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Immune health piece in the Trib: same old boost, no balance.

Posted Oct 30 2009 11:01pm

This week Chicago Tribune nutrition writer Julie Deardorf posted a piece on nutrition and immune health.  She laid out a lot of good information, especially regarding so-called immune “boosting” pills/products such as the “Airborne” over-the-counter cold/flu remedy that had to c Chi Tribune ough up nearly $30 million in settlement money for labeling their packaging and advertising with unsubstantiated claims. The column talks about basic functions of  immune response and cell signaling in sensing pathogen invaders and calling in the immune defenders. But it stops there, not exploring science that has shown that immune systems many times over-respond to invaders (or perceived invaders that are not really a threat), thereby resulting a any number of health conditions.

The balance thing.

The story went on to say that healthy people who live the right lifestyle have no need for immune boosting supplements. They’re immune system is as strong as it will ever get, and no supplement will improve it.

Now, rewind to last week. I went on a tour of Embria Health Sciences’ manufacturing facility in Iowa last week.  I had requested a tour for a social media colleague of mine who happens to run Smarty Pig, one of the great social media success stories  to date.  He was interested in the story behind Embria’s immune balance ingredient made at the plant, EpiCor (which I have taken for two years now and which supports this blog). Every time I hear a presentation from the Embria executive and technical staff during these kinds of meetings, I learn something new.

One question that was asked of Embria senior scientist, Dr. Stuart Reeves, during the presentation was: “Is there any one is this day and age who wouldn’t need or benefit from immune supplementation or some form of additional immune health support? ” Stuart had an interesting answer. He said if someone were born today on a farm or in a rural area where there was a good dose of dust and pollen present in the air, where they were living with a variety of animals–in the house, with a dirt floor–from birth on and exposed to diverse mix of animal dander always floating around, if they drank well water with a nice brew of microbial matter, and if they ate lots of unprocessed fruits and vegetables, preferably raw, and if they got 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night, and also lived a pretty stress-free life with lots of outdoor sunshine exposure each day, their immune system would most likely function just fine with no help needed.

But, who lives like that? Moreover, who is born in that environment?  For decades now, people in the western world have been born in sterile hospitals (which most certainly is a good thing for both mom and baby), and have come home to relatively clean households with modern hygienic conditions. While the modern environment may reduce germ and virus exposure, it also prevents exposure to common pathogens and harmless airborne particulates such as pollen that can train the immune system at an early age to produce an appropriate, proportional response to something that enters a person’s system. With nearly all people in developed countries now not born into this more primitive lifestyle, immune systems don’t get tested early in life, and therefore are likely to function erratically when the body does call on its immune defense against a microbial threat years down the road.

So, with that, the point is that our modern environment means we live cleaner, but we also are, in general, much more susceptible to troubling health conditions because our immune systems don’t know how to respond when the first threats arrive.  I truly believe supplementation, along with healthy diet, exercise and sleep, can make a big impact on correcting this imbalance.

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