Dr. Hrkal dives into explaining different parts of the immune system, highlighting the difference between immune tolerance (autoimmunity) and resistance (anti-viral). Then learn why vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc and selenium are so important for optimal immune function.
Episode 7: Building Immune Resistance – Anti-viral Orthomolecular Vitamins and Minerals
The content of this podcast has not been evaluated by Health Canada or the FDA. It is educational in nature and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult a qualified medical professional to see if a diet, lifestyle change, or supplement is right for you. Any supplements mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please note that the opinions of the guests or hosts are their own and may not reflect those of Advanced Orthomolecular Research, Inc.
* * * Intro Music * * *
Hello, and welcome to Supplementing Health, a podcast presented by Advanced Orthomolecular Research. I’m your host, Dr. Paul Hrkal. This show is all about applying evidenced-based and effective dietary, lifestyle and natural health product strategies for your optimal health. We are going to feature some very engaging clinicians and experts from the world of functional and naturopathic medicine to help achieve our mission to empower people to lead their best lives naturally.
This episode of Supplementing Health is brought to you by AOR’s Zinc-Copper Balance. Zinc is vital for growth and physical development and for the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. AOR Zinc-Copper Balance a balance to all research ratio of zinc to copper to ensure optimal absorption and function, and to prevent the depletion of copper after long-term zinc supplementation. Look for it today at your local retailer or at AOR.ca or AOR.us.
* * *
[1:44] Hello, again, and welcome back to Supplementing Health. I’m your host, Dr. Paul Hrkal. We have a jam-packed podcast today, and I am going to be breaking down the immune system. Today is a solo show, so I’m not going to have anybody joining me, but I’m actually really excited to talk to you about the immune system, and different parts of the immune system, and how they play a role in helping build our immune resilience and our ability to basically be resilient to viral infections.
[2:18] I’m going to be tackling it from an orthomolecular perspective. So, there are other shows where I’m going to be talking about herbals, but I’m going to focus on vitamins, minerals, and molecules that normally you’re going to find in your diet, and your body is producing them all the time. That’s the definition of orthomolecular medicine.
[2:40] In the first show that we did for Supplementing Health, I broke down orthomolecular and everything that goes into it. If you want more information, go back and take a listen to that. I also use vitamin C as the key poster child for orthomolecular medicine. So, we’ll touch on vitamin C because you can’t talk about the virus, the viral infections, and our ability to be resilient from an immune perspective without talking about vitamin C.
[3:11] But before I do that, I want to break down the immune system and the way that our body is really intelligently set up. The way that we have our responsive immune system, which is called the adaptive immune system, and then our innate immune system, which is our first line of defence.
[3:30] The innate immune system is what’s protecting us day-in and day-out, every moment of the day, and that is what happens to keep us from getting infected from everything that we come in contact with. We are constantly exposed to viruses, bacteria. We are constantly exposed to our external environment.
[3:50] Even if you think about the food that we are taking in, it is full of things that could make us ill and sick. The innate immune system is responsible for regulating basically our resistance to those things. Our immune system is unconscious; all of them, but this is the analogy I use is our border patrol. Barriers have a lot to do with the integrity of our border, and a border would be something like a mucosal membrane in your nose. It could be something like the lining of your digestive system.
[4:30] So, you’re going to hear me throughout this episode talk about the integrity of our gut lining, the integrity of our mucosal membranes. So, there are nutrients like zinc and vitamin A and vitamin D and Omega-3s that are important for maintaining the integrity of our gut lining, and they are the ones often directly related to supporting the innate immune system.
[4:56] There are a number of immune cells that are part of our innate immune system that basically are going to create this response. There also are immune system cells like dendritic cells that help dictate what is friend and foe, what is harmful and pathogenic, and what is not.
[5:18] Also, the immune system should be creating a long-term or a more robust response, which is the adaptive immune system. So, it’s kind of like they are priming the cavalry, the full kind of military response, the adaptive immune system, and these are usually T-cells in the body and B-cells. If anybody has taken immunology, you may be familiar with those particular terms.
[5:50] We need some sort of cells that are going to tell these attacking cells what they should actually be attacking, and those are the dendritic cells. Those are the ones that help define what they should attack and prime the adaptive immune response.
[6:08] You need to have both of these systems working in tandem. You need that kind of first-line of defence, and then you need the adaptive immune system to create a more robust response when the infection actually gets past the initial barriers and gets through the defences of the innate immune system.
[6:27] Then you have T cells and B cells, as I mentioned. T cells are kind of the direct, anti-bacterial, anti-virals. They have properties that reduce cancer cells, and they are basically keeping things in check, and they have a number of mechanisms to be able to do that.
[6:47] There are some cells that don’t need the priming from dendric cells like, for example, natural killer cells, which play a huge role in having an anti-viral effect. Then, you need T cells that need the B cells to produce these antigens. Antigens are a fancy way of saying these are markers that we’re putting on the virus or on the bacteria or on the cell, and we’ve tagged that cell to be destructed.
[7:19] So, then the T cells come by, and they look for these particular tags that have been put there by the B cells and produced by the B cells, and then they can destroy those particular things. That’s why your normal, healthy tissue doesn’t get destroyed, and there’s a very targeted response. The T cells are like sophisticated assassins. They’re going to go on and be very specific with what they’re going to be attacking.
[7:44] Then there are also a couple of other cells that don’t get as much attention as the T cells and the natural killer cells, and these are the T helper cells. They also help regulate this T-cell response. When you talk about T cells, some of you may have heard of something called Th1/Th2 balance. I’ve talked about this in other shows. There are a number of things in the natural health world that help regulate Th1/Th2 balance. What does this actually mean?
[8:18] Th1 typically is responsible more for having a direct cytotoxic effect, whether it’s cancer cells or whether it’s anti-bacterial or anti-viral. When you don’t have enough Th1 response, then you have poor cancer surveillance functions. So, you definitely want to have an adequate TH1 response.
[8:45] Then there is also TH2 response, and both of these are kind of on two sides of a teeter-totter. You want both functioning at adequate level, but not too high or not to low. So, TH2 is primarily responsible for allergies, asthma, and some autoimmune diseases. This is almost like responding to things that you should normally not be responding to, like pollen and certain foods.
[9:13] You want to have a balance of both of these, and that’s important to understand because healthy dendritic cells, healthy gut-associated lymphatic tissue, all that immune system, like 70% of the immune system – you’ve all heard the stats – that it’s in and around the digestive tract. They’re the ones that are regulating and creating this immune tolerance. So, that’s the term that I use: immune tolerance that should be contrasted with immune resilience.
[9:42] I use those terms as key importance overarching concepts to help people understand. You want to be resilient with a good innate immune system and a good healthy adaptive immune system, but you also want a tolerant immune system. That is not excessive TH2 activations. You have tons of allergies and eczema, and asthma, and a lot of those atopic conditions. So, you need both, and that’s where that gut lining, and that’s where that gut-associated lymphatic tissue, and the dendritic cells, and the microbiome, and probiotics play such an important role because they’re the ones that are dictating the regulation.
[10:24] Continuing our immune conversation, there are cells called T reg cells, and they are important at counter-balancing excessive overreactions to things that they should not be overreacting to. That is the key cell in the immune tolerance cascade.
[10:45] We’re constantly trying to fight the battle of infection, which is under reactivity in most cases, and then sometimes, inappropriate activity like in the cases of COVID with the cytokine storm that you’re all hearing about. Then there is immune tolerance, which is basically not having enough of an awareness at an immune level of not overreacting at something that it normally should not be harming you. Like, for example, bacteria in your gut or a particular food protein.
[11:22] So, we need adequate levels of all the cells: TH1, TH2, TH17, and T reg cells. That, hopefully, gives you a good overview of the innate and adaptive immune system, and then there are T cells, and within that T cell category, there is this TH1/TH2 balance, and there are also T reg cells, which help regulate their overreaction in helping improve the tolerance to self. There is also TH17, which I didn’t mention too much but are also very important, and they play a role in autoimmunity as well, as well as the response to bacteria, viruses, and fungus at the mucosal lining.
[12:02] Really, the takeaway point with hormones and nutrients, you want optimal levels – not too high, not too low. That’s the way that your body is going to be adequately responding without inappropriate over-response or an inappropriate under-response.
[12:18] That’s the key overview. Hopefully, that brings everyone on the same page so when I talk about nutrients, and I’ll start with vitamin C, you’re going to understand that when we talk about balancing Th1, TH2, adaptive, and innate immune system, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
[12:37] Let’s talk about vitamin C. We’ll dive right in. I’m going to try to cover as much as I can in this episode because there’s so much information, and I want to make sure that everyone really has a good understanding, at least the main orthomolecular nutrients and vitamins and minerals when it comes to immune resilience and tolerance.
[13:00] I’ve talked about vitamin C in the past, and I’ll probably talk about it again. It has a very important role to play because it is used a lot by our immune cells. So, our immune cells are constantly identifying and then creating a damaging response to a pathogen like a virus because they want to either eat it up, so phagocytosis, like macrophages.
[13:32] Maybe you’ve heard of macrophages and monocytes. They gobble up cellular debris and viruses. But they also use vitamin C as a key vitamin to offset some of the oxidized damage that they cause. So, it’s like a self-regulating mechanism. And, we know that vitamin C improves the function of neutrophils. It improves the function of macrophages.
[13:59] There’s a ton more of these particular cells being activated and recruited to the area of infection that you need a lot more vitamin C. And just from a very practical perspective, vitamin C is not produced by the body. Our body needs to consume it through our diets. Whether it’s an evolutionary blip, but it’s one of those things that we relied on from a dietary perspective, and it’s not something like other mammals. This particular production of vitamin C was not conserved in our evolution, so we need to rely on it through diet.
[14:39] Think about stress; think about free-radical damage, which is oxidative damage; think about infections. There’s a tremendous increase need at these times. Just because you’re getting it through diet, you are going to need much higher levels in times of inflammation, in times of infections, and oxidative stress.
[15:00] There’s this concept that a lot of integrative doctors have floated is that we are living in a state that has increased our demands on a vitamin, like vitamin C because it does such an important role at regulating a response from an immune perspective and our response to stress. So, we are walking around with a sub-optimal intra and inter, so inside of our cell deficiency.
[15:32] It’s maybe not a deficiency that can necessarily be tested in our bloodstream because the body tends to be really regulatory with that, but it is something that maybe we are not getting enough for optimal function. Now, you couple that with a viral infection, let’s say, and you need a much higher amount.
[15:51] As I mentioned, this is evidenced by if you’re taking vitamin C and you’re healthy, you’re eventually, as you keep increasing the dose, you’re going to hit bowel tolerance. At that point, your body is not absorbing it, your cells are not using it, and you’re basically excreting it digestively, and that’s why it causes watery and loss stools.
[16:10] But, as a person gets sick, what a lot of these clinicians, including myself, notice, is that your bowel tolerance, let’s say it was at 10 grams, goes up way higher to maybe 20 grams, and that’s personalized, and that’s individual. Not everybody may get to that level. It’s something important to point out, and that definitely leads us to believe that we have a much higher need for vitamin C when we’re under the weather, and we’re sick.
[16:41] Another practical point about vitamin C is that you’re probably going to need to take it more frequently to optimize blood levels because vitamin C levels peak every 4½ hours, and you take it orally. It’s quicker when you’re taking it intravenously, which we’ll not talk about in this episode because that’s a whole other really intriguing topic about using vitamin C as an antioxidant in acute situations.
[17:10] There’s research on, particularly, coronavirus with vitamin C being done around the world right now, which is quite exciting. But from an oral perspective, every 4½ hours, what that means is you need to be frequently taking it during the day. I hear a lot of my patients like, “Oh, I take it in the morning. I got my vitamin C. I know; I took 2,000 milligrams. But that’s out of your body by lunchtime, and you’re not getting the full protective effect. So, at least twice a day, and ideally, may be three or four times a day if a person is feeling under the weather, would be something that I would discuss with my health care provider. So, that’s something that is an important consideration for vitamin C.
[17:53] Then there’s Liposomal. Is that better delivered? There are some industry research showing that it is better delivered inside the cell. Again, Liposomal, for those of you who don’t know, it is vitamin C combined with a fat, so it’s able to be absorbed through our cellular membranes, which are fat-soluble, and vitamin C is water-soluble.
[18:12] It primarily has a role to have it outside of our cells, but also within our cells, where there’s water, but not between. I do think that there might be some benefit from taking Liposomal C. I still, from a cost-effective perspective and from the breadth of research, I still like plain ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate, which is the buffered version of it for general immune maintenance. That’s a little bit on vitamin C.
[18:41] One of the things I’m going to be touching on throughout this episode is the synergy between different nutrients. One of the nutrients that has been frequently cited in the research that is synergistic with vitamin C is bioflavonoids. Those are molecules of many different types that are normally found in fruits and vegetables, those colours, those pigments, those anthocyanins, those molecules that also have antioxidant properties, and they basically help recharge vitamin C
[19:14] As an antioxidant, vitamin C gives an electron, quenches a free radical, but then it needs to be recharged. Otherwise, it’s useless. There are molecules that help recharge vitamin C. Lipoic acid is one of them. Bioflavonoids is one of them, and the one I wanted to talk about today is vitamin E.
[19:35] Vitamin E, I think, gets a really bad rap because of some of the research that’s come out to say, alpha-tocopherol, which is one out of only eight forms of vitamin E, by the way, basically does nothing or maybe it might be harmful. We have to understand the body works in synergy. It doesn’t work in isolation, so just trying to isolate a nutrient, especially one that there are eight versions of it, like vitamin E, and supplementing with that, you’re setting yourself up for failure, and that’s what we’ve seen in a lot of the research.
[20:12] What I just mentioned about vitamin C is that it’s a water-soluble substance, so most of its action is going to be in water-soluble spaces. Think of it between your cells and the intercellular space. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it primarily hangs out in cellular membranes and fat-soluble and fat-rich areas like, for example, the brain, which is why vitamin E has been studied extensively in neurological and nerve-related conditions, where vitamin C has not been as much.
[20:44] But what we’re seeing is that vitamin E, in its own right, because it’s an antioxidant, it also plays a role in supporting the body’s response to oxidative stress. So, even a reaction to a virus, vitamin E does play a role. So, if you’re deficient, which vitamin E is one of the most common deficiencies in North America – some research showing 50% of people don’t get the bare minimum amount of vitamin E from a dietary perspective, you’re going to have an increased susceptibility to free-radical stress.
[21:18] Again, this is another theme throughout this episode and throughout nutrients, and nutritional interventions for immune resilience is that you may not have enough levels as a baseline in your bloodstream, in your cellular membranes, in your cells themselves to have an adequate response, which might be one of the reasons a person may be more susceptible. We don’t exactly know, but it’s a theory.
[21:42] Vitamin E plays a key synergistic role with vitamin C. It helps recharge vitamin C. They are synergistic because one’s fat-soluble and one’s water-soluble. I want you to think synergy when it comes to vitamin C and definitely vitamin E.
[21:57] Vitamin D, I’m going to save for a whole other episode because it’s so incredibly important. I’m going to defer on that one right now, but needless to say, it does support both the innate and adaptive immune system. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, but it also acts much like a hormone having an anti-inflammatory effect and an effect inside of the cell. I’m a huge fan of vitamin D.
[22:26] I will also say that people that are deficient are the ones that – first of all, you need to get tested to figure it out if you are deficient. And then, those are the ones that are going to benefit most from supplementation as they get their levels up. Once you get over that 75 nanomoles per litre here in Canada, that’s where you’re going to get most of the benefits from a respiratory function and from an immune-supportive function.
[22:51] That’s all I’ll say about vitamin D, but I am a big fan, and there are many, many things that are competing against the absorption of vitamin D, absorption of any sort of fats and the assimilations of fats, anything from having gallbladder surgery to inflammation of the intestinal lining, is all going to compete against your ability to produce vitamin D and to absorb it.
[23:17] Think about, just from a sunshine perspective, vitamin D is created from cholesterol, and the number one most prescribed medication in the world is the statin class of drugs, and they decrease cholesterol. So, we have to consider that fat-soluble vitamins can be easily depleted when taking cholesterol-inhibiting medications. That’s a bit on the fat-soluble vitamins.
[23:44] Vitamin K is another one that is fat-soluble. I’ll briefly mention it because it doesn’t get a lot of love when it comes to the immune function and the immune system, but I think it does play a key role in inflammation. Part of inflammation, especially as we’re exploring more severe infections, is that there is this idea of coagulation and hypercoagulability. That’s part of the cytokine storm in the acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS.
[24:20] Vitamin K, as K1 – vitamin K1 found in those leafy greens, that has a big role to play in coagulation, but I want to focus more on vitamin K2 because that’s the one that has a lot more to play with bone function, and we’ve probably heard about vitamin K2 for bone function. That has a lot to play with protecting the over calcification of our blood vessels.
[24:44] Why is that important when it comes to our immune function and building anti-viral immune resilience? Especially as the infection gets worst, the hypercoagulation starts building up. There’s an increased risk for cardiovascular issues, and we’re seeing that in some of the numbers with coronavirus where you’re getting a lot of impacts on the cardiovascular and the kidney systems.
[25:11] Now, one of the theories is that you may have low levels of vitamin K that’s protective of the vascular endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. Don’t discount the importance of vitamin K, especially having adequate levels.
[25:25] There’s a lot of synergy between vitamin D and K, and I will also mention vitamin A because vitamin A is often, like vitamin E, overlooked because it’s toxic in pregnancies, so a lot of people throw it in the toxic category, but it’s incredibly important, and it’s worldwide one of the biggest issues of deficiency in immune function.
[25:49] The WHO has been on vitamin A deficiencies for a long time, and usually in part of the vaccination program, especially in third-world countries, vitamin A is also injected at the same time. That may be responsible for some of the positive effects that may even be attributed to vaccination.
[26:09] We’ve known for vitamin A deficiency and the connection to the immune system for years, for decades. It works on very much the same receptor as vitamin D, and it works inside of the nucleus, actually, at transcribing a lot of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant genes. I think with vitamin A if a person is deficient, you can get this tested. Your naturopathic doctor can test retinol to see if you have sub-optimal levels.
[26:43] With less and less people over the years, probably in the last century, consuming less organ meats, which is, by the way, the best way to get vitamin A, but you can also get toxicity if you overconsume it. We have case reports and stories from explorers eating polar bear liver, getting toxic vitamin A overload.
[27:03] But I think now, there’s a much bigger issue with vitamin A deficiency than toxicity. I think adequate levels are desirable, and a lot of people might get that through the conversion of beta carotene, which gives a lot of the colourful plants and fruits, that bright orange colour. Carrots are the richest in beta carotene.
[27:26] Just a note on beta carotene is that you can have a genetic predisposition for not being able to convert beta carotene adequately to vitamin A. You can get this tested through a number of different genetic tests. MyBlueprint™, from AOR, is one example. That will give you a really good idea if you actually are a good converter, and that way if you have this particular SNP, this deficiency in this enzyme for conversion, you’re going to have to get preformed vitamin A. That is primarily found in cod liver oil and liver, in general, and in small amounts in other foods and other animal foods. That is another issue that should be considered with vitamin A.
[28:10] Vitamin A is an important one when it comes to building immune resilience and tolerance. Also, I think about vitamin A a lot when it comes to mucosal immunity at maintaining the integrity of those barriers. Not only is the immune system fighting off microbes and infections it encounters, but there are also such things a physical barrier like the integrity in the intestinal lining, the integrity of the mucosal lining in your nose. Things like zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D are absolutely integral for the proper physical barriers as well as the innate immune system, which is our more immunological barrier. So, that’s a little bit about vitamin A.
[28:52] Always talk to your naturopathic doctor and your healthcare provider before starting, especially a fat-soluble vitamin D. There is risk for toxicity. Vitamin C, there’s zero risk for toxicity because it’s water-soluble and out it goes if you have too much. But vitamin D, even though very safe, you could get toxic. Vitamin K, also very, very safe, but there is a theoretical toxicity there, and obviously any interactions with any coagulator medications.
[29:24] Then vitamin A definitely, you have a high risk for toxicity if you have massive amounts. Most people are no where near these amounts. You have to take them for a long time. But always work with your healthcare provider.
[29:34] I want to switch gears here at this point to minerals. I’m going to talk a little bit about zinc, and I’m going to talk about selenium because these are part of the foundational pieces, things that we’ll normally get in our diet that we need a little bit more of when it comes to immune resilience.
[29:54] Zinc is a mineral that, unfortunately, is a massive deficiency problem, and it’s not just a deficiency problem in third-world countries. It’s a global deficiency problem. Looking at some of the WHO data, they’re estimating that maybe 30% of the world’s population has deficient levels of zinc in their bodies.
[30:20] Zinc plays an important role in the growth development and healing of any sort of our tissues. It also is well-known for wound healing, including ulceration, so that’s even gut wounds healing. There are specific forms of zinc, like zinc carnosine, which is one of my absolute favourite forms of zinc. It is incredibly helpful for that – the integrity of the intestinal lining, the tight junctions, which keeps intestinal hyperpermeability at bay.
[30:50] Also, and this is one that often gets overlooked. Zinc has a potent anti-inflammatory function. We don’t think of zinc as an anti-inflammatory, but there’s lots of research pointing to its ability to regulate NF kappa beta, which is a key prone inflammatory molecule produced in the body at the cellular level in response to bacteria, viruses, and many other things.
[31:15] It’s also been studied in cardiovascular disease, and we don’t think typically of zinc and cardiovascular disease, but those research studies specifically we’re looking at and basically proclaiming that zinc’s main action is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant action, which is really overlooked, I would say. Even in the natural health world, we think of zinc as an immune-supportive, which it is, and that’s what I want to talk about here.
[31:38] It is important for the maturation, so the production of natural killer cells and many other immune cells. It’s also very important for the function of the thymus. The thymus is a gland that is under our sternum, and it atrophies as we age. That’s why it doesn’t get a lot of attention, especially in adults.
[32:08] There’s a substance called thymulin, and that is a substance that the thymus gland produces and important for the maturation of our immune system. Zinc is one of the key cofactors for the production of thymulin. If you’re zinc deficient, which 30% of the population is, you are not properly priming and setting up your immune system to properly recognize what’s a virus, what’s a bacteria, and what’s our cell tissue.
[32:39] So deficiency plays a massive role in not just reducing inflammation, which is a key part of our immune response, but also in terms of the development of our immune system. If somebody’s thinking, “You know what? That zinc deficiency is something that people who don’t eat a diet in North America experience.” Think again because there’s research coming out, and there’ one particular study I’m thinking of in 2010 that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that adults and elderly in the U.S., 30 to 40% of them were deficient in zinc. That plays a role in their body’s ability to create an immune response.
[33:26] Even if you look at the WHO data, the deficiency in zinc leads to millions of cases of preventable diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia. This is not tucked away in some secret nutritional journal. This is mainstream medical knowledge and mainstream research. Zinc deficiency is a big problem.
[33:52] I think it stands to reason, even if we understand that we want to up our immune resilience, that we’re going to have to up our zinc levels. Specifically, when it comes to anti-viral effects of zinc is that it plays a role in the way that viruses hijack our cells. This is applicable to any type of virus.
[34:21] Adequate zinc levels inhibit the synthesis, especially of RnA viruses, like the corona family of viruses, and they decrease their ability to hijack cellular machinery. So, it’s not just one receptor that plays a role in having these viruses bind and hijack our cells. There are many processes.
[34:42] So, zinc is now being postulated as one of the most important things to consider when it comes to boosting our immune system – I hate that term boosting the immune system, so I’m going to use supporting immune resilience, but supporting your body’s response to any sort of viral infection.
[34:59] A couple of practical points about zinc: If you’re elderly, if you’re vegan, consider that you need to get your levels tested and consider extra supplementation because typically zinc is found in animal meats. Oysters are the ones that are always pointed out in textbooks, nutritional documents. I know most people are not big oyster fans.
[35:20] You can over-supplement with zinc, so usually, the recommended dose that is approved by Health Canada is around 15 to 30 milligrams, which is an immune-supportive dose. There’s research, the one I just cited from 2010. They were using 45 milligrams of zinc to complete that deficiency in the elderly.
[35:40] At those levels, you don’t have to worry about copper depletion, but long-term use, you probably should, even like 2 milligrams of copper. I think a really good quality supplement like AOR’s Zinc-Copper Balance, which AOR’s been on this for many years trying to understand it and really support the balance of both zinc and copper. But that ratio is great for long-term supplementation. But short term, you should be fine without copper.
[36:10] Also, some people get nausea and a little bit of GI upset if they take zinc on an empty stomach. It’s not harmful to you to get that; it’s just bothersome and annoying to get it. But if you do get it and you take it on an empty stomach, a lot of people are like, “Why am I nauseous? Grab some food and think back. Did I take my zinc maybe a little to early before I ate?
[36:33] There are forms like zinc carnosine, which is a form of zinc combined with the amino acid, carnosine, which has a whole host of health benefits, a powerful antioxidant. Actually, one of the key factors that’s possibly the reason why chicken soup is so helpful in the immune function is because it has higher levels of carnosine in chicken flesh. That has some of its own immune-supportive effects.
[36:59] But carnosine, I’m a big fan of healing tissues, and zinc obviously does that as well. It is better tolerated in my experience because it’s more slowly absorbed. That’s one of the reasons it’s used a lot in digestive function. In Japan, it’s used as a medication, actually, for ulcers. I’m a huge fan of this particular form of zinc carnosine. So, that’s a little bit about zinc.
[37:24] I think, hopefully, the key takeaways: this is one of the things that we should be making sure we have adequate levels of amounts in our bodies to maintain immune tolerance and resilience.
[37:36] I’m going to conclude with talking a little bit about selenium. That’s another mineral that is often talked about when it comes to the immune system. It is a mineral that is found in foods. One of my favourite sources of selenium is Brazil nuts, and selenium has a number of key roles in the body, but one that it’s well-known for is that it’s a key cofactor in the production of glutathione.
[38:02] Glutathione is our body’s own master antioxidant. It has a lot to do with our immune system, actually. More viruses and bacteria can spread because they use free radicals as part of the hijacking process of our immune system. When we have adequate levels of glutathione, then our bodies can quench these tools and mechanisms that viruses use to hijack our cells.
[38:28] I’ve heard of selenium – there’s the term, birth control for viruses, being thrown around by experts. I’ll have to give a shoutout to Dr. Alex Vasquez for introducing me to that term. But I know other experts have talked about that. But that’s a good way of understanding selenium as birth control for viruses.
[38:51] It also had potent anti-inflammatory effects in its own right, as well as its ability to support glutathione, and it may support lymphatic flow, which is a very unique mechanism of action.
[39:05] An interesting point about selenium is that there are areas in the world, and there are parts of North America that this is the case, is that the soils where we grow our plants, and then we get the selenium levels from, is that they’re deficient in selenium. There is an endemic selenium deficiency.
[39:26] Interestingly enough, China is one of the areas in the world that is famously known to have a selenium deficiency in their soils. Historically, you look a lot of the outbreaks of viruses. A lot of people are thinking, “Why is this always happening in China?”
[39:44] Some experts are starting to say, and again, Dr. Vasquez has talked about this, and I think I agree with him, is that what factors are contributing to having China as being ground zero for a number of these viral outbreaks. For example, the first coronavirus. Now, obviously, the second one. The bird flu and there are many others.
[40:08] The low levels in the soil may be contributing to the body’s ability to have a decreased resistance to viruses. So, just having optimal selenium levels is going to be very helpful for our bodies to maintain levels of glutathione and maintain immune resilience.
[40:31] From a supplementation perspective, roughly, you’re going to find supplementation anywhere from doses of 500 micrograms. Remember, this is micrograms. Not milligrams. We need a very little amount of selenium – and up to 200 micrograms. That’s a fairly safe does for short-term use. Again, always talk to your healthcare provider to find the right dose for you.
[40:53] A couple of the things I love selenium for is for – and the research shows this, a beneficial effect in autoimmune thyroid conditions. Again, it comes down to the production of glutathione, and even the autoimmune, viral conditions – again, this is an episode that we’ll do in the future talking about the connection between autoimmunity and chronic viral conditions, and specifically, Epstein Barr virus has been linked to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is a common autoimmune thyroid condition.
[41:25] So, selenium is high on the list when it comes to regulating and decreasing this overactivity of the immune system to the thyroid, thyroid peroxidase and this particular enzyme in the thyroid.
[41:41] Hopefully, that gives you a little bit of an overview of selenium, zinc, vitamin C. We’ve talked a little bit about vitamin K and vitamin A. These are your core orthomolecular ingredients. This is really not fancy. One thing I’ll conclude with is a lot of people are like, “What is the latest anti-viral drug and vaccine and herb.
[42:05] We’re very focused on – quercetin is a great example where that because really, really popular, but I think when you look at the evidence, making sure you have adequate vitamin C, D, A, K levels and then also zinc and selenium, you’re going to do a lot more to support your body’s immune resilience, and these are things your body is going to be using for many other beneficial effects.
[42:30] Nothing against quercetin. Great antioxidant substance. It is a little bit more expensive, and it’s not something your body is using for as many different things. When it gets to herbs, there is a much narrower therapeutic window, and there’s a less breadth of specific application. I’m really promoting and supportive with my patients for using orthomolecular nutrients that should be at optimal levels like zinc, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin C to actually build our immune resilience and build our immune tolerance.
[43:10] Thanks for tuning in for this show of Supplementing Health. Hopefully, everyone found it helpful. This was great to share. Please tune in next week again as we talk a little bit more about the immune system. And as always, thanks again for listening and have a great week.
* * * Outro Music * * *
[43:49] Thank you for listening today. For more information about our guests, past shows, and future topics, please visit aor.ca/podcasts. Do you have a topic that you want us to cover? We invite you to engage with us on social media to request a future topic or email us at [email protected] We hope you tune in again next week to learn more about supplementing your health.
[End of episode 44:16]
Let’s keep in touch
"*" indicates required fields