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Immune | January 17, 2018 | Author: Naturopath



Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs. It is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis that is spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing. Most people with TB, don’t have any symptoms and the bacteria remains dormant in the body. However, if there is an active infection, symptoms can include coughing, fever, and chest pain.

TB was once the leading cause of death in many countries, but effective treatment and prevention programs means it is now uncommon in the Australian-born population. 

Causes of TB

Causes of TB 1

TB is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings.

People nearby may contract the bacteria by inhaling the tiny airborne droplets.

The bacterium then settles and multiplies in the lungs but can travel to other parts of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain.


Active and latent TB

In most people who harbour the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, their immune system is usually strong enough to prevent illness. TB is then classified into two categories which include:

Latent TB. In this scenario if you have a TB infection, you usually have no symptoms as the bacteria remains in an inactive state. Although, it is not contagious, it can turn into active TB and treatment may still be necessary to prevent the disease from spreading.

There is a 10% lifetime risk that symptoms will develop later into an active infection.

Active TB. This infection makes you very sick and can spread to others. Symptoms can start a few weeks after transmitting the bacterium, or it might occur years later.

Symptoms of TB

Signs and symptoms of active TB include:

  • Causes of TBpersistent cough
  • coughing up blood
  • chest pain
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue

When TB occurs outside your lungs, signs and symptoms vary according to the organs involved.

For example, tuberculosis of the spine may give you back pain, and tuberculosis in your kidneys might cause blood in your urine.

When TB infection, affects other organs apart from the lungs, the infection is not contagious.

High risk groups

Certain groups of people are more susceptible to tuberculosis, particularly if their immune system is compromised. This includes:

  • migrants and refugees
  • Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders (in northern Australia)
  • people living with HIV/AIDS
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • alcoholics
  • the elderly
  • people living in institutions
  • people living in overcrowded conditions
  • diabetics
  • health professionals

How natural therapies can help

With the worldwide emergence of highly drug-resistant tuberculosis, novel agents that have direct antimycobacterial effects or that enhance host immunity are urgently needed. This is when herbs and micronutrients come into play by supporting traditional medical treatment and offering solutions which are less prone to drug resistance development.

Vitamin D

The potential immune enhancing effect of vitamin D was first discovered in 1849, when cod liver oil was discovered to be the most effective agent in tuberculosis affecting the lungs.

Vitamin DToday, it is now understood that vitamin D is a potent suppressor for mycobacterium tuberculosis proliferation in human monocytes (a type of white blood cell). Vitamin D is also needed to as a precursor to cathelicidin which is an antimicrobial peptide—a deficiency in vitamin D will result in lower amounts of this peptide important for the bodies bacterial killing response.

Make sure you have adequate levels of vitamin D to reduce your risk of infection. This can be achieved by spending enough time outside in the sunshine or supplementing if levels are low.

A small study of 67 patients with tuberculosis, who received 10, 000 IU a day in addition to standard antimycobacterium treatment showed higher rates of recovery from the infection.

Zinc and vitamin A

Zinc is an essential mineral for a well-performing immune system and provides antioxidant support. It supports the body in detecting and removing harmful pathogens such as mycobacterium tuberculosis and if there is zinc deficiency survival of the bacteria is more likely to occur.

Numerous studies have found that zinc status is typically low in adults and children with tuberculosis. This is also the case for vitamin A which is vital for immune function. Studies have found that Zinc and vitamin A supplementation improves the effect of antituberculosis medication. As a preventative, they may be effective agents to reduce the risk of infection, especially in high-risk groups.


CurcuminCurcumin is an extract from turmeric which is responsible for its bright yellow-orange colour. In tuberculosis, curcumin stimulates cells in the immune system (macrophages) to eliminate mycobacterium tuberculosis by programming cell death or engulfing these cells. Add dried or fresh turmeric to juices, curries, marinades and stir-fries. For a stronger action a supplement containing curcumin is ideal.
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Healthy diet plays a huge role in providing protection against tuberculosis. This is why in developing countries, where there is malnutrition, tuberculosis is more prominent. Even in the Western world, micronutrients can be deficient because of a higher intake of processed foods. Tuberculosis infection itself leads to a malnutrition, reduced appetite, wasting and nutrient malabsorption.
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Foods to boost the function of immune system include berries, green tea, garlic, green veggies and fish. Other healthy food groups to include are fresh fruits and veggies, fermented dairy (natural yoghurt and kefir), nuts, seeds, lentils, lean meat, eggs and wholegrains. Fresh veggie juices, soups and broths might be easier for the body to digest if there is acute illness.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Karyadi E, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of vitamin A and zinc supplementation in persons with tuberculosis in Indonesia: effects on clinical response and nutritional status. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Apr;75(4):720-7

Prisic S, et al. Zinc regulates a switch between primary and alternative S18 ribosomal proteins in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Mol Microbiol. 2015 Jul;97(2):263-80

Bai X, et al. Curcumin enhances human macrophage control of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Respirology. 2016 Jul;21(5):951-7

Selvaraj P, et al. Vitamin D: Immuno-modulation and tuberculosis treatment. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2015 May;93(5):377-84

Martineau A, et al. Vitamin D in the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis. Expert Rev. Endocrinol Metab 2008 3(2):105-107

Kant S, et al. Significance of nutrition in pulmonary tuberculosis. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(7):955-63

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