How The Immune System Really Works, with Dr. Parris Kidd

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people are trying to find ways to strengthen their immune system to have a better chance against the virus. Yet not many people understand how the immune system really works, and therefore don’t know how to best support it. In the first episode of a series with nutritional scientist Dr. Parris Kidd, he and the Amens discuss the makeup of your immune system, and how you can support it to help you rather than harm you.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome, everyone. We have a very timely, special week for you on The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. We have Dr. Parris Kidd with us and we're going to talk about immunity, your body, and your brain. Dr. Kidd is the chief science officer at BrainMD. He is really considered one of the world experts in using nutritional medicine, nutraceuticals, dietary supplements, to optimize both the brain and the body. He's trained in cell biology from UC Berkeley, where he has his PhD. He's done research, he was involved in bringing phosphatidylserine to the United States. He's written books and papers, and he's so wonderful friend and lecturer. Parris, welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Tana Amen: Yes, we are so lucky to have you. You've been so helpful to our community as well.
Dr Parris Kidd: Thank you [crosstalk 00:02:01]. It's great to be on, great to join you.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: We're in the middle of a global pandemic and this is so frightening for many people. As I've been lecturing about it, I say your best defense against COVID is your immune system. It's not the government, it's not the vaccine that's coming, although I'm not opposed to that or to the treatments, but if you want to protect yourself, you have to strengthen your immune system. That's what we're going to talk about,
Dr Parris Kidd: Right, yeah. Well, the immune system is our security force. It's sophisticated, highly sophisticated, complex system of individual cells supported by solid tissues and the various organs. These cells are posted as sentries in all of the tissues, including the brain, and they're continually sampling the environment around them for foreign substances, whether those substances would be a bacteria or something non-living, like an air pollutant particle or asbestos in the lungs or a virus. They're continually feeling along the surface of the particle, and depending on the shape and the types of molecules on the surface, they decide whether this particular particle belongs to the body, whether it's a self-type particle, or whether it's foreign to the body. Then if they decide it's foreign, they do their very best to eliminate it.
Tana Amen: I mean, some of us seem to be better at fighting those than others, right? It's obvious. Some of us who have had issues in the past ... I had autoimmune issues, I've also had cancer. I grew up just not a very healthy kid, mono when I was kid, just all sorts of health issues and on constant antibiotics. I've been fortunate to be surrounded by people like you and I've taken classes with some of the world's expert in immunity, so I've learned how to build my immunity. But why, I mean, maybe you can break it down in really simple terms for some of our people watching, why do some of us have such a hard time with our defense system fighting off these foreign invaders compared to other people?
Daniel, when he gets sick, it's highly annoying to everyone in the family. He'll come in and he's like, "I'm sick. I don't feel well." He'll go lay down, two hours later he wakes up and he's fine. I'm not joking. It's weird. But for me, if I get sick, I'm down. I'm down for the count for weeks. That's why I'm so much more careful and the number of supplements I take is insane. But why? Explain that to us.
Dr Parris Kidd: Well, that would be the $64-billion question. We don't really know why one person differs from others, except to say that there are so many different factors that can come into it. Now, the instinctive guests is almost always to begin with genetics, right? Well, that may or may not be a factor, what we inherited exactly, but what's becoming clearer from the modern research is that the nutrients that we take into our bodies have a great deal to do with how our genes function and how our genes are expressed to be translated into functioning proteins, and also that the requirements of each person for any particular nutrient can vary by hundreds of times, sometimes more than a thousand fold. So each particular person has their own individual biochemical profile and they also have their own immune profile.
The immune system consists of many, many different cell types and these cell types are constantly talking with each other and messaging. They are backed up by a range of different organs and everything has to be functioning ideally for you to be able to say, "Okay, I feel a little twitch at the back of my throat. I'll go to bed for two hours and then I'll be fine again." Most people can't quite pull that off. A person who can do that actually is very fortunate. They have a pretty well-functioning immune system.
For the population at large, I think a big message we need to get out is that the vast majority of Americans, and certainly of people around the world, are not getting sufficient amounts of the nutrients they need to have an optimal immune system. Now, those single cells especially are out there on their own, many of them are circulating in the blood. They're being exposed to stressful factors, toxins that come in with the food, with the air, even with the water, and they are directly exposed in the blood and the body fluids and in the tissues to those toxins. These are single cells that are out there on their own, so they are doing one-unit scouting parties. They have a much higher requirement for all the basic nutrients.
Now, I've been saying all through my work that the vitamins and the minerals are the building blocks of life. These are the substances that the body must have in order to function, and nowhere is this true more than with the immune system, which has a lot of similarities with the brain by the way and which actually works very closely with the brain. Those single immune cells there have very high demands for all of the essential nutrients, and we know from all sorts of surveys that the average American is not getting sufficient amounts of several different nutrients. That is a factor that is easy to measure, and even without measuring it, we can create our own nutritional insurance by having a supplement program that practically guarantees that we're going to be getting sufficient amounts of those nutrients.
I see the gears turning in Daniel's head. What's your question, Daniel?
Dr Daniel Amen: I'm just trying to think of the people listening and it's how do you arm the soldiers in the war against viruses and the war against bacteria? Sometimes the soldiers get out of control, so sometimes the immune cells-
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:10:03].
Dr Daniel Amen: We think of it a lot as white blood cells that go after an attack. The immunity is really to guard us from abnormal cells in our bodies, think of cancer cells or things from the outside. You often say that you were suckerpunched by an invader that was on the inside, which was cancer.
Tana Amen: Right, right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Your immune cells have to be balanced to be able to recognize trouble and fight it, but then not to-
Tana Amen: Go so crazy. Right, [crosstalk 00:10:54].
Dr Daniel Amen: ... see normal cells and like that. So it's keeping them healthy, well-armed, balanced, but not that they lose their minds.
Tana Amen: I love what Dr. Kidd said. He was talking about the nutrients, what he sees as the nutrients. I couldn't agree more, which is why I wrote The Omni Diet, why I went on my journey to heal myself. When I started taking classes and I was blessed to meet people like you and some of the other experts that I met along the way, I went, "Oh, ding, ding, ding." That's when I wrote The Omni Diet. But in The Omni Diet, a big part of the Omni diet is supplements. It's not just food, it's supplements because we can't do it all with just ... Unless you are sleeping perfectly, you are eating perfectly, you are meditating and not succumbing to stress in your life, and you are not exposed to environmental toxins, we can't do it perfectly. I just think of supplements the way to mind the gap, if you will, just to give you that insurance and cover that gap.
When I got my nutrition right, my supplements right, and I learned how to sleep, because I wasn't sleeping, and for me meditation was really important, but those were the things, the big four for me, that really helped. Recently, I got bombarded after the quarantine started. My community bombarded me and they're asking me to do videos, again, because you helped me before, on my supplement routine. The only reason I have hesitated is because it's so complex. I want to do it but linking it down for people is long.
Dr Daniel Amen: [crosstalk 00:12:34], it's terrifying.
Dr Parris Kidd: Well, why don't we start at the very beginning? Why don't we start at the very beginning, and the very beginning is the fortress. There are barriers. Your skin is a barrier. The skin is a very important barrier. Think if you didn't have a skin, you're totally vulnerable to anything that came along. Then the linings of the mouth, all the other orifices, the linings of the nose, all along the GI tract, all along the lung, airways, those have continuous layers of cells within which are embedded immune cells. They are immune cells that are actually part of the lining. Then there are immune cells that actually spend most of their time in the opening. That is, consider the long airways that we all think about these days. Within the airway cavity itself, or biologically we say the lumen, there are immune cells that reside and that are continually monitoring the air that's coming in.
You can actually generate incredible pictures from asbestos fibers getting into the lung because the immune cell will attempt to eat and kill the asbestos fiber, but it can't do it, so then you get these incredibly twisted and elongated immune cells. As particles come in, with a well-functioning system, those barriers hold up. The mucus that's along the linings contain certain antibodies and when things are going well, most of the particles that come in, including most or all of the viruses, get hung up in the mucus, they get bound by antibodies like IgE for example, and then they get neutralized. They don't even get beyond the outer defenses.
Now, the main nutrient that's required for that function is vitamin A, and vitamin A is very interesting because not only is it needed for the cells to have tight junctions against each other, but also it has an interaction with the friendly bacteria that also live in all those regions. The friendly bacteria actually make vitamin A, and the vitamin A that they make together with the vitamin A that we get from our diet, feeds the epithelium and feeds the immune cells and tells the immune cells to be mature and to be alert and vigilant. An interesting thing about vitamin A is that most supplements give it as beta carotene, although we know that people of certain ethnic groups and people within the population in general can have mutations that make it hard for them to make vitamin A from beta carotene. That's why we only use preformed vitamin A in our supplements. We don't want to take any chances.
Dr Daniel Amen: How much vitamin A?
Dr Parris Kidd: [crosstalk 00:16:15].
Dr Daniel Amen: We have to go to the next podcast, but how much vitamin A should people take on a daily basis to support their immune system?
Dr Parris Kidd: 3,000 to 5,000 international units.
Dr Daniel Amen: How much is in NeuroVite Plus?
Dr Parris Kidd: 5,000.
Dr Daniel Amen: 5,000, that's great.
All right. When we come back, we're going to talk about more strategies to strengthen your immune system. Stay with us.
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