Weakened Immune System

Weakened Immune System: Overview

Do you catch colds and viruses often?  Are you sick a lot?  Do you have allergies?  Are you run down and fatigued most of the time?  You may have a weak immune system.

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Did you ever notice how some people catch everything and others are never sick and always full of energy?  Different people have different immune systems.  Our immune system is how we fight off infections, germs and cancer.  Sometimes the immune system does not work properly, as with immunodeficiency disorders.  These people are extremely susceptible to infection and cancer.

The immune system is highly complex and important to our well-being.  A strong and balanced immune system is required for health maintenance.  Using natural agents, it is possible to help restore an immune system imbalance or weakness.

Inside of a blood vessel showing neutrophils and red blood cells
Neutrophils patrol the body's blood vessels, seeking out infection

The immune system is composed of many interdependent cell types that collectively protect the body from bacterial, parasitic, fungal and viral infections, as well as from the growth of tumor cells.  Many of these cell types have specialized functions.  The cells of the immune system can engulf bacteria, kill parasites or tumor cells, or kill virus-infected cells.  These cells often depend on the T-helper subset for activation signals in the form of secretions formally known as cytokines, lymphokines, or more specifically interleukins.  A shift in cytokine balance can result in many serious disorders.

Our blood consists mainly of plasma and red blood cells, but also platelets and white blood cells (also called leukocytes or just WBC).  White blood cells make up the main part of our immune system, protecting the body against disease-causing organisms and fighting off infection.  There are 5 main types of WBC, all of which can be tested for in a laboratory:

  • Lymphocytes (B-cells and T-cells).  The CD4 T-cell or "helper cell" acts to control and direct the immune response by controlling all the other immune cells.
  • Monocytes are the largest type of WBC and become macrophages when they enter tissue from the bloodstream.  Macrophages surround and kill microorganisms, ingest foreign material, remove dead cells, and boost immune responses.
  • Neutrophils make up 40-75% of white blood cells and are the first to react to foreign bodies.
  • Basophils are the least common type of white blood cell, making up only 0.5-1%.  They are known as granulocytes because they contain granules (small particles) that are released during parasitic infections and allergic reactions, causing an inflammatory response.
  • Eosinophils make up 1-6% of white blood cells and are similar to basophils.  They help fight certain parasites, infections, allergens and cancers.

Diagnosis of a weakened immune system is vital because impaired immune response can pose serious threats to health.  With the increasing resistance of pathogens to current antibiotics and anti-fungal medications, the impact of a weak immune system has taken on added significance.  Likewise, the daily immune challenges in the face of a more environmentally toxic world have intensified the need for maintaining optimal immune function.

Causes and Development

Immune responses can be depressed by various external influences including emotional stress, physical stressors such as inadequate sleep or athletic overtraining, environmental and occupational chemical exposure, UV and other types of radiation, common viral or bacterial infections, certain drug therapies, blood transfusions and surgery.  Dietary habits also have an impact on immune response.  Excessive fat, alcohol or refined sugar consumption or inadequate protein, calorie, vitamin, mineral or water intake fosters decreased immune performance as well.  In addition, the biological state of aging counteracts immune function, particularly after age of 40.

HIV virus entering a CD4 cell (or T-cell)
HIV virus (orange) attacks the immune system by entering CD4 cells (T-cells), replicating, and destroying the host cell

Immune deficiencies are also attributed to acquired infections or diseases that target the immune system, such as AIDS, while others, particularly primary immunodeficiency diseases, are often due to genetic abnormalities.  Not all primary immunodeficiency diseases are genetically determined, however.  Some occur without a known cause.  One of the most frequent immunodeficiency diseases, Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID), which includes hypogammaglobulinemia, adult-onset agammaglobulinemia, late-onset hypogammaglobulinemia and acquired agammaglobulinemia, usually occurs sporadically and has no clear pattern of inheritance.

Chronic and acute mobilization of immune defenses, induced by a variety of diseases and conditions, places undue stress on the immune system, weakening its capacity to deal effectively with infectious organisms and other immunological requirements elsewhere in the body.  Such conditions include, but are not limited to, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders in general, primary chronic polyarthritis, chronic candidiasis, cancer, neurodermatitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, food and other allergies, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and chemical sensitivities.

Nutrient deficiency is a well-known cause of immune system malfunction.  It has recently been demonstrated in an animal species is that nutrient deficiency in one generation can affect immune function in succeeding generations, even if they're not nutrient deficient.  In that experiment pregnant mice were given a zinc-deficient diet.  Their offspring had defective immune function, even though they and their mothers were fed a zinc-adequate diet as soon as they were born.  Second and third generations of mice also had defective immune system function (although less severe), all while maintaining a zinc-adequate diet.  "This study", the researchers said, "has important implications for public health and human welfare, as the consequences of fetal impoverishment may persist despite generations of nutritional supplementation. Dietary supplementation beyond the levels considered adequate might allow for more rapid or complete restoration of immunocompetence".

Put another way, it is possible that immune system defects suffered by you (including over-reactivity to foods) could be due to nutrient deficiencies suffered by your mother in the months before you were born.  It is also possible that diet supplementation (vitamins, minerals, and so on) above the usual levels might aid in a more rapid recovery.

Signs and Symptoms

Because immune deficiency does not always present itself in clear patterns, faulty immune function and its specific underlying cause often elude detection.

Impaired immune function manifests in countless ways and varying degrees.  It can exist as a genetic or acquired immunodeficiency, or as a transient or permanent state of depressed immune function due to other factors.  In either case, the level of reduced immunocompetence – the body's ability to respond to pathogenic organisms, tumors or tissue damage – is dependent on the nature of the condition, which components of the immune system are affected and to what extent.

Treatment and Prevention

General ways to enhance your immune system include being breastfed as a baby, exercising sufficiently but not excessively, stress management, avoiding food and other allergens, and being well-nourished; supplements such as TMG, zinc, vitamin C and other antioxidants; hormones such as HGH (human growth hormone – can be used homeopathically) and DHEA; colloidal silver, and l-arginine.

A high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement (especially B6, B12, folate, pantothenic acid, C, zinc, selenium, chromium, and manganese) can be an important starting point.  Some are available with thymus extracts in them.

Phytonutrients or foods can be used such as garlic, B-1,3-D glucan, olive leaf (extract), echinacea, ginseng, astragalus, goldenseal, lemon balm, modified citrus pectin, carnivora (venus fly trap), some mushrooms and plant sterols.  Animal-based preparations include thymus proteins, lactoferrin and shark liver oil.  Anecdotal evidence supports the use of Bob Beck type electrical devices such as the magnetic pulser and 'Black Box' or Zapper.

There are natural ways we can strengthen our immune system.  Some of these ways are listed here:

  • Get plenty of sleep and rest, the body rejuvenates and strengthens when it is at rest.  Many people like to think they can function just fine on 5 to 7 hours a night, but the truth is, we require at least 8 to 10 hours per night.
  • Cut down worry and learn to de-stress, there are studies that prove that stress and depression effect the body physically and can even weaken the immune system.
  • Eat a well balanced diet, don't skip meals.  The four food groups have everything our bodies need to thrive.  Learn the vitamins in your food and get a good dose of each one.
  • Always take a multivitamin, learn what your body is lacking.  Ask your doctor what vitamins and minerals you should increase for your age.  For example, women need extra calcium.  We need extra folic acid as well.
  • Have a regular exercise regimen.  Exercise makes our body stronger, increase circulation of blood and nutrients, and helps flush the body of toxins.
  • Drink plenty of water, this helps flush the body of toxins and keeps you well hydrated.
  • Eat foods with high antioxidant levels.  Antioxidants are vitamins in your diet that can reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases and can give your immune system a boost.  Eat a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are excellent sources of antioxidants.  Antioxidant vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene.  Food sources include: fruits and vegetables, dairy products, melons, berries, dark greens, whole grains, dairy and meats (high protein).

There are things we can do to strengthen our immune system.  Start today for a healthier you!


A weak or deficient immune system can lead to dysfunctions such as autoimmune diseases (including allergies) and tumor growth.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Weakened Immune System:

Lab Values - Cells

Symptoms - Head - Mouth/Oral

(Heavily) coated tongue

White tongues can be found in people with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms - Immune System

Symptoms - Metabolic

Frequent colds/flus

Lowered immune function may result in an increase in acute illnesses such as colds and the flu, but over time it also may contribute to the development of chronic disease.


Symptoms - Respiratory

Conditions that suggest Weakened Immune System:


West Nile Virus

Anything that suppresses the immune system, such as AIDS, chemotherapy or organ transplantation, can make people more susceptible to West Nile virus.

Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles is also more common in people with weakened immune systems from HIV infection, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, transplant operations and stress.

Boils, Abscesses, Carbuncles

Diseases that are associated with deficiencies in the normal immune system can increase the tendency to develop boils.

Blastocystosis (Blastocystis hominis)

In a person with poor digestion or weakened immune response, blastocystis can produce a host of symptoms which appear to come and go and are very unpredictable.

Yeast / Candida Infection

Candidiasis is more common and severe in individuals with weakened immune systems.  Any condition that results in a weakened immune system can cause Candida proliferation.  Common causes of immune deficiency are AIDS and cancer.


Babesiosis occurs most often in the elderly or in people who already have a problem with their immune system.

Lab Values


Rheumatoid Arthritis

People with rheumatoid arthritis, who for a long time were thought to have overactive immune systems, instead may have exhausted immune systems.  A study at the Mayo Clinic has shown for the first time that patients with rheumatoid arthritis have prematurely aged immune systems.  Patients 20 to 30 years old had a collection of T-cells that looked like they belonged to 50 to 60 year olds.



People whose immune systems are suppressed, such as those with AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy, are more susceptible to pneumonia.



The immune system creates antibodies to help destroy viruses that enter the body, such as HPV which causes warts.  A weakened immune system is less successful at preventing warts.


An immune system that is weakened, for example by chemotherapy or AIDS, is less able to fight off the effects of the sun radiation.

Symptoms - Female

Tumors, Malignant

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is more common among people with inherited immune deficiencies, autoimmune diseases, or HIV/AIDS, and among people taking immunosuppressant drugs following organ transplants.

Small Intestine Cancer

Lymphoma of the small intestine is strongly associated with a weakened immune system such as occurs with AIDS.

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Risk factors for Weakened Immune System:


Cigarette Smoke Damage

Smoking can lead to a weakened immune system, making colds, flus, and many other ordinary illnesses worse than otherwise.


Allergy to Foods (Hidden)

Food allergies divert some of the immune system's resources away from preventing and dealing with illness.  Thus, continuous consumption of a food which is causing symptoms weakens your immune system.  A weakened immune system enables infections and cancerous growths to develop and take hold.  Many patients report that they suffer from more than one symptom or illness when reintroducing a known food allergen into their diet after a period of abstinence.

Drug Side-Effect

Environment / Toxicity

Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)

In vitro studies suggest that even low, environmentally relevant exposure levels of mercury, which are not toxic, still contribute to immune dysfunction by interfering with proper lymphocyte functioning. [Scand J Immunol 50(3): pp.233-41]


Low Adrenal Function / Adrenal Insufficiency

Adrenal insufficiency can lead to a host of problems, including a weakened immune response, anxiety and panic attacks.


The Effects Of Overtraining

Cortisol, which is a hormone emitted by the adrenal gland during periods of physical stress, has an immunosuppressive effect: high performance athletes have chronically lowered immune systems.  The high level of training leaves their immune systems frequently depressed so that, for example, if a group of athletes is training together, a flu bug will rapidly make its way around.  It is said that, in immunological terms, high-performance athletes are some of the least healthy people around.


Medical Procedures

Tonsils/adenoids out after/tonsils/adenoids out before age 20

The tonsils are part of the immune system and create antibodies (immunoglobulins) that help build immunity against infectious disease.  They also create T- and B-lymphocytes ("T cells" and "B cells"), which play important roles in the immune response.



Studies show that stress and depression affect the body physically and can weaken the immune system.  Suppressor-T cells, also known as CD8 cells, are part of the immune system.  Studies by Manuck et al in 1991 showed that psychological stressors induced cell division among CD8 cells, thereby increasing the number of CD8 cells and suppressing immune function.  However, this response was only seen in those subjects who also showed high heart rate change and catecholamine change during the stressors i.e. those people who are significantly affected by stress.


Zinc Requirement

Zinc deficiency weakens the immune system.

Supplementation Need

Inadequate vitamin and mineral intake has been associated with immune deficiency and improper energy metabolism.  It appears that most immune system dysfunction actually results from a vitamin and/or mineral deficiency rather than protein deficiency.

Vitamin B12 Requirement

Impaired white blood cells response can be a sign of B12 deficiency.

Organ Health

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis can cause immune system dysfunction leading to infection.

Supplements, Medications, Drugs

Prednisone use

A side-effect of treatment with prednisone can be an increased susceptibility to infection.  Prednisone must be used cautiously by HIV-positive individuals because this drug is immunosuppressive and can increase the risk of contracting opportunistic infections.

Symptoms - Female

Weakened Immune System can lead to:

Tumors, Malignant

Cervical Cancer

A primary risk factor for cervical cancer is a weakened immune system.  Since infection with HIV, for example, damages the immune system, being HIV-positive makes women more susceptible to HPV infection and cervical cancer.

Recommendations for Weakened Immune System:

Botanical / Herbal

Elderberry / Sambucol

Although viruses can not be treated with antibiotics, which are effective only against bacteria, the body's immune system has many natural defenses against virus infections.  Infected cells produce interferons and other cytokines (soluble components that are largely responsible for regulating the immune response to viruses), which can signal adjacent uninfected cells to mount their defenses, enabling uninfected cells to impair virus replication.  Elderberry stimulates favorable cytokine production. [Eur Cytokine Netw 2001 Apr-Jun; 12(2): pp.290-6]

Shiitake Mushrooms

It is believed that shiitake mushrooms stimulate immune function.


Sugar Avoidance / Reduction

Sugars have a depressive effect on the immune system.

Therapeutic Fasting

Research at the University of Southern California published in June, 2014 suggests that a person's entire immune system can be rejuvenated by fasting for as little as three days.  Fasting appears to trigger the production of new white blood cells, which fight off infection.  Fasting not only forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat, but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells – many of which may be damaged or old.  This in turn "flips a regenerative switch" that prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells.

Raw Food Diet

Uncooked food is a necessary prerequisite for an intact immune system.  The therapeutic effect is complex, and a variety of influences of raw food on the immune system have been documented.  Such effects include antibiotic, anti-allergic, tumor-protective, immune modulating and anti-inflammatory actions.  In view of this, uncooked food can be seen as a useful adjunct in the treatment of an altered or weakened immune system. [ Fortschr Med 1990 Jun 10;108(17): pp.338-40 (German)]



Melatonin is an immune system enhancer and modulator.


Laboratory Testing

Test Zinc Levels

Normal zinc levels are required for a strong immune system.


Physical Medicine


Medical students at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who were massaged showed a significant increase in white blood cells and natural killer cell activity, suggesting a benefit to the immune system.



Lycopene supplementation has been found to boost immune function in the elderly.  In one trial, 15mg of lycopene per day increased natural killer cell activity by 28% in 12 weeks. [Proc Nutr Soc 1998;57:3A (abstr)]


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