Life Extension Magazine®

Maintaining Healthy Immune Function

Therapies to protect against the decline in immune function caused by HIV infection, chemotherapy, and aging.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Life Extension Editorial Staff.

Maintaining Healthy Immune Function

The decline in immune function caused by the aging process kills far more people than immunosuppression induced by the HIV virus.

In this article, we will outline immune boosting protocols for maintaining healthy immune function in healthy people and in those whose immune systems have been compromised by HIV infection, chemotherapy, and aging.

Free Radical Injury

Free radical pathologies have been linked to much of the immune system damage caused by normal aging. New evidence shows that immune destruction caused by the HIV (Human Immune Deficiency) virus is also partially a result of free radical injury to immune system components.

A strong immune system is critical in preventing infection from viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Cancer cells are thought to form regularly, and a vigilant immune response is required to kill or inactivate these transformed cells before they proliferate enough to form a malignant tumor.

Increase In Deaths

In a recent article in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), a 58% increase in deaths from infectious disease was reported in the United States between 1980 and 1992. While AIDS accounted for the majority of this increase in deaths, it was found that, even without AIDS, deaths from infectious diseases still increased by 22%.

The JAMA article attributed the increase in deaths from infectious diseases to climatic changes, more frequent travel across international borders, and new and re-emerging diseases such as Lyme disease, dengue fever, yellow fever, tuberculosis and malaria. It was also stated in the JAMA article that lack of preventive healthcare has been an underlying causative factor in the increase in deaths from infectious diseases.

A Daily Antioxidant Regimen

Members of the Life Extension Foundation have long been encouraged to follow a daily antioxidant regimen that protects against immune suppressing free radical pathologies. Free radical pathologies have been implicated in most of the disease processes of aging including cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, cataracts and other degenerative diseases.

The incidence of cancer has been increasing every year in the U.S. since the turn of the century, with sharply higher cancer rates being reported after 1960. Many dangerous bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics that once kept them in check and are re-emerging threats to our health and longevity.

Scientific evidence shows that antioxidants can protect immune function and that specific nutrients may prevent or slow the progression of HIV infection.

We will now inform you how to protect your immune system against the ravages of aging and HIV infection, and provide you with an updated HIV Treatment Protocol.

Do Nutrient Deficiencies Promote AIDS?

Controversy has developed in the scientific community as to whether the HIV virus is the only agent responsible for the decline in immune function clinically defined as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

In 1985, The Life Extension Foundation first proposed that the decline in immune function in HIV-positive individuals might be prevented or slowed by taking high potency nutrient supplements.

Since 1985, several hundred medical papers have provided evidence that the basic mechanisms involved in HIV immune system destruction are associated with deficiencies in basic vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Remaining Healthy With HIV

Another conclusion that emerges from the scientific literature is that some people with healthy immune systems who are antibody positive for the HIV virus may never develop immune suppression or AIDS. They remain perfectly healthy in spite of having antibodies to the HIV virus. No HIV No AidsBeing HIV positive is not necessarily a death sentence. It was recently reported, for example, that nine children who were HIV positive at birth are now HIV negative.

This indicates that most people should be on an immune enhancing program, not only to protect against the risk of AIDS, but also against other viral diseases such as hepatitis B and C and cancer.

FDA Fraud

It is interesting to note that, after The Foundation reported that nutrient supplementation might slow the progression of HIV infection in 1985, the FDA used this report to bring criminal charges against the leaders of The Foundation. The FDA said The Foundation was defrauding dying AIDS victims by recommending and selling unapproved therapies such as coenzyme Q10, zinc, high dose vitamins, N-acetylcysteine, isoprinosine, and so on.

However, the emerging scientific evidence has revealed that we were accurate in our 1985 recommendations, and that it was the FDA that defrauded (and hastened the death of) HIV positive individuals and AIDS patients by denying them access to invaluable information about nutrient therapies that might have slowed the progression of their disease.

New HIV Treatment protocol

Our new HIV Treatment Protocol is comprised of the following three elements:

  1. Nutritional Immune Support
  2. Hormonal Immune Support
  3. European Immune Therapies

A critical part of our protocol is blood monitoring every one to three months to assess the effectiveness of whatever HIV treatment choice(s) you make. Here are the blood tests that you (and your physician) can use to monitor treatment efficacy:

Immune Cell Subset Test

This test evaluates T-helper cell numbers, T-helper/suppressor ratios, NAK activity, and other important immune component activity.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction)

This test is the most accurate commercial test for measuring HIV viral activity.

Since many FDA-approved anti-viral drugs are toxic, regular blood tests including a CBC (to measure blood cell counts) and a complete blood chemistry (including liver and kidney function tests) can help to protect you against life-threatening organ damage by indicating toxicity before any symptoms appear.


Nutrients That Boost Immune Function

The Life Extension ABSTRACTS section of this issue of LIFE EXTENSION Magazine contains some of the key evidence that the proper daily intake of supplemental nutrients may protect you against the devastating effects of HIV infection, other diseases, and aging, while boosting your overall health and vigor.

Here are the most important nutrients for HIV positives:


 Much of the immune decline caused by the HIV virus involves the depletion of cellular glutathione levels resulting in massive free radical damage that causes cells throughout the body to be destroyed.

An effective way of boosting cellular glutathione levels is to take N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC), a compound that generates the large-scale production of glutathione within the body. NAC has also been shown to function via several different mechanisms to inhibit HIV replication and to protect immune cells against HIV destruction.

There is a controlled study now being conducted to assess the efficacy of NAC in slowing the progression of HIV infection. The results of this study may not be accurate, however, since many HIV patients in the placebo group may already be taking NAC because of widespread publicity about its potential benefits.

The suggested dose of NAC for those who are HIV positive is 600 mg. three times a day. Two to three grams of vitamin C should be taken with each 600 mg. dose of NAC.

Some studies show that NAC by itself does not always elevate glutathione levels. That's why it is so important to take other glutathione precursors in order to provide your body with the maximum amount of glutathione replenishing nutrients and hormones.


Another glutathione precursor is the trace mineral selenium. Selenium also counteracts potentially damaging free radicals and may inhibit certain chemicals that the HIV virus requires for reproduction.

The minimum dose of selenium is 300 meg. daily, but those who are HIV positive should consider taking 600-1000 meg. of selenium daily.

There are many inexpensive selenium supplements on the market, but most do not contain the high elemental amounts of selenium found in SUPER SELENIUM COMPLEX.

Each tablet of SUPER SELENIUM COMPLEX contains:

  • 100 mcg. of elemental selenium from Sodium Selenate
  • 50 mcg. of elemental selenium from Selenomethionine (yeast-free) 50 mcg. of elemental selenium from Selenodiglutathione
  • 30 IU of vitamin E
T hese three forms of selenium provide different health benefits within the body, which is why they're all included in the SUPER SELENIUM formula.


 A nutrient often overlooked by those who are HIV positive is the amino acid arginine. Arginine enhances immune function via several different mechanisms, including stimulation of growth hormone secretion and modulation of nitric oxide metabolism. Arginine, along with other amino acids, may also be effective in preventing wasting syndrome.

In the July 1992 issue of Medical Hypothesis, arginine was suggested as a novel therapeutic approach to HIV disease because it induces broad immune stimulation in vitro and in vivo.

The suggested dose for HIV positive individuals is 6-15 grams of arginine a day on an empty stomach, preferable at bedtime.

Cancer patients may not wish to take arginine because the amino acid boosts cellular protein synthesis, which, in theory, could cause cancer cells to divide faster.

Arginine is available as a powder, but the most convenient way of taking arginine is Life Extension's new ARGININE CAPLETS. Each caplet contains

1,200 mg. of arginine, which enables a person to consume high doses of the amino acid without having to swallow a large number of capsules.


 Another amino acid often overlooked by HIV positive individuals is L-carnitine .

L-carnitine has been shown to boost immune function via several different mechanisms, to protect the heart muscle against AZT induced toxicity, and to enhance essential fatty acid and glucose energy metabolism, to help prevent wasting syndrome.

High doses of L-Carnitine have enhanced immunologic and metabolic parameters in HIV positive individuals who have been shown to be deficient in L-Carnitine.

The suggested dose of L-Carnitine for HIV is 2,400 mg. a day, preferably taken in two divided doses on an empty stomach.


 A popular supplement used by HIV positive persons is Coenzyme-Q10 (Co-Q10). Many studies have shown that Co-Q10 boosts immune system function. In a pilot study in AIDS patients, Co-Q10 provided significant benefits to these patients. Co-Q10 has been shown to be deficient in HIV infected people.

Co-Q10 is expensive, but we suggest that HIV positive persons take at least 100 mg. a day. Doses of 200-400 mg. a day may be beneficial, if affordable.

For maximum absorption into the bloodstream, Co-Q10 should be taken with fat. Life Extension now has rice-bran oil capsules with Coenzyme-Q10 dissolved in the oil for best possible assimilation. Rice-bran oil contains a potent natural vitamin E derivative to protect against rancidity.




Hormones That Boost Immune Function

Based upon recent studies showing an undeniable connection between the neuroendocrine and immune systems, a new field of medicine is emerging called psychoneuroimmunology. Foundation members have been reading about how hormones interact with immune components to optimize overall immune function for many years.

Hormones synchronize immune function. An immune system that is not precisely synchronized will not function at optimal levels. An immune system that is in a state of regulatory chaos cannot keep the host alive and healthy.

The Foundation's HIV Treatment Protocol is designed to enhance immune function in people who are aging, are receiving cancer chemotherapy, and who have been infected by the HIV virus. This protocol works best in HIV positive individuals with 500+ T-helper cells.

HIV, cancer chemotherapy, and aging all cause immune system destruction and desychronization. Here are the five best documented immune protecting and immune restoring hormonal therapies:


 Preliminary evidence suggests that HIV infection may be slowed by the nightly intake of melatonin.

Researchers now believe that the AIDS virus replicates at a furious pace from the time of infection, creating as many as 2 billion new viral particles a day. The reason there appears to be such a long incubation period between the time of infection and the development of AIDS symptoms is because the immune system is creating new T-cell lymphocytes and other immune cells as quickly as the AIDS virus replicates. At some point however, the AIDS virus overwhelms the ability of the immune system to produce new T-cells and the patient succumbs to immune suppression, eventual immune destruction, and death.

Enhancing Immune Cell Proliferation

The knowledge that the immune system responds aggressively to the AIDS virus means that therapies that enhance immune cell proliferation should be effective anti AIDS therapies.

Melatonin enhances the production of T-helper cells, the very cells lost to HIV infection. Melatonin also enhances the production of natural killer cells (NAK), which are crucial in both cancer and AIDS patients and other virus fighting blood cells. In addition, melatonin has an effect on cytokines---such as interleukin-2, the chemical messengers of the immune system that are crucial for T-cell growth.

In addition to enhancing the production of cells being killed by the AIDS virus, melatonin may also help to prevent HIV cellular destruction via its action as an antioxidant. The latest evidence suggests that melatonin is even more effective than nutrient antioxidants in suppressing immune-cell-killing free radicals generated by the HIV virus. In fact, it looks as if melatonin may be the most potent antioxidant yet discovered at fighting cellular free radicals.

A Direct Anti-Viral Effect

One study conducted by Dr. Russel Reiter of the University Of Texas in Austin indicates that melatonin may have a direct effect on HIV replication. For HIV to replicate, it needs a substance called nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-kB). Since the amount of NF-kB is reduced by 23% at night, Dr. Reiter sought to determine whether melatonin is responsible for the nightly decline in NF-kB. When Dr. Reiter injected rats with melatonin during the day, he observed a reduction of NF-kB binding activity of 43%. This finding suggests that melatonin may be able to interfere with the division of HIV viruses by cutting off their supply of NF-kB.

Dr. George Maestroni, a pioneer in the field of melatonin immunotherapy, conducted a pilot AIDS study in Italy in which eleven HIV infected people were given 20 mg. of melatonin every night. After a month of treatment, the patients had an overall increase of T-helper cells of 35%, an increase of natural killer cells of 57%, and a 76% increase in lymphocyte production! In spite of these remarkable findings, this line of research has not been pursued because melatonin is not a patentable drug that can generate billions of dollars of profits for any of the pharmaceutical giants.

Other Benefits From Melatonin

Melatonin appears to benefit AIDS patients as well. It protects against AZT toxicity and wasting syndrome. We suggest that HIV patients obtain the book MELATONIN by Dr. Russel Reiter and Jo Robinson. This recently published 290-page book contains newly discovered findings about AIDS and melatonin.

The suggested dose of melatonin for HIV patients ranges from 20 mg. to 30 mg. nightly. Individuals who are HIV positive, but haven't yet progressed to AIDS should consider taking 10-20 mg of melatonin every night. Healthy people can benefit from melatonin at doses ranging from 500 mcg. to 10 mg. nightly. Many people find that for optimal sleep they take a sublingual tablet (or open the capsule and hold the melatonin under their tongue for about 60 seconds), which induces rapid drowsiness.


Studies published in 1992 demonstrated that DHEA has a direct inhibitory effect on HIV replication and even inhibits AZT-resistant strains of HIV. Additional studies showed that HIV infection progressed only when serum DHEA levels began to decline. The speculation from these studies was that maintaining healthy blood levels of DHEA would prevent HIV infection from progressing to fullblown AIDS.

DHEA is now widely used by HIV patients. While it has a well documented direct anti-viral effect, the primary benefit of DHEA may be it's ability to protect immune function against a wide array of insults.

DHEA Maintains Healthy Immune Function

Studies have documented that DHEA has a beneficial role in maintaining healthy immune function. The Life Extension Foundation recommends that all HIV infected patients and most people over 40 have their blood levels of DHEA tested, and then take supplementary DHEA accordingly to restore their serum DHEA level to that of a healthy 21-year-old.

For optimal benefits, DHEA capsules should be opened and held under your tongue for 60 seconds and then washed down. As much as 90% of DHEA that is orally ingested can be metabolized by the liver before it reaches other parts of your body. By opening the DHEA capsule and allowing it to be absorbed under your tongue, you can increase the amount of bioavailable DHEA substantially. Considering the relatively high cost of DHEA, you could save considerable money by putting DHEA under your tongue in order to bypass the liver.

The suggested daily dose of DHEA ranges from 50 mg. to 500 mg. Regular blood tests are crucial to determine the exact amount of DHEA an HIV positive person or AIDS patient should take. Too much DHEA in the blood could have a counterproductive effect. Suggested blood tests include DHEA serum levels and the standard immune cell subset test that all HIV/AIDS persons should take every three months to assess the efficacy of whatever therapy they are using.

Thymic Hormones

T-cells are produced and develop to maturation in response to hormones secreted by the thymus gland. Aging causes a shrinkage of the thymus gland and the resulting reduction in the production of thymic hormones is a major cause of the progressive decline in immune function that occurs with normal aging. HIV infection also affects thymus gland hormone secretion adversely.

In the next section (Immune Boosting European Therapies), a suggested protocol for the use of the thymus stimulating therapies isoprinosine and Thymex is given.

There is an experimental thymus therapy available from Canada that is a pharmaceutical extract from the thymus glands of disease-free calves. This extract contains the full range of immune modulating thymosins and thymostimulin.


Aging, cancer, HIV infection, and AIDS often lead to suboptimal levels of thyroxine (one of the thyroid hormones). Proper levels of thyroxine are crucial for optimal immune function. Blood tests do not always accurately detect a thyroid hormone deficiency.

One method of determining if you are thyroid deficient is to take your temperature as soon as you awaken in the morning. If your temperature is consistently below normal, then you may want to start a thyroid hormone supplement.

Popular prescription thyroid replacement drugs are:

  • Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone)
  • Armour (natural thyroid hormone)
  • Cytomel (T3 thyroid fraction)

You must be careful not to overdose on thyroid hormone, so the advice of a knowledgeable physician is important when considering thyroid hormone replacement.


Aging, cancer, HIV infection, and AIDS are associated with excessive cortisol production from the adrenal glands that can decimate immune function. It is thus crucial to suppress excessive cortisol production.

There are 17 European studies showing that HIV causes some of its destruction of the immune system by stimulating excessive cortisol production.

DHEA appears to suppress cortisol levels. Melatonin appears to block the receptor sites in immune cells that cortisol binds to. Excessive cortisol binding causes injury and death to these cortisol "infected" immune cells.

High doses of the European procaine drug K.H.3 (taken at least twice a day) is suggested as the best way of suppressing elevated cortisol levels in cancer and AIDS patients. One to two tablets of K.H.3 should be taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and then again an hour before dinner on an empty stomach.

It is difficult to test cortisol levels in the blood because adrenal surges of cortisol can occur erratically throughout the day. That's one reason why this important link to immune system destruction has been largely ignored by American doctors.


European Immune Boosting Therapies

Isoprinosine is approved by almost every regulatory agency in the world except the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

On June 21, 1990, The New England Journtal Of Medicine published findings that isoprinosine slows the progression of HIV infection! This report was one of hundreds of published studies showing that isoprinosine boosts immune function in cancer patients, persons infected with HIV, and healthy people.

In 1985, The Foundation recommended that HIV infected people take isoprinosine to slow the decline in immune function that leads to full-blown AIDS. Isoprinosine can be purchased from various "Buyers Clubs" that supply Alzheimer's patients and HIV-infected people with drugs that haven't yet been approved by the FDA.

Immune boosting drugs work best when taken on an alternative dosing schedule, i.e. isoprinosine works best when taken two months on, two months off.

Here is an immune boosting schedule for healthy and immune compromised patients to consider:

Isoprinosine Therapy: Take 2,000 mg. to 3,000 mg. daily for two months. Repeat every other two months.

After completing two months of isoprinosine therapy take one round of:

  • Biostim Therapy: Three month dosing schedule as follows:
  • 2 tablets daily for eight days. Then stop for three weeks.
  • 1 tablet daily for eight days. Then stop for three weeks.
  • 1 tablet daily for eight days. Then stop for nine months.

After completing Biostim Therapy, we suggest a two month regimen of:

Thymic Immune Factors produces mechanisms of immune enhancement similar to isoprinosine. For optimal immune maintenance, we suggest that isoprinosine be taken for two months, then take a two month break and start a two-month course of Thymic Immune Factors. After another two month break, start another two month course of isoprinosine.


The FDA has approved four toxic anti-viral drugs to slow the progression of HIV infection. These drugs are AZT, ddI, ddC, and 3TC. There are additional cytotoxic anti-viral drugs the FDA will be approving soon.

There is enthusiasm in some parts of the AIDS community that various combinations of these anti-viral drugs could enable those with HIV infection and clinically diagnosed AIDS to maintain long-term remissions. Newly published studies are showing that various combinations of these anti-viral drugs work better than AZT alone.

Recent Studies

The two most recent studies indicate that a combination of AZT and 3TC, along with one of the new relatively non-toxic protease inhibitors may be the ideal combination for AIDS patients to try first.

From a technical standpoint, the belief that these anti-viral combinations will be able to put HIV infections into long-term remission seems almost too good to be true. In fact, there is an erie resemblance here to the excitement generated in the 1960s and 1970s about the possibility of combinations of chemotherapy and drugs curing cancer.

The fact is HIV does its greatest damage to the blood-immune system, and that these anti-viral drugs damage the bone marrow where blood and immune cells orginate. Although in the short term, the drugs do reduce viral activity, they may add insult to an already damaged immune system in the long term.

In several studies published in 1994, AZT was compared to a placebo, with no difference in overall survival rates. In some cases, AZT caused an increase in mortality.

Recognizing that AZT monotherapy is clearly not the solution to AIDS, some of the AIDS support groups are now suggesting that aggressive combinations of almost every anti-viral drug available be tried in AIDS patients. One proposal is to stimulate the replication of immune cells, so that more copies of the HIV virus will be produced in the hope that the drugs will kill more viruses and more immune cells (both healthy and HIV infected cells).

Killing The Immune System

The problem with such combination therapies is that--in the short term--there very well could be a significant reduction in the PCR (a test for HIV viral levels) and even a temporary increase in CD4 (T-helper cells). Regular blood tests are needed to monitor the toxicity of anti-viral drugs to determine when to switch from one combination of drugs to another.

It is interesting to note that in the two most recent studies documenting that combination anti-viral drug therapy is superior to AZT monotherapy, those who had never taken an anti-viral drug had higher survival rates than those who had previously taken AZT. One reason for the better effect on these "anti-viral virgins" was that not as much drug resistance had developed in them to the antiviral drugs. The use of AZT results in the development of drug resistant strains of HIV being formed within one to two years.

Another reason the "anti-viral virgins" did better is that their immune systems may not have been previously damaged by cytotoxic anti-viral drugs such as AZT and ddI.

First Follow Our Nontoxic Protocol

Since HIV is a slow progressing disease, and since blood tests enable you to monitor the efficacy of our new HIV TREATMENT PROTOCOL, most HIV positive individuals who have not developed AIDS should consider following our nontoxic protocol first before relying on combination anti-viral drug therapy.