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Can 'boosting' your immune system protect you?

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200408-covid-19-can-boosting-your-immune-system-protect-you

bbc.com

Can 'boosting' your immune system protect you?
"Spanish Influenza - what it is and how it should be treated," read the reassuringly factual headline to an advert for Vick's VapoRub back in 1918. The text beneath included nuggets of wisdom such as "stay quiet" and "take a laxative". Oh, and to apply their ointment liberally, of course.

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False Remedies

False Remedies

Much like a hundred years ago when Spanish Flu killed millions, questionable medicinal concoctions and folk remedies have surfaced across the world, claiming to boost the immune system.

Social media is super quick to spread nutritional advice, home remedies, and bizarre ideas. Some are straightforward like seeking out foods rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, many pseudoscientists are peddling products like probiotics, cayenne pepper, and green tea as ways to protect us from the virus, which they cannot.

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Immunity-Boosting Is A Myth

Pills, superfoods, and other wellness habits do not boost our immunity as the 'symptoms' which we get when infected are in fact measures taken by our immune system to respond to the foreign pathogen.

Many allergies that people have are a misguided response from the immune system that treat harmless foreign bodies as harmful pathogens.

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The Symptomatic Treatment

While over-the-counter medicines provide us with a so-called ‘relief’ by suppressing our fever, runny nose and other ‘symptoms’, these are in fact necessary for the body to get well. The symptoms we want to be stopped are not our enemy:

  • The mucus is helping flush out the pathogen.
  • The fever(heat) makes the body impalpable for it to survive and replicate.
  • The body pain is actually the inflammatory chemicals in your veins, guiding the immune cells like an air traffic controller.
  • The brain is provided with a signal to slow down and let the body recover.

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Vitamin Supplements

Vitamin Supplements

Common knowledge tells us that Vitamin C boosts our system's ability to fight the common cold, but extensive studies debunked this as well. 

Vitamins aren’t really beneficial for our bodies unless we are deficient in them. Only Vitamin D is beneficial to be taken as a supplement form if we are not able to get it from the sun due to some reason.

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Bizarre Claims

Bizarre Claims
  • Antioxidant pills do kill bacteria and viruses but also damage healthy cells, leading to wearing out of the immune system and even cancer. No study so far has given compelling results in favor of antioxidants boosting the immune system or treating viral infections.
  • Stuff with live microorganisms like probiotics and kombucha is doing the rounds in the news with claims of curing the new virus, cancer, and AIDS. One study did show that probiotics reduce upper-respiratory-tract infections, but more evidence is needed.
  • Claims of masturbation improving our immunity or protecting us from the new virus are untrue.

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The Stuff That Does Work

Basic lifestyle adjustments to suit the ongoing pandemic: Social distancing, covering your face with a mask, and staying at home at all times, will work.

The time-tested approaches to improving our well being, like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, not taking stress and eating a balanced diet will also work.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Fraud Advertisements

To cash in on the global craze for boosting immunity, many people are selling fraudulent products promising to cure, treat or prevent viral infection. 

There is no evidence that the adve...

Shorter Cold

Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling had some studies published which were claiming that large doses of Vitamin C can cure illnesses like cancer and heart disease, along with the flu, but so far the claims have been largely inaccurate, though a few studies reported a shorter duration of the illness in some people.

Vitamin C is Good For You

Vitamin C activates key enzymes in our bodies and acts as an antioxidant. It protects the organs (like lungs) from pathogens. This Vitamin is crucial for the body to launch an effective immune response. All the more reason to consume citrus fruits, and vegetables like the Indian Gooseberry.

Supplements don’t work as effectively and extremely large doses have side effects like nausea, diarrhea and stomach ache.

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Our immune system

The immune system does an outstanding job most of the time. To provide such excellent protection against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, our immune system must continuously learn.

Innate immunity

Innate immunity cells quickly respond to invaders and can deal with over 90% of infections.
These cells recognize invaders by looking for broadly shared patterns, such as common molecules on the surface of most bacteria.

Adaptive immunity

When the innate response fails to deal with an invasion, the adaptive immunity takes over. The adaptive cell looks for a specific pattern. It could be a particular protein on the surface of a virus or bacteria.

There are millions of adaptive immune cells, each to recognize a different pattern. When they recognize an invader, they multiply to form an army to kill it. This process can take a week when a new invader infects us. After the invader is removed, the adaptive cells that recognized it are kept as specialized memory cells.

Individual Supplement Studies

Looking at individual studies won't determine if vitamin supplementation is good for you. They're scientifically dense and the conflicts of interest can be very hard to spot.

"Systematic revi...

Research Reviews’ Results

  • If you are healthy, and have a modern balanced diet, taking multi-vitamins and high-dose antioxidants may shorten your life.
  • There’s no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention of diseases.
  • Beta-carotene and vitamin E seem to increase mortality, and so may higher doses of vitamin A.
  • Antioxidant supplements need to be considered as medicinal products and should undergo sufficient evaluation before marketing.
  • The functions of minerals and vitamins are understood largely by their deficiency diseases so there’s no certainty what they all do or how they interact.
  • Antioxidants soak up toxic, chemically-reactive by-products of metabolism called free radicals. These free radicals, left unchecked, can cause damage to DNA and may be linked to cancer.
  • Your body's immune system fights infections by using free radicals to kill bugs. Several of the minerals and vitamins in excess can cause damage.

Supplement Usage Recommendations

  • Folic acid for the women thinking of having a baby and pregnant women up to week 12 of the pregnancy.
  • Vitamin D for all pregnant and breastfeeding women, those aged six months to five years or over 65 and for people who are not exposed to much sun.
  • Vitamins A, C and D supplementation are recommended for all children aged six months to four years, especially those not eating a varied diet.
  • If they are prescribed to you for a medical condition.