Benefits Of AHCC In Fighting Flu And Cold Season
Following the pattern that we've seen form over the past few years, the prediction seems bleak for the 2014 winter season. According to the Farmer's Almanac – as well as other weather forecasters – much of the United States can expect unusually cold and harsh conditions over the next few months. But, along with having to struggle against the snow, ice and cold, there is another concern that comes along with such a severe winter: flu and cold season.
While cold temperatures do not technically cause people to catch the cold, flu or other viruses, it does create conditions in which you are much more likely to develop symptoms. During the cold, dry months of winter your mucous membranes – a primary defense against respiratory viruses – dry up and cannot properly ward off infection. Shortened days and gray skies also mean that you won't be getting as much sunlight as you may have been exposed to during the other seasons which translates to decreased production of vitamin D. This essential nutrient plays a key role in proper immune function and, in the lack of sufficient sunlight, your immune system could be weakened.
Of course, this time of year also heralds the reopening of schools and the gathering of families for the holidays. All of these activities expose you and your family to more and more people, increasing your risk of exposure to viruses.
But here's the real problem: cold and flu viruses love the winter air. Not only do the cold temperatures increase the lifespan of viruses on surfaces like doors and tables, but flu viruses are also uniquely adapted to live in such an environment. In 2008, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Developmentdiscovered that the influenza virus has a coating that they described as “butter-like.” In the summer, this coating melts and exposes the virus to the elements which ultimately shortens it's lifespan. When temperatures drop, though, that coating hardens into a shell that remains intact until it reaches our respiratory tract. At this point, the previously shielded virus is release into our bodies.
Obviously, then, the odds are firmly against us around this time of year. As mentioned though, one of the primary factors that affect us over the winter is a weakened immune system. Logically, then, anything we can do to improve the strength and resiliency of our defenses is a powerful step in the battle against flu and cold season.
Of the many natural remedies out there, one of the most promising according to studies is AHCC.
AHCC and Immune Function
A large and ever-growing body of research supports the notion that AHCC has the ability to naturally improve your body's ability to fight off infection. Unlike common antiviral and antibiotic medications, AHCC does not directly kill the invaders. Instead, AHCC – a substance naturally extracted from the roots of Japanese medicinal mushrooms – reinforces your immune system.
While AHCC has been shown to improve the function of every type of cell present in your immune system, it has a particularly strong effect on the natural killer (NK) cells. As their fairly menacing name suggests, these are the cells that actively hunt down and assassinate any foreign invaders that they find. Essentially, AHCC provides your NK cells with extra ammunition and increases their activities.
Additionally, oral supplementation of AHCC has been shown to increase levels of interferon – a compound that helps to regulate the immune system. These elevated levels, in turn, encourage even more NK activity, while simultaneously suppressing the spread of the infection and strengthening other immune cells.
What About The Flu Shot?
For many people, the immediate response to the on-coming flu season is to simply get the flu shot. While immunization is a potent tool in fighting infection by priming your body against the approaching onslaught, when the flu shot is combined with AHCC, however its efficacy is greatly enhanced.
A 2013 study, published in the journal, Nutrition Research, followed 30 adults for several weeks after they received the flu shot. Half of the group received AHCC supplementation and half did not. By the end of three weeks, the AHCC group had higher counts of white blood cells ready to fight off infection. The subjects that had been given AHCC had greater amounts of antibodies to the specific strain of influenza virus that they had been vaccinated against. Because the entire point of the vaccine is to teach your body to produce these antibodies, the presence of more antibodies suggests that AHCC works to increase the effectiveness of the common flu shot.
The benefits of AHCC in fighting flu and cold season, then, are clear. Not only does this substance strengthen your own immune system but it can even improve the potency of other immune-boosting measures.
What are you planning to do to fight the flu and cold season? Share with us in the comments.