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Home > Research Department  > Health Concerns Articles > IMMUNE SYSTEM SUPPORT
    Health Concerns Articles  
IMMUNE SYSTEM SUPPORT
Articles by a Naturopathic Doctor ( N.D.)
Last Updated: July 22nd, 2015

POSITIVE ATTITUDE & THE RIGHT FOOD

Many different factors can affect your immune system, but two very important ones are your diet and your emotional well being.
Reduced in activity by stress, nutrient deficiencies and toxins in the body, your immune system response  can be optimized  with the right food, supplements and approach to life...

The immune system is the police force of the body.  It is a complex system of cells that defend the body from invading organisms, regulate inflammation and control abnormal cell growth.  Many organs are involved in the immune response, the bone marrow, lymphatic system, thymus, liver and spleen.  Bone marrow produces red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

The spleen is a location where immune cells can monitor the blood for foreign matter.  It also speeds up red blood cell production and activates blood clotting. The liver can increase body temperature and induce sweating to help fight off infections.  The thymus produces B cells, which make antibodies, and T cells, which are part of the immune response.

The immune system is capable of fighting off intruders and remembering them so that they are killed off quickly if they invade again.  The immune system must be able to differentiate self from non-self in order to know what to attack.  If it does not recognize the body’s own tissue than autoimmune diseases occurs.

The immune system can be compromised by:

  • physical or emotional stress

  • poor dietary habits

  • exposure to chemicals and medications

  • lack of sleep

  • deficiency in friendly bacteria

  • lack of physical activity

Physical and emotional stress has been shown in studies to depress the amount of circulating immune cells.  Examples of possible stressors are excessive exercise, surgery, a long illness, and loss of a job or death of a loved one.  The sympathetic nervous system is activated by stress and causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, and a heightening of the body’s senses.  It decreases the functioning of systems that are not essential for fighting or fleeing a situation.  This includes immunity.  Stress also causes increased inflammation and a build –up of damaging agents called free radicals.  These substances can interfere with normal immune functioning.

Poor dietary habits inhibit the immune system by creating deficiencies in protein, vitamins and minerals.  A healthy diet, with sufficient protein intake, supports the immune system because the immune cells are made of protein and are in a constant state of renewal.  The immune cells use a variety of vitamins and minerals to carry out their jobs.  The most important nutrients are vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and essential fatty acids.  For example, vitamin C strengthens white blood cells and prevents the multiplication of bacteria and viruses.  Deficiency of any one of these nutrients impairs the immune response.

Dietary sugar, especially white sugar, has been directly linked to depression of the immune system, immediately after its consumption.  One study showed that eating three and a half oz. of simple sugar reduced the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria.  Sugar also provides fuel for invading organisms, like bacteria and fungus, thus strengthening their attack.

Sleep is an essential component of our body’s repair mechanisms.  During sleep the body in an anabolic, or building, state.  Insomnia prevents the renewal of immune cells.  Over time this leads to a decrease in immune functioning.  Lack of sleep also stresses the body and usually occurs with an increase in sympathetic nervous system function.  The immune system is depressed by the mechanism described in previous paragraphs.

Many medications, especially cortisone and antibiotics, affect the immune system, especially when taken for long periods of time.  Cortisone suppresses the bone marrow and antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria.  Toxic substances, including excessive alcohol and heavy metals, depress the function of the immune system or cause immune cells to prematurely die.

What you can do to boost your immune system:

- MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
- EAT PLENTY OF VEGETABLES
- DO NOT DRINK COFFEE, BLACK TEA, OR COLAS;  THE CAFFEINE IN THEM DEPLETES IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS
- IF YOU NEED TO TAKE ANTI-BIOTICS, ALWAYS TAKE ACIDOPHILUS
- STICK TO A REGULAR SLEEP CYCLE
- DO NOT EAT JUNK FOOD
- TAKE SUPPLEMENTS TO ENHANCE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM ACTIVITY (SEE LIST BELOW)
- EXERCISE

DID YOU KNOW?
(IMMUNE SYSTEM FACTS)

- IMMUNE SYSTEM ACTIVITY DECREASES AS WE AGE
- AN AUTOIMMUNE DISORDER OCCURS WHEN YOUR  IMMUNE SYSTEM ATTACKS YOUR OWN BODY 
- PEOPLE WITH STRONG CONNECTIONS TO FAMILY & FRIENDS GENERALLY HAVE BETTER IMMUNE SYSTEM REACTION

Some of the most important players in the immune system are not part of our own body.  Friendly bacteria, often called probiotics, line the digestive tract, sinuses and other mucosal surfaces.  On all of the surfaces they prevent infection with other microbes.

In the digestive tract they also break down food particles and manufacture vitamins.  Friendly bacteria are in a constant state of renewal.  Frequent infections can be due to an imbalance of friendly bacteria.  It is easy to upset this balance by improper diet or taking medications like antibiotics.

Lack of physical activity weakens the immune response by hampering the ability of immune cells to get to where they are needed.

The lymphatic channels act as highways for immune cells but they contain no musculature of their own.  They depend on the activity of surrounding muscles to push the lymph fluid around the body.

Some conditions that commonly affect the immune system include cancer, colds and flus, environmental and food allergies, and autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is when our natural immunity turns against us and attacks our healthy body cells.  Some common autoimmune conditions are: Celiac disease, lupus, psoriasis, Addison’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.  For more information, please see our Autoimmune Disease article.

Optimize the health of your immune system by:

  • Consuming a nutrient-rich diet

  • Reducing physical and emotional stress

  • Getting adequate exercise, rest and relaxation

  • Limiting your exposure to environmental toxins & medications

  • Supplementing your diet with nutrients that support the immune system

Choose lean meats, fermented dairy products and legumes to fill your daily protein requirements.  Supplement with protein powder or amino acid complex if you cannot consume enough protein.  Eat fermented products to increase the amount of friendly bacteria in your system.  A diet high in raw fruits and vegetables provides a good source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for the immune system.  Onions and garlic are good sources of substances that make up anti-inflammatory compounds and help to kill microbes.  Flaxseed and fish oils contain essential fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory.   Avoid excess animal products, dairy products, processed foods, white flour and sugar products all of which decrease the immune system.

Stress puts a burden on the immune system and taxes the body’s resources.  Use whatever stress-busting methods work for you to decrease your stress level.  Avoid excessive exercise and hectic daily routines.  Do regular physical activity that you enjoy and that is appropriate for your age and fitness level.  Go to bed at the same time each night, before midnight is preferable, and sleep for about 8 hours.  Incorporate time into your day for relaxing practices like hobbies, reading or meditating.

If you suspect that your immune system is adversely affected by toxin build-up, undergo regular organ detoxification to cleanse your system.  Include lymphatic cleansing in the protocol to decongest the immune cell’s transportation network.

Listed below are some of the nutrients and supplements that support the immune system.  (CLICK SUPPLEMENT NAME FOR PRODUCTS).

SUPPLEMENT DOSAGE THERAPEUTIC EFFECT
colostrum 500-1000mg three times daily Contains immunoglobulins that boost immune system activity.
greens supplement 1-2 tablespoons daily Contains a broad spectrum of nutrients, antioxidants, detox herbs, and enzymes
zinc (citrate or chelate) 10-50mg daily Needed by the immune system to function effectively.  Use with copper. 
grape seed extract 50-100mg twice daily A potent antioxidant that helps to fight free radicals that burden the immune system. 
mushroom extracts As directed Boosts the immune system's ability to kill viruses.
Echinacea As directed Stimulates the activity of the white blood cells.  Use at the beginning and during infections only.
selenium 100mcg daily A potent antioxidant.  Fights free radicals.
Moducare (sterols & sterolins) As directed Helps to optimize immune system function
Garlic 1-2 tablets per day; 2-4 during and infection Helps to kill bacteria and viruses.  Use a standardized type or Kyolic brand.
Probiotics As directed Helps to replenish good bacteria in the body to prevent re-infection. Enhances the immune system.  An essential after antibiotic use.
Buffered Vitamin C with bioflavinoids 3000-10000mg daily Supports mucous membranes. Enhances the immune system.  If diarrhea occurs decrease daily dosage.
Vitamin B complex 100mg daily Important for immune function and the adaptation of the body to stress. 
Beta-carotene and   vitamin A

Beta-carotene

25 000IU daily and vitamin A 20 000IU daily

Enhances cancer fighting immune cells (natural killer cells).  Supports mucus membranes.   Do not take vitamin A if you are pregnant.
Coenzyme Q10 60-120mg daily Improves tissue oxygenation and modulates the immune system.
Quercitin 500mg three times daily. Supports the immune system.  Stabilizes mast cells.
Astragalus As directed Can be used over long periods of time to boost immunity.
Also beneficial for IMPROVING IMMUNE SYSTEM ACTIVITY: Multivitamins, vitamin E, selenium, thymus glandular, bee propolis, bromelain, colloidal silver, chlorella, elderberry, green tea, mushroom extract, licorice root.
For informational purposes only.  Please consult your health care practitioner before taking natural health care products. Click here for full disclaimer.


All articles copyright National Nutrition 2001 - 2015.  For educational purposes only.  Please note that while National Nutrition supports your right to use natural health care products for any therapeutic purpose that you see fit, that the information on this website should not be considered as a claim or as a substitute for medical advice.

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