Multiple Sclerosis Community
9.17k Members
5840512 tn?1375230337

MS and Immune Stimulating Supplements

This may be completely wrong but since MS is thought to be caused by a malfunction with the immune system, could perhaps taking immune boosting supplements increase your risk?

Over the past 3 months I've been taking high doses of Vitamin A, B's, E, and Zinc among others on a daily basis, although the aforementioned primarily concern the immune system. I also for a month consumed pro-biotics for a month, basically healthy strains of bacteria and yeast that stimulate your immune system among other benefits. (I've ceased this regime)

Could super-charging your immune system in this way with dietary supplements make you further susceptible to develop this disease? I'm still doing research on autoimmune diseases and their causes, but I feel like this is a link or at least could put you at higher risk based on what I've been able to gather.

It seems to make sense given the nature of MS.

Does anyone have anything to add to this notion or am I just throwing darts?
16 Responses
751951 tn?1406636463
I am no expert, but I suspect you'll find that these things enhance only the immune systems' battle against outsiders.  Autoimmune disorders, on the other hand, involve the body attacking itself as if it were an invader.  There could be some significant differences in what does or doesn't enhance or inhibit those responses.   Of course, now I'm throwing darts.
1979418 tn?1432139041

I am no expert either, but agree with PastorDan...  the immune system working at its best isn't what causes the body to turn on itself.   I take many of the vitamins that you take and I use Acidophilus and Bifidus chewable too when I eat something that causes a reaction in my system.  

I do not take an immune suppressor DMD, I use copaxone.  But I also take LDN which promotes a healthy / balanced immune system and I have not had lesion progression.  

In most MS patients, there are low levels of B12 and Vit D, so not sure I would buy into the logic of too many vitamins leading to MS development.  

Where were you finding readings / theories about high vitamin levels leading to MS?   Curious to see what its based on.

Thanks for posting!

5112396 tn?1378021583
The following does not pertain to those who have tested low for certain vitamins and nutrients and are monitoring or supplimenting their intake as part of a doctor's orders...

There is no such thing as 'super-charging' one's immune system. To 'boost' it is a medically meaningless marketing phrase (and even that is being phased out by some in favour of the more modest 'supports a healthy immune system') The only thing getting boosted are manufacturers' bank balances.

What exactly are the claims? Because a well functioning immune system (both the 'innate' and 'adaptive' components) works by doing a lot of things we don't find desirable but help us out. A fever is an immune response. Inflammation? An immune response. That runny nose you get when you have a cold? That's not the cold virus itself, rather a product of the immune system and how it's fighting the virus. If nothing's gone haywire, none of these are bad things, just nuisances.

However, in MS and other autoimmune diseases, something *has* gone haywire. If any of those products worked to 'boost the immune system' (once they agreed on what on earth that claim actually meant) they'd need to have a warning for people with autoimmume diseases. In MS, symptoms are caused by inflammation in the central nervous system. So while they  *think* they're telling me 'You won't get a cold when you take this!' when they make the 'boost' claim, I'm thinking 'Oh really? Either you're lying about its function or you seriously want me to take something that may cause me to wake up tomorrow blind or unable to properly move. No thanks!'

The problem is the FDA doesn't have robust legislation covering the claims of supplements and herbs. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 is pretty toothless. It's an annual multibillion dollar industry that has little oversight (yet is somehow supposed to be less worrisome than Pharma, which does).

So, seriously; take that stuff if it helps you feel agency over something you're concerned about, but if it's to actually cause a certain physical outcome, save your money.
572651 tn?1531002957
thank you, Immesceo, for saving me the time to say the same thing.  All these supplements are  making lots of people rich without doing much for the consumer, as it has been recently shown.  

There needs to be regulatory change in the US to cover these vitamins, health bars, and booster drinks, in addition to all the other products being sold.  Right now, they can say anything they want - pharma can't do that, so why should these manufacturers?   Sorry, getting a bit worked up here.

If I remember correctly, you would not want to take mega-doses of Vit C because it stimulates the immune system.  The same would correlate for any other things that supposedly stimulate it as well.

There is a very good reason why our doctors want to know what pills we are taking, including vitamins and supplements.  If you decide to add something to your regimen, be sure to share that information.
5840512 tn?1375230337
immisceo, I suppose by boost, they would mean the ability for the immune system to ward off disease, so like someone with HIV who drops below a certain level of lymphocytes is considered with regard to the immune system impaired, so it would make sense to say something that generates additional amounts of T and B-cells as an enhancement.

From what I've been reading, there is a baseline and once you've reached that point, there's no going up, yet there seems to be research saying that nutritionally compromised people can improve their immunity to disease by supplementing those deficits.

In other words, the "boosting" effect only works on those who already have a weak immune system and that although strengthening it is possible, you can't go beyond an optimal point.  

I guess that would raise debate as to what is the optimal point? Does everyone have the same "baseline"?

I still think these supplements are suspicious and that if their is a known risk for developing an autoimmune disease, they wouldn't include it in their advertisements.

So while boosting a healthy immune system is a medically meaningless claim, vitamin poisoning is real and so I think there could still be a link, maybe that link doesn't have to do with "supporting" or "stimulating", but it could have to do with how these supplements "tinker" and fiddle with the system.

I think we seem to all agree that these products are not worth it though, either financially speaking or physically speaking.
751951 tn?1406636463
Well, as immisceo said, there are exceptions; rereading this threadjust now reminded me it's Friday night, time to take one of my Mega D3 gelcaps.  Doc's orders; I did test low fir D.
987762 tn?1331031553
Well theoretically, having your individual immune system functioning at its optimal level is what everyone should have, but if your immune system is malfunctioning, inactive or over active, then supplements (in my humble opinion) are no better than throwing a thimble of water on a Forrest fire.  If your asking if there is a preventative immune 'boosting' supplement to ward off autoimmune conditions then i'd say no!

Key word being autoimmune and what causes a persons immune system to malfunction isn't exactly known, sort of makes it hard to prevent anything when there is an unknown causation. If a person is low in Iron, vid B, C, D etc then taking a supplement, will often get their readings into normal levels but it still doesn't do anything to prevent it, the why is missing.

Many autoimmune disorders run in families, and not necessarily the same autoimmune disorders but if there is a genetic factor at play, boosting or tweaking  with supplements just can't prevent or fix it. hmmmm Long before MS got on the radar, "an over active immune response" was my normal, a dr blurb commonly stated but I wanted to know the why. lol My questions only created what I call the probably dx's........"its probably x" but the probably never was true and so it went until MS got to the top of my list.

I kind of think its not so bad when my immune system actually has something to attack, its when it's eradicated the invader and it keeps on attacking what it shouldn't, now that is the real kicker.  err over active immune response could in a way, mean its working toooo well lol so feeding it an invader to nibble 24/7 instead of mayleene would actually be of help, maybe? lol common cold anyone? :o)

Avatar universal
My chiropractor told me I should take an Immune supplement.   They were quite expensive and also came with a spray that was pretty expensive.  She seems to think she can get me off all my pain meds if I follow this plan!  I actually have only had one episode 5 years ago so they are calling it Transverse Myelitis with suspect of MS.  So I posted it on my TM group and they said that anyone with an autoimmune disease SHOULD NOT TAKE AN IMMUNE SUPPLEMENT!  doe anyone know if that is true or not?
1734735 tn?1413781671
Denise there seems to be excellent advice above about the lack of wisdom and efficacy of taking immune supplements to 'boost' our systems that are already over active and attacking us as a result of MS.

Sorry but your chiro is having a lend of your wallet.

If you do want to spend money I will be controversial and recommend an immune suppressant. I believe research shows omega3 in the form of fish oil initially then followed by flaxseed oil to have a dampening effect on our immune system.  It works by sending a chemical message to our immune cell army generals to stop fighting which in turn then flows on to our immune cell army. Of course changing this behaviour or habit takes time. I take two tablespoons of flaxseed oil in fresh orange juice per day at a cost of about  $35 per month.  

Telling the immune system to stop fighting is one thing but stopping or reducing the unnecessary reasons for the fighting in the first place is another. Our gut forms the biggest part of our immune system and mine is constantly at war because of dodgy digestion. I've given up gluten which has definitely helped but I still know that I'm lacking in the way my body processes good food. I've tried probiotics to no avail. A  discovery recently that I'm trialling based on 2011 MS research on mice has been taking 3mg per day of N-Acelytelene Glucosamine (NAG) to aid my dodgy digestion. It's early days but I notice an improvement in back office production. The cost of this is $60 per month.

I also take daily vitamin D and B.

Whenever I flush the loo I give a little salute, not for the money I've just lost, but for how good I feel after 2 years. Ok I'm certainly not cured but then I've not progressed either.


667078 tn?1316004535
Everyone of us different and reacts differently to supplements. I was taking  immune boosters for chronic Mononucleosis.  My Neurologist was concerned what I was taking might make my immune system more active. I think following a well balanced diet and doing some exercise is the beast thing I can do.

I have been given all kinds of ideas by all kinds of practioners. I tend to be skeptical. I listen to my gut. If something just does not sit right with me I don't do it.

1831849 tn?1383231992
I agree with Alex. I try to position my body for the battle with MS by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. Given that our immune systems are out of whack, I'm not sure I want mine out of whack and in overdrive :-)

198419 tn?1360245956
I try to balance. What I'm not getting in my food, I take a multi (not always faithful to them). I prefer a childrens chewable.

I too feel from what I've read that anything claiming to boost the immune system would do anyone w/an autoimmune disease or condition a disservice. With the thought that it's our overactive immune system that went haywire in the first place..then why kick it up a notch, etc.

Now there will be those on each side of the fence with varying opinions and experiences.

I personally do not feel that supplementing is a waste of time, but do feel it's important to know what you are taking, what you are deficient in prior to adding on. A good regular doctor will help out with this. Regulation is not the answer, geesh, that's all we need is someone telling us what vitamins to take lol

I find in my circles it's more common to supplement, then to get it all out of a balanced diet. Especially those w/a hectic lifestyle.

So, juicing, health shakes, it's my opinion that they are good natural ways to find balance. Just my opinion of course, but I do base it on how I'm feeling. So, when I slack off on those foods that make me feel good, I start feeling badly in general. Nothing bad MS related, just general unwell from too much sugar, processed junk food, etc.

Good luck finding your balance. When in doubt, speak to your general MD for advice too.
Have an Answer?
Top Neurology Answerers
987762 tn?1331031553
5265383 tn?1483811956
1756321 tn?1547098925
Queensland, Australia
1780921 tn?1499305393
Queen Creek, AZ
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Find out how beta-blocker eye drops show promising results for acute migraine relief.
In this special Missouri Medicine report, doctors examine advances in diagnosis and treatment of this devastating and costly neurodegenerative disease.
Here are 12 simple – and fun! – ways to boost your brainpower.
Discover some of the causes of dizziness and how to treat it.
Discover the common causes of headaches and how to treat headache pain.
Two of the largest studies on Alzheimer’s have yielded new clues about the disease