Supplements can get very confusing. There are so many options out there and each year new herbs and plants are discovered by western society as a reliable way to help protect your immune system or fight infection.
Choosing the right supplement for your condition can make a huge difference in your health and wellness.
How do we know which supplements will trigger a Lupus flare-up and which helps contain our immune system?!
We’ve been taught to “boost” our immune system when we are sick, so now what do we do?
Hint, we want to use supplements that are immunoregulators, not immune boosters!
I’m going to tell you in simple terms what your immune system is made of and how it responds so that you better understand which supplements to stay away from and why.
Once you are able to create a balanced environment and provide essential nutrients to help “tame the immune flame”, you won’t be as sick as often and you’ll provide your body with essential nutrients to do its’ job at an optimal level.
This easy guide will teach you all you need to know about immune boosters!
If you’re not sure what that means, here are a few basic definitions and descriptions below of some keywords I’ll be using.
Definitions/Descriptions In Alphabetical Order:
- Antigen: It’s a molecule that can stimulate an immune response and is produced by cancer cells or viruses. It’s a general term for pathogens that have specific proteins which signal your immune system something is there that shouldn’t be.
- Eosinophils: They target multicellular parasites. They secret very toxic proteins and free radicals that kill bacteria and parasites. It also causes damage to tissues during allergic reactions.
- Helper T Cells: They recognize new pathogens and make new T cell receptors for the killer T cells. That way it can recognize the antigen and bind to it, to kill it.
- Immunoregulation: The control of specific immune responses and interactions between B and T lymphocytes and macrophages.
- Killer T Cells: They bind to cells and kill them. Each killer T cell has a specific receptor that binds to a specific antigen so that it can kill it.
- Lymphocytes: a small white blood cell (WBC) that plays a large role in defending the body against disease. There are 2 types: B cells and T cells. B cells attack bacteria and toxins. T cells attack body cells they have been taken over by a virus or become cancerous.
- Lymphocytes secrete lymphokines that regulate other cells functions. They are usually present around areas of chronic inflammation.
- Macrophages: AKA Big Eaters. Large WBC that eats bacteria, cellular debris, viruses, fungi, and parasites. They are produced by WBCs called monocytes. It eats foreign substances that don’t match healthy body cells. They also increase inflammation and stimulate the immune system. It plays an important role as an anti-inflammatory and can decrease immune reactions through the release of cytokines.
- M1 macrophages encourage inflammation.
- M2 macrophages that decrease inflammation and encourage tissue repair.
- Phagocytes: AKA Eating Cells. These cells are spread throughout your body looking for a potential threat, like bacteria and viruses. If they find one they “eat” it and destroy it.
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Is Your Immune System Made Of:
You have an Innate Immune System and Adaptive Immune System.
Innate Immune System:
It’s an evolutionary defense strategy and is more dominant of the two. It’ made up of physical barriers, defense mechanisms, and a general immune response.
Physical barriers – skin, GI tract, body hair, cilia, and respiratory tract.
Defense Mechanisms – Bodily secretions, bile, gastric acid, saliva, tears, and sweat.
General Immune Response – Inflammation, non-specific and complementary cellular responses.
Leukocytes are apart of your innate immune system. Phagocytes, macrophages, eosinophils, and neutrophils are all cells that have important duties to protect your body from foreign invaders too.
Basically, your innate immunity responds and tries to contain the infection or foreign invader until your adaptive immunity responds. It also clears microbial debris from your body.
Adaptive Immune system
Made of killer T cells and it’s basically an antigen-specific immune response. This is where your immune system recognizes a pathogen and multiplies and becomes a long-term guard against that same pathogen. It helps build your immune system and remembers that specific antigen so that it can protect your body in the future from the same germ or antigen.
Does Immune System Regulation Mean:
Many supplements and herbs have a potent influence on your immune system. In order to regulate or balance your immune system, you have to balance your T-helper cells, which are type 1 and type 2.
Many autoimmune sufferers like those with Lupus or RA have too many Th1 cells and not enough of the T2.
So, if you take an herb or supplement that boosts your Th1 cells, you’re making it worse!
Another great point to add is chronic inflammation is not good for your body. It stimulates your immune system to attack your tissues.
By taking herbs like turmeric and limited quantities of ginger, it will help reduce inflammation. Then, it will down-regulate your autoimmune response to a more normalized function.
Keep in mind this isn’t a one size fits all kind of guide. If you ever find one that specifically states that, don’t trust it. Everyone’s body works a little different due to the cause of disease and which hormones are down or up-regulated because of many underlying factors.
There are some people that benefit greatly using some herbs that are commonly known as stimulants, but many suffer.
Some things to consider is that your body chemistry is reacting a little different due to your lifestyle choices and personal levels of hormones that affect your immune system which can trigger flare-ups by taking some supplements.
Also, the number of herbs in each dose, where it comes from, and what part of the plant can make a huge difference in treatment success.
Generally, if you take high doses, it can stimulate your immune system, while taking a specific amount balanced with other minerals and vitamins can help it work together to regulate your immune system.
The safest route if you’re not an herbalist is to support your immune system with tonic herbs that are adaptogens.
This means it allows the body to adapt and contain the autoimmune disease.
They are very helpful in having your body become more resistant to mental, physical, and environmental stress.
By balancing your immune system, you are still able to fight off infection, prevent flare-ups and trigger any flare-ups.
To the contrary, if you take immunosuppressive drugs, they lower your immune system making you more susceptible to general bacterial infections, viruses from vaccine shedding, and viruses in general.
Not only that but, when your body is bombarded with these pathogens, it’s now under major stress and triggers a Lupus flare, making your body exhausted, unable to protect itself, and decreasing your quality of life big time!
With that said, here’s how you can “contain the fire” of your immune system.
- Don’t take supplements with lots of fillers, binders, and cheap source or variations of said vitamins/herbs.
We know how chemicals from food and skin products trigger flare-ups, disease, and general symptoms of migraines, stomach aches, and fatigue (to name a few) so, we have to apply that logic to supplements too!
These are called inactive ingredients. This means they have no pharmacological effect.
A few examples are dyes, preservatives, flavoring agents, and binding materials.
Just because they are inactive, doesn’t mean you won’t react. Some people react to inactive ingredients like lactose, soya lecithin, aspartame, benzyl alcohol, sorbitan trioleate. Here’s a comprehensive list of inactive ingredients.
If you’re curious about vitamin variations and how they’re manufactured and how they are processed in the body, check out another blog.
- Another important fact about companies and product labeling is that they can put more fillers and binders in there as compared to the actual product that they are marketing to sell to you.
Meaning, you’ve just wasted your money on a giant lie.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reported a study’s results that took 11 brands of echinacea and found that only 4 actually contained what was stated in their labels. 10% of the products had NO echinacea.
More than half of the preparations didn’t contain what was labeled in the ingredient amount.
This is why I’ve founded Lupus Health Shop. It’s an easy way to help other autoimmune sufferers prevent wasting their money and harming their bodies even more. Check out our shop for reliable sources and proper nutrition!
Now back to the goodies… In this case, not so goodies!
Boosting Supplements Not To Use:
- Avoid supplements and foods that fuel the fire. Here are some examples of what to watch out for when companies claim their products “help”, “boost”, or “protect” your immune system.
Echinacea – It has wonderful stimulatory qualities for those with normal immune systems that are suffering from a cold and sometimes those with cancer. But, it’s not great for those with Lupus, MS, HIV-positive, tuberculosis and collagen disorders.
Echinacea and Lupus don’t go great together because it is has a nonspecific stimulatory effect on the immune system. So, it can worsen symptoms.
It’s important to note, companies will use different parts of the plant that have very different effects on your body. Also, it’s important to read the quantity as this will determine if it will help or hurt you.
Olive Leaf – One of the active ingredients oleuropein is found in olive leaves. While they do have many healing benefits like antioxidants and anti-fungal properties, it’s just not the best choice for us Lupies.
Cat’s Claw – Those who’ve received organ transplants, have TB, low blood pressure, Lupus or MS may risk boosting their immune system by taking this. Unless you have a doctor who is watching closely. I don’t recommend this for some people.
It is a powerful antioxidant and has wonderful anti-inflammatory effects. It’s a natural immune booster. It elevated WBC count in rats in an 8-week study. Adult men have shown the same results in a 6-month study. In another study, it was shown to increase DNA repair in cells while decreasing DNA damage in cells in those who have undergone chemotherapy treatments in the past.
Elderberry – Those with RA, Celiacs, Hashimoto’s, and Lupus may suffer from too much stimulation. So, it’s best to avoid it or work with a doctor who practices Functional and Integrative medicine.
Elderberries have the greatest micro-nutritional sources. They are rich in vitamin C, A, and B6. Plus, they have lots of iron and potassium. It’s not wise to use this for more than 5 days due to the lack of studies showing how well your body reacts with it. Short-term use in those who do not have autoimmune problems finds great relief and wonderful protection.
Goldenseal – This is wonderful for those who do not suffer from autoimmune diseases. It helps with canker sores, vaginitis, UTIs, and cancer! It has an antimicrobial, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory property called berberine.
This is another herb that shouldn’t be used long term. Less than 3 weeks is enough for its healing properties. After that, it can cause toxic effects on your body.
Ashwagandha – This is a controversial topic. I believe it depends on what you’re suffering from and how well your body reacts to other immunoregulators/stimulants.
It’s apart of the nightshades family which means those on the AIP diet avoid foods like that because they are triggers of symptoms. However, some people who take this actually benefit because it acts as an anti-inflammatory. Since we have many options for anti-inflammatories, I wouldn’t recommend trying this.
St. Johns wort – This is used by some, but there are drug interactions with immunosuppressant drugs. So, definitely ask your doctor before using it!
I hope these examples help give you insight on what to look out for when supplement or herb shopping and why.
Leave a comment below on what you’ve tried and if you’ve found any herbs helpful or if it made your symptoms worse.
Don’t forget to share on your favorite social media site. The more we help, the healthier we all become!