“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” has been credited to Hippocrates. The nutrients in food are the best approach to health, which has been suggested by the Cleveland Clinic and other institutions. Given the low nutrient content of many foods, the preservatives, chemical residues, and added sugars and fats, supplements may be a better choice in getting the key nutrients required to build and maintain a healthy immune system. Naturally occurring materials used in supplements are generally better than chemical compounds.
This article has taken several weeks to finish because there was no concrete proof that increasing immune system functions worked to reduce COVID-19 infections and deaths. On September 1, 2020, there was an article published by the India Economic Times with a video by the CEO Troikaa Pharmaceuticals Ltd., an India pharmaceutical company, that gave his 1,200 sales employees traveling kits to boost their immune systems. His three plants followed COVID-19 guidelines to maintain social distancing, wear masks, and do rigid sanitation procedures. His company had 21 infections and no deaths. The video describes the approach.
Specific nutrients or supplements to increase the immune system
The urgency for strengthening the immune system has been lost in the scramble to deliver a vaccine as a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. Billions are being spent to develop this vaccine as fast as possible. The total deaths and immense adverse effects of this virus make it a top priority globally. There has been much less emphasis on building up our immune systems and finding a cure for those people that have or will have the COVID-10 infection.
Despite denials by several medical institutions and government agencies, there are specific vitamins, whether provided in the diet or through the use of supplements, which have been scientifically proven to improve the immune system. These nutrients or supplements help strengthen the immune system, and some have been used to speed the recovery of critically ill COVID-19 patients. Vitamins with proven effects on increasing immunity to diseases are Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K2.
These vitamins need to be used with caution, and may require consultation with a licensed person that has professional knowledge of side effects or interactions with existing pharmaceutical drugs or health conditions.
Vitamin C and Vitamin B1
We will start the discussions of vitamins to help strengthen the immune system with vitamin C. The NIH has published an article titled Vitamin C and Immune Function that states that vitamin C has multiple roles in the strengthening of the immune system. Low levels of vitamin C in the body are a strong indication of a compromised immune system that leads to increased mortality. Doctors in Shanghai and New York City have started using IV-vitamin C to reduce time in the ICUs and lessen mortality. Oxford has proven steroids are also effective in treating patients to reduce the time in ICUs and lessen mortality.
The use of intravenous administration of vitamin C, thiamine and steroids to treat bacterial sepsis infections was initiated by Paul Marik, MD. Marik’s sepsis protocol has now been expanded to treat COVID-19 patients in the ICU that Marik supervises. Marik’s COVID-19 treatment protocol added IV-heparin to the sepsis protocol. As such, this protocol must be administered in a hospital setting under strict medical supervision. This version is as of August 1, 2020
Vitamins B6, and E are two other vitamins that improve immune function.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends vitamins C, B6, and E as three key vitamins for strengthening the immune system. They recommend that you get your vitamins from food sources. They also state that food supplements can cause serious health problems, e.g. excess vitamin E can cause health issues due to reduction in clotting that may lead to excess bleeding or strokes. 400 IU of vitamin E is a recommended daily maximum according to the NIH.
One reason to take the B vitamins as supplements instead of getting them from food occurs if the often-recommended leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are used. These leafy green vegetables are high in vitamin K1. Those patients that are on blood thinners due to heart conditions will have the efficacy of blood thinners reduced because of the presence of vitamin K1. K1 is used to achieve clotting after accidents or bleeding complications after surgery.
Vitamin D3 is a powerful tool to increase immune system functions
A research study that evaluated the health effects of up to 15,000 IU per day did not show any major adverse health effects. The conclusion of the community study published by the NIH summarized the effects of low vitamin D on overall health, including immunity function, of patients. Exposure to sunshine allows the body to make D3, but that isn’t always possible or recommended for fair skinned people.
“Nearly every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor and vitamin D is necessary for a myriad of cellular functions.5 In fact, low vitamin D status reduces the capacity of most tissues to carry out normal physiologic functions. Vitamin D is necessary for skeletal, health, immune, developmental, and cardiovascular health and to protect against cancer. As a result, low vitamin D status increases the risk of several diseases including autoimmune disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
The use of the nutrients in foods to prevent diseases through strengthening the immune system is often not the priority of researchers. The result of this has the recommended daily intake of nutrients or supplements at values below what would increase immune function or be at preventative level for the occurrence of diseases. The comment below is focused on determining the correct amount of vitamin D to take on a daily basis, which has generated significant controversy among researchers and nutritionists.
“Logically, the criteria for determining nutrient intake requirements should be based on the actual function of the nutrient, not disease prevention.”
There have been many studies focused on whether vitamin D3 can prevent numerous types of cancer. Studies on the effects of D3 on colorectal and prostate cancers show reduced incidence of these specific cancers, as shown in US and European studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a placebo-based double-blind study that was done by analyzing the effect of calcium, D3 and calcium, and a placebo on predicting breast cancer. The statistics are shown in the quoted summary, and the article describes the protocol.
“ Results: When analyzed by intention to treat, cancer incidence was lower in the Ca + D women than in the placebo control subjects (P < 0.03). With the use of logistic regression, the unadjusted relative risks (RR) of incident cancer in the Ca + D and Ca-only groups were 0.402 (P = 0.01) and 0.532 (P = 0.06), respectively. When analysis was confined to cancers diagnosed after the first 12 months, RR for the Ca + D group fell to 0.232 (CI: 0.09, 0.60; P < 0.005) but did not change significantly for the Ca-only group. In multiple logistic regression models, both treatment and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations were significant, independent predictors of cancer risk.
The role of vitamin K2 has been recognized as being a key agent in the prevention and cure of osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis. The research on vitamin K2’s role in improving immune functions is beginning to gain more attention.
Vitamin K2 is being investigated by cancer researchers for its inhibitory effects against the development of cancer and the treatment of cancer cells.
“Vitamin K2 (VK2), which exerts anticancer effects on a number of cancer cell lines, is considered to be a prospective novel agent for the treatment of cancer. The present review aims to summarize the results of studies in which VK2 was administered either to patients with cancer or animals inoculated with cancerous cells, particularly investigating the inhibitory effects of VK2 on cancerous cells, primarily involving cell‑cycle arrest, cell differentiation, apoptosis, autophagy and invasion”
On September 23, 2020, new research was published by Spanish scientists regarding the impact of zinc on the mortality of COVID-19 patients that were hospitalized in serious condition. Based upon these findings, it is suggested that low levels of zinc in the body correlates highly with the end point of hospitalization being death.
Lower zinc levels in the blood are associated with an increased risk of death in patients with COVID-19
The authors conclude: “Lower zinc levels at admission correlate with higher inflammation in the course of infection and poorer outcome. Plasma zinc levels at admission are associated with mortality in COVID-19 in our study. Further studies are needed to assess the therapeutic impact of this association.”
“After adjusting by age, sex, severity and receiving hydroxychloroquine, statistical analysis showed each unit increase of plasma zinc at admission to hospital was associated with a 7% reduced risk of in-hospital mortality. Having a plasma zinc level lower than 50mcg/dl at admission was associated with a 2.3 times increased risk of in-hospital death compared with those patients with a plasma zinc level of 50mcg/dl or higher.”
The role of the immune system in preventing diseases and in helping the body cure diseases cannot be overstated. The body is constantly reacting against infections due to viruses and bacteria, and to cellular abnormalities related to gene defects, cellular aging, and damage from alcohol, nicotine, and drug side-effects. By increasing the immune function, the body can respond to these intrusions with reduced or no major mortality consequences.
Maintaining a healthy body requires many components working together. There are other substances that have been proposed as candidates for improvement of immune function. It is suggested that the reader investigate each claim to determine the validity of the claim. Common sense is highly useful.
Immune function improvement requires constant attention to the requirements of maintaining a healthy body that includes diet, exercise, reduction of stress, and an intention to maintain health over time. With the injection of the global pandemic that is due to COVID-19, maintaining vigilance in following CDC guidelines for social distancing, wearing a mask in group situations, and hand sanitation are now added as requirements for maintaining a healthy body, and avoiding significant after effects of COVID-19 infection.
While aging causes a decrease in the body’s immune function or health of major organs until death results, the quality and length of our lives can be maintained and extended by taking responsibility for doing what we can to remain healthy.
The author is NOT a licensed nutritionist, medical doctor, medical researcher, or associated in any way with any supplier of nutrients or supplements. Every nutrient or supplement mentioned in this article has a link to scientific studies regarding that supplement or nutrient’s impact on increasing immune function. No medical advice is intended or given beyond the content of the scientific studies. No nutritional advice is given or intended beyond the content of the scientific studies. Your decisions on how you use the information provided are strictly your decisions.