The quality of an individual’s immune system can be evaluated through the balance of cytokines it is producing. This increasingly popular classification method is referred to as the Th1/Th2 balance. Interleukins and interferons are called “cytokines” which can be grouped into those secreted by Th1 type cells and those secreted by Th2 type cells. Th1 cells promote cell-mediated immunity while Th2 cells induce humoral immunity.
These two different methods exist by which the body fights infections. While cellular immunity (Th1) directs Natural Killer T-cells and macrophages to attack abnormal cells and microorganisms at sites of infection inside the cells, humoral immunity (Th2) results in the production of antibodies used to neutralize foreign invaders and substances outside of the cells.
In many cases, an infection is fought with both arms of the immune system. At other times predominantly one is needed to control an infection. A healthy immune system is both balanced and dynamic: it should be balanced between Th1 and Th2 activity, switching back and forth between the two as needed. This allows for a quick eradication of a threat and then a return to balance before responding to the next threat. The inability to respond adequately with a Th1 response can result in chronic infection and cancer; an overactive Th2 response can contribute to allergies, various syndromes and play a role in autoimmune disease. In end stage illnesses, both arms of the immune system fail.
Two mechanisms are at work contributing to the development of chronic diseases.
- Pathogen defense mechanisms. When an immature immune cell is exposed to a virus, cancer, yeast, or intracellular bacteria (for example mycoplasma or chlamydia pneumonia), a Th1 response should be initiated. Viruses, especially herpes viruses such as EBV, CMV or HHV6, make proteins that mimic a particular cytokine. By this means the virus deceives the immune system into thinking that the threat is not coming from a virus. The immune system counters with too little of a Th1 response, the virus remains concealed and the infection becomes active or chronic. It is now thought that many, if not most, pathogens have this defensive ability.
- Immune system imbalance. In the above example, the virus has increased its chances of survival by diverting an immune system which is out of balance. It would have been able to respond more accurately if it were healthier. Immune system health is influenced by how we eat and think, our exposure to chemicals and our genetic heritage. In effect we are being judged as individuals for the poor lifestyle decisions we and our parents have made and as a society for not living in greater harmony with nature.
A failure of the Th1 arm of the immune system and an overactive Th2 arm is implicated in a wide variety of chronic illnesses. These include AIDS, CFS, candidiasis, multiple allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), viral hepatitis, gulf war illness, cancer and other illnesses. If these two arms of the immune system could be balanced by stimulating Th1 and decreasing Th2, then many of the symptoms associated with these chronic illnesses would diminish or disappear and we would have found the answer to immune restoration and balance or the equivalent of a cure.
A possible line of therapy being investigated by the medical community is to reintroduce some of these cytokines to people who have severe immune deficiencies. This approach can be tricky because large amounts of any particular cytokine can have serious side-effects. Furthermore, their half-life in the body is usually relatively short and they are expensive.
One point to remember for general application with naturally occurring or synthetic immuno-modulators is that when they are taken continuously, at the same dose, they may become less effective. The dose must vary so that the immune system does not reset itself to the old balance point. Adjust the dose up and down as well as stopping use from time to time.
There are many natural agents available to help restore balance in an underactive Th1 arm. These include:
Omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats found in olive and hazelnut oils, vitamin A cod liver oil, l-Glutamine, Silica, digestive enzymes, friendly intestinal flora or soil based organisms (SBOs), ginseng (Red Korean or concentrated Siberian Ginseng extract), chlorella (spirulina and some other sea vegetables may have similar benefits), thyroid hormones, garlic (raw or aged extract), l-Glutathione (or products that raise levels), DHEA or AED (androstendiol), UV-A light, vitamin E, transfer factor (antigen specific) – protein immunomodulators extracted from colostrum, colostrum, low dose naltrexone, IP6, lentinian and certain other mushrooms, Thymus extracts, licorice root, dong quai, beta 1,3-glucan, noni, neem, gingko biloba, exercise, water (to aid detoxification), a positive attitude and prayer, the ability to forgive and be compassionate, and having long-term goals.
Factors that induce Th2 cytokines and suppress cell-mediated immunity. Processed, heated vegetable oils high in trans-fatty acids and linoleic acid (safflower, soy, canola, corn and sunflower), glucose (white sugar), asbestos, lead, mercury and other heavy metals, pesticides, air and water pollutants, progesterone, prednisone, morphine, tobacco, cortisol (in high doses), HIV, candida albicans, HCV, E coli and many other pathogens, continuous stress, thalidomide, UV-B light, pregnancy, melatonin (conflicting research suggests that high levels induce Th2 cytokines while very small amounts induce Th1 cytokines), alcohol (animals studies show that ethanol definitely suppresses Th1 cytokines and induces Th2; beer was not tested and there are some indications it may help), streptococcus thermophilis (sometimes found in yoghurt), candidiasis, circulating immune complexes (CICs – caused by a combination of leaky gut syndrome and poor digestion of proteins due to a lack or HCl and digestive enzymes), sedentary lifestyle, negative attitudes, low body temperature, acid saliva pH, chronic insomnia, inability to dream, weight lifting, and steroids (for muscle gain).
Signs, symptoms & indicators of Immune System Imbalance (TH2 Dominance)
Allergies to particular chemicals
(High) chemical sensitivity
Minor/major fatigue for over 3 months or major fatigue for over 12 months
Conditions that suggest Immune System Imbalance (TH2 Dominance)
Since cellular immunity is responsible for protection against the spreading of coccidioidomycosis, cellular immunity may be depressed in those who experience dissemination. HIV, for example, greatly increases the risk of developing coccidioidomycosis.
It has been suggested that an impaired TH1 immune response appears to favor chronicity of hepatitis C infections. Whether impaired activity of the NK cells in chronic HCV infections is due to a dominance of TH2 lymphocytes remains to be seen.
General fungal/yeast infections
Risk factors for Immune System Imbalance (TH2 Dominance)
Low T4 helper cell level
Having low CD8 count
Treatment of T cells from young and elderly adults with recombinant human IL-12, a pivotal cytokine that stimulates Th1 cytokines, resulted in enhancement of CD8+ CTL activity and IFN-? production in a dose dependent manner (P<0.01). IL-12-dependent enhancement of CTL activity was not always abrogated by anti-IFN-? antibody treatment. These results suggest that deficient influenza virus-specific CTL activity among the elderly is attributable to a Th1 to Th2 cytokine production switch. Immunotherapy with IL-12 could represent a useful approach to correct the CD8+ CTL deficiency and cytokine imbalance among elderly humans. The Analyst note: Increasing the TH1/TH2 ratio by other means may have the same beneficial effect.
History of adult allergies
Sugared soft drink consumption
(High) refined sugar consumption
(High) hydrogenated fat consumption
Past general fungal/yeast infections
Immune System Imbalance (TH2 Dominance) can lead to
Recommendations for Immune System Imbalance (TH2 Dominance)
Glutathione levels in antigen-presenting cells determine whether Th1 or Th2 response patterns predominate [Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1998 Mar 17;95(6): pp.3071-6]. Increasing glutathione levels helps reduce a Th2 dominance.
Thymic factors highly refined or crudely extracted help balance a TH2 dominant immune system by increasing IL-2 and T cell counts.
Transfer factor augments cell-mediated immunity or pushes a TH2 to a TH1 state. This is useful in TH2-dominated conditions. Transfer factor may help to rebalance a TH2 dominant Immune system.
The specific bacteria that that help balance a TH2 dominant immune system are:
MGN3, though a commercially prepared product, is a unique blend of mushroom extracts and rice bran. It stimulates NK function and thus helps balance a TH2 dominant immune system.
Gingko Biloba may reduce excess cortisol production. Elevated cortisol levels have a suppressing effect on TH1 cytokines.
Garlic, raw or aged extract, promotes TH1 cytokines to help balance the immune system. Raw garlic can kill many kinds of fungus and bacteria.
Chlorella increases TH1 cytokines to help balance the immune system. Other algae products may have similar benefits.
Noni promotes NK function and immunity against cancer.
Neem can help balance a TH2 dominant immune system. It is also an antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial herb.
Oils such as olive, hazelnut, coconut can enhance TH1 cytokines which help balance the immune system. The adult therapeutic dose may be in the range of 4 tablespoons daily. Monounsaturated fats found in olive and hazelnut oils reduce TNF and increase IgA levels.
Low doses of Naltrexone can help reduce TH2 cytokines to assist in balancing the immune system.
Moducare (a plant sterol product) restores weakened or reduced T cell activity in a balanced proportion of TH1 and TH2 cells. This enables the immune system to effectively counteract viral diseases (common cold, hepatitis, HIV, etc.) and various microbial diseases (tuberculosis, etc.).
Beta 1, 3-glucan is commercially extracted and found in the common yeast. It is also found in oats and oat or rye sprouts. It stimulates macrophage and neutrophil function.
Thyroxine (T4) found in Synthroid and desiccated thyroid is a thyroid hormone that increases TH1 cytokines to help balance the immune system.
(Sources: Am J Physiol 1997 Oct;273(4 Pt 1): pp.125-32 and J Immunol 1998 Jul 15;161(2): pp.843-9)
DHEA increases TH1 cytokines which help balance the immune system.
Digestive enzymes improve digestion and assimilation of proteins and other nutrients, reduce circulating immune complexes that cause antibody and autoantibody formation. Protein digestive enzymes are found naturally in fresh ginger root, raw pineapple and kiwi fruit. Quality proteins support mucus membrane integrity.
IP6 – found in brown rice and corn and extracted as a commercial product – promotes NK function and thus helps balance a TH2 dominant immune system.
Vitamin E increases TH1 cytokines, which help balance a TH2 dominant immune system.
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A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.
Cytokines are chemical messengers that control immune responses. They are secreted by white blood cells, T cells, epithelial cells and some other body cells. There are at least 17 different kinds of interleuken and 3 classes of interferon called alpha, beta and gamma and various subsets. Interleukens and interferons are called “cytokines” and there are two general groupings, Th1 and Th2. Th1 (T-cell Helper type 1) promote cell-mediated immunity (CMI) while Th2 (T-cell Helper type 2) induce humoral immunity (antibodies).
This refers to immunity to infection created by proteins termed antibodies, often referred to as "B" cells.
A branch of the immune system which involves direct attack by immune cells often called "T" cells. Antibodies play less of a role.
T cells are lymphocytes that are produced in the bone marrow and mature in the thymus. T cells are responsible for mediating the second branch of the immune system called "cellular immune response." T cells can live for months to years. This lymphocyte population is defined by the presence of a rearranged T-cell receptor.
A type of serum protein (globulin) synthesized by white blood cells of the lymphoid type in response to an antigenic (foreign substance) stimulus. Antibodies are complex substances formed to neutralize or destroy these antigens in the blood. Antibody activity normally fights infection but can be damaging in allergies and a group of diseases that are called autoimmune diseases.
Usually Chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.
Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.
Hypersensitivity caused by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen), resulting in an increased reactivity to that antigen on subsequent exposure, sometimes with harmful immunologic consequences.
One of a large group of diseases in which the immune system turns against the body's own cells, tissues and organs, leading to chronic and often deadly conditions. Examples include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Bright's disease and diabetes.
Any of a vast group of minute structures composed of a protein coat and a core of DNA and/or RNA that reproduces in the cells of the infected host. Capable of infecting all animals and plants, causing devastating disease in immunocompromised individuals. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics, and are completely dependent upon the cells of the infected host for the ability to reproduce.
A single-cell organism that may cause infection in the mouth, vagina, gastrointestinal tract, and any or all bodily parts. Common yeast infections include candidiasis and thrush.
Microscopic germs. Some bacteria are "harmful" and can cause disease, while other "friendly" bacteria protect the body from harmful invading organisms.
A sexually-transmitted disease that is often without symptoms. Some females experience a white vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese, a burning sensation when urinating, itching, and painful intercourse. A clear watery urethral discharge in the male probably is a chlamydia infection.
Epstein Barr virus
(EBV): A virus that causes infectious mononucleosis and that is possibly capable of causing other diseases in immunocompromised hosts.
(CMV): A member of the herpes virus family which may induce the immune-deficient state or cause active illness, such as pneumonia, in a patient already immune-deficient due to chronic illness, such as cancer or organ transplantation therapy.
Compounds composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen present in the body and in foods that form complex combinations of amino acids. Protein is essential for life and is used for growth and repair. Foods that supply the body with protein include animal products, grains, legumes, and vegetables. Proteins from animal sources contain the essential amino acids. Proteins are changed to amino acids in the body.
Infection of the skin or mucous membrane with any species of candida, usually Candida albicans. The infection is usually localized to the skin, nails, mouth, vagina, bronchi, or lungs, but may invade the bloodstream. It is a common inhabitant of the GI tract, only becoming a problem when it multiplies excessively and invades local tissues. Growth is encouraged by a weakened immune system, as in AIDS, or with the prolonged administration of antibiotics. Vaginal symptoms include itching in the genital area, pain when urinating, and a thick odorless vaginal discharge.
Inflammation of the liver usually resulting in jaundice (yellowing of the skin), loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, abnormal liver function, clay-colored stools, and dark urine. May be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, parasitic infestation, alcohol, drugs, toxins or transfusion of incompatible blood. Can be life-threatening. Severe hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis and chronic liver dysfunction.
Chemical chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that are part of a fat (lipid) and are the major component of triglycerides. Depending on the number and arrangement of these atoms, fatty acids are classified as either saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated. They are nutritional substances found in nature which include cholesterol, prostaglandins, and stearic, palmitic, linoleic, linolenic, eicosapentanoic (EPA), and decohexanoic acids. Important nutritional lipids include lecithin, choline, gamma-linoleic acid, and inositol.
A fat-soluble vitamin essential to one's health. Plays an important part in the growth and repair of body tissue, protects epithelial tissue, helps maintain the skin and is necessary for night vision. It is also necessary for normal growth and formation of bones and teeth. For Vitamin A only, 1mg translates to 833 IU.
Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.
The "friendly" bacteria present in the intestines that are essential for the digestion and metabolism of certain nutrients.
Thyroid Gland: An organ with many veins. It is at the front of the neck. It is essential to normal body growth in infancy and childhood. It releases thyroid hormones - iodine-containing compounds that increase the rate of metabolism, affect body temperature, regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate catabolism in all cells. They keep up growth hormone release, skeletal maturation, and heart rate, force, and output. They promote central nervous system growth, stimulate the making of many enzymes, and are necessary for muscle tone and vigor.
Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid produced by the adrenal glands and is the most abundant one found in humans. DHEA may be transformed into testosterone, estrogen or other steroids. It is found in the body as DHEA or in the sulfated form known as DHEA-S. One form is converted into the other as needed.
An essential fat-soluble vitamin. As an antioxidant, helps protect cell membranes, lipoproteins, fats and vitamin A from destructive oxidation. It helps protect red blood cells and is important for the proper function of nerves and muscles. For Vitamin E only, 1mg translates to 1 IU.
Protein immunomodulators extracted from colostrum from immunologically stimulated animals that promotes specific immunity to certain antigens such as viruses.
A substance, usually protein or protein-sugar complex in nature, which, being foreign to the bloodstream or tissues of an animal, stimulates the formation of specific blood serum antibodies and white blood cell activity. Re-exposure to similar antigen will reactivate the white blood cells and antibody programmed against this specific antigen.
The first (immunologically rich) milk produced by lactating mothers after giving birth. Usually collected within 24 or 36 hours. Usual sources are cows.
A sugar that is the simplest form of carbohydrate. It is commonly referred to as blood sugar. The body breaks down carbohydrates in foods into glucose, which serves as the primary fuel for the muscles and the brain.
Abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus, a retrovirus associated with onset of advanced immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
The only hormone secreted into the bloodstream by the pineal gland. The hormone appears to inhibit numerous endocrine functions, including the gonadotropic hormones. Research exists on the efficacy of melatonin in treating jet lag and certain sleep disorders. Dosages greater than l milligram have been associated with drowsiness, headaches, disturbances in sleep/wake cycles and is contraindicated in those who are on antidepressive medication. It also negatively influences insulin utilization.
(HCl): An inorganic acidic compound, excreted by the stomach, that aids in digestion.
A measure of an environment's acidity or alkalinity. The more acidic the solution, the lower the pH. For example, a pH of 1 is very acidic; a pH of 7 is neutral; a pH of 14 is very alkaline.
Any of a large number of hormonal substances with a similar basic chemical structure containing a 17-carbon 14-ring system and including the sterols and various hormones and glycosides.
A substance that is capable of producing an allergic response in the body.
An organism living in or on another organism.
A long-term, destructive connective tissue disease that results from the body rejecting its own tissue cells (autoimmune reaction).
Caused by an RNA flavivirus. Transmission is predominantly through broken skin on contact with infected blood or blood products, especially through needle sharing. Sexual transmission is relatively rare. Symptoms are almost always present, and very similar to those for Hepatitis B: initially flu-like, with malaise, fatigue, muscle pain and chest pain on the right side. This is followed by jaundice (slight skin yellowing), anorexia, nausea, fatigue, pale stools, dark urine and tender liver enlargement, but usually no fever.
Usually pertaining to Natural Killer Cells. Natural Killer Cells are an important first line of defense against newly arising malignant cells and cells infected with viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. They form a distinct group of lymphocytes with no immunological memory and are independent of the adaptive immune system. Natural Killer Cells constitute 5 to 16 percent of the total lymphocyte population. Their specific function is to kill infected and cancerous cells.
CD8 cells, also called suppressor and cytotoxic T-cells, play a role in fighting viral infections such as HIV. A T lymphocyte that secretes large amounts of gamma-interferon, a lymphokine involved in the body's defense against viruses. CD8 cells prevent the unnecessary formation of antibodies. A healthy adult usually has between 150 and 1,000 CD8 cells per cubic millimeter. In contrast to CD4 cells, people with HIV often have elevated numbers of CD8 cells, the significance of which is not well understood. Lab reports may also list the T-cell ratio, which is the number of CD4 cells divided by the number of CD8 cells. Since the CD4 count is usually lower and the CD8 count higher than normal, the ratio is usually low in people with HIV. A normal T-cell ratio is usually between 1.5 and 2.5 to 1. The expected response to effective combination anti-HIV treatment is an increase in CD4 count, a decrease in CD8 count, and an increase in the T-cell ratio.
Techniques used to stimulate or strengthen a patient's own immune system.