Garlic greatly helps stimulate immune functioning. Its anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti-cancer properties are partly partly due to its ability to enhance immune functioning. It particularly stimulates the power of T-lymphocytes and macro-phages, which play a dominant role in immune functions. This has been discovered by Benjamin H.S. Lau, M.D., of the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University. In laboratory tests, he found that garlic extract impeled macrophages to generate more agents to kill microbes and tumour cells. Dr. Lau calls garlic a biological response modifier.
Several years ago, Dr. Tariq Abdullah, M.D., and colleagues at the Akbar Clinic and Research Center in Panama City, Florida, ate large amounts of raw garlic, up to 15 cloves a day. Others in the study ate no garlic. The blood from the garlic eaters had more natural killer cells. In fact, such natural killer cells, destroyed from 140-160 per cent more cells than did natural killer cells derived from non-garlic eaters. An amount as small as 1.8 grams of garlic, about half a clove, results in an increase in natural killer cell activity.
Too much fat, especially of the wrong type, weakens immune system. There is evidence to suggest that excessive fat impairs natural killer cell activity. One study at the University of Massachuetts Medical School by James R. Hebert, Sc.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, had some young men decrease the fat in their diets on an average from about 32 per cent of calories to 23 per cent.
Their natural killer activity increased about 48 per cent. Those who consumed the highest fat diets got the greatest immune boost from the reduction. The vitality of the immune system also depends on the type of fat. Fish oil, containing omega-3 fatty acids, actually seems to strengthen immune system. Most harmful are the vegetable polyunsaturated fats called omega-6 fatty acids contained in corn, safflower and sunflower seed oils. Eating too much of them can severely disrupt immune functioning. For instance, such oils can inhibit formation of lymphocytes, causing a partial shutdown in immune responses.
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have long hailed the healing power of the shiitake, the big, brown Asian mushrooms. In 1960, Dr. Kenneth Cochran, at the University of Michigan, discovered one reason for this. He isolated from the shiitake, antiviral susbstance called lentinin that showed a strong immunity-boosting activity. Recent research by scientists at Semmelweis Medical University in Budapest, Hungary, have also found that lentinin can modify cells to resist the colonisation or spreading of lung cancer cells. Thus the shiitake mushrooms may help the immune system fight and prevent cancer.
Zinc-rich foods can enhance immunity functioning. This mineral helps increase many aspects of immunity, including production of antibodies and T-cells, as well as other white-blood-cell activity. It has been shown in experiments on animals that when they are deficient in zinc, they cannot fight off attacks by bacteria, viruses and parasites. It has also been observed that adults and children deficient in zinc, often have more colds and respiratory tract infections.
According to Dr. Novera H. Spector, a scientist at the American National Institute of Health, zinc may even rejuvenate an ageing immune system. He explains that zinc may help reverse declining immune functions that dectiorate rapidly after the age of 60 years. After the middle age, the thymus gland, which plays a key role in immune defences, begins to decline radically. The thymus gland secretes thymulin, a hormone that stimulates production of T-cells. With the decline of thymus gland, the output of thymulin also decreases.
Italian studies have discovered that even low doses of zinc, taken daily, resulted in an amazing 80 per cent regrowth of their thymus glands, a significant increase in active hormones and T-cells that fight infections. Dr. Nicola Fabris, Ph.D., at the Italian National Research Centre on Ageing in Ancona, gave 15mg of zinc daily to a small group of people over age 65. Their blood levels of hormones and active T-celis increased so high as to be equal to levels seen in young people. The main vegetarian food sources of zinc are milk, beans, whole grain cereals, nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds.