As the school year gets into full swing, and we draw ever closer to the dreaded “cold and flu season” many people look for ways to support their immune system. At Thrive Chiropractic, we use a protocol, called The Schaefer Protocol, to promote health from within. In this multi-part series, I will discuss the various elements of the Schaefer Protocol and how they support healthy immune system function.
Omega 3’s & Immune Function
It is important to understand that Omega-3 fatty acids are considered an essential nutrient, meaning our bodies do not make it, so we must get it through out diet. Unfortunately the Standard American Diet (SAD) typically contains an imbalanced ratio of Omega-3’s to Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are known to cause an increase in inflammation in the body, which points to the increase in immune related problems such as asthma and allergies.
In a study published in January of 2014, researchers Ian A. Myles, et al. wanted to determine the impact a higher intake of Omega-3 fatty acids had on immune modulation compared to the traditional western diet, which is high in Omega-6 fatty acids. What they found was that when parents had a higher intake of Omega-3, their offspring had changes to gut bacteria as well as enhanced anti-inflammatory markers.
The benefits of a diet higher in Omega-3 go far beyond immune system function, but since that is our focus in this post, here are two scientific studies showing the impact of Omega-3 on the immune system. The first study found that children where 30% less likely to develop Asthma if their mom took 2-4 grams of DHA (one form of Omega-3) during pregnancy, as compared to children whose mom’s did not supplement Omega-3. (Bisgaard H, et al. N Engl J Med. 2016. 375(26): p. 2530–9.)
Similarly, the second study found when women took 4 grams of EPA (another form of Omega-3) and DHA during pregnancy, their children were less likely to develop symptoms of asthma compared to children whose mom did not take Omega-3. (Hansen S, et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2017. 139(1): p. 104 -111.)
Vitamin D & Immune Function
Vitamin D3 is an essential nutrient for immune function. It pairs well with Omega-3 because it is a fat soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in fat and our body processes it through our dietary fat. While our body produces Vitamin D3 through sun exposure, even here in sunny Florida, we tend to not get enough sun consistently to maintain sufficient levels year round. Low levels of Vitamin D in the blood are commonly seen especially during the Winter months.
Because we can easily become deficient in Vitamin D3, it is one essential nutrient we recommend patients supplement. There are multiple studies showing the benefit of Vitamin D3 supplementation in relation to immune function.
A 3 year study by Aloia, et al, published in 2007 in Epidemiology and Infection, found that just 800 International Units (IU) per day of Vitamin D3 reduced incidence of cold and flu by 70%. When the amount was increased to 2000 IU/day, the incidence was reduced by almost 100%! How many of you would love to stay well during “cold and flu season”?
In a similar study, Von Essen, et al, found people were less likely to report respiratory illness when they regularly supplemented Vitamin D3.
Those of you with children will love the next study! In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they found children supplementing 1200 IU of Vitamin D3 per day had a reduction of incidences of cold and flu by 42%. According to the authors: “This study suggests that vitamin D3 supplementation during the winter may reduce the incidence of influenza A, especially in specific subgroups of schoolchildren.” I don’t know about you, but having to make arrangements at your place of work when you have a sick child can be frustrating! Just a bit of Vitamin D each day will help prevent that!
The final piece of research I want to share with you points to the importance of preconception health and supplementing Vitamin D throughout pregnancy. Wolsk, et al, found that when mom’s supplemented Vitamin D3 throughout pregnancy it had an impact on their children by reducing the incidence of respiratory problems up to age 3! Many new parents are concerned about their child getting RSV or other repsiratory illnesses in the first few years, but that concern can be prevented!
The purpose of this blog post is to be a starting place. I cannot make specific recommendations, but if you are interested in more information, leave a comment or send an email to [email protected]