Using Immune System Boosters to Prevent Illness and Recover from Adrenal Fatigue

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM; Carrie Lam, MD

Adrenal Fatigue and the Immune System

A variety of natural compounds act as immune system boosters and can help adrenal fatigueAdrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a collection of signs and symptoms which result when the adrenal glands are functioning below the required level. The most common symptom is fatigue that is not readily alleviated by sleep and is accompanied by general feelings of unhealthiness and tiredness. A common cause of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is severe or prolonged stress; however, it can also arise during or after an assault on the immune system as in the case of acute or chronic respiratory infection, bronchitis, influenza or pneumonia. We’ll explore immune system boosters that may be of use in preventing such illnesses.

People with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome might find themselves experiencing prolonged colds or viruses at frequent intervals. In severe cases, where the adrenal gland activity is operating at a very diminished capacity; people may have problems getting out of bed or can only get out of bed for a couple of hours during the day due to fatigue. This incapacitation can be devastating because it sets off a chain of events that is systemic in nature. Every organ and system in the body is profoundly affected, and changes occur in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism. Managing your weight becomes problematic, and metabolic dysregulation can trigger symptoms of hypoglycemia despite normal laboratory test results. Other changes occur in fluid and electrolyte balance, sex drive, cardiovascular, and the immune system. The body tries to compensate for the decrease in the adrenal gland function by releasing more cortisol. This works well in mild cases, but as adrenal fatigue progresses, the overburdened adrenal glands ultimately starts to decompensate as cortisol output falls after reaching its peak output.

In addition to the adrenal glands’ compensatory response to stress, our immune system is also concurrently activated to help in the overall anti-stress response to reduce inflammation associated with stress. Our immune system protects our bodies from bacteria, viruses, toxins and dangerous pathogens. Unfortunately, most people take their immune system for granted until something goes wrong and they are placed in a defensive position. Instead of focusing on ways of correcting already existing illnesses, it is important to know how to prevent problems by boosting the strength of the immune system before trouble starts brewing. Immune system boosters help keep the body in peak condition, and help repel viruses, bacteria and infections. These are frequently opportunistic pathogens that surface when the body is weak or under stress. A general rule of thumb is that if you take care of your immune system, your immune system will return the favor and take care of you.

The Inflammatory Circuit

Infections and foreign bodies cause stress, and immune system boosters can empower your body to quickly rid itself of these stressorsThe immune system is part of the triad that makes up the inflammatory circuit in the neuroendometabolic (NEM) stress response. Inflammation is one of the body’s primary defense mechanisms to any assault that it may experience. The immune system plays a major role in inflammation by producing inflammatory molecules such as histamine, interleukin-6, interleukin- 8, tumor necrosis factor alpha, etc. The immune system is also thought to be responsible for shutting down inflammation in the body.

Inflammation is a constant process that occurs in the body as it defends itself from external forces, and while it may be a good thing, chronic inflammation is stressful on the body and can eventually wear you down. Furthermore, chronic inflammation increases the body’s sensitivity as the threshold for an inflammatory reaction is lowered. Any irritant that enters the body may push the circuit over the edge and cause an inflammatory reaction. While inflammation is a part of our body’s defense system, it is very important then to keep it in check by reducing proinflammatory agents such as toxins and allergens, as well as making sure the immune system is functioning well to regulate and minimize inflammation. Uncontrolled or chronic inflammation drains the body of valuable nutritional reserves and ultimately leads to organ dysfunction.

Immune System Boosters

There are many ways to keep your immune system functioning at a high level, for example, herbal immune system boosters. Herbal boosters are natural supplements that can help create balance in the immune system, with the added benefit of supporting the adrenals at the same time. Preventing sickness by boosting the immune cells allow less tax on the adrenals and its stress response system. Some examples of time-tested and proven herbal immune system boosters are: Echinacea, Goldenseal, Olive Leaf and Cat’s Claw.


Echinacea, a member of the daisy family and also known as the “Coneflower”, has nine different genus species. The flower is native to eastern and central North America, growing in prairies and heavily wooded areas. This purple flower is a very popular herbal remedy and promoters believe that the herb boosts the immune system by reducing the symptoms of colds and the flu, as well as other illnesses, infections and conditions. Other health benefits include improved skin conditions, sunburn treatment, pain reduction and laxative effects. This specific immune system booster can also help relieve some symptoms of adrenal fatigue, as the herb has many antitoxic properties. Echinacea is widely available and can be purchased without a prescription. Echinacea products vary widely in composition, from different plant segments (roots, stems extracts), to different preparations (extracts and expressed juice). Echinacea extract is a condensed liquid that can be purchased in a liquid dropper form. Also available in pill form, this immune system booster can remedy viruses or colds when consumed as a tea. The tea is made by boiling one teaspoon of Echinacea extract in one cup of water. Drinking this tea five to six times per day will help revitalize the immune system.


Goldenseal root is well known in herbal medicine for its therapeutic effects including immune system boostersGoldenseal is another of the immune system boosters that can help relieve infections in those with adrenal fatigue. Goldenseal, also known as orangeroot or yellow puccoon, is a perennial herb in the buttercup family. Goldenseal is native to southeastern Canada and the eastern United States and arrived on the map, when many people started using it to affect the results of urine-based drug tests. The Goldenseal stem is purple and hairy above ground, while yellow underneath the soil. In high doses, Goldenseal can have toxic effects, even resulting in death.

In herbal medicine, the supplement is used as a multi-purposed remedy and is available without a prescription in salve, tablet, tincture and bulk powder form. Herbalists consider Goldenseal an anti-catarrhal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, bitter tonic, laxative, anti-diabetic and muscular stimulant. It has been used to battle Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome in rotation with other herbs such as Echinacea, Pau d’arco and Astragalus, by helping strengthen the immune system. Goldenseal is available in both pill and liquid form.

Olive Leaf

Olive Leaf, one of the immune system boosters, is a very powerful antioxidant which comes from the leaves of olive trees. While there are many health benefits and flavors of olive oil, the olive leaf is used for various medicinal purposes. Over the years, this herbal supplement has gained recognition for being a powerful defender against illnesses and numerous studies have been conducted to evaluate the benefits of olive leaf extracts.

Reported benefits include increased energy, healthy blood pressure levels, cardiovascular support, as well as immune system support. Many people who live stressful lives may benefit from ongoing use of this herbal remedy as a preventive agent. Other people have reported unexpected benefits including improved psoriasis, normalization of irregular heartbeat, relief of hemorrhoid pain and toothaches, diminished food cravings and less pain from chronic aching joints.

Research also suggests that olive leaf may be a true anti-viral compound, as it has been known to selectively block an entire virus-specific system in an infected person. The benefits of olive leaves are numerous, as they are high in antioxidants, offer immune system support, and cardio protection. Olive leaf has a high level of antioxidants which protect against environmental stressors. While olive leaf has traditionally been used to support the immune system, evidence suggests that the leaf not only alleviates cold and flu symptoms, but also improves conditions associated with cold sores and urinary tract infections. Adrenal fatigue sufferers have reported elevation of spirits, increased energy levels, and shorter sick periods with the use of olive leaf.

Cat’s Claw

Cat’s Claw is a herbal remedy commonly known as Una de Gato. The herb is used traditionally in Peruvian medicine for the treatment of health problems – particularly digestive issues, arthritis, wound treatment, stomach problems, and many others. It has only recently caught the attention of western herbalists and today, primarily by word of mouth, it has become one of the best-selling herbal supplements in the United States. Cat’s Claw is counted among immune system boosters because of the oxindole alkaloids found in its bark and roots that have been documented to stimulate the immune system. There are seven different alkaloids in total and they are credited with having a variety of different healing and immune boosting properties. Isopteropodin (Isomer A) is considered to be the most immunologically active alkaloid and has been known to increase the immune response in the body, as well act as antioxidants to rid the body of free radicals. Other compounds found in Cat’s Claw may also work to kill viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that cause disease. The inner bark of Cat’s Claw is used to make liquid extracts, capsules, and teas. Lastly, preparations of Cat’s Claw can also be applied to the skin.

Immune Booster Supplementation

Immune system boosters come in a variety of forms and assist the body in different waysAll of the above herbal immune system boosters are highly recommended for adrenal fatigue sufferers who seem to always fall ill due to seasonal viruses, colds or flu. It is useful to take all of them every few hours once you start to feel the signs of an illness coming on. It works best to knock the virus out right from the start. You must understand that low dosages might not work as effectively, so it’s important to keep the loading dose high by taking them every few hours to elevate the immune system.


In the setting of advanced adrenal fatigue where the sufferer is weak, we recommend caution when using immune system boosters. More is not necessarily better. Too high a dosage can trigger adrenal crashes. Adrenal fatigue sufferers often carry stealth infections or chronic infections with them, such as candida, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, lyme, etc. With this comes the risk of a detoxification (die-off) reaction when taking immune system boosters. A die-off reaction results when microorganisms such as bacteria, parasites, and fungi are killed off. The microorganisms will release toxins into the body. In a normal person, the body will adapt and increase detoxification in the body. In an adrenal fatigue sufferer, however, this may be difficult and a die-off reaction may result, whereby toxins overload the body, resulting in symptoms including fever, chills, hypotension, and tachycardia. In severe cases, additional retoxification problems may also arise.

Other Considerations

Adrenal fatigue sufferers tend to have very inflamed bodies due to chronic stress and infections. Not only are there herbal immune stimulants, but there are also vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that play a big part in regulating the T cells (fighter immune cells) to control the amount of inflammation in the body. Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, and Glutathione are all very important in balancing inflammation, so it is crucial to have adequate amounts of these micronutrients in the body.

The GI tract is central to the body’s health and immune system boosters can bolsters its wellbeingMetabolically, the gastrointestinal system holds a large amount of immune glands and cells, so it’s important to keep a healthy gut in order to keep the fighting soldiers working well. Studies have shown that insulin surges and drops in blood sugar cause bad immune cells to increase, elevating inflammation. Therefore, many adrenal fatigue sufferers who suffer from reactive hypoglycemia tend to throw their immune system into overdrive every time they get hungry. It is very important to stabilize the blood sugar and diminish insulin spikes so that the immune system is allowed to work effectively in the right conditions. If you are in advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, do make sure you consult a knowledgeable and experienced specialist prior to beginning any program.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Questions

Inhaling eucalyptus essential oil vapors can reduce pain and loosen mucus. Make an herbal chest rub using of eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, or rosemary essential oil. Calm a bronchitis cough with plantain tea. Horehound, hyssop, elecampane, and horsetail are also good for lung conditions.

You may want to strengthen your adrenal glands. Taking a natural antihistamine may help also. You can try Allerdim from

A variety of natural compounds act as immune system boosters and can help adrenal fatigue
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I do not have Adrenal Fatigue myself, or I am at least blessed with a strong enough constitution to ward off its effects. I was recommended Dr. Lam's Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome book by a friend but had little expectation that it would apply to me. I discovered, in fact, the information and knowledge Dr. Lam presents in this book applies not only to those who are already suffering with Adrenal Fatigue, but also to those who are not yet sick.
I have found the book invaluable in informing my efforts to keep my body and spirit healthy and strong in order to resist Adrenal Fatigue as well as other sicknesses. I wholeheartedly recommend the Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome to anyone and everyone who has an interest in remaining healthy to be able to live their life to the fullest.


  • Jennie Sargent says:

    I wish I knew how to get my high cortisol levels down. Tried Holy Basil and managed to get up to 4-5 at each high but didn’t work. Now trying Phosphatidylserine but only 1 three times a day. Spend most of my day with severe anxiety and nausea because of it and it affects my eating properly so I am stuck in a vicious cycle. Can’t get my thyroid meds sorted, have Hashi’s as well. Don’t know what else to try, am desperate now 🙁 and to the point of giving up, it’s not living, I am just existing

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Holy basil may actually increase cortisol in some people. Phosphatidyserine dosage is very important and timing as well, or it may not work. in some people, there can be paradoxical reaction. the clinical picture can be very convulated, with thryoid adjutments very challenging.
      you need professional help when it gets to such a point

      Dr Lam

  • Lisa Jones says:

    I have just been diagnosed with CVID. I will be starting my third infusion of Ig therapy. I have a high stress job and have difficulty loosing weight. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      IV gluatathione is very good, but only short term. long term, you need to work on removing stress at root level to allow the adrenals to heal.

      Dr Lam

  • Jeffrey Ward says:

    I have a friend from South America who uses Autohemotherapy for an immune system boost.

    What is your opinion of Autohemotherapy, with respect to AFS?