August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Whether you have children or grandchildren, understanding how vaccines work is an important aspect of successful parenting/co-parenting and role modeling Active Wellness.
A vaccine works by training the immune system to recognize and fight pathogens, whether they’re viral or bacterial. In order to achieve this goal, certain molecules from either a virus or a bacterium (known as antigens) are injected into the body so that the immune system can identify and remember them as “enemies.” When confronted with the antigens, the immune system goes to work by activating white blood cells that make proteins called antibodies, which locate the “enemies” and wage a counter offensive.
Depending on the strength of the virus/bacteria, the immune system will succeed or fail. In cases where the antibody response is too late, the invading organism can cause a severe or life-threatening infection.1 Fortunately, in many cases, even when symptoms are already present, the immune system and its antibodies can eventually help stop many infections and help the body recover.
Vaccines can be effective to protect entire populations even when not everyone is inoculated. This phenomenon is called “herd immunity” or “community immunity.” Public health officials and scientists continue to study herd immunity to identify key thresholds. One notable example is in Gambia, where 70% of the population was vaccinated and that was enough to eliminate the Hib disease, a bacterial illness that can lead to potentially deadly brain infection in young children. 2
In addition to those who choose not to vaccinate, there is a percentage of the population that cannot be vaccinated due to severe allergies, pregnancy or compromised immune systems. Fortunately, when “herd immunity” occurs, these unvaccinated people are able to stay safe—this was the case with the 30% of Gambians who were not vaccinated but did not contract Hib.
Those with hardier immune systems fare better when attacked by pathogens. The elderly are especially at risk, because they are more likely to contract infectious diseases than the young. Respiratory infections, influenza and particularly pneumonia are leading causes of death in people over 65 worldwide. Furthermore, studies have shown that people over 65 respond less favorably to vaccines than healthy children. Despite this reduction in efficacy, sickness and death in older people have been significantly lowered when compared with those who do not get vaccinations.3
Scientists continue to research why certain nutrients and micronutrients may alter components of immune function—but there is no evidence they can actually bolster immunity to the point of being protective against infection and disease.4 There are so many different kinds of cells in the immune system that they respond in innumerable ways to the myriad types of microbes. Scientists still don’t know which specific cells to boost and by how much. What they do know is that the body continually generates immune cells and the extra cells remove themselves through a natural process of cell death.5
Studies have been conducted over the years regarding the relationship of mushrooms and immune response.* Mycologists continue to produce evidence that mushroom species have been used as far back as 3,000 B.C. for their potential benefits.6
Kenzen® Immunity is formulated with 14 species of mushrooms, of which six strains are exclusive to Nikken.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.