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Strengthen the immune system naturally - defense and protection for the body

April 25, 2021
Dipl.-Biol. Dorothee Ogroske et al.

“Health is not everything, but without health, everything is nothing.” This is how Schopenhauer once wrote it. Anyone who has ever been seriously ill will confirm this without hesitation. Even small infections throw us off track and make everyday life enormously difficult. Lucky is the one who has a strong immune system!

But good defenses are by no means a twist of fate. We have all kinds of possibilities to strengthen our immune system naturally. Learn the basics of your body’s defenses in this article. We explain how to stay healthy and to what extent vital mushrooms support you.

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The immune system: guardian of our health

What is the immune system?

Even if we don’t realize it, our immune system is constantly fending off attacks on our bodies. It fights against viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, free radicals and degenerated cells. Thus, it not only protects us against infections and all kinds of parasites, but in many cases even prevents the development of tumors. To cope with all these tasks, the immune system must act extremely intelligently and efficiently. It always follows a two-step procedure:

  1. It notices the danger and identifies the unwanted intruder.
  2. It fights the intruder and disposes of its remains.

If we do fall ill, the recovery process is also based on our immune system. In case of disease, it continuously fights against the existing infection or attacks degenerated cells that proliferate.

In principle, our organism is vulnerable to attack at almost any point. That is why a functioning defense must be ready everywhere. Thus, the immune system cannot be assigned to a specific region in the body. Its cells and messenger substances are produced in various organs and tissues and are distributed throughout the organism via the blood, for example. A central location for the immune defense is the intestine. Around 80 % of the immune-relevant cells are located here. However, the lymphatic system, thymus, bone marrow, spleen, skin and mucous membranes also play a key role in maintaining our health.

Specific and non-specific defense

Physicians distinguish between the so-called “specific” and “non-specific” defenses of the immune system. The latter is also called “innate” immune defense, because its mechanism already works in the womb. An essential principle of nonspecific defense is not to let troublemakers in in the first place. For this purpose, it has anatomical barriers such as skin, mucous membranes, saliva, tear fluid and gastric acid. Furthermore, the white blood cells (leukocytes) and the phagocytes (macrophages) are part of the innate defense system. Their job is to surround and digest any unwanted invaders.

On the other side is the specific immune defense. This is quite precisely adapted to the particular environment of a person. It is formed in the course of the first years of life and learns continuously. Once the body has been attacked by certain pathogens (antigens), the specific immune defense system remembers their characteristics and forms appropriate antibodies. If it is now attacked by the same pathogen a second time, it can fight it extremely efficiently. In this case, doctors speak of “immunity”. The specific defense system includes the B-cells and the T-cells – a specific type of white blood cells (lymphocytes). For example, the specialized part of the immune system is also the reason why people in countries with poor water quality can drink the surface or tap water without any problems, while we as tourists get stomach problems.

TH1 vs. TH2 reactions

To better understand how to strengthen your immune system naturally, it is helpful to know the difference between TH1 and TH2 responses. TH is initially simply the abbreviation for “T helper cell”. In the TH1 reaction, very special T helper cells are used, namely the T killer cells, also called cytotoxic T cells. Their task is to kill infected body cells. They thus initiate cell death (apoptosis) to ensure that pathogens do not spread further.

This is in contrast to the TH2 immune response. This form of immune defense represents a direct fight against pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. For this purpose, the body activates so-called B cells, stimulates mast cells and stimulates the formation of antibodies. If you now want to strengthen your immune system, it is of course important to focus on TH1 as well as TH2 response. Only if both mechanisms function harmoniously, our organism is well protected against diseases.

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How can I recognize a weak immune system?

Not every infection indicates a weak immune system. Some pathogens are so strong and sophisticated that they cheat their way past even strong defenses. In such a case, an intact immune system ensures a low symptom expression as well as a short disease duration. However, if you suffer from allergies or persistent colds, you should take a closer look at your immune system. Recurrent infections are also an indication of inadequate defenses.

However, a compromised immune system does not have to manifest itself immediately in an illness. A first sign may already be a persistent feeling of fatigue. If you feel low in energy and listless for weeks, you are likely to be more susceptible to infections. Your immune system simply can’t perform as well as it should. In such phases, more serious diseases such as cancer or chronic health problems such as autoimmune diseases usually begin. However, if you take appropriate countermeasures at the first signs of a weak defense and strengthen your immune system naturally, you have a good chance of nipping diseases in the bud.

When the immune system overreacts

Excessive reactions of the immune system cause just as much impairment as an insufficient defense. Such misregulations are usually related to an exaggerated TH1 response. Suddenly, the body’s defenses turn against completely harmless substances in everyday life. The ability to distinguish between “good” and “bad” substances has been lost. Such reactions can, for example, be directed against certain ingredients of food, house dust, animal hair or pollen. The diagnosis is then usually “allergy” or “intolerance”.

In the worst case, the immune system even goes against the body’s own cells. The consequences are autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto’s disease or inflammatory rheumatic diseases. The longer and more intense these exaggerated immune reactions are, the more serious the damage to the affected body parts or organs. But even in such cases, it is possible to rebalance the immune system with a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet.

Why is my immune system weak?

The immune system is a complex construct. This makes it very powerful, but also vulnerable on many different levels. The following factors weaken your defenses:

  • Environmental toxins
  • Pollutants in food, cosmetics, detergents and cleaning agents
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Lack of exercise or excessive sport
  • Chronic sleep deprivation (less than 6 hours per day)
  • psychological factors such as chronic stress, worries, unprocessed conflicts
  • excessive cold
  • Smoking
  • stimulants (e.g. alcohol and sugar)
  • Medication
  • too little fresh air
  • Dry air
  • Not drinking enough

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How can I strengthen my immune system?

A strong immune system therefore comes from a healthy lifestyle, which consists of a balanced diet, a healthy night’s sleep and sufficient relaxation. In addition, to avoid dangerous pollutants, you should give priority to organic quality food. We will explain what else constitutes a healthy diet in more detail in a moment.

Just as important as healthy food is daily exercise in the fresh air. On the one hand, the movement activates the circulation and thus the metabolism. On the other hand, you need sunshine to make enough vitamin D. This vitamin is an essential support for your defenses. In addition, a walk is a very good way to leave the stress of everyday life behind for a while.

But even little things like regular airing and drinking 1.5 to 2 liters of water or unsweetened tea per day will strengthen your defenses. Humid indoor air maintains the natural protective film of the mucous membranes, while adequate hydration promotes the flushing out of harmful substances. On the other hand, you should avoid alcohol, tobacco and an excess of sugar. Their consumption can completely paralyze parts of the immune system for several hours.

What foods strengthen the immune system?

A healthy diet for strong defenses contains, above all, abundant vitamins and minerals. The basal vitamins are A, D, C, B6, folic acid and B12. If you want to strengthen your immune system naturally, iron, zinc, selenium and copper in sufficient quantities are also important. In addition, there are secondary plant substances that support the body in many ways and provide it with antioxidants.

In a nutshell, a predominantly plant-based diet is ideal for the immune system. Always prepare your meals fresh and bring as much variety as possible into your diet. You should avoid animal products as far as possible. Rather, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and mushrooms form the basis. If you also work mainly with healthy vegetable fats such as rapeseed or linseed oil, you can be pretty sure to be well supplied with all the necessary nutrients.

What dangers do free radicals pose to the immune system?

At this point we would like to point out the dangers of free radicals for your health. When you think of pathogens, viruses and bacteria probably come to mind first and foremost. However, more than 50 diseases are now known to be associated with free radicals. These include, for example, arteriosclerosis, heart attacks, diabetes, rheumatism, cancer and allergies.

The problem here is: free radicals are quite normal by-products of our metabolism. However, certain factors further fuel the formation of these highly reactive molecules. Therefore, on the one hand, it is important to avoid harmful environmental influences such as radiation and, on the other hand, to strengthen the immune system naturally in order to prevent oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Antioxidants play an important role in this context. This is because they are able to bind free radicals. Fruit and vegetables, for example, contain plenty of them. But mushrooms are also full of these valuable substances for our health. In the case of mushroom powder, the antioxidant content is always more diverse if it is made from the whole mushroom instead of individual parts.

Alternative medicine practitioners also like to use oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC), which belong to the group of flavonoids. The antioxidant OPC is mainly found in grape seeds. Corresponding preparations are commercially available. When taking OPC, it is advisable to combine it with natural vitamin C, since OPC and vitamin C mutually potentiate their effects. In addition to binding free radicals, this health cocktail has the ability to strengthen the immune system and, of course, regulate histamine release. This prevents the development of new allergies and alleviates the symptoms of already existing intolerances.

Every person is unique!

Our experienced team will be happy to advise you in detail and free of charge on all matters relating to your health:

Strengthen the immune system naturally with vital mushrooms

How can medicinal mushrooms support the immune system?

The positive effect of medicinal mushrooms on the immune system has long been known. In traditional Chinese medicine, vital mushrooms have been used for centuries to alleviate acute infections as well as chronic diseases. Many of the effects handed down from time immemorial have recently been investigated and confirmed in scientific studies. That is why vital mushrooms such as Reishi, ABM, Coriolus and Shiitake are increasingly used in the Western world when it comes to strengthening the immune system naturally.

Mushrooms contain many valuable substances that support our defenses and thus promote our health. For example, they are rich in minerals, vitamins, trace elements, enzymes, essential amino acids and fiber. In addition, the individual vital mushrooms each have very specific substances, each of which supports the defenses in its own way. Medicinal mushrooms are always so-called adaptogens. This means that they do not fundamentally fire up the immune system, but rather have a balancing effect. That is why they function very well even in the presence of exaggerated immune responses of the TH1 system.

Experienced mycotherapists know exactly which fungus is most effective in counteracting which problem and disease. The income of welfare mushrooms can take place thereby just as well therapy-accompanying as preventively. Feel free to contact our experts if you have any questions about the selection and dosage of medicinal mushrooms suitable for you.

Agaricus Blazei Murrill (ABM)

ABM for immunomodulation

Of all the vital mushrooms, Agaricus Blazei Murrill has a particularly high content of immune-regulating substances. These so-called “immunomodulators” are substances that influence the immune system in a positive way and thus stabilize it in the long term. These are mainly beta-glucans, which belong to the group of polysaccharides. Their chemical structure is extremely complex and the reactions they trigger in the body are equally elusive. On the one hand, they can strengthen the immune system and naturally support the defenses. On the other hand, beta-glucans also dampen overreactions, such as those that occur in autoimmune diseases. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, the ABM can be a great support for you. In studies and in practice, the ABM has proven itself, for example, in:

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatism
  • inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Autoimmune diseases of the pancreas (type 1 diabetes)

Antioxidants

In addition to the adaptogenic polysaccharides, ABM contains many antioxidant enzymes. These include, for example, superoxide dismutase, catalase and tyrosinase. They actively fight free radicals in the body. Thus, taking ABM reduces the risk of getting diseases that are favored by oxidative stress, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and fibromyalgia.

ABM against cancer

In cancer, ABM is often used as an adjunct to therapy. Since it can naturally strengthen the immune system and bind free radicals, it helps in the fight against degenerated cells as well as against the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, such as exhaustion. It stimulates immune mechanisms that are essential for fighting tumor cells. Furthermore, ABM can even induce tumor cell death.

The bone marrow in particular suffers from intensive cancer treatment. Important components of the blood and the immune system are produced there. By driving bone marrow regeneration and also possessing protective properties, ABM mitigates therapy-induced immune deficiency. Scientific research has now demonstrated the helpful effects of ABM in abdominal, colon, lung, pancreatic, prostate and liver cancers, as well as brain tumors.

Coriolus

In winter, the Coriolus is a valuable companion. By taking it, you prevent colds and influenza. However, should you ever fall ill, this medicinal mushroom will speed up the recovery process. Its action is mainly due to the two glycoproteins PSK (Krestin) and PSP. With them, the Coriolus strengthens first of all the cellular defense. But it equally activates the production of antibodies for more protection against ubiquitous pathogens.

As Coriolus medicinal mushroom activates the TH1 system, it strengthens the immune system’s ability to detect and eliminate tumor cells. On degenerated cells themselves it has a cytotoxic effect, which means that it kills them. In addition, the ingredients from Coriolus inhibit angiogenesis, i.e. the formation of new blood vessels to supply the tumor. Especially in the case of cervical cancer, the combination of antiviral and antitumor effects of Coriolus has proven to be effective. Cervical cancer, as well as some other cancers of the reproductive organs, are due to the HP virus. Studies have now shown that HPV-positive findings were negative after one year of taking Coriolus. At the same time, pre-existing lesions on the cervix recede.

Moreover, scientific researches proved high effectiveness of Coriolus medicinal mushroom in the following diseases:

  • Bacteria, e.g. E. coli, chlamydia and streptococci
  • Fungi, e.g. Candida
  • Flu viruses
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Cytomegaly
  • Hepatitis
  • Aphthae
  • Inflammation of the oral mucosa

Together with Reishi, Coriolus also successfully combats Borrelia and the causative agent of shingles (herpes zoster). An advantage here is that it is also able to reduce nerve pain. In the context of hepatitis and HIV, Coriolus helps the immune system by lowering the overall viral load and supporting liver function. This reduces the fatigue associated with the disease.

Hericium

Hericium medicinal mushroom is a benefactor of the intestine. Since 80% of the immune system is assigned to the intestine, its health is the basis for a functioning immune defense. Important immune cells are formed here, which are distributed throughout the body and on the mucous membranes. Since Hericium promotes the building of the intestinal mucosa, fewer harmful substances pass through. On the one hand, this protects the intestines and on the other hand, it protects the organism from contact with toxins and allergens.

In addition, Hericium contains substances that increase the activity of T and B lymphocytes, as well as macrophages and other immune cells. So it has great potential to strengthen the immune system naturally. In practice, Hericium has also proven effective in autoimmune diseases and diseases related to the nervous system (e.g. multiple sclerosis). Its use in influenza, Lyme disease and even hospital germs is similarly interesting. The chances of recovery for those affected can be significantly increased by taking the medicinal mushroom.

Pleurotus

As with Hericium, the action of Pleurotus also starts at the intestine. In fact, it promotes the good probiotic bacteria such as lactobacilli, enterococci and bifidobacteria in colonizing the intestinal mucosa. Therefore, its use is especially recommended after treatment with antibiotics. With the support of Pleurotus, the intestine recovers quickly, which also benefits the immune system.

Polyporus

As we have already addressed, different regions in the body are fundamentally involved in the functioning of the immune system. The lymphatic system plays a central role in this process. It is responsible for draining pathogens, degenerate body cells and foreign substances out of the body. If the lymph gets stuck, congestion can occur in the lymphatic system. Slags, toxins and many other substances that are harmful to the organism can then no longer be removed. Severe health problems are the result.

Especially cancer patients who have already had lymph nodes removed often have to deal with disorders of the lymphatic system. For them, it is extremely helpful that polyporus can naturally strengthen the immune system by stimulating lymphatic flow. Its ingredients loosen congestion and thus promote the removal of harmful substances. This, in turn, makes it easier for the body’s own defenses to do their job.

Like all other vital mushrooms, Polyporus also contains highly effective polysaccharides. They modulate the immune system in such a way that it can react appropriately to concrete dangers. In addition, Polyporus has a direct antibacterial effect on certain pathogens, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Chlamydia trachomatis. The latter trigger painful inflammation in the genital area. Men experience pain and burning in the urethra. In women, the inflammations also affect the fallopian tubes and uterus. Even cell changes in the cervix can occur as a result of infection.

Maitake

Right after ABM, maitake has the highest concentration of effective polysaccharides. Thus, it is able to effectively regulate the immune system and, in particular, to attenuate a dominant TH2 response. In turn, it strengthens the TH1 response. This mode of action is particularly helpful for allergy sufferers. Because by taking Maitake, the allergic reactions are much milder. It is also often recommended for inflammatory diseases of the intestine and as well as diabetes and obesity – both diseases that weaken the immune system and promote inflammatory processes.

In addition, the polysaccharides from maitake have a positive influence on the treatment of various cancers. It is therefore often taken as an adjunct to conventional medical procedures. Basically, the Maitake medicinal mushroom is a good choice to strengthen the immune system naturally. In fact, besides the positive influence due to its polysaccharides, it generally activates the cellular defense.

Reishi

Reishi also contains substances that have a balancing effect on the immune system. Its terpenes stimulate both the B cells of the TH1 system and the T cells of TH2. Excessive reactions therefore occur much less frequently during the intake of Reishi. This vital mushroom has proven to be a special support in the therapy of numerous autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or lupus erythematosus. But it is also able to alleviate the symptoms of neurodermatitis. This was shown very impressively in a study on children. Experts attribute its positive effect on allergic reactions such as itching and skin redness mainly to its ability to reduce histamine release.

Reishi counters oxidative stress by activating superoxide dismutase, glutathione S-transferase, and laccase. These antioxidant enzymes render free radicals harmless, which primarily prevents cancer, but at the same time protects the cells of the immune system itself from damage. In addition, it has a stimulating effect on the liver. If this progresses well with the detoxification of the body, this automatically relieves the immune system. Similarly, the anti-inflammatory property of reishi: persistent mild inflammation causes our defenses permanent stress. In the worst case, serious diseases such as arteriosclerosis develop from this. The ingredients of the reishi now relieve inflammation, reduce the risk of secondary diseases and relieve the immune system.

Last but not least, Reishi can not only strengthen the immune system, but naturally inhibit the spread of viruses and bacteria in the body. In the case of herpes simplex, the vital mushroom even prevents the virus from entering a host cell.

Shiitake

In Asian countries, shiitake has long been recognized as an immunotherapeutic for cancer. Its ingredient lentinan has been shown to inhibit tumor growth. That is why oncologists in Japan have been using it in cancer therapy for years. By also stimulating the release of messenger substances that act against tumor cells and viruses, it provides the organism with holistic support in the fight against tumors.

The lentinan as well as lenthionine contained in shiitake generally promote a rapid as well as targeted immune response. They stimulate the formation of killer cells, T-helper cells, phagocytes (macrophages) and leukocytes. Pathogens such as parasites, bacteria or even fungi thus have a much harder time spreading in the body. Essential for the functioning of the immune system is also vitamin D. The vital mushroom, like many other mushrooms, contains ergosterol, a precursor of vitamin D, which is converted into vitamin D under UV radiation.

Researchers have found that regular intake of shiitake increases the synthesis of immunoglobulins and relieves inflammation. They detected the latter by lower CRP levels in the blood and altered cytokine patterns. In connection with Covid 19, it was also shown in vitro that lentinan can probably prevent so-called cytokine storms. These are causative of an acute deterioration in health associated with serious pulmonary problems. Another positive aspect is that shiitake generally helps the immune system to fight off viruses. Thus, it is also an efficient therapy accompaniment for influenza, measles, herpes and HIV.

Every person is unique!

Our experienced team will be happy to advise you in detail and free of charge on all matters relating to your health:

What is important about vital mushrooms to support the immune system?

So you see that there is a whole range of medicinal mushrooms that strengthen your immune system. Of course, some mushrooms are better suited for prevention, while others have proven effective in treating certain diseases. To find out which vital mushrooms are ideal in your individual situation, feel free to consult our experts. No two people are alike, and so there are a variety of factors to consider when making a selection, the naming of which is beyond the scope of this article.

Where can I get suitable medicinal mushrooms?

Now, when you have clarified, in consultation with an expert, which mushrooms are most suitable for your health situation, you can purchase appropriate preparations in stores. There is an almost unmanageable number of suppliers of medicinal mushrooms. To make your choice easier, but also to achieve the best effect for your immune system, we have compiled the most important criteria for your search here.

Prefer:

  • Mushrooms from German cultivation
  • Medicinal mushrooms from organic cultivation
  • Mushroom powder from the whole mushroom
  • gently dried (< 40 °C) mushroom powder
  • powder filled in capsules

A trusted source is essential if you really want to benefit your health with medicinal mushrooms. Since mushrooms absorb everything like sponges, they must not come into contact with any substances that are hazardous to health during cultivation. Moreover, only in the powder from the whole mushroom, which has never been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° Celsius, are all the valuable substances for strengthening your immune system. The capsule form has proven itself, as the powder is better preserved and easier to dose.

Take vital mushrooms correctly

Medicinal mushrooms are one of the most effective medicines that nature has to offer us. However, it would be a mistake to equate their effects with those of conventional drugs. Therefore, you should be prepared to take it for several months up to years. Thus, the active ingredients from the mushrooms can unfold their full power and strengthen your immune system permanently in a natural way. There is no closed time window, especially for preventive use. The time factor is also not problematic at all, because medicinal mushrooms do not bring any side effects.

Unless otherwise discussed with your mycotherapist, take the mushroom preparation promptly before meals. Drink a glass of water or unsweetened tea with it. A direct interaction with other drugs is usually not expected. Nevertheless, if possible, you should leave a few hours gap between taking the mushroom capsules and your other tablets.

Please consult your therapist before use!

Free information now unlock on the topic "immune system

  • Videos with the alternative practitioner
    Cathrin Battaglia

  • Specialist text

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