Functional Medicine Expert Webinar On Improving Immunity Naturally With Oliver Barnett

Discover the top tips on improving immunity naturally in this thought provoking session.

Back to all articlesBook a Free 15-minute Consult >

Catch up on our functional medicine webinar with Oliver Barnett, who takes you through the understaning what’s important when improving immunity naturally.


As part of our recent functional medicine webinar series, Oliver provided his expert insight on improving immunity naturally. Throughout the series he has shared his functional medicine approach to Natural Pain Relief, Understanding Gut Health and Boosting Energy Levels.

As one of the UK’s leading Functional Medicine and Nutritional Therapy Specialists, Oliver has a wealth of experience to share and leads the team at the London Clinic of Nutrtition.

Watch the Webinar Here >

Improving Immunity Naturally Video Transcript

So, I’d like to start with looking at immunity and understanding what that actually is and what builds the immune system and sort of where, what we know

where it arises from. And what we know is that immune system comes from birth, right?

And we inherit, we inherit a lot of that from the childhood that we have. And the type of birth we have as well makes some difference. So for example, we now know that, when we have a vaginal birth, as opposed to a C section birth, we have the beginnings of natural probiotics down the vaginal canal.

And that when we don’t have that, we know from the research that in childhood we’re much
more set up for inflammatory based conditions, the most common ones would be eczema and asthma and hay fever, right? Not to say that not to say that, obviously, you have vaginal births,
you can still have those inflammatory conditions,but we know the incidence of those is high.

And what we do know is that the a lot of that could be down to toward down to the microbiome,
or an element of dysbiosis within the microbiome.

So that’s a starting point. And also, we need to look at the hygiene hypothesis as well.

So we have this very sort of sanitised world we live in now, which is not really conducive to building the immune system.

So, the adage of playing in dirt is a really good one, because dirt and soil has micro organisms in and what we now know as well as that things like farming communities, and have a much lower incidence of allergy or autoimmune conditions and immune mediated conditions.

So the more sanitised environment we’re living in, the more chance we have not having a developed immune system. So the idea of having pets, exposing children to farm animals on a regular basis, is a really good idea. And the idea of having a dog or a pet is actually very good for the immune system.

Obviously, some people don’t do well with dog hair, and what have you having the allergy in the first place, but but you can get obviously non-moulting dogs or allergy dogs like a Labradoodle.

But that my dog, Poppy dog. So that’s another aspect we have to consider. And also the soil and what the soil contains and the nutrients that the soil contains is very much conducive to our own immunity.

And obviously, for a number of years, we’ve been destroying the soil and the environment. So that will then impact on our immunity as well.

Also, again, controversial subject but vaccines have been shown to reduce innate immunity.
And there’s good research around that. So when you have vaccines, regardless of what the vaccine is, the body’s own innate immunity is reduced to fight off day to day infections as a result of having vaccines in the first place.

And that’s something that people can look at, some of these Stephanie Senna’s research in that area has MIT research scientists on the leading authorities in the world on glyphosate as well.

And again, glyphosate, just to mention that. Obviously glyphosate is what’s in Roundup, which is a chemical used to spray on the crops to get rid of pests, and weeds. And what we’re finding is that it has a big disruption to the microbiome.

And interestingly, as well, if you look at Stephanie Senna research there is some of the research that she did, she found that the areas were had the highest levels of glyphosate at the higher end, so some of the highest incidences of COVID as well, and COVID complications.

So that’s something to be mindful of as well. So when I think of immunity with people, obviously, what I’m thinking of obviously is the cause and why people’s immune systems have been challenged.

And a lot of it for me comes back to childhood. And within childhood, many people have early childhood trauma. Now, some of you will be aware of the work of Gabor Maté,he uses a term of trauma with a small t, right.

So what we know is from I mean, even before Gabor Maté’s work, we know about the ACEs studies, which are about adverse childhood events studies, which show that the more adverse childhood events a child has within their upbringing, the higher the incidence of chronic
illness and autoimmune disease later on in life. And once you have two or three adverse
childhood events, that incidence goes up dramatically.

So Gabor Maté calls trauma with a small t, he’s referring to not having enough early life nurturing care doesn’t have to be a major trauma like losing a sibling or something like that, or a car accident or what have you.

But it’s ongoing lack of nurture care. He also quotes in his latest book about did you as a child have someone to go to when you’re in trouble or upset or had a problem, someone you could turn to, a lot of people don’t really really strict parents, overbearing parents, not having unconditional love as a child.

And so that basically sets up the immune system for an element or an element of hyper vigilance, and not having a measured immune response.

And what we tend to find this so what I’m doing here is taking you on a journey of how I’ve seen it play out with patients over the years and having seen 10s of 1000s of patients with immune mediated conditions.

How I’ve seen the trajectory of the immune system becoming dysregulated. So that journey then continues later on in life, where there’s been quite a lot of trauma, and different at different childhood events. And then the, in some cases, there can be an infection that someone picks up at some point in their life could be something very common, like Epstein-Barr Virus, Glandular Fever, right?

Someone could be ill for a number of for a number of months, and then they may knock
it out. And that may be that may be all forgotten about. And later on in their life, they get
another stressful event. Something like a bereavement or a loss or something happens
in a relationship, or they get some sort of flu bug, or gastrointestinal bug or something
of that nature.

And what I tend to find is with patients that we see at the clinic, with long term immunity issues, is that they were doing alright up until a certain point in their life, there was a stressful trigger, or an infection or something like that stress to the immune system.

And after that, the body was not able to maintain its homeostasis and its regulatory mechanisms. And what the body was then happily dealing with previously,
it’s unable to now is unable to now deal with so for example, someone might have some either
mercury amalgams, silver amalgam fillings and their teeth which are made of mercury,
which is the most toxic substance there is on earth, right unless you class plutonium,
but that’s man made.

And the body may well have had been happy dealing with the mercury that the person had in their teeth.

But what they find is after the the latest immune trigger, they’re unable to deal with all the things that the body was dealing with previously.

Now they give a bit of a metaphor you’ve got let’s imagine a bathtub with a
drain, you know the drain is you drain the water out the bathtub and the stuff coming
in. So if you imagine the bathtub, the drain isn’t working, as well as before, all the
other stuff is coming in.

And it’s getting overloaded with the stuff that it was happily, happily dealing with previously. So I tend to see with patients is that they will have sent some sort of immune mediated or autoimmune diagnosis, there’s been historic trauma when they were younger of some some shape or another historic infection, some sort of trigger.

And after that trigger, the body’s unable to deal with all the stuff it was dealing with properly before. A lot of people get into integrative medicine and this field because
of historic illness themselves.

I was quite sudden, most of the clinicians in my team got into it this way. I was a bit more slightly different in my in my journey into that as I never really came from illness originally.

But then I did get ill during COVID. And this is a sort of to illustrate this. I’ve always had been someone has enjoyed very robust health.

And during COVID I caught COVID was living in a rented house. And I couldn’t understand
why I was so ill I was ill for nearly a year and I realised that the house I was living
in was incredibly mould mouldy. And I got a survey done to the house by owners and environmental people called Action dry and turned out it’s one of the oldest houses they’ve ever surveyed or get there was nothing visible.

So it was like a perfect storm I had the body being stressed by being in a very toxic environment, but then obviously getting an infection as well. And then obviously being ill for nearly a year.

And so that’s just a sort of an illustration even from my own story as to how there comes a point where the body can’t take any more. Then what happens is, is that the body is meant to have a measured immune response, one that’s day to day vigilant but not over reactive.

What we see in many of the patients the clinic is that the body then has an unmeasured
immune response, like say with conditions such as mast cell activation disorder, mastocytosis, the body is basically reacting to itself, right really, and is unable to produce a regulated response to the environment.

And a lot of the time again, it comes back to the trauma, the body is ultimately in the freeze state.

And there is now really good research to to explain that by a guy called Dr. Robert Naviaux, who has coined something called the cell danger response.

And that’s basically almost like an illustration of how the body gets stuck in the freeze state. So not quite the flow of the fight or flight state, but the freeze state is maybe a bit less people have heard of, but that’s where a lot of the time the body then shuts down.

Becomes super sensitive to things, to smells, to chemicals to foods, all sorts of stuff, and then is
unable to deal with that.

So a lot of the work I try and get patients to do is to deal with the historic trauma to deal with some of the toxins, let’s say that’s latent in the body, whether it’s heavy, heavy metals or mycotoxins or environmental toxins.

Also looking at latent infections as well, because a lot of I think one of the leading auto immunologists in the world is a gentleman called Dr. Yehuda Schoenfield, from Israel.

He says that all autoimmune disease is caused by an infectious aetiology to prove and otherwise. Yes, I respect that. I wouldn’t say it’s completely true of every case, but we now know that certain autoimmune conditions are linked to certain infections.

So for example, we know that Hashimotos thyroid, which is one of the most common autoimmune conditions, is linked to latent Epstein-Barr Virus infections or Yersinia infections.

We know that from the research from Professor Alan Ebringer from UCLA has now retired we know that rheumatoid arthritis can be linked to a, an infection known as Proteus Mirabilis.

Other ones we know about our multiple sclerosis being linked to an infection by chlamydia
pneumoniae. Now that’s not the sexually transmitted chlamydia to different species of chlamydia. And one of the greatest masqueraders that we are well aware of now is obviously Lyme disease.

So many patients get diagnoses of certain autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or MS or motor neurons disease, ALS, and lupus. When actually they don’t have those conditions, they’ve actually got a latent infection by Borrelia Burgdorferi, which is the bacteria that causes lyme disease.

And obviously, the CO infections can go alongside that. Sometimes patients have both, but there is very much often a misdiagnosis. And what I found over the years, is when patients come to the clinic with autoimmunity, that I’m often looking at latent infections and trying
to treat those infections to then help the patient get better from from the symptoms
they’re experiencing.

And the way that this often happens in the body is by two mechanisms, one known as the bystander effect, one known as molecular mimicry.

What that tends to be, what tends to happen is say, for example of let’s take Hashimotos, which is the most common autoimmune condition, the body recognises proteins. And let’s say those proteins are are A,B,C,D and E. But everything has a protein structure.

And sometimes, let’s say the surface of the thyroid has a particular protein structure. And what
happens to the body has a case of mistaken identity, which is basically autoimmunity is about, then let’s say has someone has Epstein-Barr Virus, the body then starts attacking the thyroid
thinking it’s attacking Epstein-Barr Virus, because the protein structure of the surface
The thyroid and Epstein-Barr Virus are very similar.

And there’s the case of mistaken identity and that’s when the patient starts experiencing the usual symptoms of Mycosis and Hashimoto’s like fatigue and brain fog and lack of sleep and headaches and that sort of thing.

So, again, so stress, which I mentioned earlier, has a massive, massive impact on the immune system.

I think that if you said to me, what’s the perfect the perfect recipe for upsetting someone’s immune system? It would be lack of sleep. Eating a really poor diet, high stress, uneven shift work if you’re doing weird shift patterns, like working in the night and things like that.

That’d be a perfect storm, having problems with your immune system.

So some of the foundations of having a good immune system are high quality sleep. Decent diet, that’s fine polyfenals and antioxidants, high levels of vegetable intake, high level of spices like turmeric and things like that
And actually having a measured stress response where it’s impossible to live in a world where
we don’t have any stress, but it’s how we deal with that and having that downtime. And I know
even though with some of my friends, you know, when I speak to them, it’s like, there’s, there’s, you know, I sit with patients and friends, you know, that there’s no time that there’s no time made for, you know, for them to engage in that relaxation, response and deep rest.

And you know, we’ve ultimately become human doings rather than human beings. And finding time for deep rest on a regular basis is really important. And the question is, how does how does one do that it could be many number of ways could be meditation, it can be prayer, it can be doing work in sound work or sandbars, yoga, meditative forms of dance is basically about slowing down.

Those are just some of these possible examples of how to improve immune system. Also, other ways of improving the immune system via the stress response is looking at things like amygdala or limbic system retraining.

And there are a couple of systems out there such as the Gupta Programme or the DNRS system from Annie Hopper is another approach I quite like.

Again, with the immune system, I’m quite a fan of using herbs being herbalist, I like using herbs and herbs have multiple properties, you can blend them up in large bottles, and have a good mixture of stuff.

So for example, you could you could use a patient’s as a general immune mix, which could be taken, you know, in variations throughout the year, things like Schisandra akinesia, Siberian Ginseng, rhodiola, tolsey, there’s a whole heap of immunomodulating herbs that people can use.

And other ideas could be medicinal mushrooms. So things like Reishi, Lion’s Mane Chaga, my
target. So, there’s a lot of options with with the medicinal mushrooms as well.

Also, obviously, your classic immune nutrients will be things like vitamin C, and a lot of people
now are using intravenous vitamin C, which obviously we offer at the clinic. And we know from the research and the work done by the Linus Pauling Institute of the good results that people get even with high dose vitamin C for cancer, let’s say and that has had very good results for some of our patients and across the world.

And, you know, vitamin C can knock out as an antioxidant can knock out any type of bug at the right dose. So it has been said that, you know, if you want some like trek in the jungle somewhere and you are bitten by a super poisonous snake, and you didn’t have anything to treat yourself with if you happen to have a, highly unlikely, but you happen to have 100 grammes of intravenous vitamin C on you, you’d be absolutely fine.

Because there’s very little that can survive very high levels of ascorbic acid.

And some of the kinds of therapies got about five or 600 grams a week. From a home
perspective, you can do vitamin C to bowel tolerance, which is using the powdered form.

And it’s basically taking vitamin C, couple of few grammes every half an hour, it produces a bowel loosening effect, and then you go back, so you reduce the dose by 20%. And you take that each day.

And that’s a really good way of supporting the immunesystem with acute infection and chronic illness. And also doing the sort of Dr. Sarah Myhill approach using an idea and salt pipe, which
is getting a salt pipe with buildup of salt and putting a few drops of Lugol’s iodine into it. And then breathing that through your nose and inhaling it. Because very little kind of can survive, very little bugs can survive iodine.

Again, for the immune system, no talk for the immune system would be a talk without talking about the gut. And you know, we know that 75 – 80% of the immune system is located within the gut environment.

And things that can be done to improve that environment are regular bowel cleansing with
herbs, antimicrobial herbs, such as neem or garlic and things like that. And then also
supplying the gut with the foundations of what it needs in terms of prebiotics and probiotics that can also be done through diet and eating a rainbow of biodiversity.

Also with sort of butyrate which is in butter, or in supplemental form. There’s a whole heap of different types of probiotics and prebiotics and forms of fibre, prebiotics and probiotics now so, there’s gazillions out there at the moment and different probiotic being shown to
have different benefits with different particular conditions.

So historically, we didn’t have so many probiotics available to us. But nowadays we have almost like a different probiotic. For each condition or situation we’re met with with a patient. And again, probiotics can be consumed obviously through diet.
Through a Kefir or Water Kefir or sauerkraut. Obviously, we’re not aware of whether that reaches that gut environment.

But I have had myself and many patients have benefited from taking natural probiotics at home. So also with immunity, like I said earlier, you have a lot of the body tends to lose a lot of tolerance to the things that are already in it, let’s say even things like implants.

So I’ve had patients with titanium implants in the ankles and the legs, also implants have in the teeth, such as titanium implants. And what we found is that there is testing we can do for this to see if patients have lost immune tolerance to the implants they have.

And sometimes as part of the treatment programme, we get patients to have those implants
removed and change the materials in a more hypoallergenic and they can get on better

And then patients can have really, really good results on things like chronic fatigue, when they remove implants that they’ve lost immune tolerance to, and replaced with something more more tolerable.

I went a few years ago to see a fascinating lecture from a podiatrist, working from America, who had a lot of patient audio testimonials, as well, and the amount of results he’s had by changing titanium implants for people with chronic fatigue has been really quite fascinating.

Again, what we also tend to find is chemicals, like I was talking about earlier, I had a patient yesterday where it turned out, he was involved with engineering and welding for many, many years and also incredibly high mercury levels on his in his Mercury test.

I only found out yesterday that he was in welding and engineering for many, many years.

And what we find is as patients who have had long term exposure to chemicals and sort of working in those types of environments, the detoxification pathways are really not working particularly well.

And they need a lot of detoxification support and for that particular patient who came in with tinnitus and bloating and other symptoms. And I do believe that the reason he is experiencing that is because of long term toxicity.

So that I think is a sort of a whirlwind tour for me in terms of the immune system, what challenges it, where it goes wrong, the type of patients that we see, basic things we can do to try to improve the immune system.

Also, from an acute perspective, I do find that when you get sort of acutely ill or some sort
of bug one of the best ways of knocking things out I found has been, like I say, do the vitamin
C to bowel tolerance.
Do the iodine salt pipe, but also do vitamin high dose vitamin D. So daily, people should be taking 5000 iu’s anyway everyone should. But high doses when you’re ill is it 50 to 100,000
of iu’s for three, four days, and also doing 100,000 iu’s of vitamin as well for a couple of days.

That sort of combination, when you’re getting very sick or a bug or a flu or whatever it might be, does tend to work really, really well.

Also, there’s a lot of sore throats going around at the moment. I’ve had it myself and zinc is a good, a very good nutrient but in the form of zinc lozenges for acute illness. Do remember to use zinc lozenges as well?

I sometimes forget myself to use the lozenges because they have been shown in the research to be more effective than taking capsule form of zinc.

So we’ve got a few more minutes for questions. If anyone wants to ask a question they can do so in the chat box.

And as I say the recordings will be available for these talks and the other ones. And I hope you found it useful today.

We’ll keep them we’ll keep the Zoom will open for a couple more minutes if anyone want to pose a question in the chat box. They are more than welcome to.

The recordings can be accessed probably after the after the series is finished. We’ve got one more next week. And then it’ll be made available as a whole on a YouTube page for everyone to use to listen to when they want.

Someone’s asked about Coxsackie. With Lyme without Lyme? Yeah, of course you can. Coxsackieis effectively Foot and Mouth Disease, and it’s one of the most ubiquitous viruses out
there. So, yeah, Coxsackie. Inevitably, if you test someone, but Coxsackie, then they’re
always always going to be positive, certainly on an antibody test because we’ve
all been exposed to it at some point.

So you might have Epstein-Barr Virus, you know, you’re gonna do IgG antibodies to Epstein Barr Virus, nearly everyone is going to test positive because there’s been historic exposure.

Mould survey question is the only people I would use and I would be very careful with this, the only people I would use for mould surveys in the UK is a company, but Action Dry. I really wouldn’t use anybody else. Because I’ve been doing this long enough years now.

And you know, these guys offered the best service, the best techniques, the best tools, and the best manners and humility and behaviour with patients and clients that I’ve come across. So yes, I would only use Action Dry.

And they do have a device, which is quite interesting, called a mould scope, which gives you real time information when they come around your house and measure the levels. You don’t
have to wait for samples to be sent off and things like that. Although they do they do
do that. But, you know, I would, I would, I would use them.

Someone’s asked what was the three main things that helped you recover from COVID in the end? Thanks, Kelly. I got COVID Twice I was living in a very mouldy house. And I was really, I mean, really awful. Yeah, I was like one of my patients and I, what helped me recover the most. think just patience, I think just having patience, where the I didn’t, you know, I was throwing
everything at it in terms of herbs and al the rest of it.

But I wasn’t really getting that much better. And I think eventually I just surrendered to it. And eventually, you know, week by week, month by month, things improved. In a way it was almost like weirdly, like, the less I did, the more I get better. In some ways.

I’m not saying that that approach is gonna work for other people.

But it seemed to work for me, the more accepted it and sat with it. Periods of fatigue and all the rest of it, it seemed it seemed to pass over a period of sort of 15 months.

So yeah, that may not be the answer you’re looking for. But that’s that’s the truth.

So just just to mention as well, obviously, if anyone wants to get in touch with the clinic, or if anyone’s not already a patient that connect, feel free to give the clinic a call if there’s anything you need any help with.

And there is also the ability to book a discovery call to see who would fit your needs most on our
website. If you wanted to work with someone at the clinic, we’ve got a very good team
of around 10 clinicians who specialise in different areas.

We’ve just moved to new premises in Marleybone. And most of us work online but I work face to face with patients. And I see a couple of patients a week as well.

My number is very limited and so as to offer everyone the best service as possible. So
yeah, thanks very much, everyone for joining us today. And hopefully you’ll join us next week for another exciting talk.

Take care, lots of love, all the best.