What if…Boost Our Bodies Immunity?
What if, 100 years ago, when the main cause of death was infection, we actually treated the root cause of infection which is malnutrition, rather than creating a pharmaceutical industry to synthesize vaccines and antibiotics?
What if our susceptibility to infection was actually due to malnutrition and not vaccine deficiencies?
What if our susceptibility to infection was actually due to poor diet and not antibiotic deficiencies?
What if our depression and anxiety were due to stress, nutrient deficits, and toxicity, and not due to Prozac® deficiencies?
Solution to COVID-19: Boost Our Bodies Immunity
As we scramble to come up with a vaccine for COVID-19, what if we actually thought this through and began to realize that a real solution might be to strengthen people’s immunity rather than wait until thousands have died to react with the same knee-jerk responses that haven’t worked before. We’re still waiting for that HIV vaccine…
400,000 people die of Malaria annually despite a vaccine. I wonder if that many would die if they had the necessities of life like proper food sources and clean water.
Even here in the U.S.A., we’re malnourished. Although most of us are blessed to have food on the table daily, its quality may leave very little to be desired…pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and toxins in our food sources. What if this many Americans were dying of infections like COVID-19 partly because of malnutrition? And the irony is that according to the Centers for Disease Control, 9 million to 49 million Americans get the flu each year, and up to 60,000 of them die of flu every year, and yet it took COVID-19 to cause a panic?
Does Malnutrition Reduce Our Ability to Fight Infection?
Is it possible that our malnourishment is a significant reason 60,000 people die annually of the flu? Absolutely! Is the absence of antibodies against flu and COVID-19 why so many are dying? Absolutely NOT!
The idea that we need to be exposed to a virus or vaccine to gain immunity is absurd on its face. If that theory were true, I believe we’d be extinct and not here to be debating this issue right now. The idea that we gain immunity through exposure is leaving out an entire branch of our immune system, which happens to be the more important branch: INNATE IMMUNITY. We are endowed with innate immunity that allows us to rapidly identify an infectious agent and kill it without the need to “be exposed” and develop antibodies. Yes, we do develop antibodies when exposed, but if we had to wait for that before clearing an infection, we’d likely be dead.
It’s our innate immunity that fights the primary infection. Antibodies are a back-up system produced in the event we’re exposed again so we can mount a more rapid response the second time. This branch of immunity is called ACQUIRED IMMUNITY. It’s like the adage that says “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Our body gains the memory of the infectious bug so it’s even more ready if it’s exposed again.
But that back-up system is exactly that – a back-up, not our primary immunity. Our primary immunity is called our innate immune system – it’s not a backup. Innate immunity is our primary mode of defense. Acquired immunity through antibody production is a back-up.
The idea that malnourishment reduces the body’s ability to fight infection by reducing immunity is well studied in medicine. Medical studies show that deficits of vitamins C, D, E, A and the minerals selenium, copper, zinc, and iron all weaken immunity both innate and acquired. We have medical textbooks filled with studies showing the various nutrients involved in our very complex immune system, yet we have experts always claiming there aren’t enough studies to show the benefits. My question to them is exactly how many studies do you need? When the potential benefits of using proper nutrition are so much higher than the risk of suffering from malnutrition, what do you have to lose? If you’re the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, you stand to lose billions of dollars if people suddenly realize that malnutrition is the source of most of their problems. If you’re the person trying to stay healthy or regain your health, you have absolutely nothing to lose and everything, including your health, to gain.
The Importance of Prevention
I believe that this COVID-19 pandemic is showing the absolute importance of prevention in its most basic terms. According to a study released in 2016 in the Journal Trends in Immunology, “This review summarizes key recent studies from experimental animals, in vitro models, and human cohorts, and proposes that immune dysfunction is both a cause and a consequence of malnutrition.”
It’s important to note that malnutrition doesn’t always mean under-consumption of food. We can be malnourished and overweight as well, or as it’s said, “overfed and undernourished.” We also see malnutrition in obesity. Malnutrition is technically the lack of appropriate balance of macronutrients such as fat, protein and carbohydrates, as well as the lack of balance of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
Studies are showing that adults with poor diets consisting of high fat and sugar pass on this “DNA/genetic memory” to their children leaving their children with malnutrition even if these kids eat properly! These kids are subsequently born with a form of immunodeficiency. It’s a chicken-egg game. Malnourishment leads to poor immunity and poor immunity leads to malnourishment.
In an article titled “Nutrition and the Immune System: An Introduction” published in 1997 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the author states “Deficiency of single nutrients also results in altered immune responses: this is observed even when the deficiency is relatively mild. Of the micro-nutrients, zinc, selenium, iron, copper, vitamins A, C, E and B6, and folic acid have important influences on immune responses. Over-nutrition and obesity also reduce immunity.”
At that time, the critical importance of vitamin D in immunity hadn’t yet been appreciated in the U.S., but is now well documented.
In the medical specialty of Integrative/Functional medicine, nutrition is probably the most important component of our treatment plans. It’s the very cornerstone of health and wellness, which requires a personalized approach. If you’re not deficient in vitamin A, taking it won’t help you. If you’re deficient in vitamin D and taking an insufficient dose, you won’t get benefits either. This is why medical studies on supplements are so confusing.
For example, the New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study entitled the VITAL study where vitamin D was studied along with omega-3 fatty acids to observe whether they are protective against cardiovascular diseases and cancer. It was a very large, well-done study except for a few very major mistakes: they made the assumption that people who may be at risk for cardiovascular events and cancer may benefit from just taking vitamin D to the exclusion of other nutrients and gave a completely arbitrary dose of vitamin D. In fact, most of the patients did not have vitamin D deficiency according to the standards of serum blood work used in this study but they gave them vitamin D anyway. Their conclusion was that vitamin D doesn’t reduce the risk of cardiovascular events and cancer. This study is now being used to try to convince people that vitamin D isn’t useful. The European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences was quick to point out the flaws in this study, but the lay community won’t know about this unless they can read the studies for themselves and may be led to believe that vitamin D won’t be of benefit.
Again, if you’re taking something you don’t need, you won’t see a benefit. Or it you’re not taking enough of what you do need, you won’t see a benefit. If you’re deficient in nutrients that you’re not taking, you won’t see a benefit. We don’t need medical studies to show this, it’s simply common sense.
It’s imperative to assess nutrient status with cellular-based testing as done in the emerging medical specialty of integrative/functional medicine. In integrative/functional medicine, we test the immune system cells directly for nutrient levels, then prescribe the proper meal planning and supplements to correct these discovered deficits to boost immunity. When blood work is used to try to determine someone’s nutrient needs, we get incorrect information because what’s in the blood stream is not reflective of what’s inside the cells where these nutrients are utilized. Again, this is simply common sense based on human physiology, which has been well studied for over a century.
Can IV Nutrition Help Boost Our Bodies Immunity?
IV nutrition can speed up the time needed to boost immunity as well. Many people have poor absorption of nutrients through their gastrointestinal systems and don’t know it. According to the National Institutes of Health, at least 20% of Americans have a significant gastrointestinal disease. The National GI Survey published in the journal Gastroenterology in 2018 showed that 2/3 of Americans have at least one significant gastrointestinal symptom such as bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation, all of which can affect their ability to absorb nutrients. For these people, taking oral supplements may not be enough to protect them. To be optimally healthy in today’s stressful and toxic environment requires outside-the-box cutting-edge thinking. Staying “in the box” which has not proven to be effective, only increases your risk of disease. The time for a paradigm change is now: prevention of disease is the only way out of our current quandary.
What if we could make a significant change in our approach to wellness and use this pandemic as the impetus to demand a change in our medical paradigm to one of prevention and not reaction?
In 2014, the American Board of Medical Specialties formally accepted the field of integrative medicine (also known as functional or alternative medicine) as a medical specialty. Integrative medicine is the branch of medicine that endeavors to diagnose and treat the root causes of symptoms and conditions with more natural and well-studied treatments in order to prevent and treat chronic diseases. As a board-certified integrative medical doctor, I can say with confidence that this branch of medicine must become the primary point of contact in healthcare in order for us to begin to dig ourselves out of this seemingly bottomless pit of disease and chaos. What if…?
I hope you’ll join me on the path to prevention. I wish you optimal health and wellness on this journey and send you many blessings!
Mylaine Riobé, MD, FABOIM, FACOG
Board-Certified Integrative/Functional Medicine
Director, Riobé Institute of Integrative Medicine
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- R K Chandra, Nutrition and the immune system: an introduction, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 66, Issue 2, August 1997, Pages 460S–463S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/66.2.460S
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- Hollis, B., Wagner, C. New insights into the vitamin D requirements during pregnancy. Bone Res5, 17030 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/boneres.2017.30
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- CV Almario, ML Ballal, WD Chey, C Nordstrom, D Khanna, BMR Spiegel. Burden of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in the United States: Results of a Nationally Representative Survey of Over 71,000 Americans. J. Gastroenterol 2018 Oct 15
- National Institutes of Health-National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Digestive Diseases Statistics for The United States