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Increasing Your Immune System’s Front Line

Written by Erin Chamerlik, Nutrition Educator, MS, MT(ASCP)

Natural Killer Cells (NK cells).

Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells). Not something we talk about everyday, or any day, but these little white blood cells are your friends because they are your front line of defense against cancer and this winter’s germs, including those that cause colds, flu and pneumonia.

When cells are infected by a virus or changed into cancerous cells, NK cells attack causing the rogue cell to die (apoptosis).

Here’s the bad news. Like so many things in the body, NK cells lose their functionality as we age. The good news is that we can optimize our NK cell function with a few simple improvements.

There are a few strategies that you can employ to help strengthen your immune system and increase the function of NK cells, your immune system’s front line fighters.

Increase DHEA

DHEA, (dehydroepiandrosterone), produced and metabolized in the adrenal glands, gonads, and dermis, has the abilityto improve the immune system (and many other things) when blood levels of the important hormone precursor are increased to more youthful levels. After age 25, DHEA levels decline at the rate of about 2% per year. Some unwanted signs of low DHEA include low libido, low energy, poor memory, increased belly fat, weight gain and a sub-optimal immune system.

It is important to maintain DHEA levels because DHEA has immune-enhancing effects and increases the NK cells. 1, 2

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