Back to school often means back to the sore throats and muscle aches of colds and flus. However, you don’t have to face the season armed with only crossed fingers and a box of tissues. In fact, there are some natural substances you might not be aware of that may be very helpful in supporting your immune system through the autumnal onslaught of viruses, including the flu.
Numerous microorganisms secrete molecules called exopolysaccharides, or EPS, that are made of chains of repeating sugar residues, and different species of microorganisms secrete different types of EPS. Many probiotics, or good gut bacteria, secrete their own forms, some of which appear to be responsible for the probiotics’ beneficial effects on health. Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a probiotic found in traditional Bulgarian yogurt, was reported to have immune stimulating properties, so researchers decided to investigate its EPS.
The scientists experimented on a group of mice infected with influenza virus. Half of the mice were fed EPS from Lactobacillus bulgaricus; the other half did not get the EPS. The mice that ingested the substance had some interesting differences in their immune response compared to the mice that did not.
Natural killer (NK) cells are white blood cells that act as the body’s first line of defense against invaders such as the virus that causes the flu. Once an NK cell recognizes that a virus doesn’t belong, it binds to it and injects the virus with toxic proteins to kill it. Cells from the EPS fed mice exhibited enhanced natural killer (NK) cell activity.
Antibodies are large proteins created by an immune cell called a B cell. Each antibody responds to a specific immune target. For example, flu shots are given to try and stimulate B cells to produce antibodies against the virus that causes the flu. When antibodies react to their particular target, they surround it to prevent it from damaging other cells; they expose it to attacking immune cells, and they release chemicals messages to stimulate additional action from other parts of the immune system. The mice that were fed the EPS created increased levels of antibodies against the influenza virus.
Finally, EPS from Lactobacillus bulgaricus was shown to support the mice’s natural defenses against the influenza virus; the mice given the EPS had a better survival rate than the mice that had not ingested the substance. As the upcoming cold and flu season approaches, EPS may be a healthy addition to your arsenal of natural immune support.
About the Author:
Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.
Nagai T, Makino S, Ikegami S, Itoh H, Yamada H. Effects of oral administration of yogurt fermented with Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus OLL1073R-1 and its exopolysaccharides against influenza virus infection in mice. Int Immunopharmacol. 2011 Dec;11(12):2246-50. Epub 2011 Oct 8.