August 2020 - Wakunaga of America

Understanding the Immune System and How to Keep It Strong

The Immune System Explained

The immune system is made of special organs, cells, and chemicals that fight infection. It is a finely coordinated collection of specialized cells, communicating to each other via unique chemicals and specialized receptors. Immune cells have their own circulatory system, which is called the lymphatic system. Lymphatic fluid bathes the body as it transports white blood cells to areas of infection or injury. Immune system cells are located in various lymph nodes that are strategically positioned throughout the body. The spleen, located in the upper left part of the abdomen, manufactures lymphocytes and traps foreign antigens in order to trigger an immune response.

“Main Players” in the Immune System

Here are the primary players in the immune system, that help the body protect itself.1

Phagocytes: The first line-of-defensive “scouts” of the immune system are phagocytic cells called dendritic cells, macrophages, and neutrophils. All of these phagocyte cells zip through the body, and engulf and kill antigens. This immune process of engulfing/devouring antigens by phagocytic cells provides your natural immunity. After killing the antigen, phagocytic cells return to the lymph nodes to start their next course of action, which is to stimulate other cells of the immune system to activate “acquired immunity”. Acquired immunity begins after a phagocytic cell “devours” an antigen. It then signals the next group of immune cells, T and B lymphocytes, to spring into action.

Lymphocytes: These are a type of white blood cell that are mainly made up of T and B lymphocytes. They act on virus-infected body cells and also attack fungi and parasites. In addition, T-cells are an important part of the immune system’s destruction of cancerous cells. After being triggered by a phagocyte, T-cells attach to the antigenic cell and inject a protein that kills it.

Killer cells: Killer cells are lymphocytes that rush out, bind themselves to infected cells and kill them by injecting poison.

T-cells: When stimulated into action by a phagocyte, helper T-cells stimulate T or B cells to destroy the antigen. Helper T-cells are known as TH1 cells. Those that stimulate B-cells are known as TH2 cells. When activated, primed B-cells multiply rapidly and mature to become plasma cells. Plasma cells are factories for an outpouring of antibodies directed against a specific antigen.

Antibodies: Antibodies are proteins that are released from plasma cells into the blood. Once triggered, these proteins discharge molecules called cytokines, which stimulate cells to move to areas that need help, almost like a commanding officer shouting out orders.

Immune Health Strategy

Our immune system doesn’t just spring into action during the height of cold and flu season like some might think. It fights inflammation, which is the main cause of all chronic-disease, throughout the year. Various immune-health supplements and nutrients can empower our immune system to perform even stronger, and one of the best nutrients to do this, is Aged Garlic Extract. The properties that make Aged Garlic Extract such a powerful tool in maintaining cardiovascular health give us a window into why it also benefits the immune system. It supports healthy inflammation response and reduces oxidation. In moving the system away from chronic immune activation, it frees the body to fight invaders rather than constantly work to do things like push blood through inflamed arteries.

The aging process strengthens garlic’s antioxidant content, helping the body to make more lymphocytes, including powerful killer cells, as well as more antibodies. It also cranks up the action of existing lymphocytes as well.2

Other Immune Boosting Nutrients

Besides Aged Garlic Extract, there are a few other nutrients you can add to your diet to keep your immune system in fighting shape.

Astragalus: Astragalus is an herbal supplement that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Some evidence suggests it can enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation by increasing the body’s production of white blood cells (which are the cells of your immune system responsible for preventing illness).3

Zinc: Zinc has become a popular treatment for the common cold. It keeps the immune system strong, and also helps to heal wounds. Some studies have shown that zinc may reduce the duration of the common cold by one to two days, and may reduce the number of upper respiratory infections in children.4

Vitamin C: Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is essential for immune cells to function properly. It is depleted during infections, so a vitamin C deficiency may increase a person’s risk of getting sick. Adding more Vitamin C to your diet will not reduce your risk of catching a cold, but it may speed up your recovery time and reduce the severity of your symptoms.5

Build up your immune system with the nutrients mentioned above, and proactively support your immunity year-round, so you can enter (and exit) the cold and flu season with ease.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

Yoga Poses for Better Digestion

We’re talking about yoga! In addition to its other health benefits, including increased flexibility, increased muscle strength, improved energy, and increased circulatory health, there is another little known benefit, and it has to do with your digestion. You can think of your yoga exercises as a massage for your internal organs. If you’re dealing with gut issues, gentle yoga poses and deep breathing are great ways to relax the gut. Yoga is also very detoxifying, a key factor in improving digestion. The twisting postures can help to enhance your digestion, and encourage your liver and kidneys to flush out toxins1. Yoga can also help with bloating, increasing the amount of oxygen to the area.

Understanding Digestion

Before we get more into yoga and look at special poses to help with digestion, let’s talk a little more about digestion. The body uses the process of digestion to break down food into a form that can be absorbed and used for fuel. The organs of the digestive system are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and the small and large intestine. More organs than you thought, right? Recognizing how these organs work together is important in understanding how digestion works.

The digestive process starts in the mouth. Even before you eat, the anticipation of eating stimulates the glands in the mouth to produce saliva. The digestive system carries out three main processes in the mouth, mixing food, moving food through the digestive tract, and then using chemicals to break down this food. Next up is the esophagus. This is a long, muscular tube connecting your mouth to your stomach. When you swallow, the muscles squeeze together, moving food downwards to the stomach. The stomach contains hydrochloric acid and enzymes that starts the process of breaking down food. The muscles in the stomach churn food and break it all down into a liquid. The small intestine is where most chemical digestion happens, using bile and enzymes. The large intestine, commonly known as the colon, absorbs water and electrolytes. Bacteria here produces Vitamin K and biotin. The pancreas then secretes hormones including insulin and glucagon, as well as digestive enzymes to further break down carbs, fats, and proteins. The gallbladder stores bile, a liquid made by your liver, which helps digest fats and some vitamins. Lastly, your liver produces hormones, stores glycogen (used for energy), breaks down red blood cells so that we can replace them with healthy ones, synthesizes proteins, and detoxifies2.

Deeper Dive Into Yoga

The reason yoga is so beneficial for your digestion, is because it can help to relieve some common digestive problems, like constipation, stomach pain, gas, and even acid reflux, with that gentle massaging action that we mentioned earlier. There are many yoga poses that can stimulate the intestines, pancreas, and stomach, helping keep these organs strong and healthy.

Certain yoga poses have been known to bring about the following improvements: eliminate constipation problems, decrease gas, increase production of mucous, reduce acid, improve absorption of food, and even improve gastrointestinal circulation3. It is important to note though, if you plan on practicing a few yoga poses for healthy digestion, there are a few precautions to take. The first, is to perform yoga poses in the mornings, on an empty stomach. Also, try not to hurry to do each pose, practice breathing and relax. Refrain from practicing yoga if you have just had a surgery or suffer from appendicitis, hernia, or other abdominal injury.

Without further ado, here are the top two yoga poses for better digestion:

Downward Facing Dog

Begin in this post in a plank position, arms and feet hip-distance apart, hands and feet grounded. Begin to lift your hips upwards, strengthening your core and letting your head drop. Have a slight bend in your knees, gently pulling your shoulders away from your ears and lengthening your spine. Hold position for 1-3 minutes, and repeat 8-10 times.

Cat/Cow Posture

From a seated position, get onto your hands and knees, knees hip-distance apart.  Place hands firmly on the ground/mat. Have your shoulders positioned beneath your hands. Inhale deeply, bringing your shoulders back, raising your face and looking upwards and lift your hips, gently, curving your back. Hold, and deeply exhale, curving your back upwards, dropping your head and look downwards, and pull your sit bones inwards. Repeat 10 times.

In addition to improving digestion, these poses may also contribute to increased relaxation, and restore energy. Good luck, and namaste!

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Key Supplements for Better Heart Health

Before we get into the best supplements for your cardiovascular health, let’s take a closer look at some basics regarding eating well for a healthy heart. Now, you may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, fats and carbohydrates, and are generally lower in calories. They may help you to manage your weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. Overall, a heart healthy diet emphasizes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes. Try to limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you choose to eat red meat, compare labels and select the leanest cuts available. One diet that fits this pattern is called the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)1. Most healthy eating patterns can be adapted based on calorie requirements and your personal food preferences.

Top Supplements for Heart Health

In addition to eating well, you may need to consider adding a few heart healthy supplements to your routine to help fill any nutritional gaps in your diet.

Aged Garlic Extract (AGE)

Aged Garlic Extract is one of the most heavily researched herbal medicines today and is among the most commonly used supplements in people with heart disease. In studies, AGE is the type of garlic supplement that has been most consistently shown to have favorable effects on heart health. Kyolic AGE is produced through a proprietary aging process that eliminates garlic odor and harsh side effects. A heart-healthy dose is 1,200 mg daily. AGE can support healthy blood pressure levels, keep bad cholesterol in check, protect LDL (bad cholesterol) from oxidation, increase adiponectin (a hormone that helps protect against inflammation), thins your blood, and staves off plaque in your artieries2.

Coenzyme Q10

CoQ10 is a natural compound made by your body that has antioxidant properties. It is considered an “energy generator,” that enhances your heart’s pumping ability. Your body naturally makes some CoQ10, but it only makes a limited amount. CoQ10 is especially important to take if you are on a statin drug, because studies show that when you take a statin drug to lower cholesterol, you deplete CoQ103.

Red Yeast Rice

Red Yeast Rice is a fermented rice supplement produced by growing red yeast on white rice. Red yeast contains a small amount of a naturally occurring statin that lowers cholesterol. So it works like a statin drug by blocking an enzyme that is involved in making cholesterol4. If you’ve had side effects from taking a statin drug though, such as muscle aches and weakness, you should be cautious with red yeast rice, especially high doses, as you may experience the same side effects from the supplement. It is always best to talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement regimen.

Phytosterols

Phytosterols are compounds naturally found in the cell membranes of foods from certain plants, and they have a chemical structure that’s similar to cholesterol. Because of that, they can compete with cholesterol for absorption in your gut, which may help lower LDL in your bloodstream5. You consume small amounts of phytosterols when you eat vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Foods containing at least 0.65 grams per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. Adding a supplement with Phytosterols can ensure that you are doing all you can to keep your cholesterol levels in check.

Take charge of your heart health by eating well, keep exercising and working some of these cardiovascular supplements into your daily routine.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

The Aged Garlic Extract Difference

Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants on the planet and has been used by various cultures for thousands of years. It was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians and thought to ward off evil spirits and increase strength. Ancient Greeks and Romans loved their garlic, too. Greek athletes and soldiers ate garlic before entering the arena or the battlefield because they also thought it had strength-enhancing properties. Greek midwives hung garlic cloves in birthing rooms to repel demons. Roman soldiers ate garlic for inspiration and courage.


Through the ages, garlic has also been credited with numerous health benefits. Hippocrates, widely known as the “father of medicine,” prescribed garlic to treat wounds, fight infection, and ease digestive disorders. Garlic’s reputation as a medicinal wonder continued into the Middle Ages. It was used in attempts to prevent the plague, cure leprosy, and treat a long list of other ailments. 

Traditionally, garlic bulbs were prepared in a variety of ways for medicinal purposes. The juice of the bulb was extracted and taken internally, while the bulb was ground into a paste for external treatment. Since then, garlic has been made into oils, tinctures, tablets, and capsules that have enjoyed much popularity thanks to its rich antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

The Aging Process

However, as a growing number of studies show, there’s significantly more to garlic’s health benefits—and aging is the key. The Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) used in Wakunaga’s Kyolic brand supplements begins with garlic from certified organic farms in California’s Central Valley, where it is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. When fully mature, the garlic is harvested, cleaned, and sliced before being placed in specialized stainless steel containers where it is aged without heat for up to 20 months. This proprietary process increases the garlic’s antioxidant potential and converts harsh and unstable organosulfur compounds into the odorless, non-irritating, and bioavailable compounds which are responsible for AGE’s numerous health benefits.  Learn more about the chemistry of garlic here.

Kyolic’s aging process is quality assured from soil to shelf. The production process is controlled by over 250 stringent quality checks to ensure its safety and efficacy. Our manufacturing facility conforms to cGMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) guidelines in addition to ISO 9001:2015 and other international standards demonstrating our company’s commitment to the Quality Management System as audited by Intertek®. Learn more about our commitment to quality here.

Over forty-seven years of clinical research have documented the numerous benefits of Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract including:

  •         Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels*
  •         Slowing the progression of coronary artery calcification*
  •         Inhibiting the accumulation of “soft” unstable plaque*
  •         Decreasing blood platelet adhesion and aggregation*
  •         Enhancing circulation*
  •         Supporting immune function*
  •         Reducing the risk of gingivitis*
  •         Easing stress*
  •         Improving gut microbiota*

Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract is the most clinically researched garlic supplement on the market. To date, it has been the subject of more than 870 peer-reviewed scientific articles from prestigious universities and research institutes from around the world, documenting both its efficacy and an unparalleled safety record.  With Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract’s foundation in science, consumers can have confidence in every bottle they buy.

That’s the Kyolic difference.

 

The Unique Chemistry of Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract

While many of these texts promoted garlic for its supposed ability to enhance strength and increase the capacity for work, it was also used by early physicians to treat a variety of ailments.

The compound credited for garlic’s benefits throughout the ages was allicin, which is produced when fresh garlic is chopped or crushed. Although allicin appears to provide antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant benefits in test tube experiments, human trials haven’t shown the same results. This is likely because, when allicin reacts with blood, it oxidizes and quickly metabolizes before it can do any good.

Because of this chemical instability, there are no clinical trials showing that allicin is bioavailable or beneficial to human health. In one study, participants ate 25 grams (10 cloves) of fresh garlic that had been crushed to provide a large amount of allicin. After examining blood and urine samples from each participant, the researchers found that no allicin or the 16 compounds related to allicin were present from one to 24 hours after consumption.

What’s more, research shows that most garlic supplements don’t actually contain ANY bioavailable allicin. If traditional garlic supplements don’t deliver allicin to the body, or if allicin can’t do what’s promised, what makes Aged Garlic Extract so effective?

What is S-allyl cysteine (SAC)

Wakunaga’s proprietary aging process catalyzes compounds in garlic other than allicin that have demonstrated an array of health benefits. One of the most active and abundant compounds in Aged Garlic Extract is S-allyl cysteine (SAC), a safe, water-soluble organosulfur compound. Unlike allicin, SAC is stable and extremely bioavailable. In fact, after taking Aged Garlic Extract, SAC is quickly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and has nearly 100% bioavailability. Once absorbed, SAC is metabolized into the antioxidant N-acetyl-SAC. A 2012 study that appeared in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity reported that SAC was detected in several types of tissue throughout the body up to eight hours after a single dose.

Because SAC is a powerful antioxidant that prevents oxidation in the body, it has been shown to provide beneficial anti-aging properties and the ability to support a variety of bodily systems, including cardiovascular, immune, and neurological health when combined with a healthy lifestyle. What’s more, some research suggests that SAC may be an anti-inflammatory agent that further supports good health.

While SAC is a primary compound in Aged Garlic Extract, it also contains other important non-sulfur compounds like allixin and saponins. Recent studies have found that these compounds also make important contributions to Aged Garlic Extract’s health benefits. All together, the unique chemical profile of Aged Garlic Extract makes it a smart addition to the quest for a healthier life.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Aged Garlic Extract and Cardiovascular Health

Managing the various aspects of cardiovascular disease is an important part of reducing your odds of a future heart attack or stroke. Here, we break down the science of how Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) helps support better cardiovascular health in four important and well-known areas: atherosclerosis, blood pressure, cholesterol, and circulation.

How AGE Keeps Arteries Healthy

Your cardiovascular system is only as healthy as the arteries that carry your blood throughout your body. Healthy arteries are flexible with a smooth, undamaged endothelium—that single layer of cells that line the inner surface of your arteries—that allows oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to flow freely to all of your organs and tissues. But over time, the effects of heredity, unhealthy habits, and age can cause the buildup of artery-damaging plaque and calcium deposits. When arteries become damaged—a condition called atherosclerosis—blood flow can eventually be hindered or even completely blocked. However, clinical trials show that Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) can reverse the buildup of plaque and coronary artery calcification, ultimately helping to minimize the progression of atherosclerosis.

One clinical trial that was published in the Journal of Nutrition found that AGE slowed the accumulation of plaque in arteries. The researchers recruited 55 patients with metabolic syndrome, all between the ages of 40 and 75. All the participants were screened using Cardiac Computed Tomography Angiography to measure the total amount of plaque and calcium in their arteries. This non-invasive imaging tool also measured the amount of low-attenuation plaque or “soft” plaque—which is fatty and unstable—that was clinging to artery walls. Low-attenuation plaque is especially dangerous because it can rupture and form a blood clot. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The participants were then assigned to take either a placebo or 2,400 mg of AGE every day. Follow-up testing conducted a year after the initial screening found that AGE slowed total plaque accumulation by 80% and significantly reduced the amount of soft plaque in arteries.1

Along with soft plaque, cardiologists from UCLA found that AGE—when paired with coenzyme Q10—also halted the progression of coronary artery calcification (CAC). In this particular study, 65 middle-aged firefighters who were at moderate risk of heart disease were screened to determine the severity of calcium deposits and plaque buildup in their arteries. A marker for inflammation, known as C-reactive protein or CRP, was also measured. The firefighters then were given either a placebo or a supplement containing 1,200 mg of AGE and 120 mg of CoQ10 every day for 12 months. At the end of the year, the firefighters were screened again. Those taking AGE had a significant reduction in the progression of CAC compared to those taking the placebo. They also experienced a considerable drop in CRP.2

Together, these clinical studies suggest that a daily dose of AGE can work in several ways to prevent the progression of atherosclerosis, even in people at a higher risk for the condition.

Better Blood Pressure with AGE

High blood pressure—which is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher—is aptly called “the silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms. Although this condition often flies under the radar, it can lead to serious health problems including atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Human studies suggest that AGE provides blood pressure benefits similar to first-line medications.

During one recent study that appeared in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia reported that Aged Garlic Extract produced a significant drop in systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.3 Another study involving 88 people with high blood pressure found even better results with a reduction of 11.5 mmHg in systolic pressure and a 6.3 mmHg drop in diastolic pressure in 58% of those taking AGE.4 An earlier study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also showed that AGE produced similar results for lowering systolic pressure.5

But as good as AGE is alone, it may be even more effective when paired with the enzyme nattokinase—which acts like a natural ACE inhibitor—and L-theanine—which has also been shown to lower blood pressure.6,7 Independent studies of these three nutrients, support their potential to have a positive impact on blood pressure.

AGE Curtails High Cholesterol

While cholesterol is important for the formation of cell membranes—as well as for the production of hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D—too much of the wrong kind of cholesterol can encourage the buildup of plaque in your arteries. Clinical studies show that AGE can lower total cholesterol, as well as harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. This was clearly shown in a review of 39 human studies published in Nutrition Reviews. The researchers found that AGE reduced total cholesterol by 17 mg/dL and LDL by 9 gm/dL in people with slightly elevated cholesterol levels.8 A previous clinical trial reported that AGE lowered total cholesterol by 7% and LDL by 10% compared to a placebo.9 Adding plant sterols to AGE may also support healthy cholesterol levels. On their own, plant sterols were recently found to lower LDL by up to 10% in a trial of 221 people with high cholesterol levels.10

Improve Circulation with AGE

Your circulatory system is a complex superhighway made up of arteries, veins, and capillaries that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. This blood delivers important nutrients to your organs and tissues and helps remove cellular waste. When the blood vessels that make up your circulatory system are healthy, blood flows freely throughout the body. But when they are damaged, the amount of blood that reaches your vital organs and extremities is reduced.

AGE has been shown to support healthy blood vessels and improve circulation in a number of ways. It promotes clear arteries by discouraging calcium deposits and plaque buildup. In addition, AGE lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Clinical research shows that AGE also reduces oxidation and inflammation, and increases the production of nitric oxide (a molecule that dilates blood vessels for better blood flow).11

AGE also works on the microcirculatory system—that network of tiny capillaries, arterioles, and venules that moves blood from larger blood vessels to your cells. This was shown in a recent study published in the International Wound Journal. Among 122 people who took part in the study, those who supplemented with AGE for a year had better microcirculation than those taking a placebo. This was especially true among the participants with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.12 These findings are good news for anyone with cardiovascular issues and especially for diabetics since microcirculation can be compromised in people with type 2 diabetes.

Disclaimer:  The scientific studies described here were conducted by independent researchers and presented for educational purpose only.  The products of the studies may be classified as dietary supplements in the United States. Those dietary supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Plant Sterol Esters Explained

So what are plant sterols? Actually, let’s back up…what is a “sterol?” Sterols are a family of molecules with a specific shape and structure. Phytosterols (“phyto” meaning plant) are sterols found in plants. They are similar in structure to cholesterol in the human body.1


When phytosterols are consumed, they compete with cholesterol absorption in digestive tract, blocking it and, as a result, lowering blood cholesterol levels. Some studies have found that getting just two grams of phytosterols a day may help you lower your LDL cholesterol by as much as 10%. Unfortunately though, most people aren’t getting nearly this much in their everyday diets. In fact, today, dietary intake of phytosterols ranges between 78 and 500 mg per day, even with food manufacturers enriching common foods we eat with these compounds.

Why are plant sterol esters such an integral part of healthy eating, and of lowering cholesterol? Let’s take a look.

More on Phytosterols

When it comes to lowering your cholesterol, your first strategy is usually to change the way you eat. You replace the unhealthy fats (trans and saturated) with healthy ones (monosaturated and polyunsaturated), and increase dietary fiber by emphasizing whole grains, fruits, and veggies. If these strategies haven’t worked to their fullest potential, or if you want to work on lowering your bad cholesterol even further, this is where plant sterol esters come into play.

As part of a heart-healthy eating program, eating foods containing plant sterols have been shown to reduce cholesterol up to 10% and LDL (bad) cholesterol up to 14%. This reduction is in addition to other cholesterol-lowering strategies you may have started, like eating more heart healthfully or taking a cholesterol-lowering medication. The effectiveness of plant sterols is so strong, so recognized, that the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends people with high cholesterol consume two grams of plant sterols every day.3

How to Incorporate Plant Sterol Esters in Your Diet

The National Institute of Health Reports that there are over 200 different kinds of sterols, and the highest concentrations are found naturally in vegetable oils, beans, and nuts. But what you might not know, is that many products also have added plant sterols. At the store for example, you might see orange juice or margarine advertising plant sterol content. Foods containing at least 0.65 grams per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.4

The following foods contain the highest amounts of phytosterols (plant sterols):

Nuts: Nuts contain high amounts of phytosterols, ranging between 95 and 270 mg per 100 g serving of nuts. Studies have shown that a handful of most nuts can have a favorable impact on your lipid profile.5 If you’re going to load up on nuts, these nuts have the greatest amount of phytosterols: almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. Avoid eating salted nuts, since these may have adverse effects on your health.

Whole grains: Foods with whole grains, like barley, rye, and oatmeal, are high in many types of nutrients. Some whole grain products also contain high amounts of phytosterols, so aim for these: flaxseed, wheat germ, and rye bread. Flax seeds can be added as a nutritious oatmeal topping, as can wheat germ. As for the rye bread, try toasting it and adding nut butter, as opposed to a sugary jam, to reap the greatest benefits.

Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain less phytosterols than nuts and whole grains, but they also contain lot’s of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other healthy ingredients that are great for cholesterol. These fruits and vegetables contain the greatest amount of phytosterols, so load up: broccoli, red onion, carrot, corn, Brussel sprouts, spinach, and strawberries.

Add Supplements

In addition to adding these plant sterol-rich foods to your diet, a supplement containing plant sterol esters (a.k.a. plant sterols) can help too. Studies have shown that, on average, supplements containing plant sterols produce an average decrease in LDL cholesterol of 5 percent to 15 percent, with greater decreases shown with higher doses (2 grams per day). Notably, there is also individual variation in how much people respond to these sterols. Genetics and other factors may play a role as well.

Foods containing at least 0.65g per serving of plant sterol esters, eaten twice a day, for a total intake of 1.3g, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.6

So if you’re looking to up your heart-health game, plant sterol esters can help support that goal. Try adding in some of the foods mentioned above, and a quality supplement, and reap the cardiovascular benefits.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

Keep Your Immune System in Balance with Plant Sterols

The openings of your mouth and nose can be thought of as your immune system’s border control. If invaders get inside your body through the mouth, nose, or even a cut, the immune system sends out lines of defense, whether in the blood, organs, muscles, or bone. This internal “police force” is vital to our health, but sometimes it can get a little “off balance.” When this happens, the immune system can work against us, causing allergic reactions to foods or environments, and sometimes even autoimmune conditions.1 Why does this happen, and what can we do to prevent it?

What causes your immune system to be off balance?

You’re washing your hands, not touching your face, practicing good hygiene practices…but you still feel a little run-down, and get infections easily. What gives?

If you notice that you get sick a lot, feel run-down, or have other symptoms you can’t quite figure out, it may mean that your immune system is off-balance, or weakened. When this happens, there are usually a handful of culprits that may be contributing:

Stress level

Do you ever find yourself getting sick after pulling an all-nighter on a big report for work, or after a really emotional situation at home? According to the American Psychological Association, long-term stress weakens the responses of your immune system.2 This is because stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more you’re at risk for catching a cold or other viruses.3

If you think you are experiencing a high level of stress, it can be helpful to meditate, and also practice breathing exercises, such as “box breathing.” Box breathing can calm the nervous system down, and help you to feel more relaxed. All it requires is for you to breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and then breathe out for four seconds.

Gut issues

Another signal your immune system might be off balance are underlying gut issues. If you have frequent diarrhea, gas, or constipation, it could be a sign that your immune system has been compromised. Research shows that 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. The beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that live there defend your gut from infection and support the immune system. If these beneficial bacteria are in low supply, it opens you up to viruses, chronic inflammation, and also autoimmune conditions.4

You feel tired all the time

Burning a candle at both ends is not a healthy way to live, and can really take a toll on your immune system. Try to prioritize your sleep routine, and aim for 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. On the flip side, if you are already getting enough sleep and are still feeling fatigued, it might be your immune system trying to tell you something. When your immune system struggles, so does your energy level. Your energy level is down because your body is trying to conserve energy to fuel your immune system so that it can fight off germs and other invaders.6

Tips for Regaining Balance

If any of the above concerns sound like they might apply to you, it may be time to make some lifestyle adjustments. This includes things like eating a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, getting 6-8 hours of sleep, exercising 30 minutes most days of the week, and trying to find ways to minimize stress.

If you incorporate these adjustments into your daily routine, you can give your immune system the best chance to get back to a healthier place. That being said, the key to longterm health is more than just a balanced diet, regular exercise, and the like, especially when it comes to a strong immune system. This is where phytosterols come in.

How phytosterols (sterols and sterolins) can help

In addition to the lifestyle adjustments above, plant sterols and sterolins can help to support your immune system too. Sterols are compounds found in plants that resemble cholesterol (i.e. are structurally similar to cholesterol). When a supplement with plant sterols is consumed, it can help to bring overall balance to the immune system by enhancing an underactive immune system, and modulating an overactive one. While sterols do not “fix” the immune system, they do give it the nutrients it needs to be balanced.7 Sterols and sterolins allow the immune system to regulate itself: “upregulating” or boosting an underactive response and “downregulating” an overactive one.

When looking for a quality supplement containing these plant sterols, which can benefit adults and kids alike, it is helpful to look for one that has research behind it, and one that has the right sterol to sterolin ratio. Research has shown quite clearly that the blend of sterols and sterolins in a 100:1 ratio, exhibit the best immune balancing activity.8

One thing to remember is to not take a sterol/sterolins supplement while ingesting cholesterol heavy foods (animal fat), including all meat, dairy, eggs, seafood, etc. Cholesterol has a very similar molecular structure and the two compounds “compete” for absorption.  Take your supplement between meals.

And did we mention kids? Yes, your children’s immune system can get out of balance too. They are exposed to any number of germs from their peers and from the environment, and have their own levels of stress and digestive problems. Building a strong, well-balanced immune system from an early age will benefit children for a lifetime. Talk to your pediatrician about supplements that contain phytosterols and see if they may be right for your family.

If you think you have a weakened or imbalanced immune system, don’t fret! There are steps you can take to keep yourself and those around you healthy, and maximize your immune function.

Before taking Seterol and Sterolins consult your health care professional:

Recipients of foreign organs and tissues, including bone marrow and corneal transplants, are cautioned not to take any immune regulating nutritional supplements. Therefore, sterols and sterolins are NOT recommended for transplant patients.

People with synthetic replacement/reconstruction will not be affected, such as in hip replacement, knee replacement, breast reconstruction and pacemaker implant.

People with multiple sclerosis should take plant sterols and sterolins only under the guidance of their health care practitioner.

Diabetics should monitor their blood sugar closely as many have experienced a reduction in insulin requirements. They should start with one capsule daily to ensure a gradual increase in sterols and sterolins.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.


References

  1. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-immune-system-go-haywire-falter/
  2. https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune
  3. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/march/weakened-immune-system
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/
  5. https://kyolic.com/best-practices-for-buying-taking-and-storing-probiotics/
  6. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/march/weakened-immune-system
  7. https://www.moducare.com/faqs/
  8. https://www.moducare.com/faqs/

 

How Stress Affects Immunity and Your Health

Stress is a situation that triggers a particular biological response. When you perceive a threat or a challenge, chemicals and hormones surge throughout your body. Stress triggers your fight or flight response in order to fight the stressor or run away from it. Usually, after the response occurs, your body typically relaxes. But too much stress can have negative effects on your long term health.1

Stress…not always a bad thing

Sometimes stress can be helpful, if you are working hard to meet a deadline it may motivate you to meet that goal. Stress can also be positive. Your wedding day, for instance, would be an example of a positive form of stress. The bottom line though, is that stress should be temporary. Once you’ve gotten past the fight-or-flight moment, your heart rate and breathing should slow down and your muscles should relax, and there should not be any long-term negative effects. But severe, frequent, or prolonged stress can be dangerous to your mental and physical health.

How stress affects the body

Stress causes your body to produce greater than normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In short bursts, cortisol can actually boost your immunity by limiting inflammation. But over time, your body can get used to having too much cortisol in your blood. And this opens the door for more inflammation. Also, stress can reduce the amount of lymphocytes in the body, which are the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The less lymphocytes you have, the less your body can fight off infection, and the higher chances you have of contracting the common cold, or viruses. High levels of stress can also lead to depression and anxiety, which in turn contribute to higher levels of inflammation in the body. In a nutshell, long-term high levels of stress can lead to lots of inflammation, which can lead to an over-worked immune system that can’t properly defend and protect you2.

So what can you do? While it is not possible to completely eliminate all stress since life can be unpredictable, we can learn to avoid it if possible, and manage it, if it is unavoidable. Here are some simple ways to manage your stress.

Top tips to avoid stress

Socialize: Spend time with friends and family who support you, and who you can support as well. Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help in stressful times.

Consider supplements: Certain herbs, nutrients and vitamins can help promote less stress and anxiety. Look for supplements that combine GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) along with B vitamins, which can support healthy relaxation and increased alertness. Other nutrients to look for in a de-stressing supplement are omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce anxiety, ashwagandha, which is an herb used in ayurvedic medicine to help lessen anxiety, and valerian root, which is a popular sleep aid, due to it’s calming effects3.

Exercise: Try going on a brisk walk outside, do some yoga, or take a boxing class. Exercise is a great way to manage stress. Exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones, like cortisol. It also helps release endorphins, which are the body’s natural mood-elevators. Find an exercise routine that you enjoy doing, because then it will be easier to stick with it.

Laugh: It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re laughing! Laughing is good for your health, and can help to relieve your stress response and even help relax your muscles. Try watching a funny show, or hanging out with friends who make you laugh.4 Cat videos are often good for a laugh.

Meditate: Practice deep breathing and meditation exercises, like box breathing (breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, then exhale for 4 seconds). It reduces your cortisol levels and reduces inflammation.5

Remember, stress in some situations can be helpful, even positive. It is the long-term, prolonged stress that needs to be addressed before it affects your health. Practicing the strategies above will help you curb your stress and protect your immune system.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.