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Are immune tonics safe? What if you have an autoimmune disease? Are they even helpful?
A reader recently reached out with an echinacea autoimmune disease-related question. I get a lot of these, and not just about echinacea.
Here is a deep dive into some of the best-documented immune tonics and their practical applications.
This is an important topic because some ingredients that stimulate the immune system are not safe for autoimmunity.
Yet, science shows that natural things like echinacea regulate the immune system. These are safe even in people with an autoimmune disease. Below, you’ll find an extensive list of safe micronutrients and learn how my Immune Reset Packs can help boost your immunity in no time, (and how other micronutrients can help you too).
How Micronutrients Affect Adrenal Glands and the Immune System
Stress, processed food, and pollution attack an essential set of glands responsible for regulating the immune system: the adrenals.
The adrenal glands produce hormones to regulate your body, including your metabolism, blood pressure, immune system, and stress response. So people can feel terrible when the adrenals are not functioning correctly.
Critical Insight: This is why many adults in America wake up feeling tired, suffer from brain fog, or have upset tummy troubles.
Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:
- Muscle weakness
- Low appetite
- Weight loss
- Belly pain
- Poor mood regulation
- Brain fog
If your adrenal levels get too low, it can cause havoc in your body. This issue is a massive problem for the majority of adults. Ongoing adrenal issues could lead to recurring infections, allergies, chronic inflammation, and autoimmune diseases.
Bottom Line: Taking care of your adrenal glands leads to a more robust immune system and overall better health.
Luckily, most adrenal deficiencies are reversible in as little as a few months with the right care.
Food is the easiest way to maintain your adrenal glands and support a healthy immune system. Eating foods that trigger food sensitivities can cause inflammation and make your immune system go bonkers, including dairy, eggs, and wheat. That’s why I discuss them in my book, The Adrenal Reset Diet.
Do you have a sick, flu-like feeling after eating these foods? Do you wake up each morning feeling tired? Consider scheduling an autoimmune screening to discuss your concerns with your doctor, or take the Adrenal Quiz to determine if an immune system reset is right for you.
A short-term reset can help calm your immune system and combat illness. Try an immune supplement full of supportive nutrients, like vitamins, zinc, and NAC. These micronutrients could make you feel better in no time.
Keep reading to discover the science behind why these ingredients work.
Vitamins and Minerals
Micronutrients are a crucial group of the vitamins and minerals your body requires. They are necessary for immune function, energy, and other vital functions.
Critical Insight: The essential micronutrients (listed below) maintain immune function, so as supplements, they can boost the immune system.
The best micronutrients to impact your immune health include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
NAC & Immune System Restoration
An amino acid responsible for increasing the lung’s protective Glutathione production, N-Acetyl Cysteine (or NAC), helps your body create thin and creamy mucous.
Boosting Glutathione levels may improve your immune system function. So both NAC and Gluthahione can help your immune health, even restoring immunity in certain diseases with immune deficiencies.
Research shows NAC is helpful for conditions like:
- Acetaminophen poisoning
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Human immunodeficiency virus infection
- Psychiatric/neurological disorders
Key Insight: If you have a disease that causes immune deficiency, NAC could restore your immunity to normal levels.
Vitamin A for Immunity
Vitamin A is a natural addition to many foods, like carrots, broccoli, and cantaloupe. But if you’re not getting enough of these vitamins from your diet, your immune system may suffer.
Research on animals and cell lines proves how vitamin A and retinoids play a huge role in immunity. Vitamin A also benefits your vision and skin health.
You might have a vitamin A deficiency if you notice:
- Dry skin
- Dry eyes
- Night blindness
- Delayed growth
- Acne and breakouts
- Throat and chest infections
- Poor wound healing
If you have similar symptoms, consider taking vitamin A supplements. Clinical trials in recent years suggest using vitamin A supplements could reduce morbidity and mortality for those with infections diseases like:
- Diarrhoeal disease
- Human immunodeficiency virus infection
- Measles-related pneumonia
That said, immune responses vary considerably. How well vitamin A works for you depends on your immune response and infection type.
The Powerful Antioxidants in Vitamin C / Bioflavonoids
Next up are two micronutrients critical at alleviating and preventing infections: vitamin C and bioflavonoids. These powerful antioxidants are in citrus fruits.
Vitamin C deficiency was previously associated with pneumonia in early literature, which triggered numerous studies into the effects of vitamin C on infections – like the common cold. Today, 148 animal studies indicate that vitamin C can help with infections from bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. But within reason.
Although vitamin C cannot decrease the number of colds in the overall population, it can reduce colds in physically active people. Used regularly, vitamin C can shorten how long your cold lasts too.
But science still doesn’t fully understand the role vitamin C plays in treating the common cold. Trials suggest that taking around 6 to 8 grams of the vitamin per day could:
- Reduce the duration of cold symptoms
- Prevent pneumonia
- Treat pneumonia patients
- Treat tetanus patients
However, the vitamin’s effects on infections require more investigation (Read More: Can Vitamin C Soothe Immune Stress?).
Vitamin D for Immune Protection
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin because it’s your skin’s response to sunlight. The vitamin is most known for building strong bones. Although, it’s another essential vitamin for immune function.
You could notice a vitamin D deficiency if you shun the sun, have a milk allergy, or follow a vegan diet. Most people find the symptoms are subtle, but you may have bone pain or muscle weakness.
Yet, low levels of vitamin D pose health risks even if you have no symptoms.
If you don’t get outside enough, vitamin D supplements are highly beneficial. They also help protect your immune system.
In a randomized, double-blind study on vitamin D supplements, all the participants safely reduced their risk of acute respiratory tract infections. Protective effects were powerful in those with vitamin D deficiency who received daily or weekly doses.
Zinc is Crucial for Resisting Disease
Our last micronutrient, zinc, aids metabolism and immune system recovery. Low levels of the mineral could result in illness and disease.
Zinc overall promotes immune function because it fights off bacteria and viruses from invading your body. It’s particularly beneficial for resisting infectious diseases like malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia.
Key Insight: The body needs small doses of zinc regularly.
What about natural remedies and herbal tonics for immune health?
Simple, natural ingredients are almost always safe options to protect your immunity. One of the easiest ways to remain at maximum health is to consume herbs like:
Echinacea Fights Viruses
Echinacea is an antiviral and preventive herb. It was previously considered a concern for those with autoimmune diseases.
However, we now know that this concern is irrelevant because echinacea does not stimulate the immune system. It functions through modulation.
Studies on animals show echinacea is effective in fighting against the avian virus1. The herb is safe and effective for long-term use for those with or without an autoimmune disease2.
Echinacea & Autoimmune Disease: The Myth
Echinacea is dangerous for autoimmunity. Fact? Or fiction?
The short answer is that echinacea is safe for your immune system because it’s more of an immune regulator than a stimulant. Anything that stimulates the immune system is not safe for people with thyroid or autoimmune diseases. But science deems echinacea safe for those with autoimmune diseases3.
Critical Insight: Not only is echinacea safe; it can quickly help reset your immune system and enhance your health.
Herbs aren’t the only nutrient for immunity. Let’s explore other natural ways you can create a strong defense against virus season.
Astragalus: The Best Immune System Herb
An exotic herb from China, Astragalus makes the ultimate immune tonic.
Astragalus is proven to kill coronaviruses in multiple living animal and test-tube studies. One study found that astragalus diminishes disease progression in chickens, and it could help us control coronaviruses.
Key Insight: Human studies are still needed to determine if astragalus helps your immunity against COVID-19 specifically.
Andrographis Regulates Immune Systems
Also called the “Indian Echinacea,” Andrographis is a bitter-tasting herb common in traditional Chinese medicine.
Compounds in Andrographis are proven to keep influenza viruses from causing pulmonary damage in your body5. Andrographis also contains antiviral and immunoregulatory properties6
Key Insight: Andrographis can help regulate the immune system and keep viruses like the flu from causing more damage to your body.
Arabinogalactan May Treat Illnesses
Arabinogalactan belongs to a group of carbohydrates that occur in plants. It’s treated illnesses like liver cancer, brain conditions, H1N1, the common cold, swine flu, HIV/AIDS, and ear infections.
Glycans are complex yet simple. They play a massive role in the metabolic, physical, and structural functions of biological systems. But we need to learn more about their evolution and how they relay to biological complexity7.
Elderberry and Viruses: Enter Sambucus
Elderberry is a well-known virus fighter.
A type of elderberry, Sambucus Formosana Nakai is not like the delicious elderberry syrup in your local grocery store. It has shown positive effects against coronaviruses in the past (but not COVID-19).
The herb is booming with caffeic acid richness, which is also in foods like:
- Olive oil
Turn to nature for a fresh immune system reset. Certain natural foods are like turbo shots to boost your immune system – such as mushrooms.
Mushrooms are full of antioxidants that strengthen immunity, especially medicinal mushrooms like:
Cordyceps Improve Immunity
Well-known and loved among professional athletes, cordyceps mushrooms can boost your energy and physical performance. Most people don’t realize the shrooms are excellent for your immune system as well.
Cordyceps improve your body’s innate immunity, according to a publication from the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The mushroom is so practical for modulating immunity. Studies even show the benefits extend to moderate or severe asthma.
Research also shows that cordyceps are beneficial at helping autoimmune issues and reducing harmful bacteria in your gut.
Key Insight: These are just a few examples of how medicinal mushrooms help balance the immune system.
Shiitake Mushrooms Help with Autoimmune Diseases
Of the many mushroom species around the globe, only around 20 serve culinary purposes. Shiitake mushrooms are a major Asian cuisine staple for their meaty and versatile flavor. People love the shrooms for the value they add to dishes as well as their medicinal value.
Studies on animals suggest these mushrooms could fight obesity and support heart health, while various human studies prove shiitake improves the immune system significantly.
According to the American College of Nutrition, shiitake mushrooms can boost immune efficiency, gut immunity and even decrease the inflammation that many people with autoimmune diseases suffer from.
Lab tests on human cells back up this claim. They show shiitake mushrooms prevent malignant tumors from growing by sending a signal to the tumor cells that cause them to burst.
A 2011 study from UF Food Science and Human Nutrition Professor Sue Percival shows how shiitake mushrooms produce higher functioning T-cells and reduces immune system-related inflammation. When the participants ate a four-ounce serving of dry shiitake mushrooms once per day, they saw immediate immune system benefits.
Finally, shiitake mushrooms might contain the antimicrobial properties necessary for an effective and natural antibiotic.
A study shows the mushrooms kill disease-causing pathogens and leaves the beneficial bacteria completely unchanged, which is better than prescription antibiotics that kill harmful and beneficial bacteria.
Bottom Line: Shiitake mushrooms are a powerful, natural way to boost the immune system.
Maitake Stimulates the Immune System
Called the “hen of the woods” by mushroom foragers, maitake mushrooms resemble a nesting hen’s fluffed tail feathers. They’re traditionally used in China and Japan to add a delicious flavor to meals and stimulate the immune system.
Like turkey tail mushrooms, maitakes are full of beta-glucans to support the body’s macrophage and natural killer cell activity. These complex sugars are common in other medicinal mushrooms as well.
These mushrooms are a fresh and rich source of vitamins B & C, antioxidants, and multiple minerals. Studies show maitake mushrooms can also support healthy blood sugar.
Reishi Mushrooms Boost Immune Response
The reishi mushroom grows in the hot and humid areas of Asia. It’s a medicinal mushroom that’s been around for thousands of years.
Reishi mushrooms are rare finds. But people claim eating them can boost your immunity.
Key Insight: Reishi mushrooms have antioxidant properties that may enhance your immune response.
The key lies in the mushroom’s complex sugars called beta-glucans. Recent studies suggest these compounds contribute to stopping the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Other benefits of reishi mushrooms include:
- Immune system support
- Gut health
- Fighting tumors
- Reducing and calming stress
- Improved quality of sleep
Reset Your Immune System with Ease
Even with a perfect diet, you are most likely not getting all the nutrients your body needs to protect and improve your immune system. That’s where supplements come into the picture.
You can pick and choose them individually, but it is much easier to take multivitamins.
By using a multi, you will consume less inactive ingredients and have much fewer pills to take. In most cases you will also save money. Multis usually cost 2-4 times less than the same ingredients purchased separately.
Many of the micronutrients listed in this article are also found in the Immune Reset Packets. These ingredients are potent and safe for people with an autoimmune disease. Because you take a single packet once daily with food, it’s an easy answer for immune supplementation.
If you have an autoimmune disease that you take other medication for, use a reset pack about an hour before taking your regular medication for the best results. Use these micronutrients in conjunction with your recommended medical care.
Focus on Micronutrients for a Safe Immune System Boost
Not all immune boosting foods are safe for people with autoimmune diseases. But natural micronutrients are an easy fix to reset immunity safely. Give them a shot today.
If you’re still worried about your immunity and not sure where to start, let me know. I’d love to discuss other ways I can help you get your health back on track.
1 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17238809/
2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31300109
3 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26441065
4 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3729712/
5 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16621378/
6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4408759/
7 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5884436/
P.S. Whenever you are ready, here is how I can help you now:
1. Schedule a Thyroid Second Opinion with me, Dr. C, Click Here for Details
2. Download and use my Favorite Recipes Cookbook Here
3. Check out my podcast Medical Myths, Legends, and Fairytales Here
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet, The Metabolism Reset Diet and The Thyroid Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.