Auto Immune Response and treatment
Published: October 04, 2017 Last Updated: February 09, 2022
It is possible to develop an auto immune response to anything in the body - ie: joints, organs, nerves, hormones, muscles etc. Addressing and treating this response cannot simply be based on the tissue under attack, but must also take into account the way the immune system is behaving.
Autoimmune response risk factors
While it is not always possible to pinpoint the exact triggers that cause a person's genes to 'switch on' to an auto immune state, numerous risk factors are beginning to surface.
Increased permeability of the immune barriers, such as the lining of the digestive tract, respiratory tract, and blood-brain barrier, have all been found to strongly correlate with a number of clinical disorders. When these barriers are healthy and strong they are able to carry out their role of preventing intruders from passing through, with only occasional emergency and maintenance work mustering the immune system.
As health weakens with poor diet, unstable blood sugar, gut infections, chronic stress, toxins, heavy metals, and adrenal malfunction (to mention a few), these barriers weaken and become porous. The result is Intestinal Permeability. The most commonly known condition resulting from this is referred to as Leaky Gut (when affecting the Gastrointestinal system), but we also see Leaky Lungs and Leaky Brain. Over time the immune system ends up working around the clock to battle invaders penetrating these barriers from many directions.
The body under attack
These stealthy culprits can be found in common foods we eat, the water we drink, the air we breath etc. With constant exposure, the immune system may find itself being pushed too far, for too long, at which point it may start attacking the very thing it is designed to protect - your body.
Antigens can include:
- Undigested food particles
- Environmental Toxins/Heavy Metals
- Haptens - small molecules that may cause allergic reactions.
Penicillin and lactose are two such things they can come from, but the list is quite extensive. When injected or ingested they react chemically with larger proteins in the body to form a hapten-carrier complex that can stimulate the production of antibodies. The hapten also has the ability to bind with antibodies generated against it and act as an antigen, which can once again elicit an immune response or allergic life-threatening syndrome called anaphylaxis.
The immune response
When an antigen intrudes, it triggers an immune response, with macrophages being the first white blood cells called into action. These cells are stationed throughout the body's tissues and are on constant guard, looking out for intruders, poised to attack and envelop them. As the macrophage completes its action it creates a special cell (antigen presenting) that acts as an alarm, summoning different immune cells to come and help destroy the intruder.
The first responders are the T-helper cells. They organise the attack by sending out messages to the Natural Killer cells and Cytotoxic T-Cells to come and help destroy the intruder.
Fellow immune cells, the T-regulator cells, are also involved. Their job is to monitor the scene to ensure there are sufficient T-helper cells and T-suppressor cells to do the job. The job of the T-suppressor cells is to stop the immune response once the intruder has been disarmed.
The T-helper cells, knowing another attack may occur in the future, send the B-cells to the scene where they attach to the intruder, collecting a chemical memory of the antigen, and storing its information into an immune system memory bank. This memory bank contains 'snapshots' of every type of antigen that has invaded a person's body since birth.
These B-cells are relied upon to spot intruders while making available the stored chemical memory needed by the natural killer and cytotoxic T-cells, enabling them to efficiently destroy the intruder once again should they once again be encountered.
At the scene of the intrusion, there are a few things that can go awry, where an immune cell might deviate from its job. This is what happens in the case of autoimmune disease - some of the immune cells start to destroy the body they were designed to protect.
Find out what's going on in your body
Pathology tests are used to pinpoint certain immune discrepancies in a person such as:
- Not making enough T-suppressor cells. This means the T-helper cells will continue to attack something that appears to be an enemy but is actually an innocent bystander
- Making too much Interleukin 2 (IL-2), a chemical messenger that is produced and sent by the T-helper cells to deploy natural killer and cytotoxic T-cells, destroying the intruder. Too much IL-2 can cause an overabundance of natural killer and cytotoxic T-cells, once again putting the innocent bystander at risk of attack.
- Chronic viral infections. These can drive up IL-2 levels, causing an overproduction of natural killer cells and cytotoxic T-cells, with the same result of attack where it is not warranted.
- Making too much Interleukin 4 (IL-4), a different chemical messenger produced and sent by T-helper cells to deploy B-cells. An overabundance of B-Cells that are looking for enemies to tag may instead accidentally mark our innocent bystander (healthy tissue).
- Parasitic Infection and/or food intolerances. These can drive up IL-4 levels, which lead to an overproduction of B-cells which again are looking for intruders/pathogens/antigens to tag
- High carbohydrate diets. People who have a high level of refined carbohydrates in their daily diets often end up with fluctuating blood sugar levels, which in turn can cause insulin to surge, leading to the over stimulation of B-cell production, which is again looking for intruders to tag