immune supporting nutrients – in depth

Carotenes:  found in fruits, especially darker fruits such as berries, cherries; and in vegetables: including broccoli, onions, greens, parsley; legumes; green tea and red wine; ginkgo bilboa. Carotenes enhance immune functions, are anti-tumor, and work primarily to stimulate anti-oxidant mechanisms

Flavonoids:  found in dark-coloured vegetables such as: carrots, squash, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes; fruits such as cantaloupe, apricots. Flavonoids have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-viral and anti-cancer properties, working primarily to protect cell integrity, function and response

Vitamin C: most important anti-oxidant nutrient. Turns on White Blood Cells to attack antigens and boosts interferon levels. It also boosts antibody levels and antibody response as well as boosting the secretion of hormones from the thymus gland.

  • Enables antibody responses      and White Blood Cell functions and is needed in Thymus hormone production.      It also increases production of interferon (which is anti-viral and      anti-cancer). Body levels decreased due to surgery, stress, progressive      disease, colds and infections (especially viral)

Bioflavonoids:      synergistic      effect potentiate anti-inflammatory properties and improve cellular      defense against various microbes. Quercetin found to function as an immune      supporter and anti-histamine

  • Deficiency: decreased phagocyte      function, reduced cellular protection, slow wound healing

Vitamin A and Zinc

  • Needed for: cellular immunity, increasing T cell activity, increasing function of phagocytic White Blood Cells and tissue healing

Vitamin A: Needed for cells of skin and mucous membranes (first line of defence), and also needed for white blood cell function. It enhances immune system activity, including thymus function, antibody response and tumor-fighting activity. It is needed especially for fighting viruses and it reverses immune suppression resulting from high glucocorticoid levels (stress), severe burns and surgery

  • Beta-carotene (Vit A precursor) aid in wound healing and protection against carcinogenesis, provide anti-oxidant protection of thymus gland and enhance immune function
  • Deficiency: Vit A – reduced cellular immunity, slow wound healing, increased infection rate, lowered Secretory IgA levels (involved defense of mucous membranes, eg GI tract)

Zinc: acts against viruses (especially common cold) by reducing ability of viruses to reproduce and boosts other aspects of immune function.

  • Deficiency causes decline in T cells levels, Thymus hormone levels, enzyme production and activity, specific WHITE BLOOD CELL functions
  • Deficiency: Zinc – decreased T and B cell function, decreased thymic hormones, increased infection rates, slow wound healing
  • Needed for proper absorption of nutrients, and sorbitol, mannitol and citric acid bind with zinc and reduce its effectiveness
  • Excess can lower immune function

Vit A, C and Zinc together: activate thymus gland, increase production of thymosin (thymus hormone that programs T lymphocytes), improves T cell and NK cell numbers and activity

  • Useful in treating immune suppression and protection from colds and flus

B-vitamins: especially B1, B6, B12 are required for forming anti-bodies and are essential for normal cell division needed in manufacture of new White Blood cells.

B6 – most important: aids immunity and antibody formation

  • Deficiency: lessened cellular immunity, slow energy metabolism

B12 – stimulates immune function

  • Deficiency: decreased lymphocyte proliferation and PMN bacteriocidal activity

B5 – combats stress

  • Deficiency: lowered humoral immunity, increased irritation of stress

B1, B2, B3 – subtle immune help and overall antibody production. Vit B2: assists in maintaining electron balance (and avoiding ROS formation)

Folic acid – needed for normal cellular function

  • Deficiency: reduced RBC production and increased risk of cancer (cervical)

Vitamin E and Selenium

  • Needed for: stimulating      antibody production, strengthening cellular immunity, and in tissue      healing

Vit E: encourages White Blood Cell proliferation and improves antibody formation, and can boost immune response. In excess can inhibit immune response – thus can used to treat autoimmune disorders  (RA, lupus, multiple sclerosis)

  • Deficiency: Vit E – decreased antibiody production and response; with selenium deficiency lowered cell membrane integrity

Selenium: Antioxidant protection of thymus gland. Deficiency reduces levels of cellular and humoral immunity, lowers antibody levels. Works in part by promoting White Blood Cell production of interleukin-2 that causes White Blood Cell proliferation and attack of antigens. Selenium also supports production glutathione peroxidiase enzyme, which counteracts peroxides, stimulates immune response, protects against toxins

  • Deficiency: Selenium – increased cellular carcinogenesis; with Vit E deficiency lowered antibody response
  • Excess: Causes liver problems

Iodine – required in neutrophil activity

Iron: improves resistance against infections by increasing cellular metabolic efficiency and immune activity; supports lymphocytes and neutrophils (phagocytes); can improve bacterial killing

  • Excess: immunosuppressive (increases oxidation), enhances microbial growth, reduces phagocyte activity
  • Deficiency: decreased cellular immunity and neutrophil activity

Copper: improves resistance to infection

  • Excess: intake needs to be balanced with Zinc intake
  • Deficiency: lowered resistance to infection

Pharmaceutical Medications     

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen act to reduce pain and swelling. However they increase the risk of intestinal problems, especially with the elderly.  NSAIDs work by inhibiting COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes in the AA cascade. Prostaglandins type 2 (PGE2) are acted upon by COX-1 enzymes to form Prostacyclin in the GI tract where it is a mucus that acts to protect and repair gut mucosal lining. PGE2 is also acted upon by COX-2 enzymes to form Prostacyclin in the blood, which thins the blood, prevents platelets from clumping together, helps dilate blood vessels and causes pain and swelling. By inhibiting COX-1, NSAIDs reduce pain, thin the blood, but also inhibit Prostacyclin, causing damage to the GI tract which can lead to intestinal bleeding.  Meanwhile, by inhibiting COX-2, NSAIDs reduce pain but increase blood clotting and the risk of heart attack. NSAIDs also cause kidney problems.

Corticosteroids meanwhile decrease steroid hormone production by the body and also significantly increase the risk of Osteoporosis, as well as heart problems, diabetes and infection.

Whilst the use of medications is often unavoidable in acute conditions, long term use should be avoided for the above reasons. Instead, the nutrients and foods listed below should be taken.

Other Nutritional aids for Immune health:


–       Phyto-nutrient Curcumin as effective as NSAIDs in anti-inflammatory effects

–       5-LOX (Leukotriene) and COX-2 inhibitor that does not effect COX-1

–       Anti-oxidant, promotes detoxification and enhances anti-body responses


–       Anti-inflammatory and protects and rebuilds cartilage

–       Works in different way from turmeric and other COX-2 inhibitors thus it is works well in combination with them

–       Available in tablet of in natural form: Frankincense


–       Phyto-nutrients Withanolides – inhibit COX-2 and have anticancer properties

–       Withanolides shown in studies to suppress  Nuclear Factor-KappaB (NF-kappaB) activation and expression


–       Bioflavonoid with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects

–       Inhibits production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGE2) and inhibits release of histamine

–       Found in apples, red / blue foods such as berries, beetroot, red onions; also in red wine, tea, broccoli, squash, red grapes, cranberries


–       Anti-inflammatory: inhibits pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and thromboxanes; and also has Anti-Oxidant properties


–       Inhibits pro-inflammatory compounds and blocks production of kinins: compounds that increase swelling and cause pain

–       Reduces swelling by breaking down fibrin: a mesh that forms around an inflamed area, blocking off the blood supply and impairing tissue drainage

–       Anti-inflammatory effects maximized if eaten between meals (or enzymes used to digest food)

Herbs – should only be used for short periods (up to 2 months) to stimulate immune system during infection, to cure chronic infection, to bring immune system back to normal after infection / during immune suppression

  • Garlic – antibiotic and anti-cancer: may be taken liberally as often as wanted
  • Goldenseal: improves immunity, tones liver and helps clear wastes, has antimicrobial activity
  • Licorice root: improves interferon production and supports energy and adrenal balance (note: not suitable for people with high blood pressure as it can raise blood pressure)
  • Echinacea: Effective against infection and joint pain, and providing treatment and prevention of viral infections, temporary immunodeficiency and increased susceptibility to infections (Eg children in day care or nurseries, adults experiencing undue stress, sports induced immunodeficiency). Enhances effectiveness of anti-biotics in bacterial infections and treats immuno-suppression and infections
  • Astralagus: Used to treat viral infections and stimulates all aspects of immune function, especially cell-medicated immunity. Useful in treating chemical and radiation (eg chemotherapy) damage to immune system and treats common cold by reducing duration and severity of symptoms

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