Ever see someone in the grocery store wiping “germs” off their shopping cart handle? I often wonder if those antibacterial wipes do little more than offer shoppers a false sense of security. How so?
Think about it, unless they are going to wipe the whole store down then where’s the cutoff point? Does the farmer who picks the lettuce need to wipe down his hands? How about the guy loading the soda onto the truck? And the person cutting down bananas? How about the teen on summer break stocking shelves? If this is about “controlling” germs why don’t the supermarkets offer wipes next to the credit card machine at the checkout?
Can you see where I’m going with this?
For all my germaphobe homies out there, let’s take this a step further. Many of those bacteria that freak you out so much are already living inside you. No really, it’s true. Some estimates suggest they outnumber your cells by at least ten to one. Do the math, that makes us only ten percent human!
The trick to not getting sick is giving the immune system exactly what it needs. But there’s more to boosting the immune system than meets the eye. If we look at the immune system under a microscope (these days that’s pretty easy to do), we quickly realize that this system, above all others, is truly mind-blowing. Once fired up, the immune system is an equal match for a wide range of would-be enemies.
This formidable system can defend itself from multiple foreign invaders while at the same time, launching a counter-attack with deadly precision. To be clear — your immune system comes well-equipped to deal with high-level threats on a minute-to-minute basis.
But there is a problem, can you see it?
To keep your immune system running at optimal levels the body requires fuel in the form of key nutrients. Once found in abundance, many of these key nutrients are today missing from our food. In some cases, these nutrients have been replaced with toxic products in the form of processed foods sold to us by non-other than …. the same supermarket handing out those wipes! I know right, you couldn’t make this stuff up.
For some of us, the immune system has now become a nutritionally downgraded version of its former self. Correcting the underlying nutritional deficiency would seem like a logical first step in the right direction. But that’s not what many of us do.
Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.
– C.G. Jung
Rather than boosting the immune system with those missing key nutrients, we humans have taken this a step further by propping up a nutritionally downgraded immune system (AKA a weakened immune system) with pharmaceutical products.
For the past 100+ years, science has, with limited success, been locked in a bitter battle trying to rid the world of all infectious diseases. For the past fifteen years, that goal has somewhat intensified. And yet rates of serious illness continue to rise and nobody seems to know why. But there’s another problem ..
Trying to control infectious diseases this way is like trying to squish a balloon. We eradicate one disease but then another pops up of greater magnitude. Autoimmune conditions can range from ALS to MS, from Type 1 diabetes to Rheumatoid arthritis, the list goes on and on and on. To date, a“confused” immune system can display itself in more than a hundred different ways! So with autoimmune conditions and counting, it begs the question … Why?
Why are rates of autoimmune conditions now skyrocketing? Could it be, in our relentless push to control “germs’ we have reduced the risk of one illness but increased the risk of another? When the immune system is forced to deal with multiple weakened strains of diseases in one sitting are we running the risk of the immune system becoming hypersensitive or “confused”?
Perhaps this is the clearest signal yet that the man has underestimated the complexity of the immune system. I suspect there is more to this debate than meets the eye. But when the only tool being used is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.
This isn’t a question of being for or against any particular ideology or practice. But when science tells us it doesn’t know the reason behind autoimmune conditions then the door needs to open for debate.
Rather than becoming involved in a heated pro/anti debate, I’m simply suggesting we need to explore other pathways to fight disease. I believe one of those pathways is to remove anything of a toxic nature from the body (including excess sugar) and then flooding the cells with cutting-edge nutrition.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
But from the cat’s perspective, they all suck.
When the nutritional demands of the immune system are ignored, our quest to be disease-free has the potential to become a double-edged sword. As it stands, autoimmune conditions cost the economy billions of dollars each year, the cost in human suffering is incalculable.
The definition of an autoimmune condition is a system that has become confused to the point where it now fails to recognize the difference between itself and extensions of itself.
Once triggered, a confused immune system can launch an attack anywhere within. Having an autoimmune condition can be like having an octopus on your back. Its long tentacles reaching into every part of your body. Whatever it comes in contact with, it then attacks!
But the immune system is anything but dumb. When we treat it with respect it becomes a formidable ally. Treat it wrong and you now have a highly complex problem that few understand.
Make no mistake, autoimmune conditions are notoriously difficult to treat and just as tricky to diagnose. The moment your immune system turns rogue on you, doctors have little to offer in the way of permanent solutions. So how do you know if you have an autoimmune condition? That’s easy, just answer yes to the six questions below.
1: Is your medical file as thick as the US tax code?
2: Have you seen three or more doctors in the last two years and yet you remain undiagnosed?
3: Do you have a cupboard full of medicine, but still feel ill?
4: Have you been told your bloodwork tests are “fine”?
5: Do you have a second cupboard full of natural supplements that appear to make things worse?
6: Adding insult to injury, somewhere along the way was it suggested that your suffering is all in your head?
If this is you, welcome to the perplexing world of autoimmunity!
It’s widely believed that once you have one autoimmune condition the chances of getting a second begin to escalate. So, that’s the good news out of the way. And now for the bad.
Once you have an autoimmune condition there is no cure for it; once the gene has been switched on it can’t be switched off. However, before you throw yourself under a Number 52 bus, let me throw you a helpful lifeline. With the right tools, autoimmune conditions can be managed.
Food plays a huge role in this. No really, it’s true. This would include restricting foods collectively known as lectins. A lectin free diet was recently brought into the mainstream by Dr. Gundy, a world-renowned heart surgeon. Dr. Gundy decided to switch gears and began using food and supplements as medicine. Hmm, I see.
Anyone with an autoimmune condition might find it helpful to excludes all grains, dairy (didn’t we already cover these?), legumes, and foods belonging to the nightshade family. This would include foods like peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. One way to reduce the lectin content of food is to cook those types of vegetables with a pressure cooker. The good news is, reducing lectins reduces symptoms.
Yup, it all takes effort, but once the immune system is brought back into balance symptoms can become minimal.
To help us understand what’s happening when the immune system gets out of balance lets split it into two. We’ll call the first half Th1 and the second half Th2.
Th, is an abbreviation for T-helper cells which form part of the immune system. Their job is to recognize and destroy any foreign microorganism that can cause disease. Th1 cells typically deal with infections by viruses and certain bacteria.
They are the body’s first line of defense against any pathogen that gets inside our cells. Th1 cells tend to be pro-inflammatory. Th2 cells typically deal with bacteria, toxins, and allergens. They are responsible for stimulating the production of antibodies. Th2 cells tend not to be inflammatory. But what does this all mean?
While it may sound complicated on the surface, it’s really not. Both work together, sometimes Th1 does more of the work and, depending on the threat level, Th2 may play a lesser role. As the threat changes, roles are quickly switched. Once the threat has been neutralized the two stand down and return to equal balance. This is how a well-balanced immune system should work.
In an ideal situation, neither Th1 or Th2 is displaying a more dominant position. However, in some people, a prolonged pattern of either Th1 or Th2 dominance can occur. Each can then suppress the activity of the other and problems begin. Why is this important to know?
Think about it, knowing if your immune system is Th1 or Th2 dominant plays an important part in the wellness puzzle. Not least because it allows you to figure out which is the best course of action to take (and which you should avoid).
Perhaps it makes sense why that cupboard full of natural supplements made you feel worse. Anything that boosts one side of the immune system tips the balance.
So how do we know if we are Th1 or Th2 dominant? That’s a great question and the answer is relatively straightforward. For starters, there is a Th1, Th2 cytokine blood panel that your doctor can order.
Th1 cells are part of what’s called cell-mediated immunity, which is an immune response that does not involve antibodies. It does, however, involve the release of various cytokines in response to foreign proteins. If this problem were a basic image, this is how Th1 dominance might look.
People who are typically Th1 dominant (but not all) may have delayed food sensitivities, increased brain fog, fatigue, increased likelihood of Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis (although MS can be found in both Th1 and Th2 dominant types), Hashimoto’s, Grave’s disease, Crohn’s Disease, psoriasis, Sjogren’s syndrome, celiac disease, lichen planus, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic viral infections. Again, these are generalizations and as with any autoimmune condition, it can easily manifest itself in multiple ways.
Being Th1 dominant means the immune system is constantly amped up. Obviously, as we mentioned earlier balance is important, but another telltale sign of the Th1 dominant person may be a tendency to catch fewer colds. Some reports even suggest lower cancer rates. The downside is a higher incidence of autoimmune conditions.
Th1 types should beware of any supplement that has the potential to boost the immune system. In theory, this would increase Th1 and add to the problem. For example, natural supplements like Echinacea, astragalus, olive leaf, elderberry, and any medicinal mushrooms that are immune boosting. But be vigilant, because this is by no means a complete list!
Having an immune system that is Th1 dominant is one thing but what happens when things swing the other way? Functionally, Th2 cytokines have effects on many cell types in the body because the cytokine receptors are widely expressed in numerous cell types.
Th2 cells stimulate and recruit specialized subsets of immune cells, such as eosinophils and basophils, to the site of infection or in response to allergens or toxins leading to tissue eosinophilia and mast cell hyperplasia. I know, right? Who thinks this way?
Let’s look at an image of this instead. Ahhh, that’s better.
If we break this down into plain English, Th2 has some pretty beefy weapons called B cells and antibodies. These B cells are great to use in battle as they help produce even more antibodies whenever needed.
Essentially, this means they just keep on going and never run out of ammo — pretty cool, right?
This is done to ensure there is always enough ammo on hand should any foreign invader ever try to sneak into the body. Also, keep in mind that Th2 cells are anti-inflammatory. Now, do you see the importance of a well balanced immune system?
Once a foreign invader enters the body it finds itself locked in mortal battle with BOTH elements of Th1 and Th2. As the battle rages, the pro-inflammatory process needs to be “cooled down” using anti-inflammatory cytokines; hence it’s a team effort. It’s really not helpful having one side do all the work because left unchecked, systemic inflammation could easily occur throughout the body causing untold damage.
When inflammation runs rampant it can be smelt under the armpits as a more pungent type of BO. Before you shoot me down for being weird again just think back to the last time you felt deathly ill, your body had a totally different smell to it, am I right?
When Th2 gets to be the dominant one, we may be more inclined to get seasonal allergies, asthma, food and drug allergies, and anaphylactic reactions rather than systemic inflammation. Th2 dominance can also be caused by a variety of issues such as heavy metals such as aluminum, mercury, and lead which are known to lower immune function. I’ve covered the fascinating topic of heavy metals in more detail in a separate post.
When the immune system is shifted too much to the Th2 system, people generally have less inflammation but their potential to develop allergies to everything increases. It’s the allergens that then begin causing problems.
Other possible diseases linked to Th2 dominant conditions may include Lupus, allergic dermatitis, atopic eczema, sinusitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, asthma, allergies, colitis, and multi-chemical sensitivities. Some reports even suggest an elevated Th2 may increase the risk of certain cancers. Either way, once the immune system gets stuck out of balance, we lose. I know, right? Let’s not go there, instead, let’s focus on solutions.
Interestingly, Lyme disease has the ability to throw Th1 out of balance because Lyme disease creates a state of perpetual Th1 dominance; this, unfortunately, results in constant inflammation, causing an ongoing downward spiral of damage in the body.
Because Th1 dominance is pro-inflammatory, perhaps now we see the importance of eliminating all those foods that create inflammation. Foods loaded with preservatives, refined and fried foods, and fast foods all contribute to complicating the problem. But let’s not forget our old friend sugar that can weaken the immune system and tip it out of balance.
Do you see how food keeps linking all this together? Spices like curcumin, turmeric, and ginger along with omega 3 oils are thought to be helpful because they may help counteract inflammation imbalance.
We seem to have covered a lot of ground here in one short read. In doing so I’ve attempted to keep the complex simple; however, the immune system is a vast subject and we didn’t even get a chance to talk about Th17 cells. In case you are wondering why it’s because they are a subset of activated CD4+ T cells that are responsive to IL-1R1 and IL-23R signaling. I know, right? Just thinking about it gave me a headache too.
However, if the whole Th1, Th2, Th17 concept has piqued your interest then continue reading. Autoimmune conditions are a tricky beast but I find them all rather interesting. If you would like to know more, please check out my book in today’s homework section below.
Before we end I’d like to briefly mention the lymphatic system. As many may already know it’s a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials.
The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. Under each of your armpits (hello again) are more than twenty tiny lymph nodes. These small but highly sensitive lumps that act like tiny checkpoints. But there’s a problem, can you see it?
The job of the lymphatic system’s is an important one as it helps to fight infection. So you have to question the logic of squirting antiperspirant in such a delicate area. Especially when we stop and look at the loooong list of toxic ingredients (which usually includes aluminum). This causes some people to sleepwalk into illness.
As the name suggests, antiperspirant stops your skin from perspiring by literally clogging it up. Seeing how the skin is the body’s third kidney, it is alive and needs to breathe. With that in mind, perhaps applying an antiperspirant isn’t a smart idea for anyone looking to overcome illness. The irony is the more we overload the lymphatic system the worse B.O becomes.
Unlike the heart, the lymphatic system has no pump and requires movement to push lymphatic fluid around the body. This fluid moves best when we move, which is more bad news if we happen to be sitting still most of the day squirting toxic chemicals under our armpits. The good news is, you don’t need a gym membership to get the lymph moving. Hippocrates said it this way: “Walking is man’s best medicine.”
If walking isn’t your thang, then my final tip for the day is to take a James Bond shower. This is effective at moving lymph and super easy to do. I just know you are going to love this one!
First, hop into a hot shower and relax — feels good, right?
Now at some point simply turn the water all the way to cold and count to thirty, longer if you can stand it. Repeat this three times between hot and cold. This will help push the lymphatic fluid around the body. Doing it every day is no guarantee that you will live longer, but by the end of the week, it may seem like it, lol.
What did we learn from this?
Science is quick to point out that it doesn’t have an answer for this upsurge in autoimmune self-hacks, which in turn opens the door for intelligent debate. The immune system is arguably the most complex, impressive, and effective system of all; it was put there to protect us. Let’s work with it, not against it.
Homework: Check out this book