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BBC 1 Programme-The truth about your immune system

Hi All,

This programme was shown on BBC1 on the evening of Wednesday 6 January-it is available on BBC  i player but only in UK I believe.I suggest that it might be useful to look at the programme if so inclined but for me there were some very important conclusions.

The first was that the NLR ratio is important as an indicator of immune health-this is the ratio between neutrophils and lymphocytes;this is easy to calculate so just divide N by L.When I looked at my last set of bloods (and under FBC/CBC) for me  dividing 3.25 by 1.42 comes up with a ratio of 2.29.Anything between 1 and 3 is very acceptable but if it is over 3 then one needs to try to correct it.There have been publications on the susceptibility to Covid infections and levels of NLR ratio but I have not yet explored them.

The second is something we already know in that Vitamin D levels are quite important for immune health;as we cannot get enough of this from foods or the sun especially in winter or if we have a darker skin then supplements are essential.

The programme was presented in a populist manner so as to appeal to a wider audience but backed up by recent and known research and using a panel of 6 volunteers.For me these were some additional important conclusions.It stressed the importance of diet and consuming a variety of foods to create healthy gut bacteria and especially plant based foods such as fruit and veg that contain fibre.It considered the value of supplements of Vitamins A,B and C for instance and concluded that appropriate diet and foods were adequate sources and normally supplements of these would be of limited value as a substitute;in fact it indicated that many off the shelf supplements were of dubious content and strength.It touched on the issue of some of us having allergies to specific foods and how this might lead to immune system over reaction.As well it mentioned the Basophil score and relations to genetics and hereditary but did not explore it in detail.It considered the role of stress with enough being good but in excess being damaging and also the value of sufficient and good sleep on immune levels.

For me one of the most interesting conclusions was that regular moderate exercise especially outdoors helped in producing a healthy lymphocyte score and also  that massage might be beneficial as it affects the skin that then assists glands in releasing lymphocytes; in turn lymphocytes assist in the production of T cells (these are "the foot soldiers" that eventually come to our rescue when we are attacked by an infection.)

My Lymphocyte score has always been a little below range and wonder if this is a feature that many CML patients experience?

Of note was that nearly all of the panel of six volunteers at the beginning of their six week experimental period had quite high NLR ratios well above 3 and some did no regular exercise at all and one was a big lover of processed and junk foods.One contracted Covid in the six week period but survived despite his asthma and being overweight etc;the junk food enthusiast contracted an infection that the immune system had to fight.The other four volunteers reduced their NLR scores to healthier levels but not in each instance to below 3.

Oh, it did conclude that alcohol in small amounts might be beneficial but tests and experiments show that  binge drinking affects immune levels but if allowed to be given time  the system will recover.

I hope my summary is a fair reflection of the content which was very much based on science/medicine with standard tests  and not fad.

Did anyone else see this programme?

Best wishes for a healthy lockdown


Yes, I saw it and also thought it very interesting. Your summary is spot-on. 

Thank you John, I missed that program, only saw your post today, and immediately checked iPlayer, and was able to watch it there.

I believe that the saying "we are what we eat" is basically correct, and our gut microbiome, our resident 'flora and fauna' as it were....are truly wondrous.

I second Sally's comment: your summary is spot-on!

Thanks again for bringing this program to our attention.


I watched this having seen your post - it was good.  I then went to look at my blood results to check my neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio and the first one I looked at was great - about 1.8:1.  I then looked at three others - one was about 2.25:1 but the other two were over 3:1 (but well under 4).  Odd perhaps.  I did notice that my lymphocyte numbers were pretty consistent so it was neutrophil variation which affected the results.  Either my immune system is all over the place (!) or - more likely I hope - I may have been post viral on a couple of occasions, which would have resulted in raised neutrophils.  I'm also a very active person (the exercise I do is probably not always within the "moderate" category discussed in the programme) so maybe that was a factor once or twice).  Who knows.  Maybe bad sleep or something like that too as my diet is pretty good and high in fibre.

On vitamin D, I've been taking that for several years now.  This had nothing to do with immunity (at least, not when I started) - I was advised to do so by a physio when I had what was suspected to be the beginnings of a stress fracture in my lower leg. This was caused by over use (I was marathon training and a relatively new runner), in the winter. He was a rugby club physio and I remember him telling me then (2016) that all the club squad had been advised to take supplements in the winter months and that it was a good idea for me too as it would help prevent a similar problem in the future, and speed my recovery. I've done so ever since... Am less bothered in the summer as I'm outside a lot, though I still take it.

Thanks for flagging this.