Have you heard of TH1 and Th2 immune cells? probably not! They are extremely important and play a huge role in how our immune system reacts to substances that enter our body. Before we get into what these immune cells are, I do want to say that this article may seem a little heavy or scientific to a lot of people, but try to digest it as best you can. As you go through the article, it should become easier to understand and hopefully you can take away the important points easily enough !
What are they?
TH1 and TH2 are elements of the immune system that should be balanced in order to prevent disease. The immune system is highly specialized and determines when something is friend (nutrients) or foe (virus/toxins). White blood cells (lymphocytes) are designed to attack the bad invaders like viruses, bad bacteria, etc. They start off as unspecialized TH0 cells. Then they become specialized and go to the TH1 or TH2 side of the immune system based on where they are needed. T-helper cells 1 and 2 need to stay in balance in order for the immune system to function optimally and not become dysfunctional.
TH1 cells enhance immunity to respond to viruses, bacteria inside the cells, as well as yeast, fungi and parasites. TH1 also monitor and control the activity of TH2 cells.
TH2 cells respond to allergic or antibody reactions. They help increase antibody production and when out of balance, can cause destruction of “self” (autoimmune). An excess amount of TH2 can decrease cytotoxic T-cell activity and you will not be able to detoxify. TH2 release Interleukin 6 (IL-6) which is a cytokine involved in the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis. IL-6 leads to increase osteoclastic activity which leads to increased calcium release from bone into the blood leading to osteoporosis.
How do these immune cells become out of balance?
TH1 can drop due to high stress levels (HELLO MODERN WORLD!) and too much cortisol. As a result, TH2 increases, which leads to an increased incidence in cancer, allergies and autoimmune disorders. We live in a FAST-PACED world where everyone is ALWAYS rushing trying to meet deadlines, or working two jobs to feed their families in this over-inflated world. We get road rage because we are rushing, we feel overwhelmed because our to-do lists have more tasks than we can handle and as a result, our stress levels never come down and neither does cortisol. TH1 cells decrease and TH2 increase leading to a imbalance.
TH1 assists in the activation of suppressor T-cells. Suppressor T-cells are meant to slow down B-cells and cytotoxic T-cells. If the suppressor T-cells are malfunctioning or deficient due to a decrease in TH1, the cytotoxic T-cells may take over and start killing healthy cells (autoimmune). This leads to increased immune stimulation, followed by a crash and potential for autoimmune disorders. This is why a lot of people find themselves with an autoimmune condition after a traumatic event or stressful event (e.g. a parent or sibling passing away). They get stressed, TH1 decreases which leads to TH2 dominance.
If you have chronic infection, one tends to dominate the other and then your body can’t attack the foreign invaders properly. There is also TH3 and TH17 but that is for another article because it is quite complex and I don’t want to overwhelm you.
How can you tell which one is dominating? We can go about it a couple ways!
1. Blood tests can be done however they cost money which many of us don’t have
2. Self diagnosis is a great and FREE way to determine if you have an imbalance and which way it is leaning. If you take a supplement that supports TH1, it will push you even more to the TH1 dominant side and you will start to feel worse. If you take a TH2-pusher supplement and you feel better, then it means you’re TH1 dominant. If you feel worse, it means you’re TH2 dominant. If you take glutathione with these supplements, it will help to give you quicker results because it pushes toxins out of the cells.
From what I’ve seen, TH2 polarization is far more common than TH1 polarization. This can be due to several factors: Systemic overgrowth of problematic yeast in the body (Candida albicans)
-Abundance of viruses (Everyone has them!)
-The never ending amounts of stress which lowers TH1 and therefor favours TH2 polarization
-The over-use of steroids (creams, injections, etc) in the North America favors TH2 polarization
-The lack or probiotics in our diets
-The lack of nutrients in our diet that influence immunity (Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K)
-The prevalence of Intestinal Permeability (leaky gut syndrome) and dysbiosis, which not only creates inflammation but uses up all of your glutathione (which is needed for TH1 immunity).
Symptoms and Diseases of TH2 Polarization:
Here are some symptoms and diseases that are associated with TH2 polarization that can help with self-diagnosis. Remember, TH2 cells command the allergic and anti-parasite side of the immune system so when trying to parasite cleanse, don’t lower TH2 too much!
-Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
-Allergies (both airborne and anaphylactic)
-IBS & IBD
-Frequent ear and sinus infections
-Chronic viral infection(s) – Examples: Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Herpes Simplex 1, 2, and 6, HIV, etc
Mucous in stool *Note: Mucous in stool often means you have a parasite which ends up pushing you into TH2 polarization. In this scenario, suppressing TH2 is not recommended.*
Symptoms and Diseases of TH1 Polarization:
-Sudden, extreme autoimmune flares that seem to come out of nowhere. Often they will involve a lot of joint of muscle inflammation and pain. TH1 polarization is quite rare especially with autoimmune clients. However, if you’re autoimmune has been in remission and overnight you wake up to a 100% complete flare, it could be due to TH1 polarization.
-However, MOST of my clients with autoimmune disorders who got tested were TH2 dominant, not TH1.
Here is a list of TH1 stimulating compounds:
-Echinacea (often people take this and wake up in a huge flare, and that is because it overstimulates the immune system and should ALWAYS be avoided if you have autoimmune disease)
-Medicinal Mushrooms (Maitake and Beta-Glucans are common)
-Melissa Oficinalis (Lemon balm)
-Grape Seed Extract
Here is a list of TH2 stimulating compounds:
-Green Tea Extract
-Pine Bark Extract
-Lycopene (found in tomatoes and other red fruits excluding strawberries and cherries and should always be avoided if you have autoimmune disease)
-Resveratrol (found in grape skin, sprouted peanuts, and cocoa)
-Curcumin (found in turmeric)
-Genistin (found in soybeans)
-Quercetin (a flavanoid found in many fruits and vegetables, such as onions, berries and kale and has great anti-histamine effects)
At the end of the day, if you have autoimmune disease, you wan to focus more on TH1 stimulators (except Echinacea) and try to avoid several of the TH2 stimulators like caffeine, nightshades, etc. Of course there are nutrients in both categories that you SHOULD intake daily such as, Quercetin, curcumin, chlorella, Medicianl Mushrooms, glutathione, etc. My intention with this article was for you to understand the importance of BALANCE in the body and the critical effects that stress has on our bodies. Deep breath (50 times/day), eat nourishing and alkalizing foods and take some TH1 supporting nutrients and you will do great !
Written by: Marla Pietruszko BSc RHN