||Immunologic Problems Related to Deficiency|
|Vitamin A||Reduced cellular immunity, slow tissue healing, increased infection rate, lowered|
|IgA levels (which affect defense at the mucous membranes).|
|Vitamin C||Decreased phagocyte function, reduced cellular protection, and slow wound|
|Vitamin E||Decreased antibody production and response; with selenium deficiency, lowered|
|Vitamin B5||Lowered humoral immunity, increased irritation of stress. |
|Vitamin B6 ||Lessened cellular immunity, slow energy metabolism.|
|Vitamin B12||Decreased lymphocyte proliferation and PMN bacteriocidal activity.|
|Folic acid||Reduced blood cell production, perhaps increased cervical cancer.|
|Zinc ||Decreased T and B cell function and thymic hormones; increased infection rates,|
|and slow healing.|
|Iron||Decreased cellular immunity and neutrophil activity. (Excess iron can also impair|
| bacteriocidal activity.) |
|Selenium||With vitamin E deficiency, antibody response is lowered; increased cellular|
|Copper ||Lowered resistance to infection.|
*Adequate levels of these nutrients will support or enhance these immunological functions.
Two nutrient pairs—Vitamin A and zinc, and Vitamin E and selenium—are also essential. Selenium, as sodium selenite or selenomethionine, and vitamin E stimulate antibody production and strengthen cellular immunity. Zinc and vitamin A are also needed for cellular immunity, increasing T cell activity and the function of the phagocytic white blood cells. Both are important to tissue healing. Beta-carotene is useful as a vitamin A precursor, also aiding in wound healing and protecting against carcinogenesis.
Some B vitamins are particularly helpful. Vitamin B6 aids immunity and antibody formation and is probably the most important of the B vitamins. Vitamin B12 may help stimulate immune function, more readily when injected as oral absorption is slow. Pantothenic acid is helpful in combating stress, and B1, B2, and B3 may provide subtle immune help by providing a balanced complement of the B vitamins. This helps the overall antibody production. Folic acid is also needed for normal cellular function.
In addition to zinc and selenium, the most important minerals are iodine, iron, copper, and magnesium, though basic levels of manganese, molybdenum and chromium are also important. Iodine is required in the neutrophil killing of microbial invaders. Iron improves resistance against infection by increasing cellular metabolic efficiency and immune activity; it supports the lymphocytes and neutrophils (phagocytes) and can improve bacterial killing. Excessive iron intake, however, can also be immunosuppressive (it increases oxidation), enhance microbial growth, and reduce phagocytic cellular activity. Copper also improves resistance to infection and should be increased to balance out zinc intake. Like iron, too much copper can have deleterious effects, so careful monitoring is important.
Water, fiber, adequate protein, and essential fatty acids (EFAs) are all crucial to a healthy body and immune system. Water helps to flush out impurities and, with fiber, helps to clear colon toxins. EFAs found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, as well as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) help increase the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), while eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may slightly reduce immunity. However, EPA also decreases the level of PGE2 prostaglandins, which can be inflammatory and irritating and may produce a false or unnecessary immune response that is part of many illnesses. A mixed-oil formula with a high proportion of EFA and GLA is probably best used here.
The antioxidants and other nutrients help counteract the free-radical irritants. These unstable, free-radical molecules include superoxides, peroxides, hydroxyls, singlet oxygens, and hypochlorites. Vitamins C and E are helpful modulators of free radicals in general; along with zinc, copper, and manganese, they help reduce superoxides through superoxide dismutase enzymes. Selenium supports the production of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which counteracts peroxides, stimulates immune response, and protects against many toxins. Riboflavin subtly assists at maintaining electron balance.
The sulfur-containing amino acids, L-cysteine and methionine, are also "free-radical trappers" and part of a general antioxidant program. Other amino acids that are useful for immune enhancement include L-arginine and L-carnitine. L-arginine stimulates thymus activity and the number and activity of the T lymphocytes. L-carnitine, which can be synthesized from lysine with the help of vitamin C, also helps enhance immunity possibly by stimulating the utilization of fats, and thus increasing energy (ATP) production while preventing oxidation and free-radical formation.
For either immune suppression or protection from colds and flus, vitamins A and C and zinc are recommended. Together these nutrients activate the thymus gland and increase production of thymosin, one of the thymus hormones, which in turn improves T cell and natural killer lymphocyte numbers and activity. Thymosin injections can also be used to stimulate the cellular immune response. If stress is the key element that weakens immunity, then additional adrenal or thyroid glandular support may help. Other possible immune supporters we may wish to use include organo-germanium (Ge-Oxy 132), dimethylglycine (DMG), and coenzyme Q10. A formula that includes all these plus other energy enhancing nutrients is Oxynutrients formulated by Dr. Stephen Levine of Nutriology in San Leandro, California.
If we are sick with an infection or we feel like we are getting sick, I suggest increasing the supplemented levels of vitamin A to 25,000–50,000 IUs, vitamin C to 4–8 grams, and zinc to 50–100 mg. I would also add garlic, which is a natural antibiotic, and goldenseal, which is thought to improve immunity, to help clear wastes through liver tonification, and to have antimicrobial properties. After we are feeling better and ready for recovery, we can add ginseng root to help rebuild our energies. Licorice root is another herb that can be used for stress-related immune problems. It seems to support energy and adrenal balance, and has been shown to improve interferon production.
It is a good idea not to reduce fevers unless they are very high (over 103¡F). Fevers have a purpose, in both children and adults. They help in detoxification, immune stimulation, and increasing metabolism and, in some cases, killing the micro-organism. Intake of fluids and minerals needs to be increased with fevers to counteract the body losses.
Exercise is also very important to immune function. Regular activity increases the circulation of nutrients and the cellular immune components. And remember, muscle activity is necessary to circulate our lymph fluid. Squeezing our brain with thousands of thoughts does not make the lymph flow. Circulation of blood, lymph, energy, thoughts, and feelings is important to the vitality and health of our body, mind, heart, and spirit, and to our immune system. Don’t worry, be healthy!
Immune Enhancement Nutrient Program
of caloric intake)
|Vitamin A||10,000 IUs||
|Beta-carotene ||15,000–30,000 IUs||
|Vitamin D||400 IUs||
|Vitamin E||600–800 IUs||
|Vitamin K||150–300 mcg.||
||L-amino acids ||1,000 mg.|
|Riboflavin (B2)||25–50 mg.||
|Niacinamide (B3)||50 mg.||
|Niacin (B3)||50 mg.||
||Thymus gland||100 mg.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||500 mg.||
||Essential fatty acids*||3–6 capsules|
|Pyridoxine (B6)||50 mg.||
|| or Flaxseed oil|
|Cobalamin (B12)||200 mcg.||
|| (evening Primrose or||3–6 capsules|
|Folic acid ||800 mcg.||
|| Borage seed oil)**||or 200–400 mg.|
||EPA (fish oil)*** ||2–4 capsules|
or 200–400 mg.
|Vitamin C||4–10 g.||
||Coenzyme Q10||30–60 mg.|
About The Author
Elson M. Haas, MD
is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more