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Can 'boosting' your immune system protect you?

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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Can 'boosting' your immune system protect you?

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

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Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Vitamin C

It’s a popular practice to take Vitamin C tablets or drink orange juice to boost immunity and ward off the common cold. However, Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, does not prevent or cure the common col...

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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Vitamins and free radicals

In the 90s, vitamins were touted as treatments for cardiovascular diseases, cataracts, and even cancer. Sales in multivitamins and other dietary supplements boomed.

But over...

Added antioxidants

In the 1970s and into the 80s, research was done where mice were given a variety of supplementary antioxidants in their diet or via an injection straight into the bloodstream.

The result showed that an excess of antioxidants didn't stop the onset of disease or extended lifespan.

Antioxidant supplementation
  • In 1994, one trial followed the lives of 29,133 Finish people in their 50s who all smoked. Some were given beta-carotene supplements. The group that supplemented with Beta-carotene had a 16% increase in lung cancer.
  • Another study shows a breast cancer increase of 20% for postmenopausal women who supplemented with folic acid.
  • One study with 100 heavy smokers had a 28% increase in lung cancer after just four years of beta-carotene and vitamin A supplementation.

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Smoking cannabis

Experts warn that smoking or vaping cannabis or anything else is not good for the lungs, regardless if it's during a pandemic or not.

Smoking specifically damages type 2 pneumocyte cells in ...

Effects on the immune system

There are over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Most interact with the immune system, but research on the effects of cannabinoids on the immune system is contradictory.

While some of these compounds do appear to have anti-inflammatory properties in preclinical studies, it has not been proven to be effective against the new virus or other viral infections.

Your options

Edibles, like gummies, candies, mints, cookies, and even some drinks are excellent choices that won't affect the lugs.

With ingestion methods, start low and see how it affects you. Wait two hours before taking more. Go slow if you are new to it.

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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.

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Best foods don’t have labels
Best foods don’t have labels

Because they are just one ingredient: avocado, lentils, blueberries, broccoli, almonds, etc.

There is no "best diet"

The “best” diet is a theme: an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and plain water for thirst. 

That can be with or without seafood; with or without dairy; with or without eggs; with or without some meat; high or low in total fat.

The "Age" of vegetables
The best vegetables are likely to be fresh and locally sourced, but flash frozen is nearly as good (as freezing delays aging). Those “fresh” vegetables that spend a long time in storage or transit are probably the least nutritious.

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Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day

Everyone has a different requirement for water. Temperature, humidity, size, age, gender and activity have an influence on your fluid needs.

Instead, drink when you are thirsty.

Eggs Harm Your Heart

Eggs have a lot of cholesterol compared to other foods. Although cholesterol in the blood is strongly related to heart disease, eating cholesterol is weakly associated with raising the cholesterol levels in your blood.

Eggs have other heart-protecting properties and eating it probably won't harm your heart.

Cancer or Alzheimer’s From Antiperspirant
  • A chain email in the 1990s was responsible for the false belief that antiperspirant was raising the risk of breast cancer. 
  • When researchers found higher ratios of aluminum in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, aluminum in antiperspirant was suspect. But it seems aluminum in antiperspirant is hardly absorbed by your skin.

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Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are found in fiber and starch and are beneficial for brain health as they release glucose slowly into our system, helping stabilize our mood. Simple carbohydr...

Antioxidants

Our cells generate energy through oxidation, but oxidation also reduces the dopamine and serotonin in the brain and creates oxidative stress.

Antioxidants found in brightly colored foods like fruits and vegetables act as a defense against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain and body. Antioxidants also repair oxidative damage and scavenge free radicals that cause cell damage in the brain. 

Omega 3

Omega 3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are involved in the process of converting food into energy. They are important for the health of the brain and the communication of its feel-good chemicals dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

Omega 3 are essential nutrients that are not readily produced by the body, so we must include foods high on it in our diet. 

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Our Immunity
Our Immunity

Immunity is defined as the set of defenses, that our bodies possess, which has the role to protect us against pathogens and to fight against infections.

Immunity categories

There are several immunity categories:

  • Nonspecific defenses: these work against all foreign matter and pathogens
  • Specific defenses: these are specialized in fighting against particular threats
  • Innate immunity: natural immunity that protects one from birth until death
  • Acquired immunity: it is the third line of defense, which offers protection against specific types of pathogens.
Active immunity

By active immunity, we generally understand the resistance that our immune system shows against pathogens.

By the so-called 'clonal selection', enough antibodies are built up in order to help our organism fight off colds or different diseases.

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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.

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The Common Cold

With over 200 different kinds of viruses that make up the common cold, Science is struggling to find a cure.

Adults suffer this elusive, widespread, and infectious disease 2 to 4 times...

The 7 Identified Virus Families

Scientists to date have identified seven virus families that cause the majority of colds:

  • rhinovirus
  • the new 2019
  • influenza
  • parainfluenza
  • adenovirus
  • respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • metapneumovirus.
Vaccines vs Drugs

For Doctors, vaccines are preferable to drugs as they protect the host even before any infection.

For Pharmaceutical companies (Big Pharma), vaccines don't spell money, as much as over-the-counter drugs and treatment do.

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