Category Archives: Immune System

Hold Off Colds, Flu With Exercise Or Meditation

As we approach the time of year when colds and flu are common, there’s this finding from some new research appearing in the Annals of Family Medicine – regular exercise or meditation might be two of the best, most natural ways to cut down on these brief but often miserable respiratory infections. Experts tell us the flu virus is tied to almost 36,000 deaths and half a million hospital admissions in the U.S. each year. Less severe illnesses, like the common cold, are still responsible for 40 million days of missed work/school each year.

The remarkable findings are based on a small study of just 149 active and inactive adults who were aged 50 or older looking at the effect of moderate exercise and mindful meditation on how severe a subject’s respiratory infection might be. The research was conducted over a full Wisconsin winter cold and flu season, and none of the subjects (mostly white women) were meditating or doing any moderate exercise more than one time a week. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups – one group made no changes to any habits; one group started an eight-week moderate exercise program (running on a treadmill or biking for 45 minutes/day) while the last group spent the same amount of time in mindfulness meditation.

The team saw that those who were involved in a daily exercise regimen had fewer respiratory infections and used less sick time on the job. What’s more, the subjects who practiced mindfulness meditation were also better protected against these common illnesses. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing attention on the body and emotions and can include activities like yoga, stretching and walking.

At the end of the season, those subjects who made no changes had 40 episodes of illness, while the meditators had 27 episodes and the exercisers had 26. In terms of days from work, those who made no changes lost 453 sick days, while the meditators lost 257 and the exercisers lost 241 days due to sickness. This works out to a 40% to 50% drop in infections of the respiratory tract according to study lead author Dr. Bruce Barrett who is an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin. By contrast, flu vaccines, a well proven and widely used intervention in use today, only offer 50% to 60% protection, and then only for a few specific strains of flu virus. Of course getting a yearly flu shot is easier than practicing mindful meditation or regular exercise.

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Hold Off Colds, Flu With Exercise Or Meditation Continued…

No one has a good explanation for how being active either physically or mentally helps protect against common complaints like colds and flu. It may be that both actions help reduce stress or that exercise helps to activate the immune system. Bear in mind that the current work merely shows an association between being active and less illness, but does not prove cause and effect.

We do know that mindfulness training impacts the way we see our symptoms and also reduces stress. During the research, when the meditators did get sick, they seemed to suffer less severely and felt sick for less time. It makes sense that if you can successful redirect your attention you will feel less pain, be troubled less by uncomfortable cold and flu symptoms.

To your good health,

Bad Sleep Just As Bad For Your Immune System As Stress

Some important news on sleep and your immune system. A new study, appearing in the journal Sleep, finds that serious sleep deprivation can have the same impact on your immune system as physical stress does. Experts are well aware that millions of us are not getting the amount of restful, restorative sleep we need, and that many who struggle with sleep issues go undiagnosed and untreated. And while individual sleep needs might vary, science agrees that humans are wired to be awake (and productive) for 16 hours, to rest for around 8 hours.

A team of researchers on sleep came from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom saw that sleep loss triggers the production of white blood cells, known to science as granulocytes. These cells react right away to the physical stress of lack of sleep, and mirror the body’s natural stress response explains study lead author Katrin Ackermann who is a postdoctoral researcher from the Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam.

To conduct the research, the team tracked the white blood cell counts of 15 healthy young men who stuck to a strict schedule of getting eight hours of sleep every night for a full week. The subjects were exposed to at least 15 minutes of outdoor light within the first hour and a half after waking, and also prohibited from using caffeine, alcohol or any medication during the final three days. These measures were used to stabilize their circadian rhythm and minimize sleep deprivation before the more intense part of the study – staying awake for 29 hours straight.

Researchers compared white cell counts during this normal sleep/wake cycle to the numbers produced by the same subject during the sleep deprivation part of the experiment. The white cells taken from the sleep deprived subjects showed a loss of day/night rhythm and reacted immediately to the stress of being awake a full 29 hours in a row.

Earlier work in this area has shown us that sleep deprivation is linked to the development of certain diseases – conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and even obesity. There have also been studies to suggest that chronic lack of sleep is a risk for an impaired immune system. Moving forward, the current team of researchers would like to see more work examining how sleep loss contributes to the onset of specific diseases.

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Poor Sleep: Just As Bad For Your Immune System As Stress Continued…

Interesting too that the need for sleep doesn’t go down as we get older; rather the ability to sleep uninterrupted for 6 to 8 hours becomes the problem.

Sleep experts know that stress is the number one cause of short-term sleep problems. Other things that can impact your sleep include drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime, exercising too close to bedtime, working or doing other mentally challenging activities before bed, and following an irregular sleep/wake schedule can all be to blame when It comes to trouble falling off.

Certain medications (decongestants, steroids, asthma, depression or high blood pressure drugs) can also cause problems with sleep. Let your doctor know you are having this side effect and discuss ways to avoid it – never stop taking a medication you’ve been prescribed without talking to your doctor first.

Any sleeping problem that lasts more than a few weeks should be brought to the attention of your health care provider. Letting short-term issues go untreated makes it more likely your sleep troubles will become chronic and much harder to treat.

Being Hugged and Hugging People Improves Health

Science is coming to find that touch is perhaps the ultimate mind/body medicine as it improves health. Not only does it lower blood pressure and heart rate, but it also serves to increase immune function and ease pain, not to mention having you feeling happier and less anxious. Better yet, it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re being hugged or hugging people.

Here are some great ways to enjoy the benefits of touch…

1. Get a massage

Even a quick one at the mall or an inept one from your partner will do the trick. Anyone who’s ever gotten a massage knows how it can help you unwind. But it’s not all in your head, being massaged causes muscles to relax, your heartbeat to slow, your blood pressure to fall and levels of stress hormone cortisol to go down as well.

We know that cortisol suppresses the immune response says Roberta Lee, M.D. of New York City’s Beth Israel Medical Center, but any activity that triggers the relaxation response will also trigger the restoration of your immune system.

2. Get (or Give) A Hug

When you embrace your partner, your mom, a child or close friend, your body is flooded with oxytocin, a so called “bonding hormone” that makes you feel secure and builds trust while also bringing down cortisol levels and reducing stress.

Women who get more hugs from partners were found to have higher levels of oxytocin and lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who weren’t hugged as often according to University of North Carolina research.

3. Hold Hands

It’s a simple pleasure… entwining your fingers with your one-and-only is super calming, as researcher James Coan, Ph.D. assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia found when he gave functional MRIs to 16 married women after telling them they might get a mild shock. When the women held hands with one of the experimenters, the stress response seen on the scans calmed, but when they held hands with their husbands, it really eased quite a bit.

What’s more, when you’re in a happy relationship, holding hands cuts stress related activity in the hypothalamus, and this brings down the levels of cortisol going through your system, as well as in the part of the brain that registers pain.

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The Surprising Health Benefits Of Touch… Continued…

4. Getting Intimate

No surprise here… but being intimate with your partner… the skin-to-skin stroking and touching, floods us with oxytocin and feel good endorphins. Regular sexual activity also does the body good, and might just keep us from getting sick as often.

Those who had sex once or twice a week had 30% more infection fighting immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their saliva than those who didn’t do it as often according to a study done at Wilkes University.

5. Cuddle with a pet

If you have a pet as part of your life, you’ve probably already noticed how scratching them behind the ears, patting their fur or rubbing their little bellies reduces your own feelings of tension.

Research shows that a person’s blood pressure drops when they pet dogs; especially if it’s a dog they know and love. Your feelings of pain may also be reduced by spending time with your pet, as you’re focusing on the animal, not your own issues. So it’s not only contact with other humans that improves health.

Is a Weakened Immune System Due to Cleanliness?

Can being too clean actually make you sick? Maybe. A new University of Michigan School of Public Health study finds that children and teens who are overexposed to antibacterial soaps with the chemical triclosan may have a weakened immune system putting them at increased risk for hay fever and other allergies. The work also found that adults’ immunity might be weakened by high levels of exposure to bisphenol A (BPA). The findings are published in the November 30, 2010 online edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Earlier animal studies have found that triclosan and BPA might affect immunity, but this is the first work to look at the exposure as it relates to human immune function.

Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent that’s often used in antibacterial soaps and body washes… but also in toothpaste, mouthwashes, some cosmetics, products like clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys, as well as pens, medical devices and diaper bags. You can check labels to see if the products you use have this ingredient.

BPA is a chemical that’s been around since the 1960s and is used to make lots of types of plastics, things like reusable cups and baby bottles, and the protective lining in food and beverage cans. Trace amounts of the chemical can be found in some foods packaged this way.

You can limit your exposure, or your child’s, by getting rid of bottles, feeding cups and such when they show signs of wear or are cracked. Don’t put boiling or very hot water into any container you suspect has BPA.

Both these chemicals are part of a class of environmental toxins known as endocrine disrupting compounds that are thought to negatively impact health by either mimicking or affecting body hormones.

There’s growing concern among the scientific community and consumer groups that toxins of this type are dangerous at far lower levels than anyone thought. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to investigate.

In this latest study, the team examined data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They compared levels of both triclosan and BPA in the urine with cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibody levels and diagnosis of allergies (or hay fever) in anyone over 6 years old.

Those over 18 with higher levels of BPA had higher CMV antibody levels. This suggests that their cell mediated immune system may not be working properly.

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Study: Why Being Too Clean is Bad for Your Health… Continued…

The team also found that children and teens with higher levels of triclosan were more likely to have hay fever and other allergies. This supports the “hygiene hypothesis” that suggests living in very clean and hygienic environments may impact our natural exposure to micro-organisms that are helpful, perhaps necessary, for developing our immune system.

One surprise finding of the work is that age seems to matter when it comes to BPA exposure. In those 18 or older, higher amounts of BPA were linked to their CMV levels, but in those under 18, the reverse was the case. This suggests that the timing of the exposure to BPA might be impacting how our immune system responds.

A limitation of the research is that it measured disease and exposure to chemical agents at the same time, and this might show only part of the picture. It might be that people with a weakened immune system are naturally more hygienic because of their condition. More work is needed.

Combat The Effect Of Stress On Health

The effect of stress on health does more to you than make you feel awful, it can also make just about any health condition that much worse according to Jay Winner, MD, author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life and director of the Stress Management Program of a clinic in Santa Barbara.

Stress isn’t just in our heads… it’s a built in physiological response to a threat. When you’re under stress, your body responds, blood vessels constrict, your blood pressure and pulse go up, you breathe faster, your blood is flooded with hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Over time, these lead to health problems.

Stress is known to worsen (or increase the risk of) some pretty serious conditions…

- Heart disease: Experts have long noted that Type A personalities have an increased risk of hypertension and heart problems, though no one knows exactly why this is. Doctors also know that sudden, acute stress can trigger a serious cardiac problem.

- Asthma: Lots of studies show that stress worsens asthma, and there’s even some research that suggests that a parent’s chronic stress might increase the risk of a child having asthma.

- Obesity: Having fat in the belly (instead of hips and thighs) poses greater health risks, and this is just where high stress people tend to store it. Stress brings higher levels of the hormone cortisol, and that increases the amount of fat deposited in the belly area.

- Diabetes: Stress affects this condition in two ways, it increases the chances you’ll engage in bad eating behaviors, and it appears to raise the glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes.

- Headaches: One of the most common triggers is stress not just for the aptly named tension headache, but for more serious migraines too.

- Depression and anxiety: Chronic stress is related to higher rates of both of these conditions. One survey of recent research found that those who had job related stress had an 80% higher risk of depression than those with low stress work situations.

- Stomach problems: While stress has been cleared of causing ulcers, it can make them worse. It’s also a common factor in many other conditions of the digestive tract, including chronic heartburn, GERD and IBS.

- Alzheimer’s disease: In one animal study researchers found that stress might actually make this condition worse, causing the brain lesions to form more quickly. Perhaps reducing stress might slow the progression of the disease.

- Faster aging: Believe it or not, there’s evidence that stress can affect how you age. One study compared the DNA of mothers under high stress with women not under stress. The team found that a particular region of the chromosomes showed the effects of accelerated aging… about 9 to 17 added years.

- Early death: Research examined the health effects of stress by studying elderly caregivers looking after ill spouses and found that caregivers had a 63% higher rate of death than those who where their age but not under that type of stress.

While all that might have you feeling… well stressed, don’t worry. Research suggests that stress management will not only have you feeling better, but might bring some solid health benefits as well. As an example, heart attack survivors found that taking a stress management class cut their risks of a second cardiac even by 74%. Of course, since it’s impossible to remove all the stressors in your life, you’ll need to change how you handle them.

Here are four things to try next time stress hits.

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How To Prevent 10 Stress Induced Health Troubles… Continued…

1) Breathe deeply for just a few minutes to calm the physiological response of your body. You can do this anywhere, any time.

2) Focus on the moment, rather than worrying about the future or obsessing over the past focus on the here and now, what you’re doing right now. Examine details, pay attention to sights, sounds, smells.

3) Reframe the situation, rather than stressing, try to look at the situation in another way… a traffic jam is stressful, but also gives you time to yourself. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at do change.

4) Keep your perspective, and think about the things that you are grateful for the next time you feel stress taking over. Ask yourself if the reason for your stress will be important in a week, a month, a year. Remind yourself about the ways in which you’re lucky.

While these techniques will help in the moment, there are other things you can do to help yourself manage stress in your life. Regular exercise is key, as exercisers have better moods and more energy than those who don’t.

Learning some relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga will also help reduce the effect of stress on health. It might take a bit of time and practice, but the payoff in terms of short-term mood, long term health and overall peace of mind are truly substantial.

More Adults Developing Hayfever Symptoms

Surprising news on allergies. Hay fever is a modern disease, virtually unknown before 1800 and becoming common only during the last century. Many had believed that this condition developed during childhood, and yet more and more adults are experiencing hayfever symptoms – the constant sneezing, running eyes and nose, itching, sometimes even headaches and fatigue for the first time in their lives.

Hay fever is an allergy to pollens (the male reproductive part of the plant) from either grasses or trees. A person can be allergic to a single pollen, or more than one. When these particles come into contact with the tissue in the nose or eyes, they set off an immune reaction in your own body that brings the symptoms of congestion, sneezing, itching and runny nose. As you know if you have it, it’s hard to treat because the way an allergy affects the body is quite complex, and different in each of us.

With all it can tell us, medicine still cannot predict when people who are atopic (genetically predisposed to allergies) will start to experience symptoms according to Beverley Adams-Groom of the National Pollen and Aerobiology Unit at the University of Worcester. While this organization is best known in the UK as the place to get the latest pollen counts, its work also involves testing anti allergy products and doing clinical trials of hay fever remedies.

One theory on the timing of allergies holds that it may be something around you that triggers allergies in those who have the genetics for it. What that something is, experts still cannot say. Some believe that sufferers may in fact experience symptoms in childhood, but they are so mild that they go unnoticed. Even in the teen years, things aren’t so bothersome that treatment is needed.

There is also no shortage of blame cast toward pollution somehow contributing to the mix, or the more sanitized environments we’ve created for ourselves that keep our children from being exposed to, and developing defenses against, infections. Interesting that researchers in Austria found that young children in regular contact with farm animals are less likely to have allergies later in life. They are also three times less sensitive to hay fever, four times less likely to have asthma than those living in a non-rural environment.

The best the experts can say on what causes allergies is that we cannot say for sure why this troublesome condition develops. More work needs to be done.

Hay fever in the U.S. affects more than 35 million Americans, and in the U.K. between 15% and 20% of the population is thought to be dealing with the discomforts that come with the warmer weather. The numbers are higher amongst teens, with the symptoms typically peaking in the 20s. But not everyone follows this pattern. Stephen Durham, an allergy specialist, estimates that the number of allergy sufferers has doubled in a 20-year period.

What can you do to help yourself be more comfortable?

- Find out what type of pollen causes your allergy so you can minimize your exposure, and start treating yourself at the right time. April symptoms are typically from tree pollen. Symptoms in May, June and July suggest grasses as the culprit. If your symptoms hold off until late summer, it’s likely weed pollen and mold spores as the allergen.

- Avoid activity outdoors in the early morning, when pollen counts are at their highest. Stay inside on dry, windy days.

Continues below…


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Did you know that you can easily treat illness without side effects, using only natural herbs, vitamins and nutrients?

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You can eliminate the Flu virus, boost your immune system, and recover faster from colds using these doctor-approved home remedies…

As well as sleep better, look younger and treat any skin problem with your own skin care home remedies and recipes.

Click through now to discover the “hidden” kitchen cupboard cures – proven by clinical trials.
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Curse of Hay Fever Explained… Continued…

- Use a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom, and an allergy grade filter on any ventilation system.

- Shower and wash your hair when you get home, and keep windows closed, especially in bedrooms. Use air-conditioning whenever possible. Bring in washing hung outside before nightfall, as pollen levels go up at night.

- Try wrap around sunglasses to protect your eyes when outside, and wear a dust mask if you need to do yard work.

- Avoid mowing the lawn or raking leaves, as this stirs up pollen.

- Talk with your doctor about treatment. Antihistamine pills, eye drops and nasal sprays work to calm the body’s allergic reaction, but do have some side effects. You’ll want to start using your treatment two weeks before you expect your hayfever symptoms to start.

New Way to Improve Immune System Discovered

Our bodies are incredibly intricate, complex systems, most especially when it comes to ways to improve immune system.

Scientists at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute have recently uncovered a danger receptor that might just kick-start the immune reaction in our bodies.

The receptor picks up signs of abnormal cell death that can be caused by a tumor or injury and then mobilizes the body’s defenses.

Cell death is a natural body process where old cells make way for the new, keeping repair and growth going on so that tissues stay healthy.

Sometimes there’s an abnormal type of cell death, called nercrosis that happens as part of an injury or tumor growth.

This makes some evolutionary sense as an injury puts your body at risk of infection – so an immune response is a natural, sensible precaution for the body to take.

Researchers believe that the body somehow is able to sense abnormal cell death and the immune system begins to react.

But until now, no one has located a receptor that detects abnormal cell death.

“After a 15-year hunt, we’ve identified the first ‘danger receptor’ – one which senses abnormal cell death and then triggers an immune response.” says study leader Dr. Caetano Reis e Sousa who leads the Immunobiology Laboratory team as they try to understand how the immune system detects and responds to infection.

“The detection of ‘danger’ could explain some situations when a tumor triggers an immune reaction against itself.”

The team discovered that the DNGR-1 receptor on an immune cell, known as a dendritic cell (a type of messenger that sounds the alert), is what gets the immune response (T cells) going after encountering an abnormal cell death.

Most often the targets of these immune responses are viruses or bacteria, but the UK researchers believe that tumors can also trigger this type of immune reaction. Tumors often have clusters of cells at their core that undergo nercrosis because they are fed by a very limited blood supply.

This might explain why some tumor killing medications do seem to work – they’re able to set off some form of an immune response.

With this latest finding researchers are hoping to be able to develop cancer treatments that work with the power of the immune system to help shrink tumors.

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “The concept of using the body’s immune system to fight cancer has been around for decades, but advances in recent years have made this field of research a very exciting one.”

The work of the British team appears in the most recent issue of Nature.

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UK Researchers Uncover Signal That Kick Starts Your Immune System continued

Research continues in the area of vaccine development and immunotherapy, and there have been a very small number of people (mostly melanoma patients) who’ve been helped by vaccines.

Today there are two types of cancer vaccines – ones to prevent cancer and ones that treat the cancer. Dendritic cell vaccines are thought to treat cancer, though much more study is needed.

What’s more, if modern medicine can learn more about how to improve immune system processes this could not only help in treating cancers, but with preventing rejection of transplanted organs.