Thanks to Dr. Robert E. Zee, B.S., Eng., D.C. for the following blog post, which I repost here with his permission. I find it explains the concept of why the immune system gets out of balance. As you might expect, I recommend you always attempt to get to the bottom of a health challenge, rather that treating just the symptoms or outward signs. That is what constitutes true heatlth care.
Hyperactivity and hypersensitivity of certain facets of the immune system often result in exaggerated immune responses. Allergies and autoimmune diseases fall into this category. Each type of exaggerated immune response involves a different cascade of events. One event in the cascade of events of an allergy is the release of histamine by mast cells. An antihistamine inhibits the release of histamine, thus relieving the symptoms of the allergy. In the case of autoimmune disease, one event in the cascade of events is the release of proinflammatory cytokines by T-Cells. Drugs used to combat rheumatoid conditions target these T-Cells, specifically inhibiting the release of these cytokines by various mechanisms. In the case of either allergy and autoimmune disease, suppression of histamine or proinflammatory cytokines respectively, do not cure the disease. Suppression of these immune components merely suppresses the symptoms. The cure can only be found in restoring the proper function of the immune system. When the different facets of the immune system are brought back into balance, exaggerated immune responses do not generally occur.
Allergies are a relatively new phenomenon affecting modern day society. In examining the society that lived in the beginning of the twentieth century, the concept of an allergy was foreign to the people living then. At the beginning of the twenty first century, the number of people suffering with allergies is estimated to be approximately 20 to 30 percent of the population living in modern industrialized areas. Interestingly, persons living in third world countries, where they must grow their own food and raise their own livestock, do not have a high prevalence rate of allergies. The dramatic increase in allergies found in industrialized society lead us to believe that something in industrialized society has changed in the last one hundred years. What has changed is the diet, stress levels, and the widespread use of certain medications that can lead to certain imbalances in the body.
Allergies occur when an exaggerated immune response occurs in reaction to a pathogen. Allergic responses come in many different varieties. Environmental allergies, food allergies, and allergies to medications are among the most commonly seen. Allergies involve both genetic and environmental factors. Research into the genetic basis of allergies, however, has not been accomplished to the extent that it has with autoimmune diseases. T-Cells, specifically Th2 cells (Thymus Helper Type 2 Cell), play a significant role in the allergic response. Various interleukins and immunoglobulins are also involved in the cascade of events of the allergic response. The types of immunoglobulins, and the type of immune system cells involved determine the type of allergy.
Allergens, whatever the method of entry into the body, provoke an initial immune response by B-Cells or macrophages. The allergen, also termed an antigen, is engulfed by the immune cell by a process called phagocytosis. The immune system cell then destroys the antigen by essentially dismantling it. These dismantled sub-components are ejected from the immune system cell, and come in contact with allergen specific Th2 cells. In response, the Th2 cells secrete chemicals known as cytokines, such as interleukin-4, interleukin-5, interleukin-6, and interleukin-10. The presence of these interleukins subsequently stimulates and recruits other immune system cells. This cascade of events normally occurs in response to a pathogen in individuals both with and without allergies. In the individual with allergies, however, the Th2 response of secreting cytokines is greatly exaggerated. This exaggeration is commonly recognized as the excessive release of histamine, with the individual often taking an antihistamine to relieve the symptoms.
Autoimmune diseases result when a different portion of the immune system has become hyperactive, attacking the body’s tissues as if the tissue itself was a foreign invader. As often seen with allergies, autoimmune diseases require both a genetic and environmental factor in order to be expressed. Autoimmune disorders are often referred to as the family of inflammatory disorders because inflammation of a particular tissue occurs as part of the disorder. The possibility exists for certain facets of the immune system to exhibit exacerbated responses while other facets are functioning at a normal level. In the individual with autoimmune disorders, the Th1 (Thymus Helper Type 1 Cell) response of secreting cytokines is greatly exaggerated. These cytokines, released during the cascade of events associated with autoimmune disorders, play a major role in the inflammatory response found with autoimmune disease.
The presence of immune system hyperactivity often results in other quirks that are not readily obvious. Hyperactivity of the Th1 associated immunological response has been linked to autoimmune disease. In persons with an active autoimmune issue, Th1 activity is exaggerated. Since Th1 activity is also linked to fighting the common cold, persons with an active autoimmune condition rarely catch a cold. In addition, people with autoimmune disease rarely have environmental allergies. Much less obvious is that Th1 cells also are involved in the body’s defenses against cancer. Hyperactivity of the Th1 immunological response would increase the body’s defense against cancer. On the other side of the coin, people suffering from chronic environmental allergies rarely get autoimmune diseases.
It should be clear by now that if something goes wrong with the immune system, by whichever mechanism, disease of the body results. What else is clear is that when certain diseases are present, the immune system, in many cases, is either hyperactive or hypoactive, i.e., out of balance in some respect. One might wonder if there really can be that many separate and distinct diseases that can occur, or could they perhaps be different expressions of the same immune system failure. If the specific facet of the immune system determined to be out of balance can be identified and corrected, it would logically follow that the disease process that was set into motion as a result of that imbalance would be cured.
Th1 and Th2 immune cells have a natural balance to them. Autoimmune diseases occur as a result of an exaggerated Th1 associated immune system response. Allergies, on the other hand, occur as a result of an exaggerated Th2 associated immune system response. If the Th1 / Th2 balance was restored, autoimmune diseases and allergies would cease, or at least alleviated to great extent. Restoration of Th1 / Th2 balance, in fact, has been shown to benefit both the allergy and autoimmune patient. The question arises of what actually caused the imbalance in the first place. While multiple factors are known to influence immune system function, the specific factors involved in Th1 / Th2 balance are well documented.
The activity of Th1 and Th2 immue system cells can be brought back into balance. This can be done quite easily. Identifying the environmental factors involved in autoimmune disease requires must also be done, and specialized tests. Creating Th1 / Th2 balance and identification of the environmental factors leading to autoimmune disease are discussed in the book Why Am I Sick? And What To Do About It , available on Amazon today. Not only will you learn how to reverse autoimmune disease, but avoid autoimmune issues even if genetic factors are present.