My Top 10 Immune Boosting SupplementsDr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc. June 1, 2014
GOOD MEDICINE • GREAT ADVICE
In January of 2013, Dr. Oz of TV fame (not to be confused with the Wizard of Oz) gave Piers Morgan of CNN a ‘flu shot right on air. A few days later, Piers developed a cough and hoarseness that could only be attributed to the shot he had recently received. Imagine that, getting ‘flu symptoms from the ‘flu shot. This is not as uncommon as one would think. In my practice, I have seen dozens of people who contracted the ‘flu shortly after a ‘flu shot or developed various other reactions (fevers, joint pain, lethargy, fluid retention) shortly after the inoculation.
The latest and greatest gift from big pharma to boldly boost our immunity is the shingles vaccine. Just today, one of my long time 80-year- old patients who guinea pigged herself and received the shingles vaccine from her family doctor reported to me that she developed a severe flu-like illness which required emergency intravenous treatments just to save her life. Luckily, she survived the ordeal and wanted to know, like so many other victims of vaccine damage, what she could do naturally to prevent viral illnesses.
Do Vaccines Cause Illness?
Vaccines all have the notoriety of causing the disease that they claim to be preventing. One glaring example of this is the new HPV vaccine, Gardasil. Even the manufacturer admits in their literature that, if one has already been exposed to the HPV (human papillomavirus) prior to injection, Gardasil increases the risk of precancerous lesions by 44.6%. In other words, Gardasil may actually increase the risk of cervical cancer.
It’s that time of the year again when we are all warned by the mass media and other mass hysteria, as well as Dr. Oz, to get our ‘flu shots and are admonished by well meaning doctors for not doing so. Some companies even make it a condition of employment for their staff to receive the annual shot despite the fact that they are not legally allowed to demand that of their staff.
What Are the Best Alternatives?
Besides following a high protein, sugar-free, gluten-free and dairy-free organic diet, while exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and engaging in anti-stress programs like meditation, what else can you do to boost immunity against colds and flus? Taking plenty of vacations in warm climates helps and so does laughter. Are food allergies and sensitivities important? Can you prevent more serious illnesses such as cancer and autoimmune disorders using a natural supplement regime? And, will these all work without side effects?
Food Allergy/Sensitivity Testing – Food allergies, intolerances or hypersensitivities are unsuspected factors in the development of many worldwide killer diseases such as recurrent infections, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and just about every autoimmune disease (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, etc.). Over 90% of the documented adverse reactions to foods are not true allergies, occur on a delayed basis (up to 4 days after exposure), and will avoid detection by conventional skin scratch tests. They are often referred to as “Type 2 Allergies” and they may have either immune or non-immune system mechanisms.
The most accepted method of identifying these non-classical food reactions is by an elimination diet. This is accomplished by following a hypoallergenic diet for three weeks, which eliminates the most commonly eaten foods (wheat, milk, eggs, yeast, corn, soy, citrus and other foods eaten on a daily basis). After three weeks, the body is then challenged with the eliminated foods one by one, noting the reactions.
During the three weeks before testing, symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, wheezing, joint pain, headaches, itching and hundreds of others will improve or disappear in those suffering from chronic ingestion of the eliminated foods. If one then reintroduces the individual to these foods and the symptoms reappear, the person is most probably allergic to the test foods. He or she is then advised to abstain from these foods for a period of months or years. This process only works if all the foods are discontinued abruptly or by “cold turkey”. Easing into this diet slowly or through some other compromise does not work at all.
This approach is not recommended in severely ill people and is best performed under the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner.
A safer and more accurate alternative to the elimination diet is the IgG (subclass 4) RAST blood test. This test is now available in Ontario and offered by many pharmacies (no doctor visit required) as well as Gamma Dynacare Laboratories (any MD can order this test). Similar tests are available in England and the U.S. but cost is significantly higher. For information on these tests, contact Gamma Dynacare at 905-790-3000 or ask your family doctor.
Recently published studies conclude that eliminating the foods detected by this test are at least 80% effective in reversing or reducing the symptoms of dozens of chronic illnesses associated with impaired immunity. If you are one of those people who gets one infection after another, do yourself a favour and look into this type of testing.
Prices for the tests have dropped dramatically in the past few years so it is a now a very good investment in your health.
My Top 10 Immunity Enhancing Supplements
Move over, David Letterman, because here’s my top ten list. In order of importance and supportive scientific evidence, here are 10 natural remedies that can boost immunity:
1) Vitamin D – 5000 to 10,000 IU daily for most adults is safe and effective for the prevention of flus, colds, cancer and approximately 200 different diseases. No other supplemented nutrient has been as extensively studied as vitamin D. Thousands of studies support its use in higher than RDA doses. For the best source of information and documentation of all the benefits, visit http://www.vitamindcouncil.org
If you have adequate blood levels of Vitamin D it is possible to prevent any and all infections. The trouble is that one has to get enough sunshine in order for the body to manufacture sufficient vitamin D through the action of ultraviolet light on the skin. This may be very difficult to achieve during the winter months in Canada. Hence, regular oral supplementation of emulsified vitamin D drops is almost mandatory. Check your blood levels before supplementing with vitamin D. The optimal average adult dose is between 5000 and 10,000 IU daily. For more information, see my book, “Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin.”
If you happen to have a cold or flu at the moment, it is recommended that you take 50,000 IU of Vitamin D daily for 3 – 7 days and then drop the dose back to somewhere between 5 and 10,000 IU daily, depending on your blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D. The reason why vitamin D helps with just about any kind of infection is because it stimulates the production of cathelicidin, a protein with natural antibiotic properties.
2) Omega-3 Fatty Acids – 4000 mg daily for most adults not only prevents heart disease but also powerfully boosts the immune system. Omega-3 is needed to help vitamin D work in an optimal manner and, in effect, helps prevent vitamin D deficiency. Omega-3 supplementation increases the activity of white cells that gobble up dangerous bacteria. Omega-3 also protects the lungs from colds, flus and other respiratory tract infections. No doubt you have heard of the benefits of taking cod liver oil during the winter months. Interestingly enough, the major active ingredients of cod liver oil that work their magic on the immune system are vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
3) Probiotics (variable dosing) are friendly bacteria that usually inhabit the gut and are a very well documented optimizer of the immune system. Seventy percent or more of our immune system is controlled by what happens in the gut, and friendly bacteria are the most important component of that immune system. These bacteria modulate the immune system by increasing the numbers of certain while blood cells (T lymphocytes). Probiotics also help improve digestion and protect the body from harmful pathogens such as candida albicans. For a more comprehensive description of the benefits of probiotics see my article “In Praise of Probiotics” in the September 2013 issue of Vitality.
4) Astragalus – 1000 mg or more daily of this well-known Chinese herb stimulates white blood cells to both prevent and fight infections. Astragalus does not work as quickly as vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids, and may take between 6 – 8 weeks to reach its full effects. Numerous studies attest to the fact that it is well worth supplementing.
5) Zinc – 50 mg daily is an effective preventive for all kinds of infections. In my experience, the vast majority of people in Canada are zinc deficient. There is some evidence that using zinc lozenges can shorten the length of respiratory tract infections. High dose zinc combined with vitamin C can offset excessive lead levels in the body.
6) Selenium – 200 mcg daily – regular supplementation reduces the risk of cancers of the bladder, breast, bowel, lung and prostate. I usually recommend that people take a vitamin E complex (tocopherols and tocotrienols) – 400 IU with selenium because the two nutrients work synergistically.
7) Vitamin A – 10,000 IU – another component of cod liver oil that plays a major role in preventing infections by influencing the activity of T and B lymphocytes (white cells). I am often surprised to see low blood levels in supposedly healthy people who complain of recurrent infections (middle ear, bladder, chest, bowel and numerous other sites). Vitamin A is a common component of many multivitamin supplements but some people just do not absorb enough of it from their diet because of unsuspected food allergies and insufficient secretion of pancreatic digestive enzymes. For most of these individuals, supplementing pancreatin (pancreatic enzymes) should help resolve the absorption issue.
8) Colostrum is the first mammary secretion nourishment that any mammal, including man, provides for its newborn for the first 24-48 hours of life. It does not contain milk, as we know it. In choosing a bovine colostrum supplement, make sure it comes only from the first milking, ideally within the first 6 hours after birth of the calf. Choose your colostrum carefully as most brands combine the first milking (which is pure colostrum) with several subsequent milkings (which are mostly milk), resulting in products that more closely resemble milk or whey powder than true colostrum.
First milking colostrum contains numerous immune system and growth factors which trigger at least fifty processes in a newborn, ranging from the development of the immune system to the growth of all body cells. Laboratory analysis of immune and growth factors from bovine colostrum show them to be virtually identical to those found in human colostrum and bovine colostrum is totally safe, with no known drug contraindications or negative side effects at any dosage level.
Conventional medical doctors were, at one time, enthusiastic about using colostrum for antibiotic purposes. This occurred prior to the introduction of sulfa drugs and penicillin. In the 1950s, prior to the wide scale use of corticosteroids as anti-inflammatory agents, colostrum was used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert Sabin, discovered that colostrum contained antibodies against polio and recommended it for children susceptible to catching the disease. Bovine colostrum has been used therapeutically in India for thousands of years by Ayurvedic physicians, and still is to this day.
Well known colostrum components like interferon, gamma globulin, growth hormone (GH), IgF-1 and protease inhibitors are all used by conventional medical specialists in the treatment of cancer, chronic viral infections including HIV and autoimmune diseases. There are now over 4,000 clinical studies from around the world detailing research that has been done using colostrum in the treatment of dozens of different diseases.
First milking bovine colostrum is the ideal vaccination alternative. The reason is obvious when you look at its components. The two major components of colostrum are immune factors and growth factors. It’s the immune factors that offer the vaccine benefits. These include:
- Immunoglobulins (A, D, E, G and M) – neutralize toxins, viruses and bacteria in the lymph and circulatory systems.
- Lactoferrin – antiviral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, iron-binding protein with therapeutic effects in cancer, HIV, cytomega-lovirus, herpes, chronic fatigue syndrome, candida albicans and other infections.
- Proline-Rich Polypeptide (PRP) – a hormone that regulates the thymus gland, stimulating an underactive immune system or dampening an overactive immune system as seen in autoimmune disease (MS, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, etc.).
- Leukocytes – white blood cells that stimulate the production of interferon which slows viral reproduction and penetration of cell walls.
- Enzymes – lactoperoxidase-thiocyanate, peroxidase and xanthine oxidase destroy bacteria through their ability to release hydrogen peroxide.
- Lysozyme – a hydrolyzing agent and immune system booster capable of destroying bacteria and viruses on contact.
- Cytokines – interleukins that regulate the duration and intensity of the immune response, are responsible for cell to cell communication, boost T-cell activity and the production of immunoglobulins. Interleukin-10 is strongly anti-inflammatory, especially in arthritic joints.
- Trypsin Inhibitors and Protease Inhibitors – prevent the destruction of immune and growth factors in colostrum from being broken down in the GI tract; they also prevent H. pylori from attaching to the walls of the stomach and can have a beneficial role in the treatment of peptic ulcers.
- Lymphokines – hormone-like peptides produced by activated lymphocytes which mediate the immune response.
- Oligo Polysaccharides and Glycoconjugates – attract and bind to pathogens (Strep., E. Coli, Salmonella, Cryptosporidia, Giardia, Entamoeba, Shigella, Clostridium Difficile Toxins A & B and Cholera) preventing them from attaching or entering the mucous membranes.
- Other immune Factors – some of the documented immune factors include orotic acid, secretory IgA, IgA Specific Helper, B Lactoglobulin, Lactalbumin, Albumin, Prealbumin, Alpha 1-Antitripsin, Alpha 1-Fetoprotein, Alpha 2-macroglobulin, Alpha 2-AP Glycoprotein, C3, C4 and Orosomucoids.
- Vitamins – A, B12 and E are found in small amounts while traces of all others are also present in colostrum.
- Sulfur – a mineral with multiple uses in metabolism and as part of many structural body proteins.
9) Vitamin C – 1000 mg or more daily has anti-viral and immune enhancing effects. Mega doses above and beyond bowel tolerance (dose that produces diarrhea) are given intravenously to fight serious infections like Lyme disease as well as cancer. The only significant issue with the use of high dose vitamin C beyond the RDA levels is the diarrhea side effect. Backing off the dose should resolve this problem.
10) Echinacea – 1000 mg or more daily is well documented as an immune system booster used to both prevent and treat a long list of infections. It is often said that Echinacea shouldn’t be taken for long periods of time beyond a few weeks, but this has never been proven to be detrimental in any way. This false advice on limiting the length of time that one should be using Echinacea originates from a German study that actually said the opposite. Things are often lost in translation. The bottom line is that one can supplement Echinacea continuously for years without concerns. The other Echinacea myth is that people who have autoimmune disease should not be taking it due to over-stimulation of their autoimmune disease. This too is nonsense since supplementing with Echinacea increases the body’s production of hyaluronic acid, a well-known anti-inflammatory pain reliever. Once again, to be healthier with autoimmune disease, take echinacea in large doses. (Caveat: If you have a ragweed allergy you might react adversely to Echinacea because it belongs to the same plant family.)
I may have offended David Letterman and some people by not listing their favourite immune booster. There are many other immunity boosting supplements I could have discussed. Below is a short list of other supplements readily available from most health food stores and some pharmacies which have a substantial amount of evidence that supports their use.
Other Immune Boosters – Sterols and sterolins; Beta glucan; B complex vitamins; Garlic; Ginseng; Licorice root; Goldenseal; Pau d’arco; Medicinal mushrooms (reishi, maitake, shitake, agaricus blazei); St. John’s wort; Berberine; Small particle size (0.8 nm) colloidal silver (hydrosol); Oregano oil; Coconut oil; Olive leaf extract.
These are all excellent for the right person. Of course, numerous homeopathic remedies based on individual needs will also help boost immunity. A natural health care provider can recommend what might work best for you.
- Braly, J. Food Allergy Relief. Contemporary Books, Illinois. 2000.
- Piers Morgan Flu shot. http://www.naturalnews.com/038866_piers_morgan_flu_vaccines_sickness.html
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Dec;74(6):833-9.
- Enhancement of immunity in the elderly by dietary supplementation with the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis HN019.
- Gill HS, Rutherfurd KJ, Cross ML, Gopal PK.
- Colloidal Silver/Silver Hydrosol. http://natural-immunogenics.com/pdf/7.pdf
- Does Gardasil Actually Increase Your Risk of Cervical Cancer. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/20/does-gardasil-actually-increase-your-risk-of-cervical-cancer.aspx
- Clark, Daniel G. and Wyatt, Kaye. Colostrum, Life’s First Food. Salt Lake City: CNR Publications. 1996.
- Heinerman, John. Dr. Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Anti-Aging Remedies. Paramus: Prentice Hall, 1997; pp.85-86.
- Jensen, Bernard. Colostrum: Man’s First Food, The White Gold Discovery. Escondido: Bernard Jensen, 1993.
- Rona, Zoltan, P.. Bovine colostrum emerges as immune system modulator. American Journal of Natural Medicine; March, 1998, pp. 19-23.
- Rona, Zoltan P. Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin. Tennessee, USA: Alive Books, 2010 http://www.amazon.com/Vitamin-D-Sunshine-Zoltan-Rona/dp/0920470823
- Rona, Zoltan. Childhood Illness and the Allergy Connection. Prima Publishing 1997.
- Rona, Zoltan, P. Natural Alternatives to Vaccination. Vancouver: Alibe Books. 2000.
Dr. Zoltan P. Rona practises Complementary Medicine in Toronto and is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. He has also published several Canadian best-selling books, including Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin. Visit his website at: http://www.highlevelwellness.ca For appointments, call (905) 764-8700; Office: 390 Steeles Ave. W. Unit 19, Thornhill, ON