasons for pollination have passed. Right?

Actually, not quite. I did a little more research, and sure enough, fall allergies are not just figments of our imaginations. Ragweed, which begins to pollinate in August, is considered the greatest trigger of the coming season.
And mold, another offender, will get a tremendous breeding boost when its spores take up residence in the piles of fallen damp leaves soon to decorate our streets and yards.  Both of these irritants can take flight, travel hundreds of miles, and share their joy with unsuspecting victims in faraway places. Nature- got to love it.

But our immune systems sure don’t. They are equally agitated and confused by these bullies-identifying them as harmful threats and
striking back with the same vengeance they would a bacterial or viral
infection. Although last week’s VitaTrio is a wonderful foundation for the immune system, enabling it to protect and sustain us, some assistance from more trigger ready nutrients can offer the immediate relief most desired when up against  inflamed sinuses, watery eyes, runny noses and fatigue.

MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, is mostly regarded for its ability to heal body tissue and is consequently included in many hair, skin, nail and joint formulas. As a dancer, I’ve used it for years to help care for my overstressed knees and hips, and I was surprised to learn that it “has antiallergic properties equal to or better than those of antihistamines,” helping to detoxify the cells, relieve inflammation and alleviate pain.*

MSM is contained in fresh fish, meats, fruits and milk but is sensitive to food processing procedures like heating and drying and is therefore usually eliminated from our diets before the food can make it to our
plates. Thankfully, supplemental MSM is available in liquid and pill forms and can safely be used in high doses for extended periods of time, without side effects or adverse interactions with other medications.

Combining MSM with a Vitamin C supplement will increase its benefits, as will taking the supplement on a consistent basis to avail a constant supply to our systems. The recommended starting point is 1000 mgs per day, taken in divided doses, twice daily, with meals. Benefits may be experienced in as soon as two days.

Quercetin is one of the bioflavonoid nutrients that are essential to our bodies’ absorption of Vitamin C. Peppers, grapefruits, lemons, apricots, blackberries, elderberries, rosehips and the white material beneath the peels of citrus fruits all contain bioflavonoids. And many Vitamin C supplements are formulated with them for enhanced absorption.

In medical studies, quercetin reduced allergy sufferers’ histamine release by as much as 96%. It decreases the immune system’s response to pollen, certain foods and other allergens such as dust and has also shown potential in treating and preventing asthma symptoms. Quercetin’s absorption
and effectiveness within the body is enhanced by the enzyme bromelain, found in pineapples. Bromelain also reduces inflammation, the root cause of much allergy induced sinus pressure and head pain. Start with 500 mgs of quercetin, 100 mgs of bromelain and 500 mgs of vitamin C together, twice per day, and gradually increase as needed.

Just a Spoon Full of Honey…

Once, out of desperation, I tried an over the counter antihistamine for relief, but I found it to be too drying to my nose and throat and that was almost as uncomfortable as the actual allergy symptoms.
Surprisingly, and luckily, a recommendation of state produced honey panned out and did the trick. You want the honey produced within the state because it contains the pollen you are having the allergic reaction to. This is similar to receiving a vaccine to increase your body’s defenses against a particular virus. Take about one tablespoon, as needed, to provide immediate relief of mild to moderate symptoms and increase overall immunity. I find that the honey works best when taken straight, but it may be easier for some to swallow in a tea. Using it to sweeten lemon, elderberry or rosehips tea will provide a double dose of protection due the quercetin contained in these foods. Until next week…

Arm Yourself and BeWell!


*Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, Prescription for Nutritional Healing 4th Edition. New York, NY: The Penguin Group, 2006

Armed and Immune: Part I-The VitaTrio

So here they come again, the ever-present scratchy throat, occasional sniffle, and then the full on sneeze. Could be a cold; could be allergies. Regardless, it is annoying and not at all unusual for these times of the year.

That space of time between two seasons is about serious transformation and our bodies are focused on transitioning and adapting to the upcoming changes.The brunt of burden falls upon our immune systems, and their jobs are multifold. They must properly identify a threat, confine and rid the body of it, and store the information for later use. And this has to been done efficiently, in a way that does not over tax because if and when we face that threat again, the immune system is expected to handle the situation even better than before.

Our job is to empower our systems by thinking positively, resting properly, and managing our stress levels. We can also help the process along by feeding it potent disease fighting nutrients. The selection of immune enhancers to choose from is immense, and we’ll cover both the tried and true as well as some lesser known. First up, the ACE Vita Trio!

 Vitamin A in what is called its “preformed
state” is known as Retinol. And yes, this is the same form that has taken over
the cosmetic industry’s anti-aging department. Retinol is found most abundantly
in fish liver oil – Grandma was right all along–  egg yolks, cream and butter. The
form converted to Vitamin A by our bodies, aka “Provitamin A”, is the
beta-carotene found in yellow and orange fruits and veggies and dark leafy
greens.

Vitamin A, among many other
things, is responsible for protecting, healing and growing bodily tissues
including bones, skin and the fine linings and membranes of our internal organs
and cells. It works best with sufficient levels of fellow antioxidant nutrients
Vitamin E and Zinc,”… and an adequate intake of protein”. * Our bodies need at
least 5000 IUs per day of Vitamin A to avoid deficiency. 10,000 IUs is a good
and safe amount to take in on a daily basis, but 20,000-30,000 IUs per day may
be best for those managing stressful lives and dealing with occasional anxiety.
Two medium-sized carrots a day provide the body with about 10 to 15,000 IUs of
beta-carotene that the upper intestines and liver can convert into the
necessary 5000 IUs of Vitamin A. Keeping your body stocked with adequate levels
of Vitamin C and E prevents our stores of Vitamin A from running low.

Quick Tip: Check the quality of
your night vision for indications of a Vitamin A deficiency. It is also necessary
 to the production of the chemical that allows us to see in the dark.

The Citrus V

Vitamin C, found abundantly in citrus fruits, is probably the most
relied upon vitamin of all and for good reason. It is a crucial anti-oxidant
vitamin that not only helps prevent the creation of disease-causing free radicals, it also protects the other antioxidant vitamins A and E.
Vitamin C, aka Ascorbic Acid, is not produced by the body,  and so must be obtained through our
diets. It is only found in fruits and vegetables and is most available in fresh
raw produce as its lack of stability makes it difficult to survive the cooking process.

Many are aware of the citrus vitamin’s aid to the immune system.
Anecdotal and scientific evidence exists to support its use for everything from
the common cold to cancer. However, you may not know its role in mood balance,
a significant contributor to immune system integrity. Vitamin C aids in the
metabolism of both Tyrosine and Tryptophan. Tyrosine and Tryptophan, as
previously covered, work hand in hand
for the nervous system to counteract anxiety and mild to moderate depression.
They keep us in a positive mind state and therefore more resistant to illness.

Additionally, Vitamin C aids the production of Thyroid Hormone, the
metabolism and elimination of cholesterol and the formation and maintenance of
the collagen that is present in all of our bodies’ connective tissues-skin,
joints, capillary walls, bones, teeth, you name it!

The minimum recommended daily amount is 60 mg for the average adult, 80
mg for expecting mothers and 35 mg for infants. Higher amounts are required
during stressful times and times of decreased immune function. The adult body
will absorb no more than about 1000 mg at a time and excrete any amount that it
does not need. For this reason, a time released Vitamin C supplement is
recommended to insure full absorption of this invaluable nutrient.

Vitamin E-Tocopherol

The tocopherol family, was first isolated from wheat germ oil (still
many’s preferred supplement form) and is found in the protective coverings of all
grains, seeds and nuts. To safely extract the Vitamin E from the source, one
must do so naturally such as by cold pressing the grain or seed. Due to
this heat sensitivity, the resulting oils should be consumed uncooked.
Drizzling a cold pressed nut oil over salads, veggies and meats is a great way
to boost the antioxidant value of your meal; and if your diet is heavy in
unsaturated fats, this addition  will go a long way towards improving your cardiovascular health.

“ vitamin E’s key function is to modify and stabilize blood fats so that the blood vessels,
heart, and entire body are more protected ”. *

That’s quite an order for one vitamin, but certainly not beyond its
capabilities. Much research and study is being done on the tocopherol family to
determine its benefit to ailments ranging from protection against the toxic
effects of smoke and alcohol to prevention of autoimmune diseases. What is
clear now is that it does enhance immunity and is particularly effective at
treating viruses. We also know that Vitamin E’s abilities are amplified by its
fellow antioxidant friends Vitamin A and C.

 Quick Tip:To get the greatest bang for
 your buck, supplement the potent D-Alpha tocopherol form and take it in the
morning before breakfast or at night before bed. Recommended daily doses range
 anywhere from 400-600 IUs for prevention to 800-1600 IU’s for healing. Always
start on the lower end and increase your dosage gradually. And always consult
with your health care provider for any specific considerations you should be
mindful of while supplementing.

The ACE trio can be taken separately as part of a nutritional healing program or together for general antioxidant protection. And as you’ll see in this series, many great formulas combine these with other medicinal nutrients for comprehensive immune care. More on those next week, until then…

BeWell!

*Elson M. Haas, M.D., Staying Healthy with Nutrition, the Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1992