A strong immune system is imperative in fighting cancer. In these days, the corona pandemia makes the question of optimal immune defence even more important.
Our immune systems are constantly defending us against unwanted micro-organisms.
The immune system also kills cells that have arisen by mistake, for example by abnormal cell division. Cancer, however, has ways of neutralizing the immune defenses.
In someone with cancer, the immune cells often fail to react to damaged DNA or mutations in the cancer cells. One reason for this is that the patient’s immune cells have developed alongside the cancer cells over a long period of time and appear to have become ‘blind’ to the harmful cancer cells. The cancer cells also create molecules that switch the immune cells off.
Front-line immune defense forces require supplies of vitamins such as B, C, D, E, and K, plus reinforcements provided by physical activity and absence of stress. A vitamin is a substance that the body requires but cannot manufacture itself. Vitamin D, ‘the sunshine vitamin,’ is very important for the immune system and is unusual in that the body can manufacture it using energy from sunlight. We receive 80-90% of our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. In countries with long, dark winters it may be necessary to take supplements or cod-liver oil during parts of the year.
One of the functions of vitamin D is to suppress unwanted cell division. It works as a bridge-builder, establishing connections between our cells. Cells that are linked together have less tendency to uninhibited cell division than cells that are unattached. Members of a ‘community’ of cells receive cautionary signals from their neighbors. An isolated cell receives fewer correcting signals and is more likely to start an uninhibited division.
So it is important to have enough vitamin D for its controlling effect on cell division and its stimulant effect on the immune system.
People in countries in high latitudes, such as Norway, have lower average levels of vitamin D as compared with countries that have sunshine during more months each year. Norway is also among the countries with high incidences of bowel cancer and breast cancer, and it has been suggested that there may be a causal relationship with vitamin D levels. Sunshine playing on your skin not only helps to synthesize vitamin D but also generates a hormone, beta-endorphin, that helps you to relax, dulls pain and kills newly generated cancer cells.
Vitamin C supports various cellular functions in the immune system and also has a powerful antioxidant effect. It also appears to increase the number and effectiveness of white blood cells, probably by its effect in regulating genes.
Vitamin C is already used in cancer treatment to enhance the effect of some cytotoxic anti-cancer drugs. Studies of liver cancer have shown a dramatic effect of vitamin C in restricting cancer cell growth and destroying liver cancer cells.
How you can do it
Make sure that you have the necessary vitamins, especially those that are important in building up your immune defences.
Sources of vitamins
Vitamin C: Fruit, especially citrus and kiwi fruit; berries such as strawberries, blackcurrants and rose-hips; paprika; broccoli; swede; spinach; tomato.
Vitamin D: Sunshine; fish; fish oils (including cod-liver oil).
Vitamin E: Walnuts; pine kernels; cloudberries; sunflower seeds; lingonberries; dandelion; paprika; almonds.
Vitamin K: The richest sources of vitamin K2 are liver and well-matured cheese. Vitamin K is also created by fermentation of vegetables, and fermented soya beans are a particularly good source of vitamin K2. Most of the studies referred to have used vitamin K in doses of up to 45 mg. per day. If you are taking anticoagulant drugs, it is important to check with your doctor whether it is safe to take extra vitamin K, because of its effect on blood clotting. At last, the micronutrients zink and selenium also appears to be important for an optimal immune function.