Here is My Question:
I read that those with MS should not take supplements that support the immune system. Is this true?
The question of immune boosters in MS is a complicated one. On one hand, there is evidence that multiple sclerosis patients have and overactive immune system. In situations where there is a dysfunctional ramped-up immune system that results in damage to brain and spinal cord cells it is not recommended to do anything to boost that immune system further. In fact, boosting the immune system has the potential to make some disease modifying therapies less effective. In particular, we should be cautious with certain supplements. Herbal supplements such as echinacea, elderberry, andrographis, astragalus, DHEA, CoQ10, ginseng, and gingko biloba should generally be avoided. Certain mushroom products including shiitake, tremella, maitake, and turkey tail have been identified as having immune boosting properties so should not be consumed in large quantities when immune systems are in overdrive. Garlic consumed in large quantities, has been shown to prevent colds and flu in individuals with immune systems that are not compromised.
On the other hand, there are many activities and life style changes that are proven to promote a healthy immune system. Exercise can both boost and modulate in a normal behaviors our immune systems by enhancing production of certain regulatory cells. Exercise also improves mood, circulation, and respiratory function (essential in combating airborne illnesses such as colds and flu). Smoking is another factor to avoid. Smoking or vaping strips protective cells from our respiratory tract, which opens it to the chance of a virus or bacterial attack. Stress reduction plays a role in how our bodies are receptive to infection. Persons with lower stress levels are not nearly as prone to infection as those for whom stress or anxiety are a problem. Lastly, sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress reduction for helping arm us to fight illness.
Augusto A. Miravalle, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology, University of Colorado
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