The search for Immune Support
I am very interested in alternative therapies that provide immune support. Our immune system is central to our health. It shields us from viruses, bacteria and even toxins. Unfortunately as we become older, our immune system weakens. This is known as immunoscencence. To learn more about this visit this blog.
Dr. Kohei Homma, executive director of AminoUp discusses how traditional Chinese medicine has used mushrooms for years for immune support. AminoUp’s leading supplement, AHCC, was launched in 1978, following evaluation of more than 100 different mushroom species. AHCC is a mixture of nutrients extracted from the culture of Shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) mycelia.
What is AHCC?
AHCC consists of a mix of mostly polysaccharides, large sugar polymers. These polysaccharides, researchers at AminoUp reported in the European Journal of Nutrition, stimulate specific receptors that are located on human immune cells in the gut that recognize foreign pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, providing immune support. According to Homma, “AHCC is able to modulate and improve the non-specific immune functions in our body to a range of risk factors”.
It is known that AHCC has immunomodulatory effect that provides immune support. This is due to one of its active components, partially acylated a-glucans, which stimulates the gut immunity. AHCC contains a mixture of polysaccharides, amino acids, and minerals (Yin et al., 2010) Because of this, AHCC has been widely used as a supplement among immunocompromised people, including cancer patients, since its launch for immune support.
What makes AHCC unique is how it is manufactured. Most mushroom products are made from the fruiting bodies of mushrooms by extracting components with a solvent such as water. AHCC, on the other hand, is made from the mycelia of Shiitake mushroom, which are cultured in a liquid medium. The effects of AHCC achieved through this unique manufacturing process is how the effects of AHCC are achieved.
How does AHCC work?
Results of several studies suggest that AHCC can enhance CD4 and CD8 T cell immune responses in healthy persons via increasing production of cytokines IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha from T cells, providing immune support (Yin, Fujii, & Walshe, 2010).
It has also been found that the effects of AHCC are more evident in hosts with the impaired immune function. The study measured the frequency of IFN-gamma and TNF-a producing CD4 and CD8 T cells in adults over age 50 before and after taking AHCC. The results demonstrate AHCC as a novel supplement that can provide immune support.
It is important to understand, AHCC is an immune modulator in regards to immune support. It can increase immune response when it is needed, and decrease the response (as seen in inflammatory disorders) where it is needed.
A summary of AHCC’s benefits are listed below:
- Increases Secretory IgA in intestinal epithelium when needed
- Reduction in inflammatory cytokines and gut and lung epithelium
- Improve CD4+ T cell numbers
- Advanced innate immune system with increased IL-1B and IL-17 and INF-gamma in human monocytes
- Improved NK cell activity (innate immune system) during infection
- Increased production of various cytokines such as INF-gamma, IL-2, IL-4 IL-6 and IL-10, as well as TNF-a during infection
- Stimulates NK cells to produce cytokines such as INF-gamma and IL-2- which thus enhances innate and adaptive immune response
- Modulates cytokine response in various tissue to help modulate inflammation- such as IL-1a, IL-1B, Il-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-17, TNF-a, IFN-gamma
- Regulates genes involved in inflammation including those for cytokines
In most of the studies, AHCC was provided as 500-mg capsules. Total daily dose was 3g (3 capsules twice daily). The production of the cytokines was measured at 30 and 60 days after AHCC intake and 30 days after the last dose. Interestingly, the frequency of CD4 T cell subsets producing the cytokines was higher at 30 and 60 days. Even after 30 days of discontinuing the AHCC, the frequency of CD4 T cells producing the combination of IFN-gamma and TNF-a at visit 4 was still higher compared to baseline levels. This implies that the effect of AHCC on CD4 T cells could last for several weeks even after this compound is discontinued (Yin et al., 2010).
AHCC and cancer
AHCC is gaining attention for the role it may be able to play in helping people with cancer. Here are the results of 8 clinical studies that have tested the usefulness of AHCC supplementation in different cancer related situations.
- According to the AHCC Research Association, AHCC is showing promise for:
- Improved appetite in head and neck cancer patients
- Better survival rates for hepatocellular carcinoma
- Better prognosis with advanced-stage breast cancer
- Better quality of life for advanced liver cancer patients
- Better prognosis or early stage prostate cancer
- Higher survival rate for gastric and colon cancer patients
According to the International Journal of Immunotherapy, certain qualities of AHCC may allow it to repress the spread of tumors in cancer patients. “Of the participants using AHCC, 66% of people with prostate cancer experienced complete remission, as did 66% of people with ovarian cancer, 50% of people with multiple myeloma, and 33% of people with breast cancer” (AHCC Research Association, n.d.)
This study also found that AHCC worked quickly to improve NK cell activity and stabilize levels relating to the specific type of cancer (for example, PSA levels in people with prostate cancer).
Two published peer-reviewed human clinical studies (on 269 and 40 subjects respectively) evaluating advanced liver cancer showed extended survival, lower recurrence and improved quality of life among patients taking AHCC. Several other studies demonstrated the ability of AHCC to significantly increase NK cell activity in immune compromised patients. “Given the abundance of preliminary positive results across different infections, AHCC supplementation demonstrates valuable and clinically-relevant potential as an immune-enhancing compound” (Pescatore, n.d.).
Is it safe?
AHCC boasts a strong safety profile supported by a Phase I study conducted at Harvard, a 20-year history of use in Japan, its adoption by over 700 clinics and use by an estimated 70,000 people worldwide (including 20,000 in the U.S.). Thus, there is a strong case to be made for adding AHCC to a daily supplement regimen for immune support, not only during the apparent times of increased infectious threat such as the flu season, but also all year long.
How can this help the population with bladder issues?
It is well known that there is a gut-bladder connection. Many patients with IC/BPS also have other gut-related disorders such as IBS, IBD and leaky gut. Due to its role in decreasing the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines for TNA-a and IL-1B, and normalizing IL-6, IL-10 and IL-17. As a result, it may play a role in immune support bymaintaining immune balance and enhancing mucosal barrier function that can prevent IBD.
Theoretically, AHCC should be able to provide immune support to defend you against pathogens that cause UTI’s. Both human and animal studies have pointed to AHCC’s ability to enhance the activity of natural killer cells (“NK cells”).
These cells provide a crucial first defense for the body, launching a rapid attack while the other cells of the immune system are still mobilizing. AHCC has been the subject of several studies, which investigated its potential as a countermeasure to various infectious diseases, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and several other opportunistic infections (Klebsiella pneumoniae, Candida albicans and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.)
Looking at “opportunistic” or hospital-acquired infections, the effects of AHCC supplementation on the resistance to Klebsiella pneumoniae (principally associated with bacterial pneumonia and urinary tract infections) was studied in both infected and stress induced mice. The AHCC-supplemented mice demonstrated increased survival, increased mean time until death, decreased susceptibility to infection and increased bacterial clearance from the blood. This is great news for UTI sufferers who are looking for additional immune support.
The AHCC I use is ImmunPower by American Biosciences. If you would like to try a bottle, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
AHCC Research Association (n.d.) AHCC and Cancer: What are the Studies Showing? Retrieved (2022, January 31st) from https://www.ahcc.net/blogs/news/ahcc-and-cancer-what-are-the-studies-showing/
Anil, D; Calder, P; Toshinori, I. (2016). Clinician’s Guide to AHCC. International Congress on Nutrition and Integrative Medicine.
Pescatore, F. (n.d.) AHCC a Powerful Aid in Fighting Viruses and Infections
Yin, Z., Fujii, H., & Walshe, T. (2010). Effects of active hexose correlated compound on frequency of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells producing interferon-gamma and/or tumor necrosis factor-alpha in healthy adults. Hum Immunol, 71(12), 1187-1190. doi:10.1016/j.humimm.2010.08.006