What’s In Your Cold & Flu Formula?

Ah-Choo Is the Cold & Flu formula you are taking really for Cold & Flu or is it just another immune boosting formula? Most Cold & Flu formulas do not have anything in them specifically targeted at colds or flu symptoms. Most are largely designed to enhance the immune system, which logically keeps us healthy and less susceptible to coming down with a cold or flu. A strong immune system of course can make the duration of a cold or flu shorter. A true cold and flu formula should not only fortify the immune response but also address specific symptoms of colds & flu. For example N-acetyl-L-Cysteine is a safe natural ingredient derived from the simple amino acid cysteine. N-acetyl-L-Cysteine is a precursor of glutathione; that is it raises glutathione levels. Llymphocytes (small white blood cells) depend on glutathione for proper function of the immune system. In addition to playing an important roll in fortifying the immune response, N-acetyl-L-Cysteine helps break down mucus, there by relieving that stuffy pressure feeling in the head, chest and sinuses. This ingredient is a must for any real Cold & flu formula.

To fortify the immune response further, no formula should be without Beta Glucans; these are likely the single most important consideration for boosting the immune response to germs, viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. The immune system has two components, the innate immune response and the acquired immune response. In the innate immune system, beta glucans bind with macrophages (a type of white blood cell whose job it is to detect intruders and coordinate the body’s defense against them). When activated by beta glucan, macrophages go on high alert and their ability to identify and destroy invading pathogens is intensified. Research shows that macrophages fortified by beta glucans are better able to rally the body’s defenses. The health and strength of your immune system directly affects your body’s ability to protect itself. Beta glucan will support your immune system and help it achieve peak performance. To truly fortify your immune response, be sure the cold & flu formula you take has a good source of beta glucans.

What then are the best sources of Beta Glucans? Two equally valid schools of thought support Beta Glucans sourced from either yeast or fungi (mushrooms). This of course begs the obvious question, which yeast source is best and which mushroom source is best? The short answer is Bakers Yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) and Agaricus blazei mushrooms. The beta glucan content in bakers yeast is higher and superior to brewer’s yeast. Bakers yeast has both the 1,3-D1,6 branching whereas brewers yeast lacks the vital 1,6 branching. The Agaricus blazei mushroom originally from Brazil and now transplanted in Japan has long been know for it’s immune boosting properties and superior beta glucan content. It is important that you check the source to be sure you are getting effective beta glucan from either or both of these two sources.

It is well documented that Zinc & Selenium are two of the most important minerals for enhancing a healthy immune system. These two minerals are also a must have in your immune boosting formula. Keep in mind that zinc tends to deplete the body’s supply of copper. It would be advantageous to supplement with copper or look for a cold & flu formula that already has the correct amount of copper added to it. Ginseng is also known for its immune fortifying properties. The root of North American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) is superior and by far the most effective type of ginseng to fortify the body’s immune response. In several clinical studies, North American ginseng’s active ingredient ginsenosides improved the function of cells playing a role in immunity.

What about echinacea, vitamin C, pinecone extract, andrographis, arabinogalactan, etc? These are all good secondary choices to consider taking, along with zinc, selenium, beta glucans, North American ginseng and N-acetyl-L-Cysteine for colds & flu and immune system enhancement. Remember prevention is always better than treatment; consider taking a good immune fortifying formula during cold and flu season before you catch something and particularly if you are traveling abroad or going away on holidays or a business trip. Also remember to wash your hands frequently.

Dr. T. Stokes, PhD Biochemistry, BSc; natural products researcher.

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