Naturally Supporting the Th1 Response
Innate immunity is the body’s first line of defense. It is a rapid response system that does not involve antibodies but relies on cytokines produced from Th1 cells. Cytokines are the hormonal messengers that are responsible for cell mediated immunity and allergic responses. Th1 and Th2 are both prolific producers of cytokines. Cytokines are inherently inflammatory, which is a good thing, for the right purpose. But imbalance in cytokines can lead to too much inflammation, and the potential to signal the immune system to attack either a harmless substance (allergies), or self (autoimmunity).
In 2003, studies looking at the effects of Th1 and Th2 cells and their role in immune function, eventually led to theories of immune dysfunction as a result of either Th1 or Th2 dominance. This idea became popular, leading people to associate auto-immune disorders (solely) with Th1 dominance. However, there was a flaw in the theory. In 2005, a groundbreaking study identified another type of cell separate from either Th1 or Th2 cells – Th17 cells. Studies eventually revealed that the actual driver of autoimmune cell damage is Th17 cells. Th1 response inhibits Th17 activation, while Th2 response increases Th17 activation.
When Th1 and Th2 are balanced, so is the immune response. A healthy immune system easily switches back and forth between Th1 and Th2-type responses. However, if the immune system becomes somewhat “stuck” in one of these responses, leading to excessive production of certain cytokines over others, this can be problematic because these two components of the immune system function in a delicately balanced relationship.
There are many reasons why immune imbalance occurs – improper diet, lifestyle factors, high stress, medications and finally genetics, are all factors – but patients with chronic illness often present with one or all of these things in common: Inflammation, dysbiosis and stress. These conditions all contribute to suppression of innate immune status through Th1 suppression.
When innate immune status and Th1 status diminishes, that’s when patients may experience higher incidence of infection (bladder infection, dysbiosis, sinus infection) because the overall pathogen load becomes greater than the immune system can handle. In turn, increased infection drives increased inflammation, which drives Th1 suppression in a continuing cycle.
Patients with inflammation, stress or dysbiosis, and thus Th1 suppression, may experience organ-specific autoimmune conditions, (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, diabetes) delayed food sensitivities, GI problems (Crohn’s or celiac disease), psoriasis, fatigue, brain fog, and other immune-related health challenges. The key then becomes supporting a healthy level of Th1 activity while modulating Th2 activity. When it comes to Th1 support, it is critical to balance cytokine production to help promote Th1 differentiation. Lifestyle factors are key: stress reduction, adequate sleep and rest, exercise, clean, healthy, nutrient dense diet, avoidance of toxins, and microbiome balance, are all critical to supporting balanced immune system function.
In addition, there are several natural substances that have been shown to help balance cytokine production and support Th1 differentiation, including:
- Broccoli sprout extract
- Chinese skullcap
“As heroic efforts to tailor technological immune therapies go forward,” wrote Paris Kidd, PhD, in a review article published in Alternative Medicine Review, “the best immune intervention tools continue to be lifestyle modification, vitamins, minerals, orthomolecules, and selected nontoxic phytotherapies.” This is definitely the case when it comes to supporting Th1 activity and a balanced cytokine response.
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