Natural killer cells (NK cells) are a type of lymphocyte that that is on guard in your blood stream looking for viruses and cancer cells.  These cells are formed in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils and thymus. Let’s understand how amazing these microscopic natural killers function and why they are so important in maintaining vibrant health. I like to refer to them as The Exterminators.

There are cancer cells that may developing in your body at this very moment, but if your NK cells are healthy and strong, there is no need to worry. According to the Journal of Biomed Biotechnology, “NK cells can control both local tumor growth and metastasis due to their ability to exert direct cellular cytotoxicity.”  In fact, understanding the power of NK cells may open up doors for new strategies in dealing with cancer.

NK cellsWe have about 2 billion NK cells floating around in our blood stream at any given moment. So how do they target unhealthy cells? It is a very fascinating process:

  • They patrol the body and target cancer cells, viruses and bacteria.
  • They then squirt a toxic substance directly towards that unhealthy cell.
  • That toxin literally penetrates the skin of the unhealthy cell and causes it to implode.
  • The NK cells then release a hormone that stimulates other Immune System cells to come to the rescue and gobble up the remains of this unfriendly cell.

 How does your NK cell know the difference between a healthy cell and cancer cell? NK cells have a sophisticated detection system that actually communicates with the cells’ nucleus to see if it is friend or foe. It then makes the decision: to kill or not to kill?

Unfortunately, as we age and are exposed to various environmental stressors, our NK cells function rapidly decline. This degenerating and weakening of the immune function is called immune senescence. A typical example of this is the “re-awakening” of the chicken pox virus erupting and causing the painful effects of shingles. (Boosting the immune system would thus be much more effective and logical than a shingles vaccine!)  

In order to keep your NK cells in peak performance, here are a few suggestions:

  • Over 70% of your immune system begins in the lining of your intestinal tract, so it is vital to keep a healthy flora. Fermented foods and daily probiotics can help boost your Immunity.blueberries 2
  • Blueberries have been shown to actually double the amount of NK cells after 6 weeks of ingestion. Another great reason to make juicing a part of your daily routine.
  • Spices like black pepper and cardamom significantly enhance the cytotoxic activity of NK cell.  
  • Foods that are high in beta carotenes such as kale, spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes stimulate NK cells.
  • The sulfur containing compounds in garlic stimulates NK cell activity and could reduce the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • Selenium increases the response of NK cells and may result in better breast cancer prognosis.
  • Enzymatically Modified Rice Bran (EMBR) has been shown to increase NK cell activity by up to 84%. 

This short video demonstrates how NK cells actually work.

Essential #1 is Let Food Be Your Medicine. Once again, we see the wisdom in applying such a basic concept as healthy food and how it can potentially impact our health. Make sure your NK cells are active and strong by applying the laws of Nature and feeding your body healthy, nutritious food.