When dealing with autoimmune or chronic disease it’s critically important to look at how the immune system works.
The immune system is separated into two parts: Th1 response and Th2 response. T1 cells are pro-inflammatory and T2 are anti-inflammatory. The Th2 response stimulates B cells which help generate antibodies. When we talk about immune issues we are also dealing with some sort of antigen. An antigen can be a bacteria, mold, parasite, virus, allergy, chemical or a heavy metal.
The first immune response is the Th1 which is the “police force” that will attempt to get rid of the invader. If this response is ineffective the Th2 system will kick in and create antibodies against the antigen. This is how our body was originally designed to keep us healthy. In most cases this works and the antigen will be destroyed. However, if we are dealing with something such as a food allergy or a heavy metal that cannot be killed, then the immune system is firing without productivity. If the body is confused about what is the true problem, the immune system will simply attack your own healthy tissue. Sometimes the immune system gets out of balance and either the Th1 response or the Th2 response becomes dominant.
Lets use the example of the Th1 system becoming over active and dominant. The immune system will fight until it finally becomes fatigued and will take a break. Usually the result of the “moment of seize fire” will actually feel like a relief and your symptoms will diminish. In autoimmune disorders, the discomfort and pain is actually as a result of the immune system at war. Your immune systems is out of balance and is confused to the point it is attacking your own body… thus the name “autoimmune”. Ironically, as your body starts to recover, the immune response kicks in again followed by the symptoms and pain returning. It’s a vicious cycle and it can be very confusing to determine what is actually causing the pain. I find this to be a common problem with people who come to me after years of dealing with Lyme Disease or autoimmune issues. Many people are being prescribed the wrong type of immune stimulant and they are actually empowering their body to attack themselves. The key is that immune stimulants are different and are designed to stimulate in a particular manner. The supplements that designed to stimulate Th1 may be the opposite of what the body really needs. There is a huge lack of information in this area. I have found very few natural practitioners are taking immune balance into consideration. When I was given this information during my struggle with late stage Lyme Disease, I experienced a huge relief by stopping the supplements that were doing me harm.
Commonly the western medicine approach is to shut down the immune system using steroids. In my opinion, this is one of the most harmful responses that can be taken! For example in the case of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), most patients will be given steroids which will indeed give them a relief of their symptoms since it shuts down the autoimmune attack. However, if the root of the MS is actually Lyme diseases, the steroids have now enabled the bacteria to thrive. The result will be that the patient indeed progresses down the typical MS journey just as the doctors predicted. The vulnerable patient may accept this diagnosis and all the horrible effects that come along with MS. I suggest a different approach, which looks for the root cause and balancing the immune system instead of shutting it down.
Of course the number one response should be to remove the antigen. In dealing with any disease we always need to search for the root cause. In some cases there are more than one antigens. This may involve a detox diet and testing for allergies. It may involve destroying the bacteria or mold overgrowth. It could also involve chelating the heavy metals out of the body. While we are addressing the antigens, we need to determine if the body is in a Th1 dominant mode or a Th2 dominant mode. This can be done through an elimination process. Interestingly, we commonly see those with Lyme Disease in a Th1 dominant mode vs cancer which is frequently Th2 dominant. This leads to the conclusion that immune stimulants such as Beta Glucan or other mushrooms might be wonderful for cancer but be very harmful to someone with Lyme Disease. For example, if you take a look at the list below, a Th1 dominant person will want to AVOID all the stimulants on the Th1 list and ADD some on the Th2 list so they can balance out the immune system.
List of common stimulants:
- Vit C
- Licorice root
- Lemon Balm (Melissa)
- Golden Seal
- Medicinal mushrooms
- Cat’s Claw
- Pycnogenol (apples)
- Curcumin (turmeric)
- Green tea
- Pine bark
- White Willow Bark
- Pau D Arco
- Grape Seed Extract
Some important immune system stabilizers that everyone needs are Vitamin D, glutathione and Omega 3 fish oils. It’s also important to ensure you have a healthy gut flora by taking a good prebiotic and probiotic.
This is just the most simple explanation of the immune system that is extremely complex. This knowledge, however, can alleviate a lot of symptoms so that the true root of disease can be found.