Immune Support is one of the most important parts of successful treatment for Lyme disease. Helping the immune system to fight the infectious load is the only chance of long term success. So how do you support the immune system?
First let’s look at how the immune system works. The immune system is essentially a network of processes that help fight pathogens that invade the body and prevent infection. Let’s look at it as we would a team. You’ve got the Coach at the top of all processes. Then, you have the Team Captain and the rest of the team broken up into defense and offense.
Bone Marrow acts as the Coach. This is where all other immune processes begin. This is where B-cells, natural killer cells, granulocytes, immature thymocytes, red blood cells, and platelets are made.
Directly under Bone Marrow is the Thymus, which is where T-Cells are produced from the immature thymocytes. T-cells attack and kill foreign pathogens and coordinate the immune response. They are the captain of the team. No one else can do anything until the T-cells tell them to.
B-Cells produce antibodies which bind to antigens so other immune system cells recognize what needs to be destroyed. It’s similar to tagging or marking something for destruction and then issuing a search and destroy team. Once they get the signal from Captain T-Cell, they produce antibodies to target specific antigen markers and destroy those infected cells.
Natural Killer Cells are similar to T-cells and target and kill specific tumor cells and viruses. Granulocytes or Polymorphonuclear (PMN) Leukocytes use powerful enzymes to destroy primarily bacteria and parasites. There are also Macrophages which act kind of like patrols or scavengers. They float through the blood looking for foreign invaders. When they find one, they surround and contain it. They then release toxic molecules to destroy the cell.
One problem that occurs over time with a long-term immune response is the tissue adjacent to this activity is also destroyed. This can result in an auto-immune response where auto-antibodies are produced. This happens when B-Cells mistakenly produce antibodies against good tissues and cells in the body instead of antigens of infected cells. The result is your immune system attacks your own body and seeks to destroy it. Sadly, this is becoming more and more common.
Any immune response requires an antigen presenting cell (APC). Dendritic cells are similar to Macrophages but more efficient as APCs. There is little known about them at this time due to the difficulty in isolating them.
There are two places communication happens to invoke an immune response. The Spleen acts like a locker room, where everyone meets up and reports to the appropriate T-Cells and B-Cells. From there, an immune response is activated. The second place communication happens is the Lymph nodes and the lymphatic system which acts as a filtration system throughout the body that catch antigens. They bring that information to the T-Cells and B-Cells, and an immune response occurs.
Genetics can also play a role in immune responses. It is important to have genetic testing done in order to see if there are any mutations that may affect your immune function and require treatment or additional support. For more information, please see the Testing page.
What does all of this mean to you?
Most Lyme patients, particularly Chronic Lyme, are immuno-compromised, meaning their immune response is very low. This is partially due to the innate ability of the Lyme spirochete to hide from immune responses. It is also due to a high infectious load from Lyme, its co-infections, other secondary infections, and other underlying conditions. It is important to determine first what you are dealing with and then how to treat it.
Regardless of what infections are being treated, immune support is important. There are many options for this, and it is important to discuss it with your doctor and find something that works for you. There are herbal supplements and pharmaceutical medications that can all help with this.
The most important and effective line of defense is your natural immune system. This begins in your gut, so it is imperative to eat foods that support that. It is also important to address any issues with Candida that can and often does occur with antibiotic use. This includes supplementing with Probiotics. Eliminating Heavy Metals & Parasites, proper exercise, and detox is also crucial.
Assuming that you have addressed all that is listed above, what else can and should you do to support your immune system? There are supplements and essential oils that you can take to help boost immune function. There are several methods of therapeutic support and detox methods including lymphatic drainage that can help to stimulate immune function and detoxification.
I have provided links to the right of different Immune Support options. One that is relatively new to Lyme treatment and seems to be very effective is Low Dose Naltrexone. This is a laboratory produced pharmaceutical, but if used properly under the care of a knowledgeable physician, it can have great effects with little to no side effects or toxicity. The known safe and effective range is between 1.75 and 5.0 mg. Anything above that can have the opposite and detrimental effects due to the nature of the drug.
There are also several herbal and nutritional options for immune support as well. Always thoroughly research anything you are considering and discuss it with your doctor before trying it. Every person is different and will react differently to treatments and supplementation.
If you have any suggestions on other Immune Support methods, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Support your body’s natural armor and defense.