Dr. David Jockers, Guest
Thyroid Nation 

Dr. Jockers discusses how balance is key to a healthy immune system response.

The human immune system is the most amazing military defense the world has ever known. This system reacts, recognizes and responds to the most virulent of attacks on its host at a moment’s notice. Certain factors throw the immune system into a state of imbalance and hyperinflammatory conditions.

The immune response consistently adapts through a remarkable communication process that depends upon trillions of unique proteins, enzymes and receptors. These factors allow it to steadily acclimate to the never-ending alterations in its environment to give the body the best chance for survival. Healthy immunity is dependent upon a balance between its own super regulatory systems and optimal coordination between the trillions of important compounds.


Th1 and Th2 Portions of the Immune System:

T- helper (Th) cells are a critical part of the immune system. They are a type of white blood cell called lymphocyte that recognize foreign particles and pathogens and initiate an immune response. Th Cells produce cytokines which are immune messenger proteins that are responsible for carrying out the biological effects of the immune system.

Th1:  These are called “cell mediated” immunity, which typically deals with viral and gram-negative bacterial infections. This is the first line of defense against pathogens that get inside of our cells.  This is called the bodies innate immune response. This consists of Killer T cells, T helper cells and T suppressor cells. It is also supported by cytokines such as Interleukin-2 (IL-2), IL-12, gamma interferon, IgA and sIgA.

Th2:  These cells are responsible for the “humoral-mediated” immune response. They deal with gram-positive bacteria, toxins and allergens. This system stimulates the production of antibodies in response to pathogens found outside the cells. This is called the bodies acquired immune response. This system is supported by cytokines IL 4,5,6, 10 and alpha interferon.

Balance Between the Immune Sub-Systems: 

In a healthy immune system, these groups of T helper cells work synergistically to balance the system. They become more active in response to any increase in pathogens or toxins but then they stabilize and reduce their cytotoxic effects once the threat is eradicated.

The key to a strong immune system is balance and coordination. The TH -1 system is classified by Killer T cells, T helper cells, and T suppressor cells. When we have too many T suppressor cells our immune system is too weak and we get colds/fevers/flu’s. When the Killers are too many or the helpers and suppressors too little we end up with a poorly coordinated immune response that damages our own tissue. This is commonly seen in autoimmune disorders.

The Maturation of Our Immunity:

At birth, an infant’s immune system is immature and relies primarily on humoral or antibody immunity. As it encounters infectious pathogens and builds symbiotic microbial cultures it develops a robust cellular immunity. Various environmental factors such as the use of antibiotics and vaccines interfere with the development of a healthy cellular immune response. This can be the cause of a TH-2 dominance and resulting hyper-inflammatory conditions.

The Th1 and Th2 systems are like siblings in that they are competing for attention and energy from our master control. When the Th1 system is overactive it suppresses the activity of the Th2 system and vice versa. This is called Th1-Th2 polarization. This is problematic because these systems must be balanced for a healthy immune response to occur.

Pregnancy is a Th2 dominant phenomenon. The body switches into Th2 dominance during pregnancy so the body doesn’t reject the fetus. If you have a Th1 dominant autoimmune disease, you will feel great during pregnancy because the immunity will balance out. However, if you have a Th2 dominant condition you will feel awful and be at greater risk for miscarriage and congenital disorders in the newborn child.

Sub-System Imbalance Creates Hyper Inflammatory Conditions:

Th1-Th2-And-The-Connection-To-A-Balanced-Immune-System-thyroid-nationThe greater the imbalance between these two systems the more inflammation our body produces and the less effective and efficient our immune response becomes. Over time this can be a major factor in the creation of autoimmune and hyperinflammatory conditions.

Many conditions have been shown to predominately be related to an imbalance in one of the systems although this is not 100%. It is also possible when the body is under extreme stress to have both Th1 and Th2 hyperactivity.

In some people with autoimmune disease, patterns showing a dominance to either the Th1 or Th2 pathway have been shown. Although there are exceptions, the following table shows the conditions that are most commonly associated with a Th1 or Th2 dominant state:

TH1 dominant conditions:

Auto-immune conditions are typically related to overactive cellular immunity and weakened Th2 humoral immune response. Th1 dominant individuals rarely ever develop cancer but are unable to handle parasites and they develop chronic autoimmune conditions.

Th1 Dominance typically occurs with extreme vitamin D deficiencies along with an immune assault such as vaccine injury or chronic pathogen that irritates the immune system. These individuals typically have food intolerances to gluten and pasteurized dairy among other things.

Type I diabetes                          Multiple sclerosis
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis             Graves Disease
Crohn’s Disease                        Psoriasis
Sjogren’s Syndrome                    Celiac Disease
Lichen Planus                            Rheumatoid Arthritis
Chronic viral infections

TH2 dominant conditions: 

Allergic conditions are typically related to weakened cellular (Th1) immunity and overactive TH-2 responses. This can be related to vaccine injury and overuse of antibiotics. Individuals who are Th2 dominant will over respond to environmental toxins, allergens, normal bacteria and parasites. Th2 dominant individuals will under-respond to viruses, yeast, cancer cell formation and intracellular bacteria.

Lupus                                              Allergic Dermatitis
Scleroderma                                   Atopic Eczema
Sinusitis                                          Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Asthma                                           Allergies
Cancer                                            Ulcerative Colitis                                                                             Chronic Fatigue Syndrome             Multiple chemical sensitivity

Factors that Influence TH2 Dominance:

  • Environmental Toxins such as pesticides, asbestos, lead, mercury and other heavy metals.
  • Use of drugs such as morphine, tobacco, excessive alcohol and steroids
  • Pathogens such as HIV, Hepatitis, Candida & Streptococcus Thermophilus
  • Hormones such as Progesterone
  • Continuous stress, negative attitudes and suppressed emotions
  • Sedentary lifestyle, dehydration, low body temperature and chronic insomnia

Stimulating Specific Immune Pathways:

When the TH-2 system is dominant the body tends to rely on it when it is threatened in anyway. A common example is allergies. When we are exposed to the allergen the TH-2 system goes into overdrive causing a massive inflammatory response. This is due to poor balance between the TH-1/TH-2 system and then a poorly coordinated TH-2 response that creates a systemic inflammatory reaction in response to a very minor threat.

Certain herbs are known to stimulate the TH-1 response while others stimulate the TH-2 pathway and a third group helps to balance and coordinate both pathways. This explains how one individual can take Echinacea and feel terrible while others see an immediate boost in their immune function. It explains why one individual can do great with coffee and green tea while others do awful with these TH-2 boosting stimulants.

The select group of TH-1 pathway enhancing herbs includes

TH1 Stimulating Compounds:

  1. Astragalus
  2. Echinacea
  3. Medicinal Mushrooms (reishi & maitake)
  4. Glycyrrhiza (found in licorice)
  5. Melissa Oficinalis (Lemon balm)
  6. Panax Ginseng
  7. Chlorella
  8. Grape Seed Extract

TH2 Stimulating Compounds:

  1. Caffeine
  2. Green Tea Extract – ECGC (be careful with thyroid)
  3. Pine Bark Extract – Pycnogenol
  4. White Willow Bark
  5. Lycopene (found in tomatoes and other red fruits excluding strawberries and cherries)
  6. Resveratrol (found in grape skin, sprouted peanuts, and cocoa)
  7. Curcumin (found in turmeric)
  8. Genistin (found in soybeans)
  9. Quercitin (a flavonoid found in many foods such as onions, berries and kale)

Immune Modulating Compounds:

These are compounds that balance the immune system and calm it down so it doesn’t overstimulate and hyper inflame.

Fermented Foods including raw, grass-fed dairy products like amasai and cheese and sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, fermented assorted veggies.

  • Coconut Oil
  • Vitamin A – Retinol – (Cod Liver Oil, Grass-Fed Butter, Pasture Fed Eggs)
  • Vitamin E – Avocados, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Red Palm Oil, Pasture Fed Butter & Eggs
  • Colostrom
  • Vitamin D3
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids (EPA/DHA in particular)
  • Glutathione Boosting Agents such as cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine.

Keep a Journal for Yourself:

Keep a journal and see what imbalances you may have. This will give you an advanced level of knowledge of your own individual tendencies and will allow you to stay healthy and balanced throughout your life.

An immune pathway challenge is done by taking a large dose of a TH-1 boosting herb. If you feel great afterwards and less inflamed than you most likely had a pre-existing TH-2 dominance. If you feel awful and inflamed there is a likelihood you are TH-1 dominant and you hyperstimulated this pathway. Then do the same with TH-2 boosting herbs and see if you notice a difference.

A Th1/Th2 Cytokine blood panel is the best way for a person to find out which side of their immune system is dominant.

About the Author

dr-david-jockersDr. David Jockers is a Maximized Living doctor, corrective care chiropractor, nutritionist, exercise physiologist, and certified strength & conditioning specialist. He currently owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia. His experience working with thousands of individuals has given him a level of expertise in the field. He is a member of the Performance Enhancement Team for the Maximized Living Wellness Advisory Council where he had the privilege of traveling to London to help the USA athletes win the gold in 2012.   He was also honored to be a part of the USGA Wellness team where he had the privilege of working with various athletes and coaches at the 2014 US Open Golf Tournament in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Read more about him, here. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. This article was originally featured here. 

 Questions or anything to ask Dr. Jockers about your immune system? We want your thoughts in the comments section–Please! 

Stay up-to-date, get tips, articles and stories that inspire, on all things thyroid!

-Appl Environ Microbiol 1997;63(1):44-9

-Appl Environ Microbiol 1994;60(1):31-8
-Fiddaman PJ et al. J. Appl Bacteriol 1994;76(4):395-4-5).