Search Results for: vitamin D

Jun
01
2003

Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Folic Acid To Control Hardening Of Arteries

The May 2003 issue of the medical journal “Clinical Practice” contains an article by the dietician Andrea Miller (pages 46 to 49) about supplementation with these vitamins in relation to hardening of the arteries from too much of the amino acid homocysteine.

Homocysteine is an amino acid that contains sulfur, which is formed from the metabolism of methionine, an essential amino acid that we depend on in our food for maintaining a normal metabolism. There are complex metabolic pathways that involve several enzymes to function normally, which involve the three vitamins B-6, B-12 and folic acid (folate) to balance everything.

If one of these vitamins or any of the enzymes involved malfunction, a surplus of homocysteine results with an accelerated hardening of the arteries throughout the body. A certain percentage of the population does not have the full concentration of one or more of the metabolic enzymes in their system. If the food we eat is also relatively deficient in the above named vitamins, the body runs out of alternative metabolic options and produces dangerous levels of homocysteine. A normal blood level of homocysteine is between about 5 and 10 micro-mol per liter. This is not routinely measured by screening tests unless the doctor suspects a genetic trait in the family where family members tend to get heart attacks at an early age (mid 30’s to early 40’s). When the level of homocysteine is elevated to 12 micro-mols per liter, a supplement with folic acid of 1 mg per day would reduce this by 25% to safe levels of 9 micro-mols per liter. This results in a 15% decrease of the death rate from heart attacks.

Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Folic Acid To Control Hardening Of Arteries

Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Folic Acid To Control Hardening Of Arteries

Vitamin B-12 is found in animal products such as meat, poultry and dairy products. Vegetarians may not get enough Vit. B-12 and should supplement as should persons above the age of 50. A lack of B-12 vitamin leads to pernicious anemia.

Vitamin B-6 is found widely distributed in meat, fortified grains and poultry and usually is in our food supply to a satisfactory degree.

Folate (folic acid) is contained in orange fruits, beans, lentils and green vegetables. However, not everybody eats well banced meals and the food supply could be marginally deficient in folate.

Recommendation: The take home message is that a good multivitamin tablet containing about 400 to 600 micrograms (=0.4 to 0.6 mg) of folate (folic acid), 5 mg of vitamin B-6 and 20 micrograms of vitamin B-12 would be providing an adequate amount of these vitamins and reduce homocysteine levels in most people to safe levels. It is not recommended to take single vitamin supplements of these vitamins as this could lead to toxicity. Also, there is no point in taking higher doses of the vitamins as this also would lead to toxic reactions.

Link to information about balanced nutrition: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/nutrition.php

Last edited December 9, 2012

Nov
01
2002

WAVE Trial Failed To Show Benefits Of Estrogen (Premarine) And Vitamins

Dr. David D. Waters of the University of California at San Francisco reported in Chicago at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Session 2002 about the WAVE trial. This stands for “Women’s Angiographic Vitamin and Estrogen” trial.

The results of this study were simultaneously published in the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA 2002;288:2432-2440). It was a “carefully designed randomized study” where 423 women with established blood vessel damage to their hearts (established by angiography) were put on a therapy and then followed for an average of 2.8 years. Essentially the question was whether or not estrogen (Premarine) and vitamins (Vit.E and C) would have a protective effect on the blood vessels. Surprisingly the worst outcome was in the group with estrogen replacement and vitamins. The placebo group (=no estrogen, only vitamins) had the lowest death rate. The authors felt that the beneficial effect of estrogen (speak “Premarine”) on heart vessels could not been verified in this study. The take home message to the physicians at the conference was that they should concentrate on lowering the known risk factors: weight reduction, blood pressure control, cholesterol lowering and increasing exercise. Estrogen should be given in low doses (Premarine 0.625mg per day) only to those women who are symptomatic with hot flashes, but not to every postmenopausal woman.

WAVE Trial Failed To Show Benefits Of Estrogen (Premarine) And Vitamins

WAVE Trial Failed To Show Benefits Of Estrogen (Premarine) And Vitamins

NOTE : This group of postmenopausal women is a selection of women more likely suffering from hyperinsulinism with a higher rate of cardiovascular disease (and also arthritis and possibly a higher risk for cancer as well). The most logical therapy for these women is to work on weight loss, to increase exercise and to change their diet to a zone diet as this is known to lower cholesterol. Hoping to cure these women with estrogen or vitamin manipulation alone does not make “medical common sense” to me. Also, those women who had not had a hysterectomy were not dealt with as a separate group, although they were put on medroxyprogesterone acetate (Prempro). This is called a “confounding bias” and should have been openly discussed, which it was not. This means the WAVE trial made waves, but it was not a properly designed randomized study.

You may want to read these useful related links to chapters of my free Internet based Nethealthbook: For links to arteriosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes see this link: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/atherosclerosis-the-missing-link-between-strokes-and-heart-attacks/
For a link to hyperinsulinism follow this link:
http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/hormonalproblems_diabetesmellitus.php

Last edited October 25, 2014

Aug
21
2021

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

Recently CNN published an article that dealt about when stress becomes abnormal.

We all have experienced stress. It makes our heart beat faster and our breathing speeds up as well. But when the stressful situation is over, stress usually subsides also. Some people though have so much stress in their lives that they never completely recover from any stressful situation. They develop chronic stress, which can lead to physical illnesses or mental disease. I have previously written about “stress drives our lives”. In the following I am reprinting the next 5 paragraphs.

Heart attacks and strokes when stress becomes abnormal

In a 2015 Lancet study 603,838 men and women who worked long hours were followed for an average time of about 8 years with respect to heart disease or strokes. All of the subjects were free of heart attacks and strokes when they entered into the study. There was a total of 13% more heart attacks in those who worked extra hours in comparison to those who worked 40 hours per week or less. With respect to strokes there were 33% more strokes in those who worked long hours. Researchers noted a dose-response curve for strokes in groups with various workloads. Compared to standard working hours there were 10% additional strokes for 41-48 working hours, 27% for 49-54 working hours and 33% for 55 or more working hours per week.

Stress drives some of us to substance abuse

In order to cope with stress many of us “treat” daily stress with alcohol. It makes you feel good subjectively, but it can raise your blood pressure causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. A low dose of alcohol may be healthy, but medium and high doses are detrimental to your health.

Next, many people still smoke, although scientists have proven long time ago that it is bad for your health. It can cause heart attacks, various cancers and circulatory problems leading to leg amputations.

Overeating is another common problem. Comfort food relieves stress, but it causes us to put on extra pounds. As you know it is easier to put weight on than to take it off. Being overweight or being obese has its own problems: arthritis in the hips and knees makes walking more difficult. The metabolic syndrome sets in, which is a characteristic metabolic change causing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. The more weight you carry, the less likely you are to exercise. This can lead to further deterioration of your health.

Diabetes can occur when stress becomes abnormal

Stress causes too much cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. This raises blood sugar, and when chronic can cause diabetes. In addition, unhealthy eating habits in an attempt to cope with stress can cause weight gain. Insulin resistance causes high blood sugars and diabetes.

Korean immigrant study

In a 2012 California study 148 adult Korean immigrants were examined. They all had elevated blood sugars confirming the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. They had an elevated waist/hip ratio.

A high percentage of the study subjects had risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This included being overweight or obese and having high blood glucose readings. 66% of them said that they were feeling stressed, 51% reported feeling anxious, 38% said they were feeling restless, 30% felt nervous and 3% said they were feeling hopeless. It is easy to see the connection between stress and disease!

Australian study showed that anxiety can cause diabetes

An Australian long-term follow-up study computed risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Stress was a major contributor to diabetes.

A 30-day episode of any anxiety disorder had a 1.53-fold risk to cause diabetes. A depressive disorder had a 1.37-fold risk to cause diabetes and posttraumatic stress disorder had a risk of 1.42-fold to cause diabetes.

Infertility may develop when stress becomes abnormal

Stress changes hormones in women causing ovulation problems and infertility. 1 in 8 couples in America have problems getting pregnant. Physicians identified stress as at least one of  the contributing factors. But in men stress can also reduce sperm count and semen quality as this study describes.

Alzheimer’s disease and stress

2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 woman aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychologists assessed the stress score in 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other dementias). The risk of dementia was higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past. Women who had stress on one, two or three examinations suffered from higher dementia rates later in life. Researchers compared this to a group of women who did not have any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher after one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher after three stressful episodes.

Hormone system affected by stress

I have written an article before about how stress affects our hormone system.

I am reprinting excerpts from this here (the next 4 paragraphs).

Dr. Andrew Heyman gave a talk about how stress affects our hormone system. He presented his talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It was entitled “Understanding the Stress, Thyroid, Hormone Connections & Prioritizing Systems”.

Dr. Heyman emphasized in particular that there is a triad of hormonal connections that is important to remember: the thyroid hormones, the stress hormones (adrenal glands) and the pancreas (insulin production). It seems like we need a balance of these hormones for optimal energy production and circulation. Under stress our sugar metabolism can markedly derail, we develop obesity and fatigue. But when balanced, we experience vitality and wellbeing.

Metabolic activation pathways

Dr. Heyman projected a slide that showed the metabolic activation pathways. Likewise, he stated that a number of different factors could influence the hormone system:

  • Diet: trans fats, sugar, too many carbs, food allergies.
  • Drugs: drug-induced nutrient depletion (over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs).
  • Physical exercise: frequency and type matters.
  • Environmental exposure: chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, plastics, molds, and pollens.
  • Stress: physical stress, psychogenic stress.
  • Genetics: methylene-tetra-hydro-folate reductase enzyme deficiency (MTHFR mutation), APOE genes, lack of vitamin D
  • Disease: past or present conditions, active disease or syndromes.

Target areas within your system

The target areas in your system are the

  • Pancreas, where blood sugar can rise because of insulin resistance. In particular, too much insulin production causes inflammation, hormone disbalances, kidney damage, and hardening of the arteries through plaque formation.
  • Thyroid gland, which depends on TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) for activation. Autoantibodies can also affect it negatively.
  • Brain: decrease in serotonin resulting in anxiety, depression and food cravings; decreased melatonin causing sleep disturbances; increased ghrelin and decreased leptin secretion leading to overeating and obesity.

Other target areas of stress

  • Liver/kidneys: both of these organs are important for detoxification; the liver produces thyroid binding globulin, which when increased can lower the free thyroid hormones.
  • Immune system (gut, lymph glands): the Peyer’s patches in the gut mucosa produce a large portion of the immune cells; lymph glands, the bone marrow and the spleen supply the rest. A leaky gut syndrome can affect the whole body, in addition causing inflammation and autoimmune reactions.
  • Hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands: this is the main axis of the stress reaction. A brain under stress activates the hypothalamus. It sends a cascade of activating hormones via the pituitary gland and likewise activates the adrenal glands. Finally, this leads to cortisol overproduction, and release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the center of the adrenal glands. High blood pressure, anxiety, heart palpitations, arrhythmias and more can finally develop from this.

Treatment suggestions to cope with stress

There are thyroid supplements that can support the function of the thyroid gland. Similarly, there are several supplements to support the adrenal glands.
Chromium, vitamin D, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, fish oil and others are useful to support the pancreas. Relaxation methods like self-hypnosis, meditation, yoga, Tai-Chi and others are very useful to counter stress. If you can change your job to evade stress, take the opportunity and find another job with less stress. See a health professional and discuss what you can do to become more stress-resistant. If you are overweight or obese, see a dietitian to help you lose weight. Aerobic exercises like running for 30 minutes on a treadmill can help reduce stress. Various relaxation methods mentioned earlier also can counter stress. They help you to block out worrying about the past and the future, but instead focus on what is positive in the present.

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

Conclusion

I have described what stress can do to your body. It can give you heart attacks and strokes. Stress in some people can lead to substance abuse. It can cause diabetes, infertility and even Alzheimer’s disease. I described how thyroid hormones, insulin and brain hormones are interconnected and suffer with stress. Other factors can make the effects of stress worse or better as I discussed in detail. Treatment of stress-induced conditions requires a combination of preventative steps and medical therapies. Ignoring stress is not an option as this could lead to premature death. Managing stress, as mentioned before, and keeping it to a minimum is the answer.

Jun
12
2021

Plant-Based Diet Pill that Helps with Weight Loss

Friday, May 28, 2021 was chosen to be the official release for a plant-based diet pill that helps with weight loss. The name is OxiTrim and the company that promotes the sale is the Applied Scientific Research Center in Colorado.

Analysis of the claims of weight loss

The two effective ingredients in OxiTrim are the herbs, Sphaeranthus indicus and Garcinia mangostana. The weight loss effect of OxiTrim is based on two medical studies, one in 2013 and one in 2016 (see below). It was done to prove the effectiveness of a previously released weight loss supplement with the name of Meratrim.

Both of these herbs were previously found to be effective with regard to weight loss. Sphaeranthus indicus has many pharmacological properties. Among them was a lipid lowering effect as it decreased the serum total cholesterol, triglyceride, LDL and VLDL significantly, but not HDL cholesterol. It also had an anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effectGarcinia mangostana is another herb with medicinal properties. The main effect is an anti-inflammatory action. Various xanthones were isolated from the herb with the pharmacological properties of the plant. The researchers did not mention weight loss regarding the tests on the herb alone.

Study regarding the effectiveness of Meratrim

The original study to prove that Meratrim was effective, was published in May of 2013. 60 obese patients with a body mass index of between 30 and 40 entered the study. Half of the participants received 400 mg of the herbal supplements twice per day. The other half received an identical looking placebo twice per day. Both groups ate a diet with 2000 kcal per day. The placebo group and the experimental group both also walked 30 minutes per day 5 times per week.

Here are the results of the 8-week clinical trial

Weight loss: 3.74 kg for the experimental group vs. 1.61 for the placebo group.
Waist circumference: There was a 5.44 cm bigger reduction of the waist circumference of the herbal group vs. the placebo group. The researchers concluded that there was a significantly greater weight and waist circumference loss in the herbal experimental group vs. the placebo group.

Other study showing the effectiveness of Meratrim

The second study was published on Aug 24, 2016 and consisted of 60 participants initially. 57 of them completed the study, which went on for 16 weeks. The mean BMI was 28.3 kg/m2 at the beginning of the study.

The diet and exercise conditions were the same as in the 2013 study. Both groups ate a diet with 2000 kcal per day. The placebo group and the experimental group both also walked 30 minutes per day 5 times per week. The experimental group received 400 mg of Meratrim twice per day. The placebo group received 400 mg of an identical looking placebo pill twice per day. The results of this study were as follows.

Body weight reduction

5.09 kg for the experimental group vs. 1.1 kg for the placebo group.

Reduction of BMI

1.91 for the Meratrim group versus 0.43 for the placebo group.

Waist reduction

9.97 cm for the experimental group vs. 3.71 cm for the placebo group.

Hip circumference reduction

10.38 cm in the Meratrim group vs. 5.11 cm for the placebo group.

Effect of Meratrim on blood values

There were also significant reductions of the LDL cholesterol, the total cholesterol and the triglycerides as follows. Serum LDL showed a reduction of 14.79 mg/dL vs. 6.25 mg/dL for the placebo group.  The total cholesterol showed a reduction of 20.0 mg/dL vs. an increase of 0.75 mg/dL for the placebo group. Triglycerides had a reduction of 43.62 mg/dL vs. a reduction of 13.68 for the placebo group. The researchers did not find any adverse effects of the supplement during the study. The researchers concluded that Meratrim is a well-tolerated supplement. It also is an effective weight control supplement for healthy overweight people. I discussed in the past that fat metabolizes into water with weight loss.

OxiTrim versus Meratrim

The active ingredients of OxiTrim are the same as for Meratrim. But OxiTrim contains inactive ingredients like Ashwagandha and vitamin D3 in addition. Researchers never tested OxiTrim scientifically. On the other hand, Meratrim has undergone at least two clinical tests as described above. One included obese people and the second one overweight people.

Plant-Based Diet Pill that Helps with Weight Loss

Plant-Based Diet Pill that Helps with Weight Loss

Conclusion regarding plant-based diet pill that helps with weight loss

The Applied Scientific Research Center in Colorado is marketing a “novel” diet pill, OxiTrim for weight loss. However, the active ingredients, which are two plant products are also present in Meratrim, a well-researched dietary supplement. OxiTrim has a price tag of abut 60 USD for 1 month supply. OxiTrim is not showing any better results than Meratrim, which costs only 27 USD per month. The Applied Scientific Research Center in Colorado just added inert materials to the active ingredients, the herbs Sphaeranthus Indicus and Garcinia mangostana. The active ingredients of both supplements are the same. If you are overweight and want to shed a few pounds , you better buy Meratrim. Researchers undertook clinical trials with Meratrim and it is significantly less expensive.

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Dec
26
2020

Hormones Play an Important Role in Survival from Covid-19

I am describing here that hormones play an important role in survival from Covid-19. There are two publications that illustrate that point.

Estrogens protect women against Covid-19

A study from Dec. 4, 2020 covering 17 countries and involving nearly 70,000 women discovered these principal findings.

  • Women aged 20 to 50 have moderately higher Covid-19 infection rates than men
  • In all of the age groups men have higher mortality rates than women
  • Beyond the age of 50 the fatality rate from Covid-19 is 50% higher in men than that of women
  • Postmenopausal women above the age of 50 and on estradiol supplementation had 50% less mortality from Covid-19 than women without estradiol supplementation

The researchers said about the study: “In a nutshell, it’s likely that the apparently protective effects of 17β-estradiol, a naturally occurring, abundant female hormone, relate to a key property of this molecule: it attenuates the so-called “cytokine storm” that’s thought to underlie much of the cellular-scale and organ/tissue-level damage wrought by a SARS-CoV-2 infection, via dysregulation of a patient’s immune response.”

Men need enough testosterone to fight Covid-19

Another study from September 17, 2020 pointed out that males have much worse outcomes with Covid-19 than females. Men are affected by Covid-19 twice as often as females and they experience a much more severe course with a higher mortality. The authors also point out that there is a direct correlation between lower serum testosterone levels in men and inflammation severity by cytokines and poor clinical outcomes. The decline in total and free testosterone in aging men leads to serious pulmonary complications and the need to treat the patient in the ICU. The Covid-19 coronavirus utilizes Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme II (ACE2) for entry into the host cell. A male requires testosterone for ACE2 expression. Lower testosterone causes higher mortality in men. In contrast, if testosterone in a male is too high, blood clots can form in the circulatory system, which often lead to complications and deaths in patients with Covid-19.

Vitamin D levels and course of Covid-19

There are three major effects that vitamin D has.

  1. A strengthening of the epithelial barrier not allowing the coronavirus to penetrate into the lung tissue as easily.
  2. Release of defensins and cathelicidin, two crucial antiviral polypeptides, that eradicate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the system.
  3. Interruption of the “cytokine storm”, an overwhelming inflammation which is responsible for viral pneumonia to develop. Without the cytokine storm there is no damage to the lungs, and people do not need treatment in the ICU. This is particularly important for people above the age of 60 and for people with pre-existing diseases.

Similarly, with the stabilizing effect of vitamin D regarding the immune function more severe forms of Covid-19 can turn into less severe forms with a better outcome.

Discussion

Research showed that in women estrogen has a modifying effect on the course of Covid-19. In males it is testosterone that leads to an improved course of Covid-19. Both sexes require adequate doses of vitamin D, which helps to strengthen the epithelial barrier. In addition, enough vitamin D releases defensins and cathelicidin, two crucial antiviral polypeptides that eradicate any virus in the system. Vitamin D also interrupts the “cytokine storm”, an overwhelming inflammation, which is responsible for viral pneumonia to develop. All of these factors together modify the course of Covid-19 and improve the probability of survival from this otherwise serious viral illness.

Hormones Play an Important Role in Survival from Covid-19

Hormones Play an Important Role in Survival from Covid-19

Conclusion

Two lines of research showed that both women and men do better with Covid-19 when their hormone levels are either adequate or are substituted to normal levels. Women in menopause taking estradiol for postmenopausal symptoms had 50% less mortality from Covid-19. Men who were testosterone deficient and were put on testosterone supplementation do better with respect to Covid-19. In aging men total and free testosterone decline and serious pulmonary complications occur with a need to treat the patient in the ICU. On top of hormones both men and women benefit from high doses of vitamin D, which strengthens the epithelial barrier. Vitamin D also releases defensins and cathelicidin, two crucial antiviral polypeptides that fights the SARS-CoV-2 virus directly. In addition, vitamin D interrupts the “cytokine storm”, an overwhelming inflammation which causes the viral pneumonia. Taken together the hormones and vitamin D can improve the outcome of Covid-19 significantly.

This text includes part of this blog.

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Nov
14
2020

Why We See More Food Allergies

A recent review in a BBC article explained why we see more food allergies. It is important to note that one of the more important food allergies are peanut allergies. Certainly, they have risen from 1 in 250 children in 1997 to 1 in 70 children in 2008.

By all means, allergies come in various degrees of severity; an anaphylactic reaction is the most severe form. Notably, in England there was a rise of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis from 1,015 in 2013 to 1746 in 2019. This is a 72% increase in 6 years!

Theories why there may be more food allergies now

There are a number of theories why food allergies have been on the rise. There is a consensus now that the right composition of the gut bacteria is important for normal immune reactions to take place.

Hygiene theory

David Strachan proposed the hygiene theory of allergies in 1989. Briefly, his observation was that children of larger families were less likely to develop allergies. He interpreted this to mean that infections among siblings stabilized the immune system. In the meantime, it has become obvious that the gut plays an important role for the immune system.

Graham Rook’s “old friends” theory

Graham Rook’s “old friends” theory came out in 2003. This theory states that friendly microbes in the environment are mixing with the gut flora. This trains the immune system to balance.

Gut bacteria theory

There is good evidence that the more a child is given antibiotics as a child, the more likely it is that the person develops a food allergy later. The mechanism seems to go via the gut flora. In a way this is the other coin of Graham Rook’s “old friends” theory. If you kill the “good friends” bacteria in the gut by antibiotics, the immune system strikes back with allergic reactions.

Dual-allergen exposure

By exposing the child at 4 to 11 months to peanuts or peanut butter, the immune system develops tolerance to the peanut protein (LEAP=learning early about peanut). A study showed that by doing this 80% of 5-year and older children and adults do not have a peanut allergy.

Prenatal vitamin D and food allergies

A German study found that prenatal exposure to higher amounts of vitamin D resulted in a higher risk of developing food allergies before the age of two.

Use antibiotics only when necessary

Gut biome studies showed that the use of antibiotics can have long lasting effects on the composition of the gut flora. A patient in sepsis may require antibiotics. But when the patient has recovered it is important that the bowel flora is restored with probiotics. This balances the immune system and avoids allergic reactions.

Immunotherapy for food allergies

Allergists have long used desensitisation techniques to deal with inhalant allergies. Allergy shots every two or three weeks can be very helpful to suppress immune reactions to inhalants. The same technique works also for many food allergies. The allergist tests the patient’s skin on the forearm to see what positive reactions occur. Based on these findings an allergy serum is composed. A small amount is injected in intervals. The smallest amount is given first and the concentration is gradually increased until the maintenance dose is reached. This causes the immune system to produce competing antibodies that reduce the antibody-mediated reaction to the food allergies.

Why We See More Food Allergies

Why We See More Food Allergies

Conclusion

Food allergies are increasing in frequency and severity. There are several theories why food allergies develop. The most likely one is that friendly bacteria in the environment become part of the gut environment in the newborn. If we have the right composition of gut bacteria our immune system reacts normally. Administering antibiotics frequently and overcleaning our kitchens with too many cleaning agents affects our bowel flora negatively. This disbalance can cause allergic reactions. On the other hand, exposing a newborn between the age of 4 and 11 months to a variety of adult foods including peanut products will desensitize the child to peanut protein and prevent future allergies. Those who are severely affected by food allergies can see an allergist for allergy testing and consider desensitisation through allergy injections.

Oct
17
2020

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

A recent article by CNN describes what can happen to your body over months of isolation at home. The article is rather negative showing all the possible things that can go wrong. I have been isolated as well since March 2020. I handle the isolation differently than described in the article. I will comment to each point what can be done differently to avoid the complications mentioned.

Muscle loss

The CNN article makes the point that inactivity can make you lose muscle bulk within only one week. A lack of exercise weakens your muscle strength. And muscle strength has been associated with longevity.

My comment:

I do a brisk walk of 5 to 7 kilometers daily. This maintains my muscle bulk. But I have a treadmill in the basement and a couple of weights that I can use, if it rains outside.

There is a danger that heart and lungs get weaker

You need to raise your heart rate and you also need to perfuse your lungs through exercise. Many people do not like exercise. They sit in front of the TV for hours or they surf the net on the computer. Even just reading a book does not give you enough exercise to get your heart rate up and increase your lung perfusion.

My comment:

A brisk walk with proper distancing gives you fresh air, exercises your muscles, your heart and your lungs. It maintains your cardiovascular fitness.

Weight gain

Being home all the time allows you to look into the fridge more often and eat snacks that are processed. People tend to eat more often than 3 times a day. The end result is that you gain weight. In the beginning of the epidemic people stocked up on non-perishable foods. Often they contain more sugar and carbohydrates. Consuming these foods leads to weight gain. Wearing masks, frequent hand washing, isolation practices and change of normal routines makes people get stressed. Stress leads to overeating and weight gain.

My comment:

In the last 6 months that I did home isolation my body mass index (BMI) stayed in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. I ate three meals a day. I avoided processed foods as they are overloaded with sugar, salt and refined carbs. Once a month I do a 5-day fasting mimicking diet according to Dr. Longo. This ensures that my BMI stays within the range I indicated. Otherwise I eat a Mediterranean diet, which is anti-inflammatory.

Your posture could suffer

When you are seated in front of the computer or the TV you tend to engage in poor postures. This can lead to strains of your back, neck, shoulders and hips. Staring at the computer screen or the TV can also give you eye strain.

My comment:

The key is movement, such as getting up and walking around; doing other activities like lawn mowing, weed eating or doing dishes. This interrupts any longer stretch of bad posture.

Your sleep quality can suffer

The more exposure to sunlight during the day you get, the more vitamin D you produce in the skin. Some people lack the necessary enzymes in the skin to convert cholesterol into vitamin D. But exposure to sunlight also helps to reinforce your diurnal hormone rhythm. This is also called circadian rhythm. Avoid blue lights (TV, computer, iPhones etc.) in the evening before bedtime as this can interfere with a deep sleep later. Also go to bed early enough (between 10 and 11 PM) to allow your circadian rhythm to take over.

My comment:

Some people (above the age of 60) benefit from 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime. After the age of 60 people no longer produce enough melatonin in the pineal gland. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I take another 3 mg of melatonin prior to 3AM. Caution: after 3 AM melatonin can give you a bit of a hangover in the morning.

Your brain can slow down

The brain needs nutrition and exercise. Exercise can eliminate certain amino acid by-products that otherwise turn into neurotoxins. With exercise you even prevent neurotoxins to enter the brain.

My comment:

I find that I must at least do a brisk walk of 4 kilometers a day. It prevents back pain, helps me sleep better and keeps my mind clear. But as mentioned earlier I prefer doing a brisk walk for 5 to 7 kilometers a day. In the past (prior to March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic started) I went to the gym every day. When it finally reopened, they had one Covid-19 case at the gym. I decided that it is too dangerous to go back to the gym until a safe Covid-19 vaccine is available in the summer of 2021. I feel the same way about flying. It is not worth the risk. I can just stay local and do my own program. The pleasure of traveling can wait until the summer of next year.

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

Conclusion

A recent CNN article described the dangers of passively staying in home isolation. I felt that this article was on the negative side. I found that by including a regular brisk walking program into my daily lifestyle the day got more structured. I felt I had more energy and I had no aches or pains. If I spent too much time watching TV or spending in front of the computer, I developed back aches and felt sluggish. I incorporated a 5-day fasting mimicking diet according to Dr. Longo once per month into my regular Mediterranean diet. This allowed me to keep my body mass index in the 21.0- 22.0 range. Doing what I described above I could continue to hold my weight, have energy and stay pain free for many more months. But when the Covid-19 vaccine arrives in spring/summer of 2021 I hope that things will return to normal.

Oct
10
2020

Medical Myths about Aging

Medical myths about aging are easy to debunk. Many people believe that it is inevitable that they become disabled as they age, their lives become unbearable, without passion, boring and full of pain. Some aspects of your health may decline with age, none of the myths discussed below is inevitably happening in everyone. Studies showed that a positive outlook on aging and life in general will help you to live longer and stay healthier.  Here I discuss 7 common myths about aging.

Myth 1: Everyone will experience physical deterioration

It is common for people to experience reduced muscle strength, increased blood pressure, excessive fat accumulation and osteoporosis. A study with 148 older patients showed that an expectation of reduced fitness in older age actually resulted in less physical activity when older age arrived.

But you can maintain good cardiovascular function and good muscle strength with a regular exercise program.  This study showed that men and women can reduce mortality by exercising regularly, even in older age.

Myth 2: Older adults cannot exercise

There are several reasons why older people stop exercising or are afraid to start exercising. People use the excuse of their arthritis getting worse from exercise. But studies showed the opposite: joint function improves and joint pains are getting better with exercise. Your muscles get stronger and you are less likely to fall. Your heart and lungs are improving their functions and your mentation improves. Exercise increases the HDL cholesterol, which reduces the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Myth 3: As we age, we need less sleep

For many years there was the notion that older people need less sleep. What was not known then was that people above the age of 60 have no appreciable secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland. But when they replace their melatonin deficiency by taking a nighttime dose of 3 mg at bedtime, they will sleep better and longer. They may need a second dose of melatonin in the middle of the night. We need 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night for our diurnal hormone rhythm.

This will also slow down our aging clock.

Myth 4: Your brain slows as you age

Dementia is common when you get older. 13.9% have it at age 71 and older. 37.4% have dementia over the age of 90. But the majority, namely 86.1% in the 71+ age group and 62.6% above the age of 90 do not have dementia. A Mayo Clinic study showed that when the person engaged in artistic activities in midlife or later in life the risk for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) development was reduced by 73%, involvement in crafts reduced it by 45% and engagement in social activities by 55%. In a surprise finding the use of a computer late in life was associated with a 53% reduction in MCI development. These are very significant observations.

Physical activity reduces risk for dementia

Apart from stimulating your brain, physical activities also significantly reduce the risk for dementia. A synopsis of 11 such studies showed that dementia is reduced by 30% when physical activity is started in midlife and the person is aging compared to non-exercisers.

Myth 5: Osteoporosis occurs only in women

There is a serious misunderstanding about osteoporosis. Several factors work together that can cause osteoporosis. Women in menopause are more likely to develop it due to the missing ovarian hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones work together and stimulate vitamin D induced calcium deposition into bone as well as decreasing bone resorption.

Vitamin K2 also deposits calcium into the bone. In postmenopausal women who take bioidentical hormone replacement, vitamin D and K2 the bone density remains strong. Unfortunately, the opposite is true in postmenopausal women who take synthetic hormones. Synthetic hormones have side chains that do not fit the natural hormone receptors of a woman. This is why osteoporosis persist. And, yes, men get osteoporosis, but typically 10 years later. Typically, they get into andropause where testosterone production declines 10 years later.

Myth 6: People stop sex as they age

With age men can develop erectile dysfunction (ED) and women vaginal dryness, both of which can interfere with having sex. A large study showed that only 0.4% of men in the age group 18-29 had ED. In the age group of 60-69 there were 11.5% who suffered from ED. What this means though is that 88.5% of men age 60-69 did not suffer from ED. Fortunately for those who have ED drugs like Cialis and Viagra can correct their problem and they can have regular sex. What a change from 25 years ago when none of these drugs were available (approval of Viagra by FDA in 1998 and of Cialis in 2003).

Bioidentical hormone replacement beyond menopause and andropause preserves your normal sex drive as well. There are additional benefits of bioidentical hormones. They have positive effects on the heart, brain, bones and the muscle mass.

Myth 7: It is too late to stop smoking now

One of the myths that many older smokers like to say is that it would be too late to stop smoking. They think the damage to heart and lungs is permanent and quitting now is too late. Fact is that quitting smoking immediately improves your blood circulation and gives you more oxygen. In just 1 year the risk of getting a heart attack is cut into half. In 10 years, the risk of a heart attack or stroke is the same as that of non-smokers. There is a reduction of getting lung cancer by half.

Medical Myths About Aging

Medical Myths about Aging

Conclusion

There are all kinds of medical myths about aging. We may think that physical deterioration is inevitable. Or we believe that older people cannot exercise. And we cannot help it, but our brain slows down as we get older. And there is the question whether we need less sleep as we age. Osteoporosis is a disease of women, is it not? These older couples, they don’t have sex any more, do they? And is it too late to stop smoking now that I am 65 years old? All of these myths exist, but there is a need to debunk them.

The truth behind the medical myths about aging

I explained in detail what the medical truths are behind these questions. Many of these myths have developed in the past. But with regular exercise, balanced nutrition (Mediterranean diet) and a positive attitude much of these old myths can be overcome. Bioidentical hormone replacement when hormones are missing is another powerful tool. Yes, we all age. But we are still living and can enjoy life as long as it lasts.

Sep
05
2020

How to Manage Clot Formation with Covid-19

A publication in the Canadian Medical Association Journal describes how to manage clot formation with Covid-19. A significant amount of cases among Covid-19 patients come down with clotting problems. This means that an infection with SARS-CoV-2 (or Covid-19 coronavirus) may initially present with a fever and cough. But a few days later it can suddenly turn into a dangerous disease with severe clots, multiple organ failures and death.

Clot occurrence with Covid-19

It is important to realize that most patients with SARS-CoV-2 do not need hospitalization. But physicians admit 10 to 15% of patients to the hospital. Of these 20% end up with treatment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Of all the hospitalized patients between 5% and 30% develop some form of thrombotic event. Notably, complications of clot formation can be a stroke, a heart attack, a pulmonary embolism or a deep vein thrombosis in the leg. In a recent study from the US 400 random hospitalized patients with Covid-19 144 patients were admitted to the ICU. 4.8% had radiologically confirmed deep vein thrombosis. Overall there were 9.5% with thrombotic events that developed during the hospital stay.

How does a coagulopathy develop with Covid-19?

Truly, SARS-CoV-2 enters the body cells through an interaction of its viral spike protein with the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. To explain, numerous organs and tissues express this receptor. This includes lung alveolar type 2 epithelial cells, endothelium, the brain, heart and kidneys. To emphasize, ACE2 leads to angiotensin II degradation. With the SARS-CoV-2 stimulation of the ACE2 receptor there may be an accumulation of angiotensin II, which causes a procoagulant state. Injury of the endothelium explains inflammation in the lining of the blood vessels in multiple organs. Commonly affected organs are lungs, heart, kidneys and intestines. The inflammatory reaction is what can lead to clot formation. When part of an organ has died off because of mini clots that destroyed part of the organ, this process can eventually lead to organ failure. Lung failure, heart failure and kidney failure can develop in these sick patients.

Adequate vitamin D blood levels are important for the immune system

By all means, vitamin D is very important for the integrity of the immune system. With vitamin D blood levels below 15 to 20 ng/mL (37.5–50 nmol/L) the immune system is paralyzed, and any viral or bacterial infection tends to overwhelm the body. Of course, this is the reason why the mortality due to Covid-19 coronavirus is highest in patients with these low vitamin D blood levels. People with secondary illnesses (diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cancer) and patients above the age of 60 have the lowest vitamin D blood levels and have the highest mortality rates. This publication describes this in more detail.

Best vitamin D blood level is in the upper normal range (50-80 ng/mL)

Above a vitamin D blood level of 30 ng/mL (=75 nmol/L) a patient’s immune system is functioning normally. However, the immune system is strongest at a vitamin D blood level of 50–80 ng/mL (125–200 nmol/L), which is the upper range of the normal level for vitamin D in the blood.

Keep in mind that vitamin D toxicity occurs only above 150 ng/mL (375 nmol/L).

Specific effects of vitamin D on Covid-19

There are three major effects that vitamin D has.

  1. A strengthening of the epithelial barrier not allowing the coronavirus to penetrate into the lung tissue as easily.
  2. Release of defensins and cathelicidin, two crucial antiviral polypeptides that eradicate any virus in the system.
  3. Interruption of the “cytokine storm”, an overwhelming inflammation which is responsible for viral pneumonia to develop. Without the cytokine storm there is no damage to the lungs and people do not need treatment in the ICU. This is particularly important for people above the age of 60 and for people with pre-existing diseases.

In like manner, with the stabilizing effect of vitamin D regarding the immune function more severe forms of Covid-19 can turn into less severe forms with a better outcome.

Treatment of patients with Covid-19 who have clotting problems

Patients need to be assessed with respect to their risk of developing clots. This publication describes that high risk patients have elevated D-dimer levels. When blood clots dissolve the body produces D-dimer, a protein fragment. Normally the D-dimer test is negative in a person that does not produce clots. But in sick patients with Covid-19 who form clots this blood test typically shows D-dimer >2500 ng/mL. In addition the tests show high platelet counts (more than 450 × 109/L), C-reactive protein (CRP) >100 mg/L and an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) >40 mm/h.

Indeed, with this constellation of blood tests in a severe Covid-19 case in the ICU setting, the physician uses heparin intravenously or subcutaneously to counter clot formation. However, this needs to be balanced against the risk of causing severe internal bleeding.

Separate from the anticoagulant effect, heparin seems to also suppress inflammatory cytokine levels. In addition, heparin suppresses neutrophil chemotaxis and migration. Physicians rescued many patients from death using heparin therapy.

Risk versus benefit clinical trials of heparin therapy are required

At this point there are only retrospective clinical trials available to describe risk versus benefit of heparin therapy. Some show no difference, others do. There are two international clinical trials on their way to shed more light on this situation. Until the results of these clinical trials are available, physicians need to treat patients to the best of their knowledge.

How to Manage Clot Formation with Covid-19

How to Manage Clot Formation with Covid-19

Conclusion

Clot formation in sick Covid-19 patients is responsible for many deaths in Covid-19 patients. The SARS-CoV-2 (or Covid-19 coronavirus) causes a cytokine storm with injury to the lining of the arteries. This can affect multiple vital organs and the condition may lead to organ failure. This activates the clotting system and causes clots all over the body. When this process occurs, patients get very sick and the death rate climbs. Physicians were able to rescue some patients with heparin therapy. Two international clinical trials are on the way. Hopefully  these trials answer questions about this newer treatment method. The downside of heparin therapy is the complication of massive bleeding, which causes deaths as well. When it comes to Covid-19, don’t rely on curative medicine. Strengthen your immune system by preventative therapy like vitamin D3 that can interrupt the cytokine storm.

And even with a “well-prepared” immune system it is extremely important to follow all the guidelines of distancing, disinfecting and wearing face masks. We need all the help we can get!

Jul
25
2020

The Immune System Changes With Age

When we are young, we do not think about our immune system, but the immune system changes with age. When we are older than age 60, we notice that we may be taking longer to recover from a flu.

How does the immune system work?

There are two parts to the immune system, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system works to protect us from bacteria, viruses, toxins and fungi from the time we are born. The adaptive immune system uses B lymphocytes from the bone marrow to produce antibodies against viruses. This provides often lifelong immunity against this specific virus, but takes 3 to 5 days to kick in. Vaccinations can also trigger antibody production to protect us from viruses in the future. Both the adaptive and the innate immune system work together closely.

What are the ingredients for a fully functioning immune system?

The immune system consists of various immune organs that are distributed throughout the body. The bone marrow produces lymphocytes, granulocytes, macrophages, eosinophils and basophils. The adenoids in the back of the nasal passages and the tonsils in the back of the throat contain a lot of lymphocytes that are ready to protect us from colds and flus. We have lymph nodes throughout the body and they are connected with lymphatic vessels. The lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid that travels in the lymphatic vessels.

Other sites of lymphocyte production

The small intestine contains the Peyer’s patches, a collection of lymphocytes that protect our gut from invading bacteria or viruses. The spleen is located in the left abdominal cavity under the diaphragm. It removes old red blood cells and provides lymphocytes for the immune system. The thymus gland is located between the breast bone and the trachea. It changes bone marrow derived lymphocytes (B cells) into T lymphocytes that can process antigens from viruses and pass them on to the adaptive immune system for a full antibody response.

Cellular interactions between various players of the immune system

Back in the 1970’s it was already known that there were bone marrow derived B lymphocytes and thymus processed T lymphocytes. We knew then that B cells were involved in antibody production (adaptive immunity). T lymphocytes were thought to turn into killer T lymphocytes to kill cancer cells. But some T cells were T helper cells to process antigen and present it to B lymphocytes for antibody production.

More research since then refined what we know about the cells of the immune system.

Natural killer cells (NK cells)

Natural killer cells (NK cells) are part of the innate immune system. They attack cancer cells and cells that are infected by viruses. It takes about 3 days for their full action to develop. NK cells utilize the cell surface histocompatibility complex to decide whether to destroy a cell or not. T cell lymphocytes do not have the ability to do that. In the Covid-19 coronavirus situation NK cells play an important role to combat the disease right away.

Monocytes

They are large white blood cells that can differentiate further into macrophages and dendritic cells. Monocytes are part of the innate immunity, but they have an antigen presenting capability, which makes them also part of the adaptive immunity.

Memory T cells

The immune system learns to adapt to viruses and bacteria that we have come in contact with. The reason for the memory of the immune cells are the memory T cells. They replicate like stem cells, which keeps a clone of T lymphocytes, T helper cells and cytotoxic T killer cells in the background. They circulate through the body including the lymph glands and the spleen.

Immunosenescence as we age

There are several factors that come together, which age our immune system. The term for this is “immunosenescence“. There are genetic differences and differences due to the sex hormones. Estrogens increase the response of the immune system. In contrast, progesterone and androgens (including testosterone) decrease the immune response. This may be the reason why women tend to live longer than men.

As we age there are more and more memory T cells (both cytotoxic T cells and T helper cells). This weakens the formation of the natural killer cells (NK cells) of the innate immune system. Even the initiation of the adaptive immune system can be slower when we age and also the response to the flu vaccine. In addition, this can pave the way to autoimmune diseases.

The immune system changes with age: Evidence of immunosenescence

The following 3 factors show whether a person has immunosenescence:

  • The immune system has difficulties to respond to new viruses/bacteria or to vaccines
  • Accumulation of memory T cells crowding out cells of the rest of the immune system
  • Low-grade inflammation that is chronic and persists (“inflamm-aging”)

The process of immunosenescence starts with the involution of the thymus gland around the time of puberty. At that time the sex hormone secretion is highest. At the same time a growth factor from the bone marrow and the thymus gland decreases. It has the name interleukin-7 (IL-7). The end result is a slow decrease of the innate immune system with age and a more substantial weakening of the adaptive immune system due to a lack of naïve T and B cells. 

Chronic viruses can weaken the immune system further

The varicella herpes zoster virus causes chickenpox. In some people the chickenpox virus can persist, but the immune system actively keeps it controlled. In the 60’s or 70’s when the immune system is weakened from aging, there can be a flare-up as shingles, a localized form of the chickenpox virus.

Another virus, the human cytomegalovirus can cause a chronic infection that often persists lifelong. In this case the immune system is chronically weakened because of a massive accumulation of T memory cells, which keeps the human cytomegalovirus infection at bay.

What we need when the immune system changes with age 

Vitamin A

Both the innate and adaptive immunity depend on vitamin A and its metabolites. The skin cells and mucosal cells function as a barrier, which is important for the innate immunity. The skin/mucosal lining of the eye, the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts help the innate immunity to keep viruses and bacteria out of the body. Vitamin A is important to support macrophages, neutrophils and natural killer (NK) cells. In addition, vitamin A supports the adaptive immune system, namely T and B lymphocytes, so that the body can produce specific antibodies against viruses.

I do not take vitamin A supplements as I eat diversified foods like spinach, vegetables, poultry, Brussels sprout, fish and dairy products that contain vitamin A and carotenoids.

Vitamin C

This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant. It can neutralize reactive oxygen species, which are produced when the immune cells fight viruses and bacteria. Neutrophils, lymphocytes and phagocytes are all supported by vitamin C. Vitamin C and E co-operate in their antioxidant functions. Vitamin C is essential for a strong antibody response with bacterial or viral infections. I take 1000 mg of vitamin C once daily.

Vitamin D

The immune system is very dependent on vitamin D as the immune cells all contain vitamin D receptors. People who have less than 10 ng/mL of vitamin D in the blood are vitamin D deficient. They have much higher death rates when they get infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Vitamin D regulates the expression of target genes. At the center is the vitamin D receptor, which is a nuclear transcription factor. Together with the retinoic X receptor (from vitamin A) the vitamin D receptor binds small sequences of DNA. They have the name “vitamin D response elements” and are capable of initiating a cascade of molecular interactions. The result is a modulation of specific genes. Researchers identified thousands of vitamin D response elements that regulate between 100 and 1250 genes.

You need enough vitamin D for your immune system

When enough vitamin D is present in the blood (more than 30 ng/mL) the immune system releases the peptides cathelicidins and defensins, which effectively destroy bacteria and viruses.

Vitamin D has mainly an inhibitory function regarding adaptive immunity. It inhibits antibody production from B cells and also dampens the effect of T cells. Researchers reported that vitamin D3 is useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

I am a slow absorber of vitamin D3 as repeat blood vitamin D levels showed. I need 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to get a blood level of 50-80 ng/mL (=125-200 nmol/L). This is the higher range of normal. Everybody is different. Ask your physician to check your blood level of vitamin D. Toxic vitamin D blood levels are only starting above 150 ng/mL (= 375 nmol/L).

Vitamin E

This is a vitamin that is fat soluble and helps the body to maintain its cell membranes. But researchers found that vitamin E also stimulates the T cell-mediated immune response. This is particularly important for the aging person to prevent respiratory tract infections. I take 125 mg of Annatto tocotrienols per day (this is the most potent form of vitamin E).

Vitamin B6

This vitamin is important for antibody production by B cells. Vitamin B6 regulates the metabolism of amino acids, which in turn form proteins. Antibodies and cytokines require vitamin B6. The T helper immune cells that initiate an adaptive immune response depend on vitamin B6 as well. I take a multi B complex vitamin (Mega B 50) twice per day, so I supplement with a total of 100 mg of vitamin B6 daily.

Folate

Folic acid is a coenzyme for the metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids. Studies in humans and animals have shown that folate deficiency leads to increased susceptibility to infections. People with folate deficiency develop a megaloblastic anemia with immune weakness that leads to chronic infections. With my B complex supplement I get 2 mg of folic acid daily.

Vitamin B12

Methylation pathways depend on vitamin B12 as a coenzyme. Vitamin B12 is also involved as a coenzyme in the production of energy from fats and proteins. In addition, hemoglobin synthesis depends on vitamin B12. Patients with vitamin B12 deficiency develop pernicious anemia. These patients also have a weak immune system due to natural killer cell activity suppression and because circulating lymphocyte numbers are significantly decreased.

Treatment with cyanocobalamin reverses the immune weakness rapidly and treats pernicious anemia at the same time. I take 50 micrograms twice per day as part of the Mega-B50 multivitamin tablet. But I also inject 1000 micrograms of vitamin B12 every 6 months subcutaneously to be sure it is absorbed into the body. In older age the intrinsic factor from the stomach lining, which is required for absorption of vitamin B12 in the small intestine, can be missing, leading to vitamin B12 deficiency despite swallowing supplements.

Minerals required for a good immune response

Researchers identified five minerals that are essential for a strong immune system. They are zinc, iron, selenium, copper and magnesium.

Zinc

Zinc is important for a normal function of the innate and adaptive immune system. As zinc cannot be stored in the body, taking regular zinc supplements (30 to 50 mg daily) is important. I take 50 mg of amino acid chelated zinc daily.

Iron

Iron is important for cell oxygen transport and storage, DNA synthesis and for mounting an effective immune response. In particular it is the T cell differentiation and proliferation where iron is needed. Iron deficient people get a lot of infections because the immune system is paralyzed. I eat one spinach salad or steamed spinach daily, which gives me enough iron supply per day.

Selenium

Selenium is a trace mineral that is important for a normal immune response and for cancer prevention. When selenium is missing, both the adaptive and innate immune system are suffering. In this case viruses are more virulent. With selenium supplementation cell-mediated immunity is improved and the immune response to viruses is more potent. I take 200 micrograms of selenium per day.

Copper

Deficiency in copper results in a very low neutrophil blood count and causes susceptibility to infections. Copper is a trace mineral that participates in several enzymatic reactions. It is important for the innate immune response to bacterial infections. A well-balanced Mediterranean diet contains enough copper, which is why I do not supplement with extra copper.

Magnesium

An important cofactor for vitamin D in the body is magnesium. Magnesium participates in many enzymatic reactions. Between vitamin D and magnesium, the immune system is strengthened. I take 150 mg of magnesium citrate twice per day. By the way, magnesium also helps us to get a restful sleep, if we take it at bedtime.

Other dietary factors that strengthen the immune system

Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids

It is important to note that polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the body and help to modulate the immune system. I take 1800 mg of omega-3 (EPA/DHA) twice per day. I also like to eat fish and seafood at least 3 times per week.

Probiotics

Prebiotics benefit both the innate and the adaptive immune system. They strengthen the epithelial gut barrier, which is an important innate immune defence. Probiotics also lower the risk for Clostridium difficile gut infections. I take one probiotic every morning.

The Immune System Changes With Age

The Immune System Changes With Age

Conclusion

The immune system consists of different organs like the bone marrow, the spleen, lymph glands, Peyer’s patches in the gut, the thymus gland and more. There is the innate immune system, which responds immediately to a virus like the Covid-19 coronavirus. The adaptive immune response involves antibody production against, for instance, the measle virus or the mumps virus. With the aging process the immune system slows down (immunosenescence). This involves an accumulation of memory T cells and a depletion of natural killer cells (NK cells). This means that the innate immunity is getting weaker as we age and chronic inflammation occurs more often. This is the reason why people above the age of 65 get more severe symptoms from the Covid-19 coronavirus. They are also more affected by influenza-type illnesses.

Take supplements to strengthen the immune system

I reviewed the cofactors of a healthy immune system in some detail. It is important that you pay attention to these, particularly the vitamin D3 intake. With a strong immune system, we can survive viral infections better, including the current Covid-19 coronavirus. Future research will likely detect how to reactivate a sluggish immune system in older people. This way vaccination responses following flu injections will become more reliable in seniors.