The immune system is the army that protects us against invasion by the outside world. It also has critical functions in promoting healing, removing damaged cells and destroying cancerous cells. It is an incredibly complex system that involves different cell types, lymphatic tissue, multiple hormone-like compounds called cytokines, as well as antibodies.
There are five basic types of white blood cells. The first are the neutrophils. We have more of these cells in the immune system than any other. Neutrophils are the "foot soldiers" of the immune system. They are the first on the scene and play a critical role in infection and healing. They also are important in preventing cancer. The second type is lymphocytes—these are the focus of much of our immune manipulation, and we will discuss them at length below. The third type of immune cell is the monocyte. Monocytes are important in fighting viral infections. The fourth type of immune cell is the eosinophil. These are elevated with allergies and in response to parasites. Finally, there are basophils. These are seen with inhaled allergy response.
Lymphocytes are the command core of the immune systemís army. They tell other cells what to do. Lymphocytes are divided into T-cells, B-cells, and NK (natural killer) cells. NK cells act as commandos to destroy atypical bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. They frequently are low in patients that have chronic atypical bacterial infections such as chronic Lyme's disease. B cells make antibodies in response to signals from the T cells. T cells are further subdivided into T-helper (TH) cells and T-suppressor cells. Suppressor cells turn off the immune response. They are also involved in inhibiting bacterial and viral activity directly. T-helper cells are the ones that turn on the immune response and are further subdivided into TH1 and TH2 cells. TH1 cells activate the cellular response to a condition. They call in other T cells and NK cells to destroy the bacteria, virus, or cell. TH2 cells stimulate the B cells to make antibodies. One of the problems we have been aware of is the over stimulation of TH2 cells by the environment— particularly by vaccinations. When we get exposed to an infection, our immune system puts forth a balanced response of TH1 and TH2 cells to destroy the infection. When we vaccinate, we frequently only stimulate TH2 cells. This leads to an imbalance between the activity of TH1 and TH2 resulting in ongoing inflammation. Too much TH2 activity has been associated with inflammation, allergies, and certain types of autoimmune disorders. Many of our treatments are designed to balance this TH1/TH2 system. The immune system is very complex, and there are many more TH cells than simply TH1 and TH2. For example, there is the TH17 cell which helps regulate TH1 and TH2 activity. Frequently, manipulating TH17 activity can also improve the TH1/TH2 balance.
The body's immune response is very complicated. It needs to know what to go after and what to ignore. This process is known as immunotolerance. Our immune system should not go after our own tissue; when it loses immunotolerance to self, we develop auto-immune disorders. When our immune system loses immunotolerance to the environment, we call that an allergy. There are also many viruses and atypical bacteria that live in our body after we recover from the acute infection with these agents (for example: the chicken pox virus stays inside nerve cells for a person's lifetime. If it gets re-expressed, we call that shingles). Our immune system is supposed to ignore these items—they are not causing an acute infection. When we lose immunotolerance to these agents, we believe this is the cause of syndromes such as chronic fatigue immune-deficiency syndrome (CFIDs), multiple sclerosis, chronic Epstein-Barr, chronic Lyme's, and many others. Appropriate immune response plays a role in nearly every portion of our health, and much of what we do is to balance that response.
We cannot talk about the immune system without talking about the digestive track. Most of our immune function (up to 80%) is in our digestive track. Literally, our immune system lives in our digestive track. There is recent evidence that the ability of the lining of our digestive track to keep out large, undigested proteins from being absorbed is critical in preventing allergies and autoimmune disorders. Additionally, numerous organisms in our digestive track release compounds that have a direct impact on immune function. This is why when someone has immune system issues (allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders, chronic inflammation, any "-itis" condition, etc.), we look at the digestive track as part of the problem. Even in the mainstream literature, it is known that chronic dental infections or stomach infections increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (a disease of chronic inflammation). The issue has otherwise been largely ignored by conventional medicine, to the peril of their patients.