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What really does help the immune system?

JanJan63's picture
Posts: 2482
Joined: Sep 2014

There's been lots of talk about it and there are plenty of articles on Facebook but I'm wondering if anyone has weeded out what actually works and what doesn't.

I'm back on the chemo that I got sepsis while I was on last time. I'm taking antibiotics to prevent that happening again but I'd like to help my immune system as much as I can as well. My colon is really irritated and it's makng life pretty unpleasant. When it's irritated it seeps out liquid all the time and I'm scared to leave the house. I also get very little sleep because I get up about every hour to empty it or I'll have an accident. So I feel like some help with my immune system would be a good thing. I've had this before and my surgeon says it's not unusual. My last CT showed swollen soft tissue in the area. So I'm not worried that it's happening, I just wish it would stop.

I don't know if boosting my immune system would help but it can't hurt.

Thank you!


peterz54's picture
Posts: 345
Joined: Feb 2012


A lot of research on the gut microbiome in recent years indicates that a healthy bacterial population in the large intestine supports overall health including immune function.  The Sonnenburg lab (Stanford) among others suggest that we need to make sure we're getting plenty of natural fiber in our diet to feed these beneficial bacteria.  This fiber will come from vegetables.   When taking antibiotics it might be wise to take a quality probiotic at the same time.  One very potent brand that's been tested and used in clinical settings is VSL#3.

In recent days, a study was released which showed that elderly people could greatly improve their immune function with exercise.  Seperate studies with cancer patients indicates that exercise helps with outcome.

Vitamin D might be helpful (per studies).   Many people are lower than optimum.  Taking 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day usually gets people above the minimum 30 ng/ml,

Not sure you're able to make dietary changes towards more fiber, but the probiotcs and probiotic foods (fermented foods) should be doable along with Vit D. 


PS   If you're up to it here is a recent public talk by Erica Sonnenburg of Stanford on the gut microbiome.  Lot's of good information.




ThomasH's picture
Posts: 104
Joined: Jun 2016

If experience has any influence for you, I have have remained relatively unscathed while working with people who have had colds and infections bad enough to turn into pnemonia. 

Everyone in my family have come down with caughs and colds, and I have not had anything.



I also take my zinc, and probiotics as well. I look for probiotics that have to be refrigerated (live culture) and ones that have the highest variety of strains. Variety is good.


My results, so far so good,


Posts: 163
Joined: Apr 2017

I have been drinking lots of Kombucha tea lately, supposed to be good for the immune system, and has lots of bacteria strains to help the gut microbiome.  You can get this in any grocery store, Whole Foods, etc.. 

JanJan63's picture
Posts: 2482
Joined: Sep 2014

Thanks for the suggestions! I do have trouble with eating vegetables due to partial blockages. There's only certain ones I can eat. I'll check into the probiotic choices, thank you. I'll also look up the Kombucha tea. I already take vitamin D so that's good. 

My chemo is supposed to be telling my immune system to attack my mets so it's likely a good idea to help it along in the battle.


ron50's picture
Posts: 1729
Joined: Nov 2001

I would survive if my  immune system got any stronger. It has already caused quite a bit of damage by attacking my kidneys , liver , joints and possibly my heart. Cyclosporine is one of the most powerful immuno-suppressants available. I have to take it twice a day to survive but then it leaves me wide open to all manner of viruses and cancers. Immunology is definitely the science of being between a rock and a hard place. Ron.

JanJan63's picture
Posts: 2482
Joined: Sep 2014

Oh geez Ron, that's horrible! I think you're one of the toughest people I know.


Posts: 38
Joined: Feb 2018

Hi Jan, you are very strong and a survivor.  We are all in different health situations, with different challenges so there is no easy answer.  However, it is a very good question you ask, as the immune systen is critical to improving ones health circumstances.  For example, many people don't realize just how important the immune system is, for example, those with compromised immune systems, such as HIV positive individuals, sadly do terribily, statistically, when they are hit with a cancer diagnosis.  Just the opposite is true of individuals fighting cancer, with strong immune systems.  Personally I have been battling stage 4 colon cancer for over 9 years, and my oncologist states the only reason I have done so well, compared to many, is that I have a strong immune system which to at least a limited extent is fighting the cancer cells.

As we are all in different circumstances, for example some are on blood thinners that restrict vitamin K, or compromised digestive systems, everyone needs to develop there own approach-- but I think I can touch on a few things in my own opinion that can really help.  I can honestly state despite have stage4 colon cancer for over 9 years, I have yet to have a cold or flu, which is rather amazing.  So, I must be doing something right.  Here are a few suggestions for everyone:

1.  Boost your immune system as much as possible with natural sunshine.  I know some people live in cold climates or are prone to skin cancer, but the benefits are so huge you really need to do your best to get as much natural sunshine as possible.  What is wrong with vitamin D supplements?  This is a bit of a mystery to me, but there my be a paradox where they actually do more harm then good.  I know for a fact with myself, that they lower my potassium levels, and I just don't notice any positive results no matter how much vitamin D I take in supplement form.  Getting vitamin D from sunshine however, is one of the best things I do for my own health, and I can notice a difference right away after being in the sun.

2.  While supplements are sometimes, beneficial, if you have a deficiency, I really don't think there is better medicine then food.  Do you best, to get as many vegetables as possible, given your personal health circumstances at hand.  Load up if possible on things like spinach, kale, and healthy fats like avocados, salmon, and nuts.  I'm also a big fan of coffee in the morning if your digestive system can handle it.

3.  Believe me, I understand how difficult exercise can be for some of us.  However, the more you can do, the better you will feel, and it boosts the immune system.  It is especially helpful for issues like constipation.

4.  Do your best to keep a positive attitude, lower stress, consider breathing and meditation techniques, and I'm a big believer in therapy dogs, for the right people who have the time.

5.  Some people get a benefit out of medical marijuana.  This is something I've never tried, but I am very open minded about it.  As it lowers stress and anxiety for many people, it probably has at a minimum an indirect way of helping the immune system by lowering stress hormones for some individuals.  But, this is just my gut instinct.

These are just a few thoughts, however, one of the single best things that has helped me, is I tell myself, 'I am going to be more healthy tomorrow then I was today.'  It is a small but realistic goal that really can get you going in the right direction.  Take care.   

tanstaafl's picture
Posts: 1302
Joined: Oct 2010

Improved immune function can be tackled on several different levels like traditional immune modulating supplements, anti-inflammatories and human cell energetics.  Some immmune modulators that we have used are: PSK and PSP, Biothera WGP (a special yeast extract), high strength mushroom extracts of reishi, maitake and shiitake mushrooms;  modified citrus pectin; along with the high dose C and D3. Cimetidine too. 

Based on experience, it is a major position of the megavitamin C doctors that high dose vitamin C reduces the quantity, type, and time needed for antibioitics to perform. A number of CRC patients have not reached normal to target levels of vitamin D without D3 supplements in the 10,000 -20,000 iu per day range.

The latest in sepsis surival and recovery now recognizes IV vitamin C, with hydrocrtisone and thiamine as important survival factors. I almost have to laugh at the still low doses of injectable vitamin C that they used in the recent studies, inherently dragging out recovery for the majority of patients that can handle genuinely high dose vitamin C, like 50-100 grams per infusion.  For a sick patient like you they might do 2-3 infusions each day, the first 2-3 days for fastest results.    The IV vitamin C doctors used IV C on septic or surgical patients that were written off by their regular doctors, with fast results.

Although I think sunshine is important, colorectals often have problems that practically require D3 supplementation.  The big vitamin D3 supporters think vitamin D3 problems are most often related to vitamin K2 and magnesium deficiencies; calcium and/or vitamin A excesses; or vitamin D2 instead of D3.

JanJan63's picture
Posts: 2482
Joined: Sep 2014

Thank you both! Let's see... this chemo makes me very sun sensitive so sunshine is out, I can eat only a certain few vegetables due to my ostomy and strictures in my bowels because I get partial blockages, last one was from spinach, which I love, I take vitamin C, D, and B supplements, and I just ordered two cannabis products. That about covers it, I think. My husband makes sure I have as stress free a life as possible. He takes care of all responsibilities and looks fater me very well. 

I guess I have it all covered as well as I can.


beaumontdave's picture
Posts: 1170
Joined: Aug 2013

Where you are sunshine exposure could be lacking which leads to both vitamin D deficiency and mood disorders, which both hurt immune function. Along with the suppliments and probiotics, have you considered one of the artificial sun lamps that replace sun exposure?.................................................Dave

JanJan63's picture
Posts: 2482
Joined: Sep 2014

I wonder if they're safe, I'll check into that Dave, thanks! Yeah, we don't get much sun here in the winter. Some of the sunniest days are the coldest, oddly enough, so I'm not out in that. And, yes, seasonal depression can be an issue here.

I see my onc this afternoon so I'll ask her about it. 


Posts: 17
Joined: Sep 2017

Hi Jan, I’ve tried the following supplements with my mother who is 79 and has colon cancer. her neutrophils have never

dropped lower than 1.8. Currently they are 4.8 and she has had 11 rounds of chemo; graviola (I get the

powder and put them into capsules myself), liposomal Vitamin C, curcumin and betaglucan (immiflex). We also eat and drink a lot

of fermented foods/drinks: kombucha, Keifer, Sauerkraut, kimchi and apple cider vinegar. If I had to pick one only I would go with the graviola to keep the white blood cells up! Best of luck x


JanJan63's picture
Posts: 2482
Joined: Sep 2014

Thank you! I'll check into that. I know I couldn't do those foods or drinks, though, my appetite is almost nonexistant and anything strong flavoured makes me gag.


OzarkGal's picture
Posts: 41
Joined: Oct 2017

Lack of sleep can seriously impact the immune system.  Have you talked to your doctor about not getting sleep because of frequent filling of your bag? 

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