What’s Really Happening to Me

This can get a little overwhelming but for those of you who want to know the science, here it is.  Remember, the big picture of what is really going on is your own immune system cells are mistaking your healthy cells for foreign invaders.  

Let’s discuss the immune system for a bit.  ( Please view the video as this will help tremendously with the understanding)  When the immune system recognizes a foreign invader, the first cell to respond is called a MACROPHAGE.  The MACROPHAGE “swallows” the invader (called an antigen).  It then becomes an ANTIGEN PRESENTING CELL, which alerts the rest of the immune system cells. Next, T-HELPER CELLS send messengers to bring in the swat team – which are NATURAL KILLER CELLS and CYTOTOXIC T-CELLS to swarm the intruder and destroy it. 

There are also T-REGULATORY CELLS which are the captains of the immune system and monitor the attack to insure there are enough T-HELPER CELLS(these cells are the “attackers”)  and T-SUPPRESSOR CELLS.  T-suppressor cells are designed to stop the attack once the invader has been destroyed.  At this point, the immune system takes no chances on having another attack, so it sends B-CELL ANTIBODIES to the scene.  These cells tag the foreign invaders for future recognition.  This allows the response from the NATURAL KILLER CELLS and CYTOTOXIC T-CELLS to be super fast if the same foreign invader comes around again.  Natural killer cells and cytotoxic T-cells have poor vision and rely on the B-cells ( taggers) to spot and tag intruders.

O.K. hang in there.  Patients with autoimmune conditions have some, or many, of these cells working “out of control” and they start destroying the body it was designed to protect.  Here are a few possible scenarios of how these cells misbehave:

  • Some people don’t make enough T- Suppressor cells (cells that stop the attack when the invader is destroyed), so the immune system’s attack goes on.  This is how innocent bystanders, like thyroid tissue, are more likely to be mistaken for the enemy.
  • Some people make too much Interleukin 2 (IL-2), a chemical messenger that deploys natural killer and cytotoxic T-cells.  Too many of these cells attack everything in their path, including healthy cells.
  • Some make too much interleukin 4 (IL-4), a messenger that deploys B-cells.  Remember, B-cells tag an intruder after the attack for future recognition.  Too many may cause them to tag innocent bystanders, like the thyroid. If the immune system is tagging everything, then it is attacking everything!
  • Many patients have problems with blood sugar control leading to insulin surges.  This will also increase B-cell production leading to the same situation as above.
  • A parasitic infection or multiple food sensitivities drive up IL-4, increasing B-cell production.  Again, B-cells are the taggers. Too many and they tag healthy tissue to be attacked.
  • A chronic virus (like Epstein Barr, Mono, Hepatitis C, etc.) will drive up IL-2, causing an overproduction of Natural Killer cells and Cytotoxic T-cells (the attackers)


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