Nutrient therapy may help alleviate environmental allergies – nutrient supplementation helping the immune system
Deborah Seymour Taylor
Nutrient Therapy May Help Alleviate Environmental Allergies
For nearly four million years, the earth has remained relatively stable. As primitive man learned to create fire, the makeup of the air changed and 10,000 years ago with the invention of farming, eating habits were altered. Each of these evolutions happened gradually, over thousands of years, allowing the human body time to adapt. But in the last half of this century, environmental changes have begun taking place at an unprecedented rate.
Today, new chemical compounds are created and released into the environment at a staggering rate of one per minute. Suddenly man is under assault by his own planet. And one of the most deadly environments may well be his own home. As a matter of fact, the 1987 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report ranked indoor pollution such as radioactive radon gas, formaldehyde in carpets and furniture, and airborne chemicals from cleaning solvents, paints, perfumes, glues, waxes and heating fuels, at the top of the list of environmental risk factors.
Depending on individual sensitivity, allergic reactions to these man made pollutants may include red, burning eyes, sneezing, asthma, sore throats, headaches, recurrent infections, chronic fatigue and a host of psychological problems ranging from hyperactivity to severe depression.
Most healthy human beings are protected from this chemical avalanche by the immune system. Unfortunately, according to the “allergy threshold concept” one can go beyond his threshold of tolerance. Once this happens, the immune system weakens and chemical sensitivities develop. According to Alan Levin, M.D. and Merla Zellerbach, authors of The Type 1/Type 2 Allergy Relief Program, chemical sensitivities are the result of an immune system weakened by repeated infectious diseases, continuous stress and/or cumulative exposure to toxic chemicals. “The most extreme manifestation is universal reactivity to everything in the external environment, and even to the body’s own tissues and organs,” they said.
The immune system is made up of three types of white blood cells: B-cells, T-cells and macrophages. The B-cells produce antibodies. When B-cells encounter a foreign substance, or antigen, they begin to produce highly specific antibodies which attach, like keys into a lock, to the antigens to form “immune complexes.” Once these complexes are formed, amoeba-like macrophages engulf and destroy them.
T-cells control the action of the B-cells. Left to their own devices, B-cells would form antibodies to anything from harmless dust to nutrient-rich proteins. If a harmless substance enters, T-cells signal the B-cells to suppress antibody production. When a harmful substance enters, they signal the B-cells to go to work.
According to Dr. Levin, this T-cell control system is how vaccinations and allergy shots work. “T-cells can be programmed through vaccination or immunization to allow antibody production to previously unfamiliar but harmful antigens such as smallpox. Conversely, allergy shots. . . can program T-cells to recognize harmless antigens and to suppress production of their antibodies.”
But, said Dr. Levin, chemical sensitivities can arise when the number of T-cells is reduced or their ability to function is impaired. B-cells begin to form antibodies against both harmless and harmful substances. As immune complexes flood the bloodstream, a range of allergic symptoms from minor reactions to rheumatoid arthritis are produced.
Most experts agree that certain vitamins and minerals strengthen this immune response. One of the most potent immune stimulators is vitamin A. Often called the anti-infection vitamin, vitamin A strengthens the immune system by stimulating the thymus glands where immature T-cells are programmed for their role in the immune response. Vitamin A also is essential for the health of the skin and epithelial tissues. It helps maintain cell membrane structure and is needed for the maintenance of teeth, nails, eyes, hair, bones and glands. Vitamin A occurs in two principal forms: Retinol, found in animal sources such as milk and liver, and Carotene, found in yellow and orange vegetables. The RDA for vitamin A is 800 micrograms (ug) for females and 1,000 ug for males.
Another powerful immune booster, vitamin C helps thymic hormones change immature, inactive T-cells into mature cells to battle disease. According to Benjamin Siegel, Ph.D., Department of Pathology, University of Oregon at Eugene, vitamin C may increase the metabolism of some types of white blood cells, allowing them to react more quickly. Researchers in Belgium discovered that 500 mg of vitamin C administered daily through intramuscular injection for one month significantly bolstered the immune system in a group of healthy volunteers over 70. The group receiving the placebo shot showed no improvement. Those receiving the vitamin injections had better skin test responses to tuberculin antigens and in the test tube, their lymphocytes were found to be more active when exposed to a stimulating substance. Researchers concluded that vitamin C should be considered a “successful, non-toxic and inexpensive means of improving the immunity.”
Vitamin C also is required for the production of collagen, the intercellular cement that gives structure to muscles, vascular tissue, bone and cartilage. While most animals synthesize their own vitamin C within the body, man depends on external sources like citrus fruits, green vegetables and organ meats. Although the RDA is 60 mg daily, most experts suggest taking larger doses in supplemental form for optimal health.
Another immune booster is vitamin E. Simin Meydani, a consultant at the U.S.D.A. Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University in Boston, tested vitamin E on immune responsiveness in mice. “We supplemented aged mice with vitamin E and compared the effects by measuring different parameters of immune response,” she said. The supplemented mice showed a definite improvement in their responses to skin tests with lymphocyte proliferation significantly improved by supplementation.
Dr. Meydani believes vitamin E works by inhibiting prostaglandin formation. “Prostaglandins have a lot of different functions: in the immune system, they generally have an inhibitory effect.”
The primary role of vitamin E is to protect the body tissues from oxygen damage. The richest dietary sources are seed oils and nuts, whole grains, leafy green vegetables and eggs. Gary Null, author of The Complete Guide to Health and Nutrition recommends 30 to 400 units per day.
Zinc, a mineral that exists in borderline amounts in the typical American diet, is another powerful immunostimulant. A deficiency, according to Michael Rosenbaum, M.D., and Dominick Bosco in Super Fitness Beyond Vitamins, “is known to speed up the atrophy of the thymus gland and reduce the number of T-cells.” According to the Lancet scientists in Italy discovered that one of the hormones associated with immunity called FTS, is affected by marginal zinc deficiencies. FTS is secreted by the thymus gland. The group found that both children with Down’s syndrome and the elderly had a similar lack of circulating FTS, along with a zinc deficiency.
Claudio Franceschi, M.D., professor of immunology at the University of Padua, Italy was intrigued by the finding, since Down’s syndrome children “show at an early age normal subjective factors of aging, such as autoimmunity, an increase in leukemia, the graying of the hair and cataracts.” In subsequent investigations, they found that FTS is biologically bound to zinc and requires the mineral to be effective. When a group of children with Down’s syndrome was given a dietary supplement of zinc (1 mg per 22 pounds of body weight) they had fewer infections.
Glandulars also strengthen the immune system. According to Dr. Rosenbaum, “[raw glandulars] were among the original cornerstones of medicine, and were first used many thousands of years ago. They worked under the assumption that `like heals like,’ or that an ailing human organ or gland could be healed by administering tissue from the same organ or gland from an animal.”
Raw thymus extract, in particular, has been used successfully to boost immune strength in those with weakened systems. “You want all the possible rejuvenation of the thymus gland that you can get,” said Rosenbaum, “because the thymus gland is the major controlling gland of the immune system. It is the teacher gland that instructs the immune cells how to select and destroy foreign invaders.”
Raw spleen concentrate is another important glandular for immune function. The spleen is the largest lymphatic organ. White blood cells and macrophages are formed and stored in this important organ. Raw spleen concentrate and extract has been used since 1929 for support and stimulation of the immune system, specifically in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Disease.
Raw adrenal substance also is important. Since the adrenal glands are the stress glands, they are vital in any condition in which lowered resistance causes subsequent allergic reaction. The adrenal glands regulate adrenalin metabolism which opposes histamine, a substance released in allergic reactions. Histamine causes dilation of blood vessels, swollen nasal tissue, sneezing and red, itchy eyes. When adrenals are at an ebb, the immune system is not primed for an adequate defense.
Today, the role of nutrition in immune strength is a subject of intensive investigation in laboratories across the country. The quality of your health is a good measure of the strength of your immune system. If you suffer from recurrent infections or yearly colds and viruses, consider boosting your immune response with some of these vitamins and minerals. Most are available at your health food store.
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Your Health, New York: Simon and Schuster,
1982. 2. Levin, Alan Scott, M.D. and Zellerbach, Merla. The
Type 1/Type 2 Allergy Relief Program. Los Angeles:
Jeremy P. Tarcher Inc., 1983. 3. Golos, Natalie, O’Shea, James F., M.D., and Waickman,
Francis J. M.D., with Golbitz, Frances Golos.
Environmental Medicine. New Canaan, Conn. Keats
Publishing Inc., 1987. 4. Rosenbaum, Michael E. M.D., and Bosco, Dominick.
Super Fitness Beyond Vitamins. New York: New
American Library, 1987.
PHOTO : Persons suffering from environmental allergies can now enjoy the outdoors, thanks to results of breakthrough research into their condition.
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