Find out what you need to do to strengthen your immune system so it’s firing on all cylinders.
There are hundreds of different cells that come into play and make up what we call the immune system, the body’s sophisticated natural defence mechanism. Together, these cells work to identify foreign cells that pose a threat and fight them off to protect the body from pathogens like bacteria, viruses and infections. And it does a fantastic job of keeping us healthy – most of the time.
Dr Harpal Bains says: “A healthy immune system is one that is well balanced. And for this to happen, we need to be ensuring our body is getting everything it needs. Lifestyle factors like stress, sleep, and nutrition can all influence the effectiveness of the immune system, as can conditions like autoimmune diseases, HIV/AIDs, certain cancers and deficiencies. We can all benefit from strengthening our immune system as it’s our body’s core defence against illness.”
Below, we take a look at Dr Bains’s recommendations for what we can do to help strengthen the immune system whilst we’re at home during lockdown.
Vitamin D is vital for optimal functioning of the body. It not only helps to maintain bone and muscle health, but it is also essential for the healthy functioning of the immune system. T cells are a type of white blood cell that work as part of the immune system to find and attack foreign cells in the body – bacteria, viruses and infections. Vitamin D aids the process by which T cells in the body become activated to help fight these foreign cells. Research has indicated that those with lower levels of vitamin D in the body are more susceptible to infections and so it’s important to have sufficient vitamin D levels in the body for optimal health.
We get a small amount of vitamin D from our food (for meat-eaters, think oily fish, meat products and eggs. Vegetarians and vegans can get their vitamin D from a limited range of fortified foods – read our blog post for more on this), but for most people this simply isn’t enough.
Most of our vitamin D comes from the sunlight. When our skin is exposed to the sun, the UVB rays penetrate the skin. The body then synthesises this to create an active form of vitamin D. With many of us spending more time indoors, supplementing is more important than ever before – particularly if:
You know or suspect you have a deficiency
You have dark skin because the pigment in the skin doesn’t absorb as much UV radiation
You wear lots of SPF as it doesn’t let the rays penetrate
You are vegan or vegetarian and don’t get as much vitamin D from your food as meat eaters
“Public Health England currently recommends 10mg of vitamin D daily for everyone – not just at-risk groups. I strongly recommend supplementing so you are in the mid to upper range of normal. Usually we would recommend vitamin D shots, but whilst social distancing measures are in place, sublingual drops or via oral tablets are also suitable.”
If you would like to talk to us about this, or perhaps you suspect you have a deficiency or that your body is not absorbing vitamin D as it should, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for a video consultation with one of our doctors. We are currently providing assessments, blood testing services and bespoke treatments remotely. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vitamin C – otherwise known as ascorbic acid – is an essential micronutrient. Benefits are numerous, from tissue regeneration, iron absorption, protection from free radicals, pollutants and toxins to biosynthesis of collagen in support of healthy bones, cartilage and skin.
But how does vitamin C support a healthy immune system? It has antioxidant activities which can decrease inflammation and in turn aid immune function. Additionally, it promotes growth of lymphocytes, a type of immune cell which helps to increase the antibodies which can attack foreign cells and infections in the body.
Vitamin C deficiency can result in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections. Recent research suggested that vitamin C can shorten the length of stay in ICU. The trials, in which patients needed ventilation for more than 24 hours, vitamin C shortened the duration of ventilation by 18.2%
The trouble is, our bodies don’t make vitamin C, unlike in most animals, and it can’t be stored in the body, so you need to ingest it in your diet every day. Red peppers, strawberries, broccoli and potatoes – even the dreaded brussels sprout – are all great sources of vitamin C. The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for adults aged 19 to 64 is 40mg a day.
“Whilst it’s best to get your vitamin C from food where possible, if you’re unable to get sufficient amounts, then it’s important to supplement. During lockdown this can be done via sublingual drops or oral supplements. In people with clinical diagnosis of a deficiency, malabsorption or in cases where food can’t pass through the intestine, high dose vitamin C via an IV drip is recommended because it bypasses the gut and can significantly increase its availability when compared to taking orally. Whilst social distancing measures are in place we can create a bespoke treatment plan to ensure you are getting enough vitamin C using alternative methods.” explains Dr Bains.
Supplementing your diet with glutathione can contribute to a healthy immune system. Glutathione is a tripeptide, a small protein made of amino acids. We call it the master antioxidant as it is possibly one of the most protective molecules in the body. Reduced glutathione (GSH, or L-glutathione) is the active form. When it comes to the immune system, glutathione helps regulate cell growth by reducing oxides which hinder cell division. It contributes to protein synthesis, protects cells through its antioxidant mechanism, and aids in optimal functioning of the immune cells. It also helps the body to utilise other antioxidants, including vitamin C, E, and CoQ10.
Unfortunately, medications, pollution, poor nutrition, and infections can deplete glutathione levels in the body. There are a few foods that contain glutathione, including spinach, tomatoes and walnuts, but unlike other antioxidants – most of which we consume from the food we eat – the majority of glutathione is produced by the body. This means that when we have a poor diet, are under stress, have an infection or disease, this leaves us depleted and more susceptible to damage and illness.
In our experience, LDN can be really beneficial for strengthening the immune system in those with existing conditions like MS, HIV, SLE, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. LDN stimulates the opiate/endorphin receptors in your brain to produce more of your body’s own feel good transmitters. In fact, according to Dr Bernard Bihari (2013), endorphin levels can increase up to 300%.
Increased endorphin levels modulate the immune response, particularly T and B cell production. It works by a negative feedback mechanism and can not only help to boost the immune system when it is low, but also modulate it when it is hyper-reactive. What this does is ensure the body has the enough of the right kind of ‘soldiers’ to target and solve health issues using its own innate intelligence.
LDN is a relatively new drug and is considered an ‘off label’ medication. If it’s something you’re considering we can provide you with research material, but in our experience, it’s very beneficial. We are able to prescribe this, if appropriate, following a video consultation. If you’d like to speak to one of our doctors about this, please don’t hesitate to email us.
There’s nothing fishy about it, omega-3 fatty acids aid brain function, growth and development as well as inflammation. But micronutrient is only found in fatty seafood like salmon or mackerel. If you don’t eat these, you’ll be able to get it from supplements. Good quality fish oil supplements – which contain EPA and DHA omega-3 may also contribute to a healthy immune system. Flaxseed oil does contain omega 3 but only short chains. Part of it will get converted within the body to the necessary long chain omega 3 but we are not sure how much and how effectively. For vegetarians and vegans, it may still be necessary to supplement with the right type of omega 3.
Recent research has found that by taking enriched fish oil supplements, patients had a dose-dependent increase in immune cell attacks against bacteria. This strongly suggests that taking a good quality fish oil supplement can help support your immune system. Other research, including a report in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry has suggested that high DHA fish oil may support a healthy immune response. Its findings showed positive enhancements in B cell responses (B cells stimulate antibody production).
The body’s immune system’s natural reaction is to protect you. And when it needs a little extra help, it can call on other cells to chip in. It does this by sending cytokines and other immune system cells out into the body, broadcasting its needs. But sometimes, the brain’s own messaging system can be a bit sluggish, or the cells may not be talking to each other correctly. If these cells miscommunicate, an illness can take hold.
Micro immunotherapy uses these same molecules in very low concentrations to help the cells get messages across correctly, reprogramming the brain’s messaging system to ‘talk’ properly and mimicking communication of the immune system, boosting things up to a level where it will help strengthen your immunity in a very gentle way.
Although this therapy is well established in Europe, we encourage you to do your own research. If you feel like it could be beneficial for you, or you would like further information on it, please do get in touch with us.