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Focus On Immunity and Increasing Vaccine Efficacy

Talking about vaccines has become akin to talking about religion and politics and it is by no means a black and white issue. I support people regardless of their choice. The following information gives you some tips on how to increase the effectiveness of your vaccine, particularly covid vaccines, and I’ve included some scientific explanations for those who like them and written it to be skim read friendly for those who don’t.

Vaccine efficacy is influenced by the strength of your immune system. Much like immunity acquired through primary infection, vaccination exposes the body to antigens that mimic disease-causing pathogens, stimulating an adaptive immune response, antibody production and subsequent memory of the antigen without causing disease. Both T cells and B cells are essential to this process, necessary for inducing high-affinity antibodies and immune memory, directly contributing to protection provided by vaccines.

There are environmental factors that alter individual vaccine responses such as age-related diminished antibody production (common in the elderly), alterations to the gut microbiome, micronutrient status and psychological stress levels, as well as pre-existing comorbidities such as diabetes mellitus and kidney disease.

The Best Immune Defence is a Good Defence

A strong nutritional foundation is essential for supporting a healthy and resilient immune response.

Zinc supports the development of non-specific immunity, including neutrophils and natural killer (NK) cells, and acquired immunity which are both key targets for infection prevention and maintaining vaccine immunity. Research has found low zinc status correlates with increased susceptibility to infections, including diarrheal diseases and viral infections. A study in children found a positive association between serum zinc levels and vaccine efficacy, indicating that zinc status may enhance immunological memory. Vitamin C has been found to reduce the duration and severity of infections, particularly when combined with zinc.Vitamin C supplementation enhances both immune activity and antibody synthesis. Specific Probiotics stimulate innate immune responses and anti-viral defences, including up-regulating interferon gamma (IFN-γ) and NK cell activity. Probiotic administration has also been found to lengthen the therapeutic window of vaccine immunity, as evidenced by a meta-analysis of randomised control trials, which found probiotic administration (specific strains) for 2 to 28 weeks improved the efficacy rates to influenza vaccines. Giving your immune system an extra boost.

Green Tea - a study consisting of 4,302 participants demonstrated that frequent consumption of green tea was associated with a lower risk of influenza infection in the working population. Specifically, participants who consumed >5 cups of green tea per week were 39% less likely to contract influenza infection than those that consumed 1 cup per week

Iron - Iron status and immune resilience go hand-in-hand as iron is essential for immune system cells. Iron deficiency at the time of vaccination in children was shown to impede antibody production and compromise vaccine-induced immunity. Ensuring children have good iron levels prior to vaccination may therefore improve vaccine response, as well as providing essential immune support.

Vitamin D has had a lot of attention throughout the current epidemic due to vitamin D deficiency being associated with serious presentations of COVID-19, such as pneumonia, as well as a greater prevalence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, which further complicate outcomes for the disease. A retrospective case-control study involving 216 hospitalised patients demonstrated 82% of cases displayed vitamin D deficiency below 50 nmol/L. Further, vitamin D deficient patients exhibited raised inflammatory markers that may indicate thrombosis. Identifying and treating vitamin D deficiency may offer protection against infection and benefit COVID-19 management, particularly in high-risk populations such as the elderly or people with comorbidities.

AHCC (active hexose correlated compound), extracted from Shiitake mushrooms, may benefit people with chronic or severe infection and compromised immunity as it can stimulate both innate and adaptive immune responses, and improve vaccine efficacy. Specifically, 3 g/d of AHCC™ administered for two weeks prior to vaccination was shown to enhance NK cells and influenza B antibody titres, demonstrating immune enhancing effects. Additionally, dietary and lifestyle alterations that mitigate drivers of immune dysfunction, including microbiome disruptions, dietary inadequacies, stress, and comorbid diseases, may help restore compromised immune function, enhance vaccine immunity and increase infectious resistance.


  • The European Food Safety Authority formally acknowledges that an effective host immune response requires adequate nutritional status, including vitamins A, B6, B9 (folate), B12, C and D, as well as minerals such as zinc, selenium, iron and copper. Vitamin E has also been shown to support the immune system and reduce the risk of infections.[112] To enhance patient intake of these nutrients through a variety of wholefoods, refer to the Metagenics handout, Foods High in Essential Nutrients.

    • A randomised controlled trial involving 82 healthy volunteers aged 65 to 85 years revealed that consumption of ≥5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day for 16 weeks was associated with increased antibody response to pneumococcal vaccination compared to participants that consumed ≤2 servings of fruits and vegetables (p<0.05).[113]

  • Dietary patterns high in refined starches, sugar, saturated and trans-fatty acids, poor in natural antioxidants and fibre from fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains, and poor in omega-3 fatty acids, may alter the function of the innate immune system, most likely by causing excessive production of proinflammatory cytokines associated with a reduced production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.[114]

  • Current evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet provides protection against several diseases associated with inflammation and immune activation.[115] The Mediterranean diet has also been found to improve inflammatory load and simultaneously balance gut microbiota.[116]

  • The Mediterranean diet is inclusive of high intake of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, quality essential fatty acids, and wholegrains (limiting starchy grains and vegetables). The Metagenics Wellness Diet reflects the wholefood principles of the Mediterranean diet and provides a simple guide to moderate portion size and the overall balance of macronutrients.

  • Increase intake of microbiome-enhancing foods to nourish commensal gut flora and enhance gut-associated immunity. Refer to the Metagenics Microbiome Enhancing Foods list for dietary recommendations.


  • Treatment alternatives that may help to manage common side effects following vaccination include[117]:

    • Applying a cold, wet cloth on the injection site to ease discomfort.

    • Increasing fluid intake, including breastfeeding in infants and children.

    • Avoid overdressing children and babies if they feel warm or hot.

  • Ensure adequate sleep, achieving approximately eight hours of sleep each night.[118]

  • Engage in regular physical activity to improve fitness, health and wellbeing, and reduce stress.[119]

  • Epidemiological evidence indicates that regular physical activity and frequent structured exercise reduces the incidence of many chronic diseases, including communicable diseases such as viral and bacterial infections, as well as non-communicable diseases such as chronic inflammatory disorders. Regular physical activity and frequent exercise have been found to enhance immune competency and regulation, with preliminary evidence suggesting that it may also delay immunological ageing.[120]

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