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Tag: Immune Defense

Beeswax and wooden spoon.

Beating Oral Infections with Bee-sourced Propolis

A dry, scratchy, or painful throat could be one of the disturbing sensations some may feel during this global pandemic.  A sore throat, which could be a flag for an onset of flu, is one of the most common ailments that affect people and is often associated with bacterial or viral infection, change in weather conditions, intake of certain foods or exposure to air pollutants. Sore throat is listed as one of the very first complaints felt by those who had the new coronavirus disease or COVID-19.  Given the serious threat of COVID- 19 to health, everyone gets so mindful of any discomfort affecting the oral cavity while trying to anticipate anything that could indicate an infection.

Going Natural

Many respiratory illnesses usually start from the mouth, which makes oral health care a paramount concern of everyone.  Nowadays, one’s hygiene regimen involves enormous attention to the care of the mouth and throat.  While there are numerous medicines and chemical-laced antiseptics recommended for oral infections, no one could go wrong in turning to nature’s produce to avoid such illnesses. 

An age-old plant-derived substance that has, for thousands of years, been used widely as food supplement and has been recently propelled to the front-line of oral care is Propolis, nicknamed “bee glue”.  Propolis, a resin or wax-like substance gathered by honeybees from plants, is a complex mixture of numerous substances known to deliver multiple health benefits.  Since the times of ancient Egyptians and Romans, the compound Propolis has been applied to heal sores in the oral cavity due to its recognized anti-bacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Some bioactive substances in propolis such as the flavonoids pinocembrin, galangin, and caffeic acid phenylester make it multifunctional in promoting oral health and in protecting the mouth and throat from infections.  Being a substance produced by bees from plants, propolis oral spray is as natural as it could be in protecting the oral cavity against infections.

In March 2020, the need to administer natural products that deliver antiviral activity for the protection against the SARS-COV-2 was underlined by Seif Salah Mohamed, an immunologist from Alexandria University in Egypt.  “Finding a potential natural agent may help in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 global threat,” said Mohamed.

Antimicrobial and Healing Properties

The oral cavity is a home to a great number of bacteria that are only waiting for the opportunity to cause infection when the body’s immune system becomes weak or when there are breaks in tissue barriers.  Propolis generally works against a broad range of gram positive and gram-negative bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

In a 2019 review done by microbiologists Izabela Przybylek and Tomasz Karpinski, which looked at the influence of propolis on more than 600 bacterial strains, it was found that a wide range of bacteria are susceptible to propolis extracts including the leading cause of bacterial throat infection, Streptococcus pyogenes, as well as other disease-causing bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, S. mutans and S. pneumoniae. 

In terms of antiviral activity, propolis has also been found to inhibit viruses as shown in a 1990 study led by microbiologist Maurizia Debiaggi wherein viral replication and infectivity of Herpes Simplex Virus 1, Herpes Simplex Virus 2, TK Herpes Virus, and Human Adenovirus were inhibited by specific propolis flavonoid components like quercetin and chrysin.

Recognizing the ability of locally applied propolis to beat mouth infections, dentists Dr. Mahboobe Dehgani and his team did a study in 2019. Results showed that naturally derived propolis and the chemical antiseptic chlorhexidine led to equivalent improvements on dental plaque, gum and periodontal status hence making propolis an appropriate alternative without the unpleasant effects of chlorhexidine.

Additionally, propolis also helps in reducing pain and healing wounded tissues including that of the throat.  In a 2018 study by otorhinolaryngologists led by Dr. Jeong Hwan Moon of South Korea, patients treated with propolis-based gargles after tonsil surgery had significantly less pain and had better wound healing compared to those using plain water gargles.

In many parts of the world, Propolis based oral spray is commonly used to relieve pain, to soothe sore and irritated throat, to reduce oral cavity irritations, stomatitis, gingivitis, and other various periodontal diseases as well.

Boosting the Body’s Immune Defense 

The body’s immune system is responsible for its defense against foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses and fungi that cause infections.  Very recently in May 2020, a group of researchers led by Mohammed Iddir published a study wherein they wrote: “It should be noted that a close relationship between inflammation and oxidative stress exists.  High production of free radicals at the site of infection by immune cells such as macrophages, triggers oxidative stress.”8  Protection from the damaging effects of these free radicals can be afforded by antioxidants.  Propolis, owing to its polyphenol and flavonoid contents, is recognized for its potent antioxidant activity.  In a 2019 study published in Nutrients, Dr. Andrea Braakhuis shared: “The antioxidant activity of propolis and its constituents has been well documented, with the vast majority of outcomes demonstrating a reduction in oxidative stress markers.”

Because it is naturally derived from plants, propolis is generally safe.  Although there are some reports of hypersensitivity or allergic reactions from propolis, particularly in people who are allergic to bees or bee products, propolis and its constituents are generally well tolerated.

Although propolis is yet to be considered as a definitive treatment for mouth and throat infections, propolis may indeed be considered as a natural means to keep the mouth and throat protected from infections. 

References:

Braakhuis A. Evidence on the Health Benefits of Supplemental Propolis. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2705. Published 2019 Nov 8. doi:10.3390/nu11112705

Scientific Reviews Identified Key Nutrients That Can Boost the Body’s Immune System in Times of Pandemic

Since the pandemic erupted, boosting immunity with nutrition has been a primary consideration of most medical protocols and guidelines released by health authorities. However, with the abundance in the varieties of vitamin and mineral supplements available, it can be daunting to identify which among them would really be useful in shielding against the dreaded novel coronavirus disease. This has been made more problematic with the proliferation of unsubstantiated claims and advices online.

While all vitamins and minerals are essential in maintaining good health, several scientific reviews published in medical journals this 2020 were able to point out the key vitamins and minerals most studied for the purpose of protecting against infectious diseases.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a classic and well-known anti-oxidant. In a review published in Nutrients, Muhammad Iddir and his team of researchers from the Nutrition and Health Research Group of the Luxembourg Institute of Health noted that daily supplementation of Vitamin C at 700-800 mg per day is able to reduce the duration of common colds. Vitamin C was also found to improve respiratory conditions which can be beneficial as well in this time of pandemic.1 Similarly, in a review by Emma Derbyshire and Joanne Delange in the British Medical Journal, Vitamin C supplementation was also shown to reduce the occurrence of pneumonia.

Vitamin A

Aside from its established role in maintaining a healthy eyesight, Vitamin A may also enhance resistance to infection by promoting an immediate response to the invasion of microbes and through activation of natural killer cells.3 A review done by a group of researchers led by Jayawardena R., Sooriyaarachchi P. et al. published in Diabetes Metabolic Syndrome Journal shared that in children from 2-8 years old, supplementation of Vitamin A had enhanced immune response to influenza virus. Also, supplementation to infants has shown the potential to improve antibody response.

B Vitamins

The role of B vitamins is not only limited to their well-known effects on nerves and brain functions. B vitamins are needed for the processing of the building blocks of proteins to form infection fighting antibodies. Iddir and his co-authors also found that B vitamins are valuable in reducing body injury following viral infection which is associated with a lower inflammatory state.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is formed in the skin through the action of sunlight on its cholesterol derivative. Derbyshire and Delange found that Vitamin D administration lowers the incidence and severity of respiratory viral disease.3 This is supported by the findings of Sarah Michienzi and Melissa Badowski in their review published in Drug Content Journal that Vitamin D increases antiviral defenses which is a safety strategy to protect against acute respiratory tract infection.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another highly recognized anti-oxidant. It works with Vitamin C to protect the integrity of the cellular defenses against infection from damage caused by free radicals. In their review, Iddir and his co-authors discussed how a study on elderly patients recovering from pneumonia had lower re-hospitalization rates when given vitamin E.

Must-have Minerals or Trace Elements in This Time of Pandemic

Known to many, low levels of minerals and trace elements in the body is also associated with increased risk of infection. Here are some of the minerals that could be considered to strengthen the body’s immune system:

Zinc

Zinc is a very important mineral in the body’s fight for infection. Derbyshire and Delange found that zinc supplementation can reduce the incidence and duration of pneumonia.3 Meanwhile, Iddir and his co-authors shared that zinc supplementation reduced the duration of colds from 7.6 days to 4.4 days. They also found that there has been twice the number of reported deaths from pneumonia in patients with low zinc levels than the ones with the normal zinc levels in the body.

Iron

Aside from its known use for anemia, iron has an important role in the body’s immune response. Iron is used by white blood cells to form highly reactive compounds to kill bacteria. It was found that by receiving 3 months of iron supplementation, recurrences of acute respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and gastroenteritis were significantly reduced.

Selenium

Selenium deficiencies have been associated with clinical improvement with viral infection specifically in children.2 Dietary selenium supplementations were also found to increase cellular immune response thru enhance immune cell proliferation.

Copper

Copper, like iron, has a role in innate immune response specifically on invading microbes. Important in antibody production and immunity, copper plays a role in fighting against viral infection by inhibiting the replication of influenza viruses.

Although it is best to eat the right food, vitamins and minerals may not always be enough in food to provide the complete set of nutrients that the body needs especially during this challenging times. In this case, the practical solution to provide for this need is to provide vitamin and mineral supplementation. The cure for the novel coronavirus disease may not be at hand yet, but boosting the immunity by supplementation with key vitamins and minerals can offer protection against viral infections. In all of these, the best advice on your nutrition will be from your doctor.

As the timeless adage goes, prevention is better than cure.



References:


Iddir M, Brito A, Dingeo G, et al. Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations During the COVID-19 Crisis. Nutrients.

Jayawardena R, Sooriyaarachchi P, Chourdakis M, Jeewandara C, Ranasinghe P. Enhancing Immunity in Viral Infections, with Special Emphasis on COVID-19: A review. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 

Derbyshire E, Delange J COVID-19: Is There a Role for Immunonutrition, Particularly in the over 65s? BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.

Michienzi SM, Badowski ME. Can vitamins and/or supplements Provide Hope Against Coronavirus?. Drugs Context. 

The Strong Protective Cover by the Gentle Vitamin C

So much has been said about the multiple health benefits of vitamin C which is touted as the body’s “prime” immune system boosting nutrient.  Vitamin C is popularly known for its host of benefits in protecting the body against stress and certain diseases such as anemia, immune system deficiencies, asthma, viral illnesses and cardiovascular illnesses.

Vitamin C, a widely used water-soluble vitamin is known to play a vital role as a co-factor in a variety of body functions.  It is one of the most essential nutrients needed for building and strengthening body tissues owing to its action in the formation of a firm collagen, the cement-like substance that binds the body cells together to form strong tissues.  Vitamin C is therefore important in the formation of healthy skin, blood vessel walls, cartilage, strong bones and teeth, as well as in promoting faster healing of wounds.

Vitamin C is also reported to promote cardiovascular health and helps lower blood cholesterol.

As a potent antioxidant, Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and increases body resistance to stress and infections.  Specifically, Vitamin C protects the body’s soldiers, the white blood cells, from the damaging effects of free radicals with its antioxidative properties and at the same time stimulates the white blood cells in clearing away infectious microbes. 

Though it does not offer a cure for diseases such as the common cold, several studies suggest that vitamin C helps in alleviating the disturbing symptoms of cold and in shortening its duration.  This can reduce the risk for dreaded lung infections such as pneumonia.

In a scientific review published on January 2020 in the journal Nutrients by a team of researchers led by Adrian Gombart of the Linus Pauling Institute, the role of Vitamin C in preventing and managing infections was explored.  In terms of reducing the risk for infections, the authors found that among people who regularly engage in intense physical exercise, vitamin C supplementation lowered the occurrence of common cold by more than half.  Furthermore, the risk of developing pneumonia in adults and children was also lowered by vitamin C supplements, particularly when dietary vitamin C was low.

There were also evidences gathered to support the use of vitamin C in managing infections. Vitamin C intake among adults and children with the common cold led to significant reductions in symptom duration and severity, shortened the time of confinement indoors, and resulted in the relief of cold symptoms including pain, fever, and chills.  In older patients with pneumonia, vitamin C was also found to significantly lower disease severity and the risk of death, especially if blood levels of the vitamin were initially low. 

The Gentle Protective Cover

Many are quite reluctant in taking ascorbic acid or the so- called ordinary or “acidic” Vitamin C because of its potential effect in irritating the lining of the stomach of susceptible individuals.   Thus the alkaline form, sodium ascorbate, provides a safer and better choice of ascorbic acid.

Labeled as the “non-acidic” Vitamin C, sodium ascorbate is buffered or neutralized with the mineral sodium as the salt of vitamin C and is often called mineral ascorbate.  Sodium ascorbate delivers the same benefits of vitamin C to the human body without causing the possible gastric irritating effects of the “acidic” Vitamin C.

Sodium ascorbate is in alkaline or buffered form, therefore it will not cause adverse reactions encountered when taking ascorbic acid.  Since sodium ascorbate does not cause hyperacidity, this alkaline or buffered form of Vitamin C is commonly recommended to individuals who experience gastrointestinal complaints such as heartburn, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea.

How Safe is Vitamin C?

Despite its sodium content, Sodium ascorbate in recommended doses is safe for hypertensive individuals. Adults, especially those with cardiovascular disease, on a low-salt diet are advised to limit their total daily sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg/day.

Sodium ascorbate contains only 10% – 11% sodium.  Approximately, 1000 mg of sodium ascorbate, equivalent to two 500mg capsules,  provides 889 mg of vitamin C and only 111 mg of sodium.  1-2 capsule(s) of 500 mg of sodium ascorbate taken daily will only give approximately 111 mg sodium.

Vitamin C is usually well tolerated and generally no adverse reactions are expected when it is taken at recommended doses.Vitamin C may cause diarrhea if taken in large amounts.

Vitamin C should be given with caution in patients with hyperoxaluria because large amounts may lead to the formation of calcium oxalate stones in the kidney. Urinary stone formers appear to be at higher risk for calculi if individuals take large doses of vitamin C daily. 

Large doses of vitamin C may also result in a false positive glucose test in the urine and may interfere with the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus.


Reference:

Vitamin C. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center.

Gombart AF, Pierre A, Maggini S. A Review of Micronutrients and the Immune System-Working in Harmony to Reduce the Risk of Infection.