For almost 2 years we have been bombarded with information regarding supplements to boost immune health. Now we have had time to study and test them in real life situations, I want to share some of the newer recommendations based on studies as well as some of the cautions in using what we have known to be tried and true. While many supplements and a healthy diet and lifestyle can enhance immune function, some new players are emerging as being more effective. Some of these supplements, although safe, come with some precautions since some are not meant to be taken long term at high doses and many people are taking them for prevention at high doses. The doses are for people with an active infection and normal kidney and liver function. You should always consult your doctor and not rely solely on nutraceuticals.
A little knowledge goes a long way when supplementing at higher-than-normal doses or for a longer period. Doses for prevention differ from treating an infection and the higher doses should not be continued for more than several weeks. Here are the latest study results as well as cautions you may not be aware of:
Iodine is a strong microbicidal agent having 99.99% virucidal efficacy. When used in a low concentration nasal spray, it provides a protective layer or coating over nasal and oral mucosa, to prevent viruses from entering inside. Povidone-iodine can safely be used in the nose at concentrations up to 1.25% and in the mouth at concentrations up to 2.5% for up to 5 months, however you must measure levels and be sure to get the right concentration. Ask your health care provider.
- Dose: The usual dose for a mild infection is 1 spray for 5 days and for more severe infections 1 spray twice a day for 2 weeks. Always
- Caution: too much iodine can make you hypothyroid and if you are taking any other forms of iodine, you must stop them.
Low Dose Naltrexone LDN
Low dose naltrexone acts very differently from the pharmaceutical dose used to reverse opioids. It enhances immune function, inhibits pro inflammatory cytokines, heals, and repairs tissues, and promotes the protective immune modulating T regulator cells. LDN promotes the production of IL 10, a very potent anti-inflammatory molecule that plays a central role in limiting host immune response to pathogens and preventing damage to the host. It enhances Transforming Growth Factor β (TGF-β) which is a cytokine that plays an important role in wound healing, formation of blood vessels, immunoregulation and cancer. TGF-β1 exerts powerful anti-inflammatory functions and is a master regulator of the immune response.
- Dose: For mild infections 1 m for 5 days and for more serious infections the range is up to 4.5 mg
- Caution: This is a prescription medication that must be compounded and may cause nausea, insomnia, visual disturbances, vivid dreams, loss of appetite, mood swings, hair thinning and mild disorientation which usually disappear after a week or so or lowering the dose. Consult your doctor.
Glutathione is a master antioxidant and detoxifier. It has been shown to relieve the shortness of breath in people with pneumonia. Another study showed that when you combine it with its precursor amino acid N-acetyl-cysteine, known as NAC, and alpha-lipoic acid it inhibited the activation of potent inflammatory cytokines (messenger molecules) TNF-alpha. TNF- alpha induces NF-kappaB which turns on the genes for inflammatory mediators responsible for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Glutathione deficiency creates oxidative damage to the lungs and restoring glutathione may reduce that damage.
- Dose: If respiratory infection 500 mg twice a day. Liquids should be mixed with water to mask the bitter taste. The duration depends on the symptoms and could be a week to a month. Do not take less than 3 hours before bedtime.
- Caution: It can be converted to sulfite so people with sulfite sensitivities should not take it.
Lipoic acid has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and has been found to decrease the inflammatory markers such us CRP, IL-6 or TNF-alpha. Inflammation is the root cause of most illness and inflammation causes oxidation and oxidation causes inflammation. Both lead to disease and accelerate aging and damage. Many antioxidants work in either fluid such as water-soluble Vitamin C or fat such as Vitamins A and E, however Alpha lipoic acid works in both fat and fluid! Cytokine storm destroys the lining of blood vessels called the endothelium and which increases the risk of clots. Alpha lipoic acid improves endothelial function as well as the function of the mitochondria which are essential for energy production. It also enhances the activation of glutathione which strengthens the immune system. This is a powerhouse!
- Dose: 300 mg a day
- Caution: doses of 600 mg a more a day for 7 days may interfere with the conversion of thyroid hormone to its active form and cause hypothyroidism.
Many people are familiar with Quercetin for allergy relief or mast cell activation syndrome; however, it has many immune modulating properties. It can interfere with viral replication, has anti- inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic properties and decreases pro inflammatory cytokines and inhibits clot. This makes quercetin a potential treatment for severe inflammation. It can decrease gut dysbiosis – the imbalance favoring bad bacteria that impairs immune health. Your gut has 70% or more of your immune system and quercetin can improve gut znd immune health.
- Dose: 500 mg twice a day
- Caution: Quercetin may cause headaches, numbness, and tingling.
People with chronic illnesses, and older adults are more likely to have zinc deficiency. Zinc may boost acquired, antigen-specific immunity, and have anti-inflammatory actions in older patients
with infections. Optimal zinc levels may reduce the risk, duration, frequency, and severity of infections and is associated with a better clinical course if infected.
- Dose: 40 mg a day for 5 days.
- Caution: Do not take more than 40 mg of zinc for more than a week unless you are zinc deficient or having your zinc and copper levels measured. Excess zinc can cause copper deficiency and result in anemia, lower platelets and white blood cells, neurological issues such as loss of sensation, difficulty with balance and walking and changes in mood. It is important to measure zinc and copper levels and consult with your doctor.
Melatonin has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Studies showed that it reduced cardiac damage in viral infections by blocking the CD147 enzyme that is responsible for cytokine storm. Melatonin may lower the risk of the entrance of virus into cells, reduce uncontrolled inflammation, limit the damage of tissues and multiorgan failure. This is due to powerful antioxidant effect of reducing free radicals. It reduced ventilator-induced lung injury and the risk of disability resulting from fibrotic changes within the lungs. Melatonin also induces sleep, and it has become apparent that reduced sleep, increases inflammatory and immune system dysfunction. If a person slept only four hours a night, it reduced their natural killer cell activity by about 72% which increased their risk of developing viral infections and cancer.
- Dose: 3 mg a day at bedtime for 10 day or if a serious infection 5-10 mg at bedtime for 10 days.
- Caution: If the patient takes a too high a dose of melatonin, serotonin levels decline. Therapeutic doses of 5-10 mg were used in the studies to treat infection Consider a melatonin salivary test if using melatonin long term at higher doses and consult with your doctor.
These are doses that came from studies, but nothing is better than working with a traditional as well as functional medicine doctor to be able to take advantage of the best of both worlds. You must always be prepared for infections that can become more serious and keep in touch with your doctor. Sign up for Supplement Savvy to get the highest quality supplements at a discount and protocols to address common conditions.