Natural ways to boost your immunity and reduce your risk of infection

Jul 01, 2021
Now is the time to focus on our health and wellbeing, writes Dr Ross Walker. Source: Getty Images

With the global health focus on this serious coronavirus pandemic, it is now vitally important for all of us to maintain a healthy immune system. The immune system is our body’s defence against all foreign toxins including infections, ageing and defective cells that potentially could turn cancerous. Defective immunity also contributes to inflammation, which is a key component of all our modern killers.

The immune system is basically divided into the innate component where these foot soldier cells mount a generic response once a foreign toxin or a defective cell is detected and the adaptive component where are a specific antibody is created against that particular toxin or cell.

Without a healthy immune system, the body may soon be overwhelmed by any of these factors. What can we do to maintain healthy immunity? First, and most important, is to lead a healthy lifestyle. Addictions, poor sleep, eating unhealthy food, not exercising and being stressed, all weaken the immune system.

Yet, there are a number of proven natural substances that may boost immunity and may assist in reducing your risk for not only infectious diseases, but a number of the degenerative diseases that are our common killers.

Vitamin C

Over the centuries, the plant kingdom, in the form of fruit and vegetables, has allowed humans the opportunity to maintain healthy immunity. One of the key components here is vitamin C from citrus fruits.

There are a number of studies demonstrating that taking high doses of vitamin C at the onset of a cold may diminish the severity and length of the illness. There are also studies suggesting, in more serious illnesses, a reduction in ventilator time and need for patients in intensive care, and even an enhancement of chemotherapy in patients with leukaemia.

Larger doses of vitamin C may lead to a greater reduction in common cold duration. The relationship between vitamin C dosage and its effects on the duration of the common cold symptoms may extend to 6-8 grams per day according to a statistical analysis published in Nutrients.

Dr Harri Hemilä from the University of Helsinki, Finland, analysed the findings of two randomised trials each of which investigated the effects of two vitamin C doses on the duration of the common cold. The first trial administered 3g per day vitamin C to two study groups, 6g per day to a third group, and a placebo to a fourth group. Compared with the placebo group the 6g per day dose shortened colds by 17 per cent, twice as much as those on 3g per day. The second trial administered 4g per day 8g per day vitamin C, and placebo to different groups, but only on the first day of the cold. Compared with the placebo group, the 8g per day dose shortened colds by 19 per cent, twice as much as those on 4g per day.

Nevertheless, definitive conclusions cannot be made from such a comparison because of numerous confounding differences between the trials. The most valid examination of dose-response is therefore within a single trial that has randomly selected trial groups with different vitamin C doses, so that exposure to viruses is similar and the outcome definition is identical in the study groups.

Given the universal nature of the effect of vitamin C against various infections in different animal species, it also seems evident that vitamin C influences the susceptibility to, and the severity of infections in humans. However, the practical importance of vitamin C in human infections is not known.

Beta glucan

An interesting, but not widely discussed product found in the cell walls of bacteria, yeast, fungi, algae and also in the walls of grain and other plants is beta glucan. Baker’s or brewer’s yeast, otherwise known as saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a rich source of beta glucan. A study of 100 healthy participants found a significantly lower incidence of the common cold when beta glucan was taken as a supplement in a dose of 900mg daily with no significant side effects.

A systematic review of 13 placebo-controlled studies showed a 42 per cent reduction in the duration of colds when the participants were given supplemental zinc.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is better known for its effects on calcium metabolism, but has also been shown to be a strong immune system stimulant. Interestingly, there have been some recent studies suggesting that people with the highest vitamin D levels had the lowest rates of Covid-19 infections and much less serious complications from this disease.

It is my opinion that we should maintain vitamin D levels around 100 nmol/L. Unfortunately, a third of modern society has levels below 50 nmol/L.

Oleuropein

Another excellent immune stimulant is oleuropein, a component of olive leaf extract. Olives and olive leaves are a rich source of plant chemicals known as polyphenols, which have a variety of health benefits including maintaining a healthy immune system. There are a number of scientific studies clearly demonstrating the benefits from olive leaf extract on immunity.

In my opinion, combining healthy lifestyle principles with sensible supplementation is the best way to fight infections, prevent many modern illnesses and, most importantly, maintain good health and wellbeing.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

The Starts at 60 Marketplace has a quality range of immune boosting products that you can find here.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Do you prefer natural remedies when you're feeling unwell?

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