What are T cells and who cares if they are out of balance?
Well, T1 and T2 cells are part of the immune system. Simply put, T1 cells are pro-inflammatory and T2 are anti-inflammatory. When faced with a pathogenic attack, the body responds with a T1 response, which involves pro-inflammatory cytokines (communicators or signalling molecules), whose effects, along with other immune cells, allow the body to kill invading organisms.
T helper 1 cells identify the pathogen, i.e., viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc and stimulate the activity of macrophages (another type of white blood cell), to ingest the pathogenic material and cellular debris like a pacman. Thus, Th-1 cells, protect us from contracting infections and getting sick.
T helper 2 cells stimulate B cells, another type of white blood cell, to produce antibodies and create an immune response. When Th-2 cells recognize a foreign substance/pathogen, the B cells are told to generate antibodies. These antibodies then attack the virus, bacteria or allergen and again protect us.
If the pro-inflammatory process is not replaced at some stage with a “cooling down” process involving anti-inflammatory cytokines, then damage to the body occurs, because the pro-inflammatory cytokines continue to direct immune cells to “bomb” the site, and the result is not only destruction to the pathogens, but also to healthy cells. Hence, the T1 response should be, (in a person whose immune system is properly functioning), balanced by a T2, anti-inflammatory cytokine response. Antibodies are also developed during the T2 response, in order to keep the infection under control.
A dominant TH1 response means that the natural killer cells and cytotoxic t cells are responsible for attacking the body, while a TH2 dominance indicates that your B cells and antibodies are mounting the attack.
When T1 or T2 is dominant then we have a problem. There are a number of factors that can throw the regulated T1/T2 balance out. For instance, glutathione is known to:
- 1) required for immune cell development
- 2) required for immune cell response
- 3) required to keep the balance between different immune cells, ie., T/ & T2
Consequently low glutathione can cause the immune system to go out of balance.
Another factor that can throw the immune system out of balance is Lyme disease. Lyme disease creates a perpetual T1 dominance. Consequently, the body is constantly attacking Borrelia and co-infections, perpetuating inflammation, and unfortunately, causing on-going damage to the body.
Several chronic inflammatory diseases have been described as Th1-dominant diseases including multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Aging and hormone deficiency also cause us to travel down this T1 path. Studies have shown that replacing deficient hormones can shift you back to T2 dominance and increase anti-inflammatory activity. Testosterone is key in causing this shift, but other important hormones involved are progesterone, estrogen, and Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone, not a vitamin).
How to resolve this imbalance…Well, regardless of whether you have T1 or T2 dominance you need to:
1) increase your glutathione levels :
- a) by turning on the genes that make the tools that make glutathione : Protandim
- b) providing the body with the balance of nutrients that make glutathione: OGF
2) increase your Vitamin D3 (actually a hormone) levels; Vitamin D has been shown to have an impact on regulating T cells
4) enhance the gut flora – which is important as 90% of your immune system is in your gut. Thus taking both pre and probiotics is important. Specific probiotic strains can influence the secretion of cytokines to help direct naïve helper T cells towards either a Th1 dominance (cell-mediated immune response) or towards a Th2 dominance (humoral immune response)
5) Eliminate gluten from the diet
6) Increase iodine in the diet
7) Be wary of the stress load
8) identify if you have a leaky gut syndrome.
9) Other possible triggers include estrogens, infectious agents, and environmental toxins
Now if you have T1 dominance: for instance, MS or Lyme disease we are looking at:
- a) eliminating foods that create inflammation: ie., sugars, refined, fried, preservative loaded foods
- b) introduce foods that counter act the pro-inflammatory condition: spices like cucumin, tumeric and ginger; fats like omega 3 oils
- c) herbs like these for reduction of pain and inflammation: ginger, turmeric, oregano, green tea, rosemary, gold thread, barberry, holy basil, japanese knotweed, and skullcap
- d) enzymes : systemic enzymes help to lower inflammation, since they break down CIC’s (circulating immune complexes, which occur when antigen-antibody complexes pair and circulate in the blood and sometimes end up in the tissues as “debris.”). Enzymes also reduce levels of the pro-inflammatory prostaglandin called E2
- e) clinical research that Th1 stimulants are Echinacea, maitake mushrooms and golden seal are known to stimulate T1 production
Whereas if you have a T2 dominance, the over active T2 cells begin to respond to benign substances like allergens and the body’s own tissues and organs. Thus, we can get seasonal, environmental, food and drug allergies; asthma, auto-immune conditions and anaphylactic reactions.
The T2 dominance can be caused by a variety of issues:
- heavy metal toxins, ie., mercury, lead, aluminum
- these metals then lead to low immune function
- which can then lead to auto-immune disorders
Disorders associated with T2 dominance include:
Autoimmune conditions (lupus, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, ALS, ankylosing spondylitis, interstitial cystitis, Grave’s disease, type I diabetes mellitus, etc)
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic ear infections
Digestive disorders and IBS
Eczema, acne, hives
Migraines and headaches
In addition to the above noted issues like Glutathione and Vitamin D, the following can help to eliminate T2 dominance:
- a) Th2 stimulators are caffeine, green tea
- b) Herbs like goto kola and grape seed extract