Signs of a sluggish Immune System

I’m sure you’ve heard of your immune system. But how much do you know about it?

It’s essential to understand how important the immune system is and in which manner it protects us from disease and infection. The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infectious organisms and other invaders through a process called the immune response. The immune system actively fights foreign pathogens that invade the body and cause disease. Five essential bodily functions occur throughout the body, which are components of the immune system:

The Five Key elements of the immune system:

Lymphatic system: The lymphatic system is a network of lymph nodes and vessels that function by eliminating toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The lymphatic system transports fluid containing white blood cells (lymphocytes) which are deployed to destroy the pathogens.

White blood cells (lymphocytes such as B and T cells): White blood cells protect your body from infection by moving through blood and tissue, looking for foreign microbes.

Spleen: The spleen filters blood by excreting old or damaged red blood cells or platelets. The spleen also produces antibodies and lymphocytes.

Bone marrow: Bone marrow is the soft tissue found inside your bones which produces red and white blood cells along with platelets and yellow marrow.

Tonsils and the thymus: Produce antibodies to attack foreign invaders.

What happens during an immune response?

When the white blood cells come into contact with foreign antigens, an immune alarm goes off, setting off a chain reaction of cellular activity in the immune system. The bodies first line of defence is made up of innate cells including macrophage, neutrophils, basophils and dendric cells. These cells respond quickly to foreign cells to fight infection, battle a virus or defend the body against bacteria.

When the first line of defence is not able to destroy the pathogen, the body utilises T and B lymphocytes.

Although antibodies can recognise an antigen and lock onto it, they need the help of the T-cell to destroy it. There are two main types of T-cells. Helper T-cells and killer T-cells.

Helper T-cells send a chemical message to B-cells to produce antibodies and help killer cells develop. Killer T-cells destroy antigens tagged by antibodies. B- cells fight bacteria and viruses by making Y-shaped proteins called antibodies, which attach to each pathogen. The antibodies remain in a person’s body so when the T-cells recognise the same antigen it can destroy the microbe before it can multiply and make you sick. That’s why someone who gets infected with a disease, like chickenpox won’t get sick from it again.

What are the symptoms of a compromised immune system?

Feeling sick, tired, and other nagging symptoms can often mean you have a weakened immune system.

There are some common warning signs.

  1. You always have a cold or infection
  • main symptom of a compromised immune system is susceptibility to infection.
  • Normal for adults to get around 2-3 cold per year. Most people feel completely recovered after ten days. It takes four days for the immune system to develop antibodies and fight off germs. Continuously catching colds or not being able to get rid of a cold is a clear sign your immune system is struggling to keep up.
  1. You experience frequent gut problems
  • 70% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract. Your gut contains bacteria and microorganisms that defend your gut from infection and support the immune system. If you experience frequent diarrhoea, gas or constipation that could mean your microflora is unbalanced, therefore lowering your immunity.
  1. Your wounds heal slowly
  • you get a cut, scrape or burn your body works to heal and protect the wound by sending nutrient-rich blood to the injury to help regenerate new skin.
  • A wound to heal correctly healthy immune cells are required. If your immune system is compromised, your skin will not be able to regenerate, and your injuries will have a longer healing time.
  1. You feel tired all the time
  • you know you are getting enough sleep, but you still feel run down and tire it’s usually a sign your immune system is trying to tell you something. When your immune system is struggling so is your energy levels.
  • of the factors that affect immune function include:
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking & Alcohol
  • Poor diet
  • Sugar
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Exposure to certain germs

All of the above factors affect gut health and compromised gut health lowers immune function. It begins and ends in the gut. Boosting your gut health is the primary factor in boosting your immune system. It’s best to start by eliminating irritants including processed foods, sugar, dairy and gluten. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and fermented foods. Include herbal support in the form of medicinal mushrooms. Specific immune-boosting mushrooms are Reishi, Turkey Tail, Chaga and Lions Mane. Include immune-boosting supplements like Vitamin C, D, Zinc and Omega 3’s. Omega 3 also provides secondary benefits to brain and cardiovascular function.

Other necessary steps to ensure are adequate sleep, proper stress management, exercise and skincare that supports the skin microbiome. Avoid stripping and over-cleansing your skin.

It’s the small changes that count. Do what you can, what feels right, and your immune system and skin will thank you later.

Written: By Gabby Wills

If you would like to have your skin reviewed by us please book a consultation here.

The Importance of the Sunshine Vitamin

The “sunshine” vitamin is a hot topic that attracted ample attention over the past decades, specially that a considerable proportion of the worldwide population are deficient in this essential nutrient. Vitamin D was primarily acknowledged for its importance in bone formation, however; increasing evidence point to its interference with the proper function of nearly every tissue in our bodies including brain, heart, muscles, immune system and skin. Thereby its deficiency has been incriminated in a long panel of diseases including cancers, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular and neurological disorders. Its involvement in the contributing causes of different skin diseases is no exception and has been the subject of much research over the recent years.

It is somewhat ironic that vitamin D, through a historical accident, became classified as a ‘vitamin’, owing to the fact that vitamin is conventionally defined as ‘essential item needed in the diet’. The paradox with ‘vitamin D’ is that diet per se is usually poor in vitamin D except for cod or other fish oils or food fortified with this vitamin.

Vitamin D is actually a fat-soluble prohormone steroid that has endocrine, paracrine and autocrine function.  The endocrine effects of vitamin D are mainly involved in serum calcium homeostasis. Vitamin D and calcium are often used in the same sentence because they work closely together, vitamin D’s primary role is to control the levels of calcium found in the bloodstream by constantly allowing calcium and phosphate absorption from the intestine or taking calcium from bones.

Sources of vitamin D

There are only 3 known sources of vitamin D; sunlight, diet, and vitamin D supplements. Insert diagram

There are several ways that being vitamin D deficient might impact your skin.

Healthy levels of vitamin D have been demonstrated to prevent skin ageing. Skin ageing can be demonstrated molecularly, by the shortening of telomeres, the caps of genetic material on the free ends of DNA strands. These telomeres shorten with age, rendering the DNA more and more unstable, until the cell dies. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that telomeres were “significantly longer in patients with the highest serum vitamin D levels, compared to those with the lowest … equivalent to five years of aging.”

Vitamin D is crucial for skin protection. Further, calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D) helps in skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism as well as prevents skin aging. But too much sun leads to accelerated skin ageing, ultraviolet light (sun light) does cause direct DNA damage, skin injury and skin cancers. Hence, sunlight is not the best way to get your vitamin D.

Other ways Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the health of your skin are:

  1. Can help prevent chronic inflammation and regulate the immune system
  2. Influences genes that ensure skin cells die, shed, and don’t clog pores
  3. Increases the absorption & utilization of magnesium, phosphate, vitamin K2, and other nutrients
  4. Plays a role in insulin secretion (too much insulin can be a nightmare for acne).
  5. Some studies have found that vitamin D can help treat skin conditions like dry skin, psoriasis, or eczema.
  6. People over the age of 50 have less ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight and are at a greater risk of osteoporosis and arthritis, fractures, muscle weakness, and cancers.
  7. Deficiency in vitamin D is a real problem for acne – a recent study found that 95% of people with acne were deficient in vitamin D. It’s hard to understate the importance of vitamin D when it comes to acne.

Testing for Vitamin D deficiency involves a simple blood test. The lab should measure the level of bioavailable vitamin D, which is D3 (the type that the skin makes). There is a range of normal, low normal, moderate and severe deficiency.
Aside from vitamin D supplements that your doctor and or dietician or naturopath can recommend,  a diet rich in vitamin D is the best place to start. TIP: Taking vitamin D3 with a fat can increase absorption by up to 32%. Taking the DMK EFA’s with the Vitamin D3 will do the trick.

Vitamin D supplements may help with many skin conditions, including dry, itchy skin, psoriasis and acne

Researchers are establishing a firmer link between vitamin D levels and acne. Acne (clinically known as acne vulgaris) is a skin condition where your pores become blocked or clogged, causing red bumps or blackheads to form on your skin. Acne can be caused by changes in hormone levels, bacteria, oils, and more. If you have acne, a vitamin D deficiency may be part of what’s causing symptoms or making them worse.

Is vitamin D deficiency a risk factor for acne?

In 2006Trusted Source, researchers estimated that over 41 percent of the U.S. population was deficient in the hormone called vitamin D. Vitamin D is not listed as an official risk factor for acne, according to the Mayo Clinic. But researchersTrusted Source are starting to explore how vitamin D regulates the immune system. This immune system link might explain the relationship between vitamin D levels and skin health.

In a 2014 studyTrusted Source, people who had nodulocystic acne were at risk for more severe symptoms if they had low levels of vitamin D. In another studyTrusted Source, people with acne experienced significantly improved symptoms when they took oral vitamin D supplements.

Benefits of using vitamin D for acne

Vitamin D has antimicrobial properties. If the acne you have is caused by bacterial overgrowth, using topical vitamin D might calm your symptoms. More studies are needed to confirm how this could work.

Vitamin D also has an anti-inflammatory property. Having adequate levels of vitamin D in your system may help addressTrusted Source the inflammatory symptoms of acne. Taking vitamin D supplements could also be an alternative way of treating recurrent acne that appears red and inflamed.

How to use vitamin D for acne?

If you’re deficient in vitamin D, sitting out in the sun won’t fix your acne. Doctors agree that prolonged exposure to sunshine is not the best way to get vitamin D. Exposure to the sun without using a protective sunscreen can put you at risk for skin cancer. Taking dietary supplements and consuming foods rich in vitamin D are the best ways to increase your vitamin D levels to help treat acne.

There are few foods naturally rich in vitamin D. Dairy products, like milk and cheese, are a great source of the vitamin, but have been found in some studiesTrusted Source to make acne symptoms worse. If you’re lactose intolerant, you may already be considering taking a vitamin D supplement. People who don’t consume milk regularly are at a higher riskTrusted Source of being deficient in vitamin D.

If you do use a vitamin D oral supplement, keep an eye on the dosage. Make sure that other supplements you’re taking, such as a calcium supplement or prenatal vitamin, aren’t putting you over the recommended amount of 100 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D per day. And since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it can build up in your system. Vitamin D supplements are best taken with a meal.

Topical application of vitamin D3 has been foundTrusted Source to be an efficient way to get vitamin D levels up with fewer side effects than oral supplements, but more research is needed.

Potential side effects and risks

Taking too much vitamin D can result in serious side effects. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has set a limit of 100 mcg per day of vitamin D for men and women who are not pregnant or nursing.

The most common side effect of vitamin D toxicity is a buildup of calcium in your blood, called hypercalcemia. Hypercalcelmia can cause nausea and vomiting. Taking too much vitamin D over time can result in heart arrhythmias, tissue calcification, kidney stones, and organ damage.

Vitamin D levels can also be decreased when taking corticosteroid medication.

If you have recurrent acne that hasn’t resolved with other kinds of treatment, you may have a vitamin D deficiency. So have your serum levels checked.


If you would like to have your skin reviewed by us please book a consultation here.

What Causes Post-Pill Acne?

Coming off birth control doesn’t have to be a nightmare for skin. True, it was a nightmare last time, which is why you returned to the pill after only a few months. But this time will be different, because this time, you know about post-pill acne. You know it will get worse for six months, and then you know it will get better. And this time, you know how to treat it.
What causes post-pill acne?
Certain types of hormonal birth control suppress sebum (skin oils) to “childhood levels,” which is a bit frightening when you think about it. Adults are supposed to have more sebum than children, so it’s an abnormal situation. Your skin responds by up-regulating sebum, and that up-regulation can persist for months even after you stop the pill .
Post-pill acne is the result of:
1) rebound sebum production as you withdraw from the sebum-suppressing drugs drospirenone (Yasmin) or cyproterone (Brenda or Diane), and
2) a temporary surge in androgens (male hormones) as your ovaries kick back into action, and during which time you could be mistakenly diagnosed with PCOS.
The withdrawal process won’t last forever, but it could last up to a year or more. And post-pill acne is usually at its worst about six months off the pill—just when you were about to give up hope.
But please don’t give up hope!
You’ll get through post-pill acne (usually within twelve months), and you can use natural treatments to ease the way.
Natural treatment of post-pill acne
For best results, start treatment a couple of months before you stop the pill. That way, your skin will be less reactive, and better able to withdraw from the drugs.
• Avoid normal A1 cow’s dairy. Dairy causes acne because it spikes a hormone called IGF-1 (see Insight into Acne) and because it contains an inflammatory protein called A1 casein and stimulates histamine release. There’s very little A1 casein in butter and heavy cream, so they’re usually okay. There’s no A1 casein in ricotta, goat or sheep dairy, so they’re okay. All other dairy (yogurt, cheese, ice cream, milky coffees) is a problem for skin.
• Quit sugar (concentrated fructose). Sugar causes acne because (like dairy) it spikes IGF-1. Sugar is concentrated in desserts, honey, fruit juice, and dried fruit (whole fruit in moderation is okay). Sugar is a problem for skin for everyone, but it is particularly a problem if you have PCOS. Do you know if you have PCOS? Are you sure? A normal ultrasound does not rule out PCOS. Speak to your doctor, but according the Lara Briden esteemed Naturopath and author of the Period Repair Manual, don’t let her talk you back onto hormonal birth control because the pill is not good for PCOS. It worsens the insulin resistance that causes PCOS.
But wait. How could dairy and sugar be causing your acne? They were never a problem before. Well, before the pill (and on the pill), your skin was less reactive and could cope with acne-causing foods. Now your skin is in the throes of pill-withdrawal, and so cannot cope with dairy and sugar.
• Take zinc. Zinc reduces keratin production, so it keeps pores open. It also kills bacteria and reduces testosterone. In many ways, zinc is the perfect medicine for post-pill acne. It’s also one of the key nutrients depleted by hormonal birth control. According the Lara Briden, you’ll probably need at least 30 mg in an absorbable form like liquid. You may need more than 30 mg.  Speak to your clinician.
• Consider taking DIM (diindolylmethane), which is a phytonutrient from broccoli. It blocks androgens (male hormones) and is one of the most popular natural treatments for acne.
• Consider taking berberine, which is the active constituent in a number of popular herbal medicines such as goldenseal (goldenseal is also found in ‘Actrol powder’ by DMK). Berberine works for skin because it’s antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and improves insulin sensitivity (thereby reducing the acne hormone IGF-1). Finally, berberine reduces androgens in women, which makes it a particularly good choice for PCOS. Don’t take berberine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and speak to your pharmacist before combining it with prescription medications. Lara generally recommend’s berberine not be used for more than eight weeks continuously. If you need it for longer, then take a week off, and then resume.
• Consider supporting healthy stomach acid with gentian or betaine hydrochloride (HCL). Forty percent of acne-sufferers have low stomach acid.
How long until skin improves?
You might see an initial improvement within a few weeks, but then see a worsening with stress or your next round of PMS. Real, lasting improvement is a longer-term project and should start to appear within six months. Continue treatment until your skin is truly better, and then you can stop the supplements and relax the diet somewhat. (Although you’ll probably never want to go back to a high-sugar, high-dairy diet.)
What is your experience with post-pill acne? Please comment.

If you would like to have your skin reviewed by us please book a consultation here.