Ever wonder why you get sick? It’s due to your immune system working properly. People who never, ever get sick boast with pride, “I never get sick!” but this is not necessarily a good thing. It could mean that their immune system has been run over by a Mack truck (hijacked by a chronic low-grade infection) and they lack the soldiers to fight. So they just don’t mount an immune response. It’s not necessarily bad to get sick once in a while. This article will teach you how to create such a strong immune system that germs cannot penetrate you. At the end of this article, read my 5 Trojan Immune Shields and implement them. You’ll also learn how to reduce antibody production when appropriate and how to raise antibodies. Most importantly find out what medications and supplements can affect your immune response.
The purpose of antibodies, your “soldiers” are to identify antigens and neutralize foreign substances (termed antigens), so that they can’t make you, the host, sick. Antibodies are soldiers that seek and identify (and/or destroy) the invading enemies such as dander, pollen, gluten, or pathogens like E. coli for example.
Immune cells send a message when they encounter an antigen. Food sends a message to your immune system too. Everything you eat sends a message of either friend or foe. The signaling that occurs when your body comes into content with the Flu virus versus walnut, versus the scent of perfume is rather amazing. The same complex signaling from your cells occurs when you come into contact as a 2 year old, or a 65 year old. Your soldiers are called “immunoglobulins” and they are may by your body.
Why is testing for antibodies important for you?
A test for immunoglobulins (antibodies) in the blood may be useful to:
Look for clues to uncover certain autoimmune diseases
Determine if you have sensitivities to food, spices, or other antigens
Detect certain types of cancer (such as multiple myeloma or macroglobulinemia)
See whether recurring infections are caused by circulating IgGs
Evaluate progress for certain types of cancer that affect bone marrow.
Check the treatment for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria.
Check your response to immunizations to see if you have developed immunity
Check to see if you have a current infection or if you have been exposed to one
Your immune system makes the immunoglobulins in response to many things including bacteria, fungus, viruses, animal dander, pollen, foods and others. Some people refer to immunoglobulins as antibodies. You can use these terms interchangeably. Antibodies are formed to your self, and to foreign substances. If you’re immune system went on overdrive, it would be hypervigilant, on guard all the time and it would shoot friendly fire. This is the case for autoimmune diseases. People think autoimmune disorders happen to people with weak immune systems, but it’s just the opposite. It’s people with strong, hyper immune systems. The soldiers cannot recognize “self” from “nonself” anymore, so they shoot down everything.
Here’s another visual for you. People with a balanced immune system use a 44 magnum to shoot the invader, one time. People with an autoimmune disorder use a shotgun in order to splatter everything. Make sense now?
Your food should stay in it’s own tube!
Secreted all over your body, immunoglobulins or “antibodies” make up a big portion of your immune system. You see the abbreviation of “Ig” for immunoglobulin if you read the literature. About 80% of your immune system cells reside in your gastrointestinal system, that’s why your health is so dependent on what you eat. Whatever you are eating comes into contact with antibodies inside your gut first, and then once past your intestines, some of your partially digested food leaks out of your intestines (darn, that’s bad!) and then your bloodstream gets hold of the loose particles and undigested proteins (casein from dairy, gluten from wheat), and sends a signal to unleash your immune system soldiers, the antibodies. They react, you feel bad and the cycle of inflammation begins.
What are antibodies?
They are nothing special in particular, they are just little, tiny proteins that hooked on to sugar molecules in a specific formation. There are 5 major antibodies categories, and they are abbreviated:
IgG = Immunoglobulin G
IgA = Immunoglobulin A
IgE = Immunoglobulin E
IgM = Immunoglobulin M
Those are your primary soldiers. They are pronounced as the letters, for example, “I-g-E” you don’t have to say “immunoglobulin” just say the 3 letters. There are others that we aren’t 100 percent certain of the function of, but we know they exist (like IgD for example).
You have a bazillion antibodies, you can’t ignore them
Antibodies are highly customized since they are made for each and every single type of foreign substance you have ever encountered. For example, the antibodies you make in response to a herpes infection are different than the antibodies you make in response to strep throat. The antibodies will attach only to the microorganism
Antibodies also work in allergic reactions. Occasionally, antibodies may be made against your own tissues. This is called an autoimmune disease. One of the most common autoimmune conditions is Celiac disease, a digestive disorder that causes symptoms which may mimic multiple sclerosis or other neurological diseases. It’s not limited to diarrhea like many people think! Antibodies to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye will be high in a person who has gluten sensitivity, as well as Celiac disease (which is autoimmune). I’m going on a tangent now, but I have to. There are so many of you who tell me that you’ve been tested for gluten and you are negative. I don’t believe your tests, unless you’ve done them through Cyrex Labs.
The reason is because conventional tests done in doctor’s offices around the world check for one portion of the gluten molecule (the “alpha gliadin” portion) and if you are negative for that, you are told you are negative for gluten sensitivity. If the results of your test are wrong, and it frequently is, then you will continue to expose yourself to foods that inflame your body and destroy your intestinal villi and make you sick, neurologically sick. The Cyrex Lab test that I’m suggesting tests for ALL the portions of the gluten molecule, not just one. Only and I mean ONLY if that test is negative will I believe your results. You can’t just test one portion of a molecule that has about a dozen portions and make any definitive conclusions from that one portion tested!
But what if your immune system is suppressed and makes too few antibodies?
If your immune system makes low levels of antibodies, you would have a greater chance of developing repeated infections. You can be born with an immune system that makes low levels of antibodies, or your system may make low levels of antibodies in response to certain diseases, such as cancer.
This is a BIG molecule, the biggest of them all!
Most efficient of all of them, it has 10 different antigens binding sites.
IgM is the first responder when you get infected, these travel to the area of infection first.
These are found primarily in the blood and lymph.
It’s usually high in the initial phase of an infection, but sometimes this can be elevated years after you’ve been infected due to a process called epitope switching.
May be elevated: Viral hepatitis, macroglobulinemia, mononucleosis, nephrotic syndrome, parasites, various autoimmune disorders, Lyme disease (both acute and chronic).
May be suppressed: Multiple myeloma, some types of leukemia, autoimmune hemolytic anemia (where your body turns against your red blood cells), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus and certain inherited immune disorders.
Most abundant in the body, but the smallest in terms of size.
About 75 – 85% of the antibodies you make are IgG and they are found everywhere in the body
Stays with you forever.
When IgG levels are appropriate and your immune system works properly, it enhances this other process in your body called “phagocytosis” which is kind of like Pac Man. Phagocytosis makes your cells gobble up and neutralize poisons. Chomp chomp. That’s what you want. When phagocytosis occurs with a high levels of efficiency, the benefits include better energy, more restful sleep and reduced allergies.
Physicians commonly run panels to determine infection with EBV (Epstein Barr Virus). In most populations, at least 90 percent of the adult population will have been infected with EBV sometime in the past and therefore, will be positive for antibodies, noted as “positive” for anti-VCA/IgG and anti EBNA (as it might appear on your lab paperwork). Antibodies to EBNA develop 6 to 8 weeks after primary infection and remain present for life. Presence of these IgG antibodies indicates exposure, since IgG antibodies stay with you for life. Only the presence of IgM antibodies indicated a recent primary infection with EBV.
The IgG antibodies are the only ones that can cross the placenta to protect a developing baby.
There are 4 subclasses named and immunologists commonly order “IgG subclass” panels to determine if there are deficiencies in any of these:
IgG may be elevated: Chronic infections such as Lyme disease, HIV, Bartonella, MRSA; Multiple myeloma, hepatitis, and various autoimmune disorders including multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, lupus, and others.
May be suppressed: Macroglobulinemia, some forms of leukemia and nephrotic syndrome. Some people naturally produce very little IgG, or they have an immune system that has been hijacked (think of Lyme disease) and as a result, their body cannot mount a proper immune response, so the IgGs are low.
The main immunoglobulin in saliva, nose, breathing passages, tears, colostrum, gastrointestinal and vaginal secretions
It’s job is to prevent attachment of the pathogen to the mucous membrane
May be elevated: Multiple myeloma, various autoimmune disorders (lupus, rheumatoid and others), cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis
May be suppressed: Certain types of leukemia, nephrotic syndrome, gastrointestinal disorders.
Least abundant in the body but has the most powerful effect
It’s responsible for mediating allergic reactions and life-threatening ones called anaphylaxis
It reacts with mast cells which contain histamine, allowing them to dump their contents and have a profound allergic effect in the body.
Find it mainly in the lungs, skin and mucous membranes
If you are allergic to dairy, shellfish or other foods, you’re allergic to medications, it is IgE that is driving the reaction.
May be elevated: Parasite infections, allergic reactions, asthma, atopic dermatitis, eczema, certain autoimmune disorders (lupus, rheumatoid, psoriasis), some types of cancer.
May be suppressed: Ataxia-telangiectasia (affects muscle coordination).
How do you test antibodies?
It’s just a blood test. There’s nothing you need to do to prepare. I suggest you take the blood test early in the morning, between 6 and 9 am if you possibly can. This is because antibodies tend to be at their highest level in the morning. This is not a hard rule, so do as your personal physician suggests. The normal reference range varies from lab to lab. Your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors.
My favorite lab for antibody testing is Cyrex Labs because they test both IgG and IgA when they evaluate your blood. Their “Array #5 Autoimmune Reactivity” test requires only 1 tube of blood and measures both IgG and IgA antibodies for 24 different tissues in your body.
Some medications and treatments can affect the levels of antibodies you make. Look at all the different ways your antibody levels can be affected:
-Taking certain medicines. For example, oral contraceptives, corticosteroids, antihistamines, anti-leukotriene drugs, seizure medications, methotrexate, drugs for heart failure or rheumatoid arthritis.
-Receiving a blood transfusion in the prior 6 months
-Using illicit drugs.
-Imaging of the body that uses radiation (such as a CT or X-ray)
Can you reduce antibodies that are high?
Sure you can, it’s possible. My special area of focus is thyroid. I was the host of The Thyroid Summit in June 2014. This is still available for you to listen and purchase. During one of my interviews, I mentioned is how lemonbalm, motherwort and bugleweed all reduce a
ntibodies that are high in Graves’ disease. Various speakers during this summit also shared their knowledge about leaky gut (intestinal permeability) and dysbiosis which allows food proteins to penetrate the bloodstream. In particular, gluten and casein can be pro-inflammatory.
The correct treatment for you, and your particular infection or autoimmune disorder varies. The immunosuppressive medications often increase risk of cancer, so I urge you to find the root cause of your autoimmune attack. Don’t submit yourself to years of expensive medications if you can instead, determine the underlying antigens and make changes to improve your health from the inside out.
The no-brainers in terms of improving immune function include the obvious, which I will mention but not elaborate. First of all quit smoking if you possibly can, and eat a diet high in colorful vegetables and fruits. Exercise and lose weight if you need to. Control your blood pressure and if you drink, drink in moderation. Sleep as best you can. Here are the less obvious ways to improve immune function, these are my 5 Trojan Immune Shields that will keep you healthier this winter.
4 Trojan Immune Shields
- Make your own immune-boosting throat spray. Buy a 2 ounce glass spray bottle and combine the following in distilled water: 1 drops eucalyptus, 1 drops orange, 1 drop cinnamon, 1 drop clove and 1 drop myrrh. These have all been both shown to attack various cold and flu strains and shrink swollen membranes. While I alter the ratios and sometimes substitute one of those oils with rosemary, some type of spray is always in my when traveling. You can gargle with this if you have a sore throat and it will feel pretty good. (You can also try gargling with some water and baking soda if you have a sore throat).
- Giggle a little! Hang out with people who make you laugh, or at the very least, who raise your energy rather than drain you. Seriously! A study done in 2013 proved it, as if we didn’t already know just by seeing happy people less apt to fall sick. Laughter improves various antibodies such as IgM, IgA and IgG. If you are prone to illness, take a look around. Are you friends with a lot of ‘Debby Downers’ or people who are critical of you? This takes a toll on your immune system and weakens it. When you rent movies, do you choose blood and guts movies, or do you prefer light-hearted ones? Try to rent more comedies and focus your energies on fun people, not those who are high drama. It’ll give your immune system a rest to have people around you who are supportive and kind, rather than critical and angry all the time.
- Get sunshine or take it in a pill! When the colder temperatures hit, and you are curled up by your fireplace for months your vitamin D levels plummet.* That costs your immune system. Researchers have found that vitamin D, which is produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight, signals your immune system to act like an antibiotic. We know this occurs with tuberculosis and other pathogens. Most physicians just look at the inactive form of vitamin D on your lab test (termed “25 D(OH)”) but there’s another way to look at vitamin D testing. You can’t just look at that one marker because that is the inactive form of vitamin D. You should be looking at a ratio of the active form of D to the inactive form.
- Introduce reishi mushrooms. I actually make a tea out of a reishi mushroom. These are big mushrooms, which I simmer in my slow cooker for 24 hours. The extract (tea) tastes pretty nasty, but the health benefits can’t be beat! Ganoderma lucidum is the technical name of Reishi.
Compounds in Reishi called polysaccharides increases the responsiveness of your antibodies, particularly IgG. When IgG works properly, it enhances the process in your body called “phagocytosis” which makes your cells gobble up and neutralize poisons. When phagocytosis occurs with a high levels of efficiency, the benefits include better energy, more restful sleep and reduced allergies. You can buy Reishi extracts in little bottles and you take the drops several times a day.
- Drink tea. You think I’m going to say green tea don’t you? I’m not. I mean… you can certainly drink green tea, it is amazing and it does boost immune function. But you will read about green tea on every other website, and one thing about me is I specialize in fresh new content. My site is not another “me too” site, and so the tea that I want you to consider drinking is called “Tulsi” tea, or Holy Basil. You can now buy cimmommercially prepared teas for this, or steep your own if you get bulk herb. Tulsi makes your body fight infections, including serious viral diseases. There is research to suggest it can help fight swine flu. In 2011, a double-blind, randomized trial found that capsules of holy basil leaves significantly improved T helper cells and Natural Killer (NK) cells proving that holy basic has strong immunomodulatory effects. This herb is also know to act kind of like a vacuum on your teeny tiny blood vessels (the capillaries) and it helps sweep out debri from them, prevent microvascular complications. This is very helpful for people with eyesight problems, as well as kidney disease, prediabetes and diabetes.
Sip a little hot water every 3 to 5 minutes, with a littler fresh lemon squeezed in it. You can grate the lemon rind (the pith) in the water too, but definitely squeeze some fresh lemon in the hot water. Sip it every about 5 minutes, for an hour or two. Do this at least twice a day. It acts like a pump in your body and cleans out your lymph. The more filtered your system is, the more dilute the toxins become and this makes you feel better. When I do this, I feel hydrated, and I have more energy. Give it a try. Some of you have asked me what kind of water I use, whether it is distilled or filtered with a Reverse Osmosis machine, but I actually love my Berkey filter, I have the 3 gallon one so I don’t have to constantly refill it with water. They also make a 2 gallon one however it requires more frequent fills of water through the top. There are so many it’s kind of confusing, the affiliate link I’ve provided is for the Berkey that comes with the fluoride filters which is important to me but those are optional. Berkey filters out arsenic and other heavy metals as well as fluoride (if you get it with the fluoride filters). It has really high reviews on Amazon. This link is for the smaller 2 gallon Berkey (with the fluoride filters).
Some Medicines Weaken Your Immune Response
Certain prescription and non-prescription medications have a major impact on your body.
Excessive use of antibiotics weaken your immune system. Don’t take them unless you have to. They are not even useful for viruses, parasites, protozoal or fungal infections. They reduce your ability to fight by suppressing B vitamins and probiotics (which help you fight). Researchers have shown that some people have reduced cytokines, the messengers in your immune system that help you fight.
Medications that fight fever reduce your immune function. These drugs weaken your immune system so only take them if the fever gets excessive. Remember, your body heats up to fight for you, the heat kills your pathogens. Cooling yourself off basically gives the bugs a chance to thrive.
If you have any kind of chronic infection, or suffer with an autoimmune disorder please make sure you have consulted with an immunologist, preferably one with training in Functional Medicine.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.