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Immune Health

Nutrients and Herbs Supporting Immune System Health
Source:  InterClinical Practitioner eNews March 2020 Issue 103

What is a virus?
Viruses vary widely in shape and complexity. They do not contain the chemical machinery needed to carry out chemical reactions for life. Instead a virus carries only nucleic acid, with a set of genetic instructions, and a coat of protein to protect it. Enveloped viruses have an extra surrounding covering made of a lipid membrane. A virus must have a host cell in which to live and replicate. Outside this host, a virus cannot function. Viruses have a remarkable ability to adapt to new hosts and environments. This mutation happens faster in RNA viruses than DNA viruses; single-stranded viruses mutate faster than double strand viruses and these mutations can be passed to the next generation. In viruses, a generation is often defined as a cell infection cycle.1
This high rate of mutation is thought to confer a survival advantage to viruses, allowing a rapid response to environmental change.2 Novel mutant strains continuously emerge causing influenza pandemic outbreaks.3

The host and its effect on a virus
Nutritional deficiency, causing increased oxidative stress, may lead to a rise in free radicals that could damage the RNA sequence of a virus, resulting in mutations.2 This can cause the rapid selection of a new viral consensus sequence that may be due to a decrease in the host’s immune function. This decrease in immune function can be accompanied by an increase in viral load, which allows for a more virulent genotype to outcompete the original consensus sequence and result in a new sequence.
The host’s nutritional factors can have a profound effect on a viral pathogen and can result in the expression of a new and more virulent pathogenic phenotype.2 Immune dysfunction in the host does not only lead to susceptibility to viral infection, but can directly affect the virus itself. It will then be free to affect not only nutritionally deficient populations but well-nourished populations as well. This was seen in the study of coxsackievirus A9 meningitis in Cuba. When the virus was replicated under conditions of oxidative stress, it lead to the emergence of a new strain with altered pathogenesis.2

This has important implications for the role of nutrition and infection. It suggests that the host’s nutritional status is about more than individual wellbeing. Poor nutritional status can alter the genome of a virus and affect others.2 

What nutrients support the immune system to fight viral infection?
Nutritional status is closely associated with the severity and susceptibility to infectious disease. Inadequate nutrition impairs the functioning of the immune system and results in increased susceptibility to infection.4
The association between famine, epidemics of infectious disease, and high rates of mortality have been noted throughout history. It is postulated that nutritional deficiencies cause changes in immune system function thereby opening the door to infection. Animal studies examining the effect of malnutrition and protein deficiency on the susceptibility to infection, have found greater viral severity that persists longer with a higher viral load.4

It is well known that zinc deficiency results in a compromised immune system. Topical zinc application studies have been performed in humans which demonstrated a significantly reduced recurrence and duration of infection from herpes simplex virus.Most clinical studies using zinc supplementation are primarily limited to rhinovirus infection and have demonstrated decreased clinical symptoms in volunteers after being given zinc.These studies are dependent on the amount of ionic zinc present at the sight of infection (oral and nasal mucosa) and
where high doses of ionic zinc were used, there was a clear reduction in cold duration.5

Metallothioneins, small cysteine rich proteins that store and transfer zinc, are also involved in immune responses. Oxidative stress induces zinc release from metallothioneins to reduce reactive oxygen species generated by viral infection. When stimulated by interferons, metallothioneins induce the  expression of hundreds of antiviral genes. Interferons possess diverse roles that include immune cell activation and direct antiviral activity. Although zinc possesses direct antiviral properties it is also critical in generating both innate and acquired (humoral) antiviral responses. Zinc is an integral part of many viral enzymes which highlights the importance of regulating cellular and systemic zinc distribution to inhibit viral replication and dissemination.5

NB:  Please consult a qualified natural health practitioner for the correct form of zinc.

In an animal study a deficiency in selenium has been found to increase susceptibility due to immune suppression. A deficiency in this mineral allowed for a pre-existing virus to mutate. This may be due to the fact that selenium is an essential co-factor for glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme important in limiting oxidative stress in the host. This paves the way for an impairment of the immune system which in turn leads to an increase in viral load and the possibility of generating mutations in the virus with greater pathogenic potential.4

Vitamin E
Vitamin E acts as a free radical scavenger and works in tandem with selenium, sparing one another’s activities. An individual with a deficiency in vitamin E will lean toward a pro-oxidative state. As with selenium, a deficiency of this vitamin will increase oxidative stress and cause an increase in viral pathology.4

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the best known immune supporting nutrients but its effects are controversial. What is known with certainty, is that an insufficiency of vitamin C severely impacts multiple organs and resulting in impaired immunity and a higher susceptibility to infections. It cannot be synthesized by humans due to the loss of a key enzyme in the biosynthetic pathway.6
A study conducted on mice (Gulo knockout mice) without the ability to synthesise vitamin C, concluded that vitamin C shows an antiviral immune response in the initial stages of influenza infection.  Supplementation of vitamin C after infection did not have any effect. The study concluded that ‘it might be possible by maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin C to effectively prevent in vivo pathogenesis of influenza at the initial stage of viral infection’.7

NB:  Glutathione is the body’s major antioxidant and its production may be stimulated naturally.  Check with us and mention the G.E.M.M. products for ultimate glutathione and nutritional support.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is perhaps the best studied nutrient with regard to viral infection. More is known about how it modulates immune function than for any other micronutrient. Much attention has been focused on the relationship between vitamin A deficiency and infection with the measles virus. Investigation led to the discovery that a deficiency in vitamin A often accompanied the development of severe measles. Treatment with vitamin A increased the levels of measles-specific IgG and increased the total numbers of lymphocytes in infected children.4
The severity of other viral infections, such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), rotavirus and herpes simplex, increased in the presence of a deficiency of vitamin A.4
Vitamin A deficiency causes pathological changes in the epithelium of the respiratory tract, including keratinization and loss of ciliated cells, mucus and goblet cells.Studies conducted in Papua New Guinea on children infected with malaria showed a significant reduction in the incidence of attacks after supplementation with Vitamin A. Individuals with poor nutritional status and vitamin A deficiency are shown to be at major risk for the progression of tuberculosis.8

NB:  The best forms of Vitamin A are the natural (as opposed to synthetic) forms which can be obtained with natural Vitamin D from Arctic Cod Liver Oil made by Nordic Naturals.

Herbal Immune Support

There are several herbs that help support the immune system and also to relieve symptoms of infection.  As herbs need to be dispensed by a qualified practitioner, these will not be listed here.  Please consult your Naturopath/Herbalist for individual assessment and prescription of quality herbal products.

Throughout history many different cultures have recognized the potential use of garlic for prevention and treatment of different diseases. When garlic is chopped or crushed, allinase enzyme is activated and produces allicin. It is allicin that is the principal bioactive compound present in garlic.10 Although very little work has been done to investigate its antiviral properties, a few studies have reported that garlic extract showed in vitro activity against many common viral infections.11

Although extremely small in size and simple in structure, viruses cause numerous diseases. They are
exceedingly adaptable and able to mutate to suit their environment. This viral adaptation is passed on to
the next generation. The severity of infection is greatly affected by the host’s nutritional status. By being
conscious of our nutritional intake we can help to improve our immune system and support its ability to
repel and recover from viral infections.

Always consult a qualified natural health practitioner – do not self prescribe or purchase inferior products on line.  Call us on 07 5530 1863 for an appointment.

1. Sanjuán, R., & Domingo-Calap, P. (2016). Mechanisms of viral mutation. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences,
73(23), 4433–4448. doi:10.1007/s00018-016-2299-6
2. Beck, M. A., & Levander, O. A. (2000). Host Nutritional Status and Its Effect on a Viral Pathogen. The Journal of
Infectious Diseases, 182(s1), S93–S96. doi:10.1086/315918
3. Im, K., Kim, J., & Min, H. (2016). Ginseng, the natural effectual antiviral: Protective effects of Korean Red Ginseng
against viral infection. Journal of Ginseng Research, 40(4), 309–314. doi:10.1016/j.jgr.2015.09.002
4. Beck, M. A. (1996). The role of nutrition in viral disease. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 7(12), 683–690.
5. Read, S. A., Obeid, S., Ahlenstiel, C., & Ahlenstiel, G. (2019). The Role of Zinc in Antiviral Immunity. Advances in
Nutrition. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz013
6. Carr, A., & Maggini, S. (2017). Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients, 9(11), 1211. doi:10.3390/nu9111211
7. Kim, Y., Kim, H., Bae, S., Choi, J., Lim, S. Y., Lee, N., … Lee, W. J. (2013). Vitamin C Is an Essential Factor on the
Anti-viral Immune Responses through the Production of Interferon-α/β at the Initial Stage of Influenza A Virus
(H3N2) Infection. Immune Network, 13(2), 70. doi:10.4110/in.2013.13.2.70
8. Semba, R. D. (1999). Vitamin A and immunity to viral, bacterial and protozoan infections. Proceedings of the
Nutrition Society, 58(03), 719–727. doi:10.1017/s0029665199000944
9. Wang, L., Yang, R., Yuan, B., Liu, Y., & Liu, C. (2015). The antiviral and antimicrobial activities of licorice, a widelyused Chinese herb. Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B, 5(4), 310–315. doi:10.1016/j.apsb.2015.05.005
10. Weber, N., Andersen, D., North, J., Murray, B., Lawson, L., & Hughes, B. (1992). In VitroVirucidal Effects ofAllium
sativum(Garlic) Extract and Compounds. Planta Medica, 58(05), 417–423. doi:10.1055/s-2006-961504
11. Bayan, L., Koulivand, P. H., Gorji, A. (2013). Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna Journal of
Phytomedicine, 4(1): 1-14.

Immune Health

Immunity – our natural defence against infections

Whether summer or winter, there is always a risk of getting sick.  Strengthen your immune systemnaturally – and avoid the bugs getting you down.  Arrange a consultation for a comprehensive health analysis and the best way to get your immune system fighting fit!

Natural Immune Support

The common cold is caused by a wide variety of viruses which infect the nasal passages, sinuses and throat causing symptoms such as fever, headache and congestion.  We are constantly exposed to many viruses, yet the majority of people only experience the discomfort of a ‘cold’ once or twice a year.  A decrease in immune function is the major factor in ‘catching’ a cold.

Maintaining a healthy immune system is the best way to protect yourself against ‘catching’ colds, ‘flu and other infections.  Eating a healthy balanced diet is also paramount to immune health which is intricately linked to gut health.  


A Nutrigenomic approach is our best defence against the threat of viral and other infections as it provides the key to upregulating the genes governing Cellular Defence.  What does this mean?  By supporting and strengthening our body’s own mechanisms, it is better able to:

(1) Detect a microbial threat,

(2) Ramp up the virus kill processes when needed – and of equal importance,

(3) Shut them down on cue to avoid damaging our own cells.

At True Medicine, our key emphasis is that a successful immune response is largely dependent on the function of the cells that line both the gut and respiratory systems. These cells interact continuously with the underlying cells of the immune network.  By supporting these cells’ ability to detect, kill and repair damage caused by microbes, we are better equipped to defend ourselves against viral or other microbial infection.

What affects the immune system?

The immune system is greatly affected by a person’s emotional state, level of stress, lifestyle, acid-alkaline state or pH, dietary habits and nutritional status.  Nutrient deficiencies are the most frequent cause of a depressed immune system as any single nutrient deficiency can impair the immune system.  The health of your digestive system, in particular the ‘gut’ or bowels, also plays a major role in immune health as more than 70% of the immune system is based around the ‘gut’.

Dietary factors and immune health

Optimal immune health requires a healthy diet rich in whole, natural foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, quality protein and low in refined sugars and ‘bad’ fats.  Excessive consumption of sugar (which includes processed carbohydrates) depresses the immune system.

This should also be taken into consideration during any infection where consumption of concentrated fruit juices during an infection may do more harm than good due to the high sugar content.

Wheat and dairy both cause an increase in mucous production and should be avoided during any episode of cold or ‘flu.

Supplements and the immune system

There are several nutrients which can be taken as supplements to assist in maintaining and supporting immune health.  However, it is recommended that you invest in quality supplements that provide good levels of vitamins and minerals rather than low grade over-the-counter varieties.

Vitamin C is a good example.  When choosing a vitamin C supplement, always ensure it provides an alkaline source of the vitamin (buffered is best) as well as bioflavinoids.  Small regular doses are better than one big one.  Try taking 1/4 teaspoon four to five times a day – after meals.

When supplementing with Vitamin E be mindful if you suffer hypertension:  start with a low dose and gradually increase as it may increase your blood pressure levels. Also only supplement with mixed tocopherols.  Always take Vitamin E with Vitamin C as Vitamin C is required to recycle the end product of Vitamin E.

Supporting your body’s natural antioxidant production of Nrf2 can be more beneficial as your body will produce only what it needs as opposed to flooding the cells with excessive levels which can actually fuel inflammation.

Practitioner-only products are always your best option providing quality supplements but also prescribed by a qualified practitioner.

Herbs for immune health

Plants have been implemented to stimulate or potentiate the body’s own defence mechanisms for thousands of years.  In contract to the medical approach, herbal remedies stimulate or potentiate the body’s own defence mechanisms rather than substituting for them. This way the body’s natural balance is preserved and side effects are either not present or substantially reduced. Although both vaccines and herbs elicit an immune response, vaccines boost the body’s response to a specific pathogen whereas herbs tend to enhance overall immunity. The immunological activity of different herbal medicines is being increasingly documented with labels such as immune enhancers being ascribed to herbs which enhance non-specific resistance and enhance or stimulate one or more aspects of the immune system, such as immune components that are beneficial in fighting pathogens.

The advantage of enhancing non-specific immune defences as opposed to vaccine-induced specific defence lies in the variability of pathogens we are exposed to.  Viruses, in particular, mutate very quickly rendering many specific defences obsolete.

There are several herbal options which support immune health as well as strengthen its fighting capacity in times of infection. 

As with supplements, always ensure that you invest in quality grade herbal remedies and only on the advice of a qualified natural health practitioner.

Sunshine and immunity

Low Vitamin D levels have been identified in relation to increased bone fractures, obesity, pre-diabetes states, impaired cognitive function, muscular pain, breast cancer and increased susceptibility to viral infection.  With years of advertising focusing on the dangers of sun exposure, many of us have forgotten the benefits of sunshine on our skin.  Any exposure to sun should be limited to the early morning or late afternoon, always avoiding the scalding mid-day sun.  Babies need sunshine too – five to ten minutes of early morning sun, in a sheltered place to avoid chills helps not only their bones grow strong.  Using common sense in regard to sun exposure may alleviate the need to supplement with Vitamin D.

What to do if you catch a cold

Supporting the body’s natural defences is your best option to shortening the duration of a cold.  Suppressing symptoms – such as headache, mild fever, runny nose etc – does nothing to help your body fight the viruses or build a strong immunity.  A fever, provided it remains below 40oC (104oF) is the body’s natural mechanism to counteract the infection.  There are also several natural options which help keep any fever well below dangerous levels while maintaining its health benefits.

Rest is an essential component during any infection as this allows the immune system to do its job and you recover faster.

Drink lots of fluids – hot herbal teas, vegetable soups, water help maintain essential levels of hydration and assist function of white blood cells.  Studies have shown that consuming concentrated sources of sugars like glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey or orange juice greatly reduces the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria.

Antibiotics and Infections

What the natural health practitioners have addressed for many years is finally making its way into the medical journals – that the over use of antibiotics has resulted in bugs becoming resistant to them.  In addition to developing resistance to antibiotics, bacteria can also camouflage themselves in what is knows as biofilm to ‘hide’ from antibiotics. 

A research article published in MedscapeCME/CE Released: 05/19/2010 –

“Resistance to antibiotics prescribed in primary care may last up to 12 months, according to the results of a study reported Online First May 19 in the BMJ. An accompanying analysis and editorial point out the need to develop new antibiotics while conserving those that are currently available.

“In general practice, there are concerns that some common infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat and that illnesses due to antibiotic resistant bacteria may take longer to resolve,” write Céire Costelloe from the University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom”.  “Individuals prescribed an antibiotic in primary care for a respiratory or urinary infection develop bacterial resistance to that antibiotic,” the study authors write. “The effect is greatest in the month immediately after treatment but may persist for up to 12 months. This effect not only increases the population carriage of organisms resistant to first line antibiotics, but also creates the conditions for increased use of second line antibiotics in the community.”

If colds and ‘flu are viral, then why are antibiotics commonly prescribed? Since the introduction of antibiotics, life expectancy has dramatically increased across the Western world; yet we are now facing a growing problem of antibiotic resistance, with the unnecessary prescription of anti-bacterial agents for respiratory illness receiving much of the blame. Antibiotics are frequently prescribed for secondary respiratory infections where a bacterial infection has complicated an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection. However, only around 2% of viral respiratory infections will progress to bacterial infection.

It should be noted that there are situations when antibiotics are required, but there are many more instances when the natural approach will help the body to fight the infection successfully resulting in improved immune resistance.  At the first sign of an infection or if people around you, whether at work, school or in the family, are getting sick, seek the advice of a natural health practitioner to help you build your resistance – naturally.

Antibacterial soaps just compounding the problem?  Read more at Dr Mercola.

Last but not Least:

Don’t self-prescribe

Naturopaths spend many years studying the intricacies of the human body, its biochemical functions, nutrition and herbal medicine and are, therefore, qualified and able to provide guidance in these matters.  Always seek the advice of a qualified natural healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements.

Contact True Medicine for professional, high grade supplements and herbal tonics – call 0468 774 633.

Before considering any vaccinations, please take time to read the following articles or watch well-researched scientific documentaries:

The Truth about Vaccines

The Vaccine Illusion by Tetyana Obukhanych PhD

Critical Vaccine Studies: Miller’s Review of 400 important scientific papers by Neil Z. Miller


Vaccines and Immunisation

Before considering ANY vaccination, I recommend reading the following article which describes adverse side effects of Rotarix.  Similar reports are available on many other vaccines.  Unfortunately, the authorities are all too obliging in permitting new vaccines onto the market without adequate testing.  Many side effects only become apparent after weeks, months, even years.  Perhaps we really should consider strengthening our immune systems naturally to limit the number of vaccines we do receive.

The well-reasearched documentary “The Truth About Vaccines” presents findings from 60 top vaccine experts including doctors, scientists, paediatricians and immunologists.

The following two articles are available from the Vaccine Safety Commission:


Temporal Association of Certain Neuropsychiatric Disorders Following Vaccination of Children and Adolescents: A Pilot Case-Control StudyFrontiers in Psychiatry, January 2017, Douglas L. Leslie, Robert A. Kobre, Brian J. Richmand

Summary: “Subjects with newly diagnosed anorexia nervosa were more likely than controls to have had any vaccination in the previous 3 months [hazard ratio (HR) 1.80, 95% confidence interval 1.21-2.68]. Influenza vaccinations during the prior 3, 6, and 12 months were also associated with incident diagnoses of AN, OCD, and an anxiety disorder. Several other associations were also significant with HRs greater than 1.40 (hepatitis A with OCD and AN; hepatitis B with AN; and meningitis with AN and chronic tic disorder). This pilot epidemiologic analysis implies that the onset of some neuropsychiatric disorders may be temporally related to prior vaccinations in a subset of individuals.”


New Quality-Control Investigations on Vaccines: Micro- and Nanocontamination International Journal of Vaccines and Vaccination, January 2017, Dr. Antonietta M. Gatti, Stefano Montanari

Summary: Scientists found contaminants in all vaccines that are not listed on the label of the vaccines. “The analyses carried out show that in all samples checked vaccines contain non biocompatible and bio-persistent foreign bodies which are not declared by the Producers, against which the body reacts in any case. This new investigation represents a new quality control that can be adopted to assess the safety of a vaccine. Our hypothesis is that this contamination is unintentional, since it is probably due to polluted components or procedures of industrial processes (e.g. filtrations) used to produce vaccines, not investigated and not detected by the Producers. If our hypothesis is actually the case, a close inspection of the working places and the full knowledge of the whole procedure of vaccine preparation would probably allow to eliminate the problem.”

How can I protect my child?

Parents often ask my opinion on immunisation.  This is a decision that parents must make for themselves after carefully evaluating the information available and without pressure from others:  whether this be from medical practitioners, natural health practitioners or well-meaning family members.  Each parent just wants what’s best for their child.

My advice is to source independent research, not statistics presented by pharmaceutical corporations.  I also do not believe that it needs be a question or whether to vaccinate or not, but rather how to immunise safely.

The Japanese model of not vaccinating children under the age of two years has resulted in a 95% reduction in SIDS and other ‘unexplained’ conditions.  This makes sense to me: delaying vaccination until a child’s immune system is stronger may be preferable to vaccinating a young child whose immune system has not developed yet.  Many of the concerns relating to immunisation, including autism and ADD/ADHD, are based on the young infant’s blood-brain barrier not being formed and therefore allowing the heavy metals to enter the brain, causing damage.

Another option may be to request vaccines that do not contain harmful substances – mercury, aluminium, formaldehyde.  These vaccines are available but are not promoted as they have much shorter shelf-lives.  There are also ‘low allergy’ vaccines available.

I would also suggest considering vaccinating with one serum at a time rather than combination.  Wait at least three months between injections and only continue the program if the child is in good health.  Preparing your child for its vaccine is also beneficial – help to strengthen the immune system naturally both before and following vaccination to minimise any possible side-effects.

There is also the option of homeopathic prophylaxis – while very effective and safe, this does require a lot of commitment on the part of the parents as the program must be strictly followed for a period of two years.  In this regard, I would suggest you discuss the treatment protocol with a reputable homeopath.

Visit for more information.

A healthy respiratory system

To most 21st century dwellers, the terms smallpox, tuberculosis and typhoid recall thoughts of period novels, settler days and times gone by.  While social and medical developments have all but eliminated these historic threats, they have been replaced by a new set of immune challenges.  Asthma, sinusitis, influenza and corona-viruses are now household names.

In our modern world, virulent bacterial pathogens have been replaced by pollutants and chemicals, triggering hay fever, sinus, and asthma.  Cramped unhygienic conditions have been replaced by a sanitised but highly-populated environment, leaving us widely exposed to viruses but without the immune experience to fight them.

These changes and their effects on immunity are incorporated into an increasingly popular theory known as the hygiene hypothesis.  When we are born, the immune system knows little about fighting infection.  It is only through exposure to microbes – vaginal birth, breastfeeding, playing in the dirt, sharing germs with other children and contracting infections that immune competence develops.  With vaccinations, antibiotics and the use of modern sanitising soaps almost universal, our immune systems have lost much of their opportunity to develop effectively.  Immune energy is instead directed at a range of what should be innocuous invaders in the body – foods we eat and plant pollens we breathe.

Imbalances in our immune system render us more prone to allergic reactions including asthma, eczema, hay-fever and sinusitis.  Other pathogens contributing to immune over-reactivity include fungus and microbes.

So how can natural therapies help?  Firstly, identifying the areas concerned is a major step in the right direction.  

Choosing the right remedy may lead to faster relief.  The choice of symptom relief for a cough, for example, varies depending on the type of cough.  Typically, we find two key types of cough present – the dry and the productive.  In the throes of a cold or ‘flu, cough is often chesty with excessive mucous and difficulty breathing due to congestion.  In other situations, a different therapeutic approach is needed.  Herbal remedies are excellent at treating the specific cough that is causing problems.

If you have any concerns about your immune system, whether it relates to a respiratory or other condition, arrange to discuss your situation with us by calling 0468 774 633 today.