Natural Immune Modulation After 50: Why it should be part of your anti-cancer strategy
James Meschino DC, MS, ROHP
Data shows that cancer incidence increases dramatically after the age of 50 for many common cancers (i.e. breast, colon, prostate). According to many researchers, weakening of immune function is partly to blame for the escalation in cancer risk as we age. When functioning optimally, immune cells are responsible for hunting down and destroying emerging cancer cells before they have a chance to multiply into life-threatening tumors. However, the age-related shrinkage (involution) of the thymus gland results in less efficient immune cell function, with an established increase risk of certain infections and cancer. As aptly detailed by Drs R. Aspinall and D. Andrew (J Clin Immunology 2000) T cells (an important group of immune cells) in older individuals fail to respond to stimuli as efficiently as T cells from younger individuals.
The thymus gland serves as type of boot camp for T-cells, teaching them how to use their weapons efficiently to track down and kill cancer cells, as well as many invading germs (bacteria, candida, viruses) that can cause infection. As the thymus gland shrinks, during our adult years, our immune system weakens, and we become increasingly moresusceptible to cancer and certain life-threatening infections.
Keep Your Immune System Strong after 50 With B-glucans
Although there is no way to completely revitalize our thymus gland after age 50, studies suggest that we can keep your immune system functioning more optimally, even in face of age-dependent thymus gland shrinkage. In this regard I am referring to supplementation with natural agents that contain B-glucans – nature’s immune booster.
Beta- glucans are a type of polysaccharide (zero calorie containing long sugar-like molecules) commonly found in various medicinal mushrooms. My favourite is reishi mushroom extact, as reishi contains large beta-glucans fraction, which are known to possess the most potent immune stimulatory effects, and reishi mushrooms also contain other natural agents shown to have direct cancer cell killing effects (ganoderic acid, tritperenes). Experimental studies, animal studies and preliminary human studies indicate that supplementation with beta-glucans –containing supplements increase the efficiency of immune cells. In fact, many immune cells have beta-glucans receptors on their surface. When beta-glucans attach to the receptor, the immune cells respond in a way the makes them much more efficient and youthful in their ability to identify and kill cancer cells and various pathogens (bacteria, virsuesetc).
Another rich source of beta-glucans includes the herb astragalus. Many studies involving astragalus have shown impressive immune optimization and anti-cancer effects as well. For this reason, I routinely recommend that patients over the age of 50 take a supplement containing meaningful doses of reishi mushroom extract, astragalus, milk thistle and indole-3 carbinol, as part of important an important immune-support program at this critical time stage in life. Milk thistle and indole-3 carbinol help to prevent the age-related decline in detoxification function, which is also linked to increased cancer risk after age 50.
Here is an example of an Immune and Detoxification Support supplementI take each day:
Daily dosage of 2 capsules contains:
Reishi mushroom extract – 60 mg (standardized to 10% polysaccharides, 4% triterpenes)
Astragalus – 200 mg (2:1 extract)
Milk thistle – 300 mg (standardized to 80% silymarin)
Indole-3 carbinol – 50 mg (97% grade)
10 Other Ways to Support Immune Health Through Out All of Adult Life:
- Minimize alcohol intake, as well as refined sugars
- Don’t smoke
- Manage stress effectively
- Get sufficient rest
- Take a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral supplement daily (containing 1000 mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 200 mcg selenium, 1000 IU vitamin D)
- Consider additional vitamin D supplementation if your vitamin D blood level remains below 80nmol/L
- Get moderate exercise and avoid over weight problems
- Consume garlic and onions regularly
- Consider a probiotic supplement
- Consider taking a melatonin supplement after 40 (one hour before bedtime). Some immune cells also have melatonin receptors. Melatonin declines with age, which appears to also contribute to immune system weakening.