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prebiotics

Posted by
zarin on August 09, 2002 at 01:51:43:

Larch Arabinogalactans -
A New Tool for Managing Health

Chris Foley, MD

In today's health care system we are beginning to look for new ways to manage our individual health without the use of drugs. This notion actually stems from the deeper concern that most patients have that they would rather avoid a disease endpoint than treat it with a dangerous intervention once it has been diagnosed. Much of this interest has resulted simply from the explosion of information that is now quite accessible to those who would seek to discover it.

One area that is receiving an abundance of attention is the management of the immune system. Whether the issue is helping those with compromised immune systems such as HIV victims and cancer patients or simply assisting with the management of a common cold, there is a sense that we can be more proactive than merely waiting for the next antibiotic. Many botanical remedies are known that might serve this purpose, but the pursuit of their science, active ingredients, best methods of delivery, etc., remains in development. Newer compounds are emerging that promise that ideal combination of effectiveness and guaranteed standardization that will best fit into a science-based integrative health care system.

A large molecular weight polysaccharide extract of the Western larch tree, arabinogalactan, promises to be such a compound. Discovered somewhat incidentally as a by-product of the wood industry, this unique polymer is being shown to possess novel immune-modulating activity while retaining a margin of safety and standardization that make it suitable for use both as a nutraceutical and a functional food additive in the day-to-day diet. It is nearly universally mixable with all kinds of foods and beverages making it ideally suited for many nutritional applications.

Already research has confirmed the up-regulating effects of arabinogalactan on the immune system. The effects are multifold and are likely related to its similarities to cell wall components in certain bacteria. As a matter of fact, the exact same compound is actually part of the cell walls of a certain strain of bacteria that are used to stimulate the immune system in certain vaccines . We have lymphocytes called "natural killer cells" (NK) that are proving to be very important to our host defenses against viruses and perhaps even cancer cells. Arabinogalactan appears to significantly increase the number and activity of these NK cells1, and this is consistent with the known effects of this compound in other botanical compounds such as mistletoe.

From a clinical standpoint this translates into some very appealing applications, especially when one considers the fact that larch arabinogalactan is relatively inexpensive, very palatable, and offers bonuses for the gut's ecology by fostering the growth of favorable flora. In fact, the gut's micro flora may play an independent and important role in the modulation of our immune system based on what we are learning about the influence that these organisms can have on host resistance. , In other words regular intake of this compound might not only promote heightened immunity through a direct effect, but there may also be an abundant set of favorable effects on the gut's bacteria that itself may help our complex immune system to function more reliably.

Of course there is the need to monitor our health wisely in many other ways. A good diet, exercise, personal stress management, and other nutrients are very important. But the availability of a safe, inexpensive, convenient, and very effective tool to help us through those periods of "immune vulnerability" is welcome indeed. For those of us who have bigger challenges as a result of conditions and drugs that further limit our immune functioning, larch arabinogalactans may ultimately prove to be a regular necessity.

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Re: prebiotics (Archive in probiotics.)

Posted by Walt Stoll on August 10, 2002 at 08:40:39:

In Reply to: prebiotics posted by zarin on August 09, 2002 at 01:51:43:

Thanks, Zarin.

Walt

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