Summary: The immune system works through a combination of multi-celled, interrelated and interdependent activity. The cytokine environment determines how immune cells respond. Without a properly functioning immune system you’re susceptible to disease. A more fully functional immune system will aid the body in eliminating almost any disease.
Cytokines are easily damaged in today’s environment. Cytokines are damaged or destroyed through a number of ways and without them your immune system can’t respond, or doesn’t respond properly, as is the case with autoimmune diseases.
All in all the immune system is a very effective system and more powerful than you can imagine. It’s the reason you can live in a world that has always had tiny foreign things; bacteria, virus, parasites, yeast, etc. trying to use you as a new “home”. Add to this a number of other problems the immune system has to contend with and you’ve got one busy system overwhelmed with work.
If You Get Sick Your Immune System
Doesn’t Care What Name You Call It
If those invaders, for example, are successful, you get sick. If not, you might not notice, or hardly notice that a battle has been waged and you won – which actually goes on constantly. If you do get sick (and your immune system doesn’t care what name you call your illness) you expect to recover. And you do, as long as your immune system has the brains and brawn to do the job. Your immune system keeps you healthy.
Each Kind of Cell Has A Specific Job To Do
Your immune system is spread out over your entire body. It’s not an organ or any kind of stationary mass. It has many different kinds of cells, each with its own job to do. These cells come from your bone marrow.
Some cells get special training to understand their job and they get this in the thymus gland. Some are “born” knowing what to do. The cells make a choice about what kind of immune cell they’re going to be when they “grow up” however no one seems to have a “for sure” idea about how they do that. There are many other associated immune factors as well. It’s a complicated system and one that the most advanced researchers still don’t fully understand.
Immune Cells Depend On Each Other
There are lots of different immune cells and they’re dependent on one another to work because they have different jobs to do. Some immune cells kill viruses and cancer cells directly like Natural Killer cells. They know what to do and they just do it, if all is well.
Others, like T-cells, are even more deadly in their power but are slower to react and need help in identifying who and where in your body the problem might be. They need other special cells that “help” them like B-cells for instance.
The Macrophage is another cell. It’s very good at killing bacteria and cleans up any kind of “garbage” it comes across. It’s a good “siren” for danger as well. If there’s not something serious going on, it spends a lot of time just ambling through your body gobbling up whatever “foreign thing” it bumps into.
T Cells – Th1, Th2, T Suppressor Cells and Autoimmune
T cells are pretty interesting because since mother nature made them so lethal, she also made them more difficult to “get going”. These aren’t the kind of cells you’d want running amuck. They’re the ones that get special training so they know what’s “you” from what’s not “you”. There are different kinds.
T-helper cells are the “brains” of the bunch but don’t kill anything themselves. There are two different kinds of them; Th1 and Th2. These two are intended to be balanced as they coordinate other immune system activity.
If Th2 numbers get too high too long, conditions like allergy, inflammation, autoimmune disorders, cancer and pain are more likely to exist and Th1 is depressed. Th1 cells are great against viruses and bacteria among other things. The “choice” between Th1 and Th2 is influenced by cytokines (discussion coming up). Whatever cell “choice” is made between Th1 and Th2, that choice will tell other cells in the immune system to “do as they’re doing”.
T-killer cells are as their name suggests. And T-suppressor cells are the ones who say, “we’ve won - stop the attack”. Inactivity of T-suppressor cells is implicated in autoimmune diseases.
Cells Must Communicate And They Do It With Cytokines
Since the immune system is made up of lots of different kinds of cells spread out all over, and, since they depend on each other, they absolutely must communicate. And they do.
They communicate with things called cytokines. They’re also called communication molecules, information molecules or messenger molecules. These are little hormone like proteins. They tell immune cells to grow in number, they tell them where the action is, and they tell them when the enemy has been destroyed among other things.
“Pathways” of communication are made between immune system cells. If it can, each kind of immune cell generates a certain specific cytokine(s). Cytokines determine whether Th1 or Th2 helper T cells are dominate in any given area based on information given by NK cells and macrophages. What if the NK cells aren’t working right? There are many different cytokines.
Without Cytokines Your Immune System Is Deaf, Dumb And Blind
These cytokines are pretty important because the immune system can’t respond without them and the choice made by T helper cells (Th1-Th2) depends on them. Your immune system might not know anything was going on, or what to do about it if it did, or would respond incorrectly.
You may have heard of interleukins or interferons? They’re cytokines; communication molecules. Your immune cells could be as happy as can be but without those cytokines giving direction your immune cells are clueless. How, and if, the immune system responds depends on the cytokine “environment”.
Immune Systems Weaken With Age But You’re
Still Making Lots Of Immune Cells So What’s The Problem?
You’ve probably heard that the immune system weakens as you age. However, we produce the same amount of immune cells (in bone marrow) when we’re very old as we did when we were young.
Barring damage to your bone marrow (chemotherapy for instance), it’s likely you’re still producing immune cells in good numbers! If that’s true, then why cancer, and viral infections, and bacterial infections, and autoimmune disease and chemical intolerance, and the seemingly hundreds of diseases chronically plaguing people today?
And why does your immune system weaken as you age if you’re still producing immune cells in good numbers?
There has to be other reasons.
Reasons for Poor Immune Function: Drains And Stressors
Those “other reasons” are related to the times we live in. Each of these potential problem areas can affect hundreds of functions and many organs in your body, but they also affect the immune system. They can destroy cells and wipe out cytokines (communication). They are a stressor and drain on immune function. The following is a highly condensed version of what you can read about in greater detail by clicking the buttons on the left.
Stressors and Burdens – Condensed Version
poor nutrition – lack of essential factors the immune system needs to operate; example: NK cells (immune cells) won’t work without iodine poor digestion – results in the same lack of factors as poor nutrition; the digestive system “steals” enzymes from the immune system; causes other problems; example: increased toxic load stress – increased cortisol knocks out cytokine pathways hormone imbalance – depresses thymus gland (trains T-cells), knocks out cytokine pathways among other things toxins – causes free radicals that bind and knock out cytokines free radicals – a big deal and behind some other factors listed; knocks out cytokines, promotes cell and gene mutations; associated with a multitude of problems EBV, CMV and HIV – directly damages immune system by infecting immune cells themselves Antibiotic overuse – kills good bacteria that promote immune function; increases strength of remaining bacteria through bacterial mutation Radiation – causes the worst free radicals causing damage to cells and cytokines
Stop The Revolving Door Of Immune System Damage
Paying attention to these “Stressors and Burdens” can’t in and of itself replace cytokines but it can help stop the revolving door of immune support.
A Dysfunctional Immune System Will Eventually Get A Name
You won’t know your immune system isn’t working because the immune system doesn’t have any nerves (pain) to tell you something’s wrong. The symptoms you’ll get will be the result of whatever illness your immune systems’ lack of function finally becomes.
This Drug, That Drug And This Other Drug
Conventional medicine says if you have this “label” or symptom, take this drug. Or more likely, this drug, that drug and this other drug. Sometimes it’s necessary. Drugs stimulate or depress one activity in your body. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Unfortunately, other activities get stimulated or depressed unintentionally and those are called side effects. Antibiotics have their own issues, as do antivirals.
Supporting Immune Function Will Support Just About Everything
Everything in your body is interrelated. The idea behind health “naturally” is to raise your entire level of functioning by supplying those things your body needs.