I don’t know about you, but I think the Covid-19 virus looks rather like one of those mines that used to be dropped into shipping lanes during the Second World War (if you don’t know what I’m on about, it’s the big round bomb that goes off at the end of Hot Fuzz). It’s actually rather beautiful, in a scary kind of way. And it’s got the whole world in a flap, rightly so. So you can imagine how angry I was yesterday when I saw a thread in a Facebook group I’m in, asking if anyone sells products that boost the immune system. My answer, you will be unsurprised to hear, was a good, balanced, healthy diet, along with exercise (and you can add good quality sleep to that too). But the claims being made by people about the products they sell were incredible.
Not the claims their companies make
The problem with the claims people make for their products is that they’ve either mis-read the company’s information, or they’ve flat out made it up. These are certainly not the claims made by the companies themselves, who are aware of the law and what you can and can’t say and who, you would hope, have impressed this upon the people who sell their products for them. Apparently that bit of training doesn’t seem to have sunk in. So let’s start with claims the distributors made about the companies themselves.
- The top nutrition supplements in the world (how they would know is beyond me, there are literally millions of supplements available worldwide)
- The number 1 most researched product on the market (they didn’t say whether this was the company who did the most research or who had the most hits on Google)
- The best natural products on the market (unlikely. They contain non-food ingredients for a start)
- The number 1 in the world (4 different companies could apparently lay claim to this honour)
Then there are the claims they made for the products.
- Contains 1000 times the vitamin C of an orange (possibly the reason for all the panic buying of loo rolls)
- 100 times more effective than vitamin C and 25 times more effective than vitamin E (at what I have no idea)
- 100% of all the basic nutrients you need on a daily basis (so not what you actually need)
- Increases Glutathione (the body’s master anti-oxidant – apparently) by 300% (glutathione supplementation has been found to make no significant difference to oxidative stress markers – see this study for details)
Again, these are claims made by individuals, not by the companies as far as I could find out.
What’s the cost?
When you look at what some of these supplements are, they’re really no better than the average multivitamin you could buy in the supermarket and indeed, a small number are priced accordingly. But some of these will knock you back over £100 for a one month supply. And that won’t give you everything you need. That’s just the immune booster. They’ll then recommend that you need others to go with it, and a lot of people will buy into it because it’s a scary time. You could potentially be parting with hundreds, completely unnecessarily.
What vitamins do we actually need?
Of course, the answer is all of them. And minerals. If you’ve ever heard the word, “micronutrients” bandied about, that’s what they are. But here’s the thing. Most vitamins are water soluble. So that one that gives you 1000 times the vitamin C of an orange is going to fly through your system and be out by your afternoon tea break, because water soluble vitamins are absorbed by the body, and then when it’s got what it needs, it gets rid of the rest. That’s what your organs of detoxification (lungs, liver, kidneys, and skin) are for. Where it becomes more tricky is when you have fat soluble vitamins, namely A, D, E, and K. They’re stored in the body’s adipose tissue (fat cells to you and me) and if we take too much, build up over time. And that’s where you get things like nausea, vomiting, increased pressure on the brain, blurred vision, skin problems, too much calcium in the blood, increased risk of haemorrhagic stroke, jaundice, and haemolytic anaemia, to name but a few. Head to Medscape and look up vitamin toxicity for more details.
What about CBD oil?
CBD is an interesting one. Some research has found that it can help to boost the immune response in patients who are immune-compromised, such as HIV and cancer patients. Other studies say that it acts as an immuno-suppresant, which is a huge help to people with auto-immune disorders. The point with CBD oil is that it’s being touted as a panacea, mostly by the people who sell it. There’s certainly no doubt that it’s incredibly useful and scientists are working hard to find out exactly how it works and what it can do. But to say it can cure everything from ingrown toenails to cancer is going a bit far. At least for now. And the confusion over whether it’s an immune booster or an immuno-suppresant only serves to complicate matters further.
Someone mentioned essential oils
I’m not going to say too much about essential oils because honestly, there is a lot of good quality research out there that shows essential oils can be very effective at boosting the immune system; something that’s been known in one form or another for centuries. But it’s important that you source good quality oils and consult a qualified aromatherapist to get a blend and advice that’s right for you. I’d be wary of buying from an MLM unless the distributor can prove they’re qualified to work with oils.
So what’s the conclusion?
My advice would be to eat well, sleep well, cut down alcohol and tobacco, reduce your stressors, and move your body. The food you can buy in the market or the supermarket will go a long way to providing all the nutrients you need for a healthy immune system but you could well still need to supplement, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Get a good mix of different colours on your plate and eat healthy oils and fats like avocado, olive oil, hummus, etc and you’ve got your antioxidants right there. Add exercise and you’ll do even more, because it can:
- help flush bacteria from the lungs and airways
- circulate white blood cells and antibodies more rapidly so they can detect infections more quickly
- briefly increase body temperature above the maximum at which bacteria and viruses can survive
- slow the release of stress hormones
Plus exercise is a great way to be generally healthier. Cardiovascular health, muscular health, mental health, bone density, flexibility, stability, are all improved by exercise.
And if you want a supplement to make sure you get all the nutrients you need, as well as pre-biotics and pro-biotics for gut health, adaptogens for stress management, low GI stress protein, and antioxidants and phytonutrients to repair damage to cells and boost immunity, with every ingredient being only what your body recognises as food, let me know. If the micronutrient is not naturally occurring in the food ingredient, it’s not in this shake.
I’ll give you a hint. There is only one on the market.