The Importance of Th2 Modulation
Back in the late 1980s, in vivo research revealed that T-helper cells express different cytokine pathways and as a result, Th1 and Th2 cells initiate different immune responses. Th1 cells drive innate (cell-mediated) immunity while Th2 cells drive humoral (antibody) immunity. Balance between the two pathways is critical to a healthy immune response. For example, when Th2 cells are overactive, Th1 cells can be suppressed and vice versa. It’s a delicate balance that can be addressed in clinical practice, because inflammation and stress are two of the biggest drivers of imbalance.
Because Th2 activates antibody-mediated immunity, it’s not surprising that when Th2 dominates, there is an excess production of antibodies. The Th2 pathway is related to allergies and IgE-based issues. Typical signs that a patient is Th2 dominant include having seasonal allergies, allergic rhinitis, food allergies, eczema and asthma. Because of the potential for chronic excess mucous production, and the suppression of the Th1 driven innate immunity, increased Th2 status can impact function of the sinuses, respiratory, gastrointestinal and urinary systems-which are the “hollow spaces” of the body.
The development of Th2 immune overactivity has many different points of origin. Exposure to environmental toxins and heavy metals, microbial exposures, alteration of the microbiome (from pathogenic infection or from antibiotic use) and thus, alteration of GI integrity, nutritional deficiencies and of course, genetic variability are just a few of the many predisposing factors. The epigenetic influences of stress, diet, exercise and other lifestyle components, contribute to greater or lesser balance of this pathway. Moderate exercise has been shown to support Th1/Th2 balance. Since stress negatively impacts Th1 and Th2 balance, working with patients on getting enough sleep and rest and on effective stress management techniques is important. Obviously, a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet is also an important foundation.
Nature has provided a few botanicals and natural substances which may help support the balance of the Th2 pathway.* Natural substances shown to support healthy modulation of Th2 cytokines* include:
- Perilla extract
- Licorice root
Other nutrients shown to support optimal Th1/Th2 balance and modulate immunity include vitamin A, vitamin D, turmeric/curcumin, trans-resveratrol, zinc, and omega-3 essential fatty acids.*
Keeping the immune response balanced requires optimal modulation of Th2 activity, which can be supported through an integrative approach that includes a healthy diet, lifestyle factors such as stress management, sleep and exercise, and key nutrients and herbs from supplements.*
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