There are times when you want increased immune activity. For example, when mingling with a lot of people in close places or when traveling. Traveling, in particular, is notoriously stressful and taxing on the immune system. Eventually, amid the Coronavirus worldwide health and economic crisis, it is as good a time as any to have a quick look at ultra-effective ways to motivate those tiny antibodies of ours to go and fight the good fight.
Aside from getting plenty of sleep, exercise — both body and mind, and nutritious food, some things can be done to increase one’s immunity dramatically in the short term.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not one to cower in fear and wait for things to happen. When there is trouble on the horizon, I try and quickly figure out the situation and draft a plan of action to mitigate risk while still doing what needs to be done.For instance, what I do is one week before traveling or the particular event I need more immune activity for, I start taking heavy-duty doses of vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and Lion’s Mane Mushroom extract. I take those every day, but I do increase amounts massively for short bursts of immune activity.
I know some people are skeptical about supplementation. Some people think they don’t work. I know from conversing with those people that they have no concept of dosage, timing, and blood concentration levels.
Let’s take an easily understandable example; most vitamin C supplements contain anywhere between 50 and 200 milligrams of ascorbic acid — the fancy, Saturday-evening-dinner name for vitamin C. We know that to have any measurable increase in blood concentration of ascorbic acid, at least one to three grams of vitamin C needs to be taken daily. To put things into perspective, we’re talking about doses 15 to 60 times higher than mainstream supplements would have. Of course, if you’re taking such a supplement, it’s not going to move the needle.
It’s like trying to boil a huge pot of water with one match. To boil water, you need it to get to 100°C; it’s not boiled at 90°C, it’s not boiled at 99°C, it’s not more boiled at 200°C: boiled is boiled. The same applies to vitamins, minerals, supplements, et cetera. Supplementing with high doses of vitamin C seems to be safe, according to a study published in The Annals of The New York Academy of Sciences . Further, a study published in The Journal of The American College of Nutrition could not find any evidence of adverse health effects related to consuming 10g of vitamin C a day in healthy subjects for three years. However, the researchers documented that higher doses of vitamin C have been associated with several indices of lowered cardiovascular disease risk, including increases in HDL and decreases in LDL oxidation, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality .
Also, let’s note that people who smoke — commonly referred to as smokers, consume alcohol — referred to as fun people, or have specific medical conditions often have higher vitamin C needs than healthy people. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that smoking increases oxidative stress, which increases antioxidant requirements . Alcohol consumption has been shown to increase urinary vitamin C losses by nearly 50 percent in a study published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, suggesting that higher intake might be required to prevent deficiency in regular or heavy drinkers .
There are minimum doses that produce an effect; there are doses that are too low to trigger anything, and there are doses that are over the top and are at best wasted or, at worse, produce side effects. Doses, timing, and blood concentrations matter. Besides, blood concentration is easily measurable. You don’t have to rely on voodoo witchcraft. Any walk-in laboratory is happy to take a bit of your blood and run tests. Testing for blood concentrations of vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc, where I live, in Zurich, Switzerland, costs around $100 a pop. It’s not the most expensive thing in the world. But it does add up. A cheap yet less precise alternative would be a saliva test that would run at around $70 a pop for all three elements.
“It Had Long Since Come to My Attention That People of Accomplishment Rarely Sat Back and Let Things Happen to Them. They Went Out and Happened to Things.”
–Leonardo Da Vinci
“Prepare for the worst and pray for the best.”
―Ronald A. Martin, Jr.
I start one week before traveling to give time to the active ingredients to supercharge my bloodstream; then, I continue throughout the traveling period. That’s it, really. Those four supplements together have been shown to increase immune system function drastically.
For vitamin C, I use this supplement. For zinc, I buy this one. The vitamin C supplement from Now Foods. is quite generously dosed and gives me the amounts I’m aiming at in two to three daily capsules. The zinc from Nature’s Way is heavy-duty. At 30 milligrams per serving I can reach my goals with only one serving. For the vitamin D and Lion’s Mane extract, I use Maximum Mind. We didn’t design it to increase immune function in the first place, yet it serves as a nice spillover addon. If I didn’t use Maximum Mind, I would revert to something like this: this Lion’s Mane from Host Defence and vitamin D from Now Food as well.
“The best choices are the ones that have more pros than cons, not those that don’t have any cons at all.“
A mechanistic study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation found that mild zinc deficiency can decrease T-lymphocyte (T-cell) numbers . Now, I’m not a doctor, as you know, but I understand the concept of fewer T-cells. That seems quite clear.
Further, a study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology has found that 1–2g a day of vitamin C alone results in increased immune cell function and oxidative capacity to protect against immune dysfunction .
For Lion’s Mane, research published in Food & Function shows that lion’s mane mushroom can boost immunity by increasing the activity of the intestinal immune system, which protects the body from pathogens that enter the gut through the mouth or nose . If this is not a good time to be boosting your resistance to airborne diseases while enhancing your neural activity, I don’t know what is.
Some people seem to believe supplements are useless, and food alone would do the trick. Yet, those same people would be hard-pressed to tell you what foods contain high concentrations of zinc or vitamin C for that matter — aside from oranges for vitamin C. Also, those people are going to have fun traveling with an orange tree in their pocket because that’s quite literally the volume and mass of oranges they’d consume to reach those concentration levels. Besides, who has even time to chew that much?
“Mimicking the herd invites regression to the mean (merely average performance).”
“An expert is a person who has made all mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”
Marco’s Short-Term Immune Protocol
- 3 grams vitamin C, one capsule three times a day, with food if possible
- 30 milligrams zinc, one capsule a day with food
- 10’000 IU vitamin D, one capsule twice a day, with food
- 3 grams Lion’s Mane Mushroom, with fatty food if possible to increase absorption (if you chose to go with Maximum Mind, that would be the standard daily dose of four capsules twice a day, if you chose another supplement, adapt accordingly)
Marco’s Sustained Immune Protocol
- 1-2 grams vitamin C, one capsule twice a day, with food if possible
- 15 milligrams zinc, one capsule every other day with food
- 5000 IU vitamin D, one capsule a day with food
- 3 grams Lion’s Mane Mushroom, with fatty food if possible to increase absorption (if you chose to go with Maximum Mind, that would be the standard daily dose of four capsules twice a day, if you chose another supplement, adapt accordingly as well)
- Levine, M., Conry-Cantilena, C., Wang, Y., Welch, R. W., Washko, P. W., Dhariwal, K. R., … & Cantilena, L. R. (1996). Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: evidence for a recommended dietary allowance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 93(8), 3704–3709.
- Bendich, A., & Langseth, L. (1995). The health effects of vitamin C supplementation: a review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 14(2), 124–136.
- Schectman, G., Byrd, J. C., & Hoffmann, R. (1991). Ascorbic acid requirements for smokers: analysis of a population survey. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 53(6), 1466–1470.
- Faizallah, R., Morris, A. I., Krasner, N., & Walker, R. J. (1986). Alcohol enhances vitamin C excretion in the urine. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 21(1), 81–84.
- Prasad, A. S., Meftah, S., Abdallah, J., Kaplan, J., Brewer, G. J., Bach, J. F., & Dardenne, M. (1988). Serum thymulin in human zinc deficiency. The Journal of clinical investigation, 82(4), 1202–1210.
- Nieman, D. C., Henson, D. A., McAnulty, S. R., McAnulty, L., Swick, N. S., Utter, A. C., … & Morrow, J. D. (2002). Influence of vitamin C supplementation on oxidative and immune changes after an ultramarathon. Journal of applied physiology, 92(5), 1970–1977.
- Baeke, F., Takiishi, T., Korf, H., Gysemans, C., & Mathieu, C. (2010). Vitamin D: modulator of the immune system. Current opinion in pharmacology, 10(4), 482–496.
- Sheng, X., Yan, J., Meng, Y., Kang, Y., Han, Z., Tai, G., Zhou, Y., & Cheng, H. (2017). Immunomodulatory effects of Hericium erinaceus derived polysaccharides are mediated by intestinal immunology. Food & function, 8(3), 1020–1027.