By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.
One of your biggest concerns right now is probably immune support during your pregnancy in both yourself and your unborn child. A number of ingredients in fertility supplements are also researched for their ability to maintain a healthy immune system. In this article, I’ll talk about some of those ingredients including N-acetyl cysteine, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), resveratrol, zinc, vitamins C and D, and L-carnitine.
N-acetyl cysteine—NAC for short—gets rid of extra mucous.1 In doing so, it keeps the respiratory tract and sinuses comfortable and healthy.1 NAC defends mucosal membranes by boosting levels of secretory IgA.1 This acts like a natural barrier in the nose and mouth to keep unwanted organisms from adhering to tissues in this area of the body.1 What’s more, NAC is an antioxidant that supports a healthy inflammatory response.1
In a randomized, double-blind study, 262 elderly subjects were given either 600 mg of NAC or a placebo for six months.2 Participants in the NAC group had stronger immune systems in the winter. In a clinical trial, intravenous NAC supported lung health by improving oxygen delivery.3
CoQ10 levels are often low in people feeling under the weather.4 In one study, 48% of adults who were facing wintertime health challenges were low in CoQ10 compared with only 7% of healthy controls.4 The low CoQ10 levels weren’t linked to the severity of symptoms.
These same results didn’t occur in children. In a pediatric study, researchers found no difference between CoQ10 levels in children with the seasonal flu and healthy children.5 However, in this study, the CoQ10 levels of kids with a different type of influenza (H1N1) were much lower than controls and people who had the seasonal flu.5
CoQ10 promotes the health of immune cells.6 CoQ10 also supports healthy levels of proteins known as cytokines.4 This leads to a healthy inflammatory response, which is important for people who want to keep their lungs and respiratory system healthy.
In a human study, compared with a placebo, 180 mg/day of CoQ10 supported healthy levels of antibodies in people receiving a vaccine.7 Another study in humans, this one of 30 athletes aged 14-18 years, investigated the effects of either 60 mg/day CoQ10, 600 mg/day L-carnitine, or a placebo for four weeks.8 Athletes receiving either L-carnitine or CoQ10 experienced improved immune cell function.
This plant-derived substance enhances immune cell function.9 Additionally, 1,000 mg for 28 days in a group of human subjects supported a healthy inflammatory response by blocking cytokines.9 This potential to support a healthy inflammatory response may be particularly useful in women seeking immune support while pregnant. Immunity problems are usually related to the overactivation of the immune system and the resulting inflammatory response.10 Supporting a healthy inflammatory response can help maintain lung health and keep you feeling energetic and well.10
Most of the research on resveratrol and immunity comes from cell culture and animal experiments. In these studies, resveratrol kept cells strong and healthy and supported the health of lungs in mice with the influenza virus.11
Winter is linked to lower vitamin D levels. This seasonal drop in vitamin D may be the reason why many people feel under the weather at this time of year.12 Cells in the immune system have vitamin D receptors.12 This suggests vitamin D plays a critical role in immunity. Cell culture studies show this vitamin—really a hormone—is involved in the immune response.13
Zinc is known for its ability to support immunity. Even a mild zinc deficiency can lead to reduced immunity and poor immune cell function.14 Researchers have studied the use of zinc supplements in supporting the health of people with the common cold. In a randomized trial, 200 healthy children received either oral zinc sulfate (15 mg) or a placebo daily for seven months.15 When the children were coming down with a cold, their dosage was increased to 15 mg twice per day. The children in the zinc group developed significantly less colds compared to the placebo group. The children in the zinc group also missed less school. Many of the studies done on zinc and colds used zinc lozenges. Many—but not all of these studies—found zinc to be beneficial.16-18
Vitamin C is one of the best known immune support supplements. A review of studies that included 29 controlled trials and 11,077 subjects investigated the effect of at least 200 mg of vitamin C on immunity.19 The review found that vitamin C reduces the duration and severity of colds, but not the incidence. However, in five studies of participants under physical stress from exercise training in cold northern climates, vitamin C cut the incidence of the common cold in half.20
Pregnancy Immune Support
Immune support while pregnant or trying to conceive may involve taking an antioxidant supplement that contains the ingredients mentioned in this article. Each of these ingredients is a safe way to keep your immune system—and that of your partner’s—in top form. As always check with your OB/Midwife.
About Dr. Meletis
Dr. Meletis is an internationally recognized naturopathic physician, an accomplished author, and respected educator in the field of natural medicine. Dr. Meletis was honored as a ‘Naturopathic Physician of the Year’ by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians for his commitment to education and helping those in need. His mission is simply, “changing the world’s health, one person at a time”.
He has authored 14 books on subjects ranging from natural medicine interactions to fertility enhancement and has published over 80 articles in publications such as Natural Health and Natural Pharmacy. Dr. Meletis has served as the Dean of Naturopathic Medicine and Chief Medical Officer for the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) for seven years and later as the school’s Senior Science Officer. He sits on several medical advisory boards and has worked with Oregon Health and Science University on a grant from the National Institute of Health to further educate MD graduates on natural medicine.
- Kalyuzhin OV. Effect of N-acetylcysteine on mucosal immunity of respiratory tract. Ter Arkh. 2018;90(3):89-95.
- De Flora S, Grassi C, Carati L. Attenuation of influenza-like symptomatology and improvement of cell-mediated immunity with long-term N-acetylcysteine treatment. Eur Respir J. 1997;10(7):1535-1541.
- Bernard GR. Potential of N-acetylcysteine as treatment for the adult respiratory distress syndrome. Eur Respir J Suppl. 1990;11:496s-498s.
- Chase M, Cocchi MN, Liu X, Andersen LW, Holmberg MJ, Donnino MW. Coenzyme Q10 in acute influenza. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2019;13(1):64-70.
- Kelekçi S, Evliyaoğlu O, Sen V, et al. The relationships between clinical outcome and the levels of total antioxidant capacity (TAC) and coenzyme Q (CoQ 10) in children with pandemic influenza (H 1 N1) and seasonal flu. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012;16(8):1033-1038.
- Folkers K, Morita M, McRee J, Jr. The activities of coenzyme Q10 and vitamin B6 for immune responses. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1993;193(1):88-92.
- Barbieri B, Lund B, Lundström B, Scaglione F. Coenzyme Q10 administration increases antibody titer in hepatitis B vaccinated volunteers–a single blind placebo-controlled and randomized clinical study. Biofactors. 1999;9(2-4):351-357.
- Trushina EN, Vybornov VD, Riger NA, et al. [Immunomodulating effects of using L-carnitine and coenzyme Q(10) in the nutrition of junior athletes]. Vopr Pitan. 2019;88(2):40-49.
- Espinoza JL, Trung LQ, Inaoka PT, et al. The Repeated Administration of Resveratrol Has Measurable Effects on Circulating T-Cell Subsets in Humans. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:6781872.
- Filardo S, Di Pietro M, Mastromarino P, Sessa R. Therapeutic potential of resveratrol against emerging respiratory viral infections. Pharmacol Ther. 2020:107613.
- Palamara AT, Nencioni L, Aquilano K, et al. Inhibition of influenza A virus replication by resveratrol. J Infect Dis. 2005;191(10):1719-1729.
- Sundaram ME, Coleman LA. Vitamin D and influenza. Adv Nutr. 2012;3(4):517-525.
- Schwalfenberg G. Vitamin D for influenza. Can Fam Physician. 2015;61(6):507.
- Roxas M, Jurenka J. Colds and influenza: a review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations. Altern Med Rev. 2007;12(1):25-48.
- Kurugöl Z, Akilli M, Bayram N, Koturoglu G. The prophylactic and therapeutic effectiveness of zinc sulphate on common cold in children. Acta Paediatr. 2006;95(10):1175-1181.
- Prasad AS, Fitzgerald JT, Bao B, Beck FW, Chandrasekar PH. Duration of symptoms and plasma cytokine levels in patients with the common cold treated with zinc acetate. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2000;133(4):245-252.
- Hulisz D. Efficacy of zinc against common cold viruses: an overview. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2004;44(5):594-603.
- Jackson JL, Lesho E, Peterson C. Zinc and the common cold: a meta-analysis revisited. J Nutr. 2000;130(5S Suppl):1512s-1515s.
- Douglas RM, Hemila H, D’Souza R, Chalker EB, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004(4):Cd000980.
- Hemilä H. Vitamin C supplementation and respiratory infections: a systematic review. Mil Med. 2004;169(11):920-925.