Your IMMUNE SYSTEM is the BODY’S DEFENCE against sickness and disease. Infectious diseases are having a resurgence and to remain healthy we have to act to resist them, otherwise we are likely to fall victim. Nutrition plays a key role in boosting the immune system.
Whilst nutrition or under-nutrition is known to be the most frequent cause of immune deficiency, it is now recognized that marginal deficiencies of nutrients as well as the effects of overnutrition can significantly impair the immunity. COLDS and INFECTIONS are more prevalent today than they have ever been. We live in large, crowded cities, work and social commitments brings us into contact with many people. These days, most people tend to be more casual about respiratory infections. They are more likely to carry on everyday activities choosing to ignore or suppress the symptoms. Furthermore, work demands may not allow the luxury of appropriate rest and isolation for speedier recovery.
Almost all respiratory infections are caused by airborne viruses carried from one person to another in tiny droplets of water in expired air. Cold viruses simply colonise the surface of the upper respiratory membranes, the nose, throat and sinuses, causing nasal congestion, sore throat and coughing. Influenza viruses cause more severe symptoms with fever.
Positive action must be taken to improve the general immune status of the body.
LISTED BELOW ARE NUTRIENTS HAVING IMPORTANT FUNCTIONS IN IMMUNITY
Vitamins for the Immune System
VITAMIN A is known to enhance the immune process through antibody response. It is a potent anti-viral and promotes thymus growth.
B5 and B6
B6 deficiency may lower cellular and humoral immunity. The synthesis of lymph tissue is impaired which leads to decreased thymic hormone activity, reduction in quantity and quality of antibody production and abnormalities in immunoglobulin production. B5 deficiency is believed to inhibit the stimulation of antibody producing cells. B5 and B1 are known to give adrenal support.
Folate and B12
Vitamins for immunity system support also include FOLATE and B12 ensuring proper white cell production and lymphocyte response.
The role of Vitamin C and bioflavonoids in boosting the immune system
VITAMIN C has a central role in many immunologic mechanisms. It improves phagocytic and chemotactic activity. It is required in the production of leucocytes and lymphocytes through DNA synthesis. With increased antibody response, significant increases in plasma concentrations of serum immunoglobulin A, M levels and interferon are seen. While Vitamin C may not prevent the common cold, it does have beneficial effects on the cold. Vitamin C is most effective when used immediately upon detection of the earliest signs of infection. During infection and early stages of recovery, the body uses vitamin C faster than at other times. For acute infections, use vitamin C until bowel tolerance. That is the level tolerated without giving the symptoms of diarrhoea. It is important that bioflavonoids be used with vitamin C to potentiate its effectiveness. Bioflavonoids have antiviral activity and can interfere with viral RNA and protein synthesis.
VITAMIN E enhances T-helper cell activity, prevents free radical damage, increases anti-body response and serum immunoglobulin levels. Vitamin E is particularly important in autoimmune and hypersensitivity reactions. Along with vitamin C, Vitamin E has a role in clearing the debris produced during infection.
Even marginal Iron deficiency which does not lower haemoglobin levels can influence the immune system. IRON is required for the production of enzymes to destroy bacteria. Paradoxically, iron is an important nutrient to bacteria as well as humans. During infection, one of the body’s nonspecific defence mechanism to limit bacterial growth is to reduce plasma iron. The bactericidal effects of serum are eliminated by the addition of iron to the serum. Such observations suggest that iron supplementation is probably not recommended during acute infection. However, in patients with impaired immune function chronic infections and subnormal iron levels, adequate supplementation is essential.
The crucial role of ZINC in immunity has been demonstrated in many studies. ZINC is required in the activity of over seventy enzymes in the body, including those that have specific immune roles. Zinc also protects against iron-catalysed free radical damage. In vitro studies show that zinc inhibits the growth of several viruses, including rhino, toga, herpes simplex and vaccinia virus. Zinc glauconate can significantly reduce the average duration of the common cold by 7 days. Zinc seems to be able to inhibit the replication of the cold viruses. 86% of patients who were given Zinc were free of symptoms after seven days compared to 46% of non-treated controls. Zinc can also reduce the severity of cough, nasal congestion and drainage.
Magnesium and Manganese
MAGNESIUM is essential for the production of lymphocytes. Animal studies demonstrate an ability for MANGANESE to increase natural killer cell activity.
OTHER IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS OFFERING SUPPORT FOR THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
ECHINACEA AUGUSTIFOLIA is an immunostimulant, enhancing resistance to both viral and bacterial infetions. It’s activity has been attributed to isobutylamides and polyacetylenese which have strong phagocytic function.
GARLIC is rich in allyl-containing sulfides and polysulfides which have potent immune stimulating potential. Animal studies have shown garlic to be effective against the influenza infection.
ELDER FLOWERS contains essentials oils that improve resistance, with anticatarrhal and expectorant properties.
For OPTIMAL NUTRITIONAL SUPPORT ensure adequate Vitamin A, B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, Magnesium, Manganese. Important herbals are echinacea, garlic, thymus extract etc.
Other natural IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOSTERS include
- Avoid pollution
- Avoid excessive dry air
- At the first sign of infection, REST
- Avoid vigorous activity in cold air. The chill will exacerbate the virus and hinder the body’s efforts to fight the infection
- Keep warm
- Keep your fluids intake up. Hot lemon and honey drinks are excellent.
- For sore throats gargle with salt water or listerine, or dilute tee tree oil.
- Sucking zinc gluconate lozenges may be of benefit.
Other types of viral infections
The herpes virus is very common.
HERPES SIMPLEX TYPE 1 causes sores on the upper part of the body. These are commonly seen as cold sores (often on the margin of the lip). The virus can affect other parts of the body including the eyes.
HERPES SIMPLEX TYPE 2 or HERPES GENITALIS causes sores on the lower part of the body, particularly the genitals.
HERPES ZOSTER causes the condition chicken pox. It can recur as shingles when the immunity is low.
CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)
EPSTEIN-BARR (EB) virus is a member of the herpes family. It causes glandular fever or infectious mononucleosis. The virus attacks the B-cells of the immune system. It can cause a long illness with swelling of the glands, recurrent fever, fatigue, poor concentration and depression. Past infection can only be inferred by the appearance of antibodies to the virus. The crucial factor is the immune status of the person at the time of infection. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is less well known and produces similar symptoms to glandular fever (EB virus infection).
Nutrient support options
Lysine, which is beneficial for cold sores and Herpes-related infections. A diet low in arginine should be adhered to. Shingles may be helped with B12 and folic acid.
For GLANDULAR FEVER, ROSS RIVER FEVER, persistent VIRAL INFECTIONS and CFS: investigate dietary sensitivities and include nutrient options above and co-enzyme Q10, Vitamins B1, B5 and B12.
Note: This information is not presented as a substitute for professional treatment. Please consult your health practitioner for specific individual health needs.
Source: Peggy Lim B.Sc (Hons) M.Comm. Nutrition, The Brisbane Clinic of Nutritional Medicine, Queensland, Australia (07) 33691100