How to Optimize Your Immune (Defense) System - Naturally!

Published: October 1, 2012

Immune disorders are rapidly becoming a part of modern life. Our immune systems are being weakened by poor sleep, awful nutrition and chronic infections. At the same time our defenses are going haywire trying to defend against the over 80,000 chemicals in our environment. This over-reactivity not only results in an exhausted immune system, but also in the skyrocketing epidemic of autoimmune diseases. Whether you want to fight off a cold, prevent catching the flu, or have chronic infections you want to eliminate, you don't need the Avian flu vaccine (which to me simply seems another way for some politicians to get richer). Instead, keep your own immune/defense systems optimized by:

  1. Sleep—get your 8 hours a night.
  2. Optimize adrenal (stress handler) gland function.
  3. Improve digestion.
  4. Optimize your nutritional support.
  5. Address chronic infections (especially yeast/candida, Lyme, and viral infections).

In addition, natural immune boosters such as thymic protein (a natural product that mimics the hormone regulating immunity) and colloidal silver can be very helpful.

Boosting Your Immunity

Chronic and recurring infections are also a major problem in CFS and fibromyalgia because of the immune dysfunction associated with these illnesses. Boosting our body’s defense system can also be helpful for anyone who wants to fight an acute infection (e.g., a spring time cold) or prevent one. There are many simple yet powerful things you can do to enhance your immune function. We will also have a wonderful discussion of auto-immune illnesses in 2 weeks, when we interview Donna Jackson Nakazawa, the author of “The Autoimmune Epidemic.”

In this article, though, we will talk about how to strengthen immune function, as these approaches can also help in autoimmune problems. This is because the immune system has ways of protecting against your body attacking itself. When you help your immune system get healthy, you both fight off outside invaders and keep your body protected from inflammation and autoimmune problems. Let’s look at how to do this.

Starting With the Basics

Let’s look at the keys to immune health:

  1. Sleep. Historically, until about 100 years ago, the average nights' sleep in the U.S. was 9 hours a night. We are now down to around 6 hours a night—and often less with CFS and fibromyalgia. Research has shown that a powerful way to immune-suppress an animal is to sleep deprive it. The same applies to people. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If you have insomnia, natural sleep aids like an herbal supplement that supports healthy sleep, calcium, magnesium and melatonin can be very helpful. See "Addressing Insomnia" to learn how to get a great nights' sleep. This will not only help your immune system, but will also help you lose weight and look younger while improving energy and decreasing pain.
  2. Eliminate chronic infections—especially yeast/Candida overgrowth. Eliminating the yeast can help improve digestion and "leaky gut." This decreases the amount of partially digested food that gets from the gut into your blood—which then has to be removed by your immune system. It will also help your chronic sinusitis and spastic colon go away. How to do this is discussed in detail in my book "From Fatigued to Fantastic!" In addition, addressing chronic viral infections such as HHV 6, Epstein Barr and CMV, and other infections(e.g, Lyme ) also helps a struggling immune system to recover.
  3. Improve digestion with natural plant based digestive enzymes. This also decreases leaky gut and takes a load off your immune system. Consider these if you have indigestion or if your spastic colon/irritable bowel syndrome persists despite yeast therapy.
  4. Improve nutrition. Optimizing your nutritional status in general plays a key role in your immune system staying healthy. Two key nutrients are zinc and Vitamin D—both of which tend to be low in immune deficiency and fibromyalgia. Zinc gets depleted by chronic inflammation and infections, and has been shown to be low in fibromyalgia and horribly low in AIDS. In fact, in early AIDS infections, much if not most of the immune dysfunction seen can be caused by the associated zinc deficiency. Vitamin D is also critical for immune function. As 90% of our Vitamin D comes from sunshine, it has been estimated that the misguided medical advice to avoid sunshine causes 85,000 extra cancer deaths a year in the U.S. It also contributes to Multiple Sclerosis and diabetes (both have an autoimmune component) as well as osteoporosis and chronic pain. Many other nutrients are also important, and I recommend taking a good multivitamin powder to optimize nutrition. In addition, take an extra 25 mg of zinc a day for 4 months and spend time out in the sun each day. Remember—avoid sunburn, not sunshine!
  5. If you have chronic sore throats and swollen glands, we find that optimizing adrenal hormone function (your bodies stress handler) will often make this go away. An herbal supplement that support adrenal function can be an excellent natural aid, and ultra-low dose natural prescription cortisol can also be helpful. Adrenal issues, and the safety of this therapy are discussed at length in my book "From Fatigued to Fantastic!" Of course you should also see your physician to make sure the swollen glands are not caused by something dangerous.

Natural Immune Boosters

In addition to optimizing sleep, adrenal function, digestion and nutrition, and eliminating infections, there are a number of natural products that both stimulate immune function and have anti-infectious properties. My 2 favorites are:

  1. Natural thymic hormone (the hormone that regulates immunity)/thymic protein, which mimics natural thymic hormone and is a very effective immune stimulant. Dissolve the contents of one packet under your tongue three times a day and let it absorb there (any that is swallowed will be destroyed by your stomach acid). A study in CFIDS patients with markedly elevated Epstein-Barr antibody levels showed a dramatic drop in the antibody levels after six weeks of therapy with thymic hormone. Many physicians are finding that thymic hormone has been very helpful for CFIDS/FMS patients with persistent viral, yeast, bowel, or other infections. I have found that using it for two or three days at the onset of an infection can shorten the length of the infection dramatically, and often stops it on the first day. It should be in everyone's medicine cabinet and begun immediately at the start of any infection.
  2. Silver is a remarkable anti-infectious agent against a very broad spectrum of infections. For sinusitis, there is an excellent silver nose spray. In low doses, this mineral is an anti-infectious agent against both viral and bacterial infections, and liquid silver can even be used orally for many types of difficult-to-address chronic infections. Silver also works well in combination with the prescription sinusitis nose spray, which your physician can call into ITC Pharmacy.

    The problem with using the wrong types of silver is that if a person overdoses it can build up in their body, and turn the skin permanently blue (very Smurfy, but not a good idea). Called argyria, it is not dangerous, but it is odd looking. Because of this, it is important to use safe forms that are very small molecules, so they don't build up in the body. I use the Immunogenics brand of silver liquid and nose spray. These have never caused the blue skin problem. (See "Directions for using silver.")

In addition to thymic protein and colloidal silver, other excellent immune boosters include:

  1. Leuko-Stim. This mix mostly stimulates immune function, but the olive leaf may also have anti-viral properties. It contains Olive Leaf Extract, Beta 1,3, Glucan, Maitake Mushroom Extract and Arabinogalactan (Larch).
  2. Maitake D Fraction 30. Contains 330 mg of maitake mushroom and extract (an immune stimulant).
  3. Anti-Viral. This contains a mix of Milk Thistle Extract (80 percent Silymarin), Phylanthus amarius, Phylanthus uraria, Monoammonium glycyrrhizinate, L-Lysine, N-Acetyl L-Cysteine, Astragalus Herb Powder, Lactoferin, Olive Leaf Extract, Dionea (Venous Fly Trap extract) and Selenium (Selenomethionine).

If a chronic viral or bacterial infection is suspected, consider addressing it with a three month Anti-viral regimen, using Leuko-Stim or Maitake, plus thymic protein. Adding the silver solution (liquid or nose spray) may also help. These natural supplements can be taken on their own or with antibiotics and antivirals. Though these are more expensive than many other natural supplements, they can be very helpful in fighting these infections and are well tolerated. You’ll see effects from therapy in about three months. You can have a great and healthy immune system!

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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