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From the Townsend Letter
April 2007


Unwinding the Immune-Challenged
by D. Tobin Watkinson

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Building an easily understood model of immune function for the patient population is difficult at best. Modern science does not even agree on every aspect of the various intricacies of the immune system. Patients and doctors continue to look for the magic bullet to solve their immediate problems. Science struggles to define every step in the immune process to develop better, targeted drugs to beat the adaptive nature of disease. I think that if we were to tell our patients that white blood cells have something to do with fighting disease, most would be content enough to leave anything more than that to the doctors and scientists. The typical patient just wants to be told what pills to take and what things to avoid. As the complexity of disease increases, however, patients need more than the mere basics.

It is unfortunate that people relate a lack of symptoms to being well, while any increase in symptoms may be misunderstood as an indicator of worsened health. If patients could gain a broader understanding of some basics of immune function, they could have more tolerance and appreciation of the rollercoaster ride that can accompany the trip back to health. This same understanding is often needed by some doctors, as they too may not be able to offer the appropriate explanation to an ill patient. It is equally easy for a doctor to fall into the trap of viewing wellness in terms of symptoms.

If one were to read all the present theories held by science about immune function, even the best of us might come away feeling as if we had just played catch with a beehive. Every description of one cell stimulating this or that response leaves us about as quickly as we read it. No matter the intensity of our will to learn the details, they often slip like sand through our fingers. Not to paint too grim a picture, however; a few concepts do receive more than the majority agreement and can be reduced to a somewhat easily understood explanation.

When presenting these concepts to patients, remember the presentation is meant to assist them in understanding the waxing and waning of symptoms. As interesting as it may be to understand the different types of immunity, the concepts are not necessarily useful in explaining the progress or the lack thereof to a symptomatic patient. Everyone wants to feel well, and they want to feel well now. Unfortunately, that is not always possible.
As the first ice-breaker in an understanding-the-immune-system conversation, the awareness that the body is always in some type of immune response is important to know. Secondly, many doctors, as well as patients, are totally confused about the language of strengthening the immune system. It is a common request of patients to want to strengthen their immune systems.

Often, when I am reviewing a patient's product list from another treating doctor, I ask why they are taking a particular pill, and the patient's response is "to enhance my immune system." The last thing one wants to do is strengthen their immune system by stimulating it in any way. The far more common problem of immune system dysfunction is a stalled or blocked response or an overactive one. Both situations are dangerous and can lead to autoimmune disease, cancer, and opportunistic disease.

The most important statement concerning this immune concept is that the illness you are suffering from today is not really the illness you need to get over to be well tomorrow. The ever-increasing backlog of unresolved illnesses is what is sinking the immune boat of the complex patient. The symptoms such a patient displays are only the tip of a much deeper problem.

Let me explain it a bit further. In a perfect world, we get sick and get well, and we move on to another day. But let's say for a moment that you get sick and you take an over-the-counter symptom medicine or an antibiotic. You may do this, first, because you don't know any better, and, secondly, because you don't have the time to be ill. When you recover, did you actually fix what caused your illness or did you just bury the symptoms? The illness was possibly not resolved at all but symptomatically relieved. You made no antibodies against the invading germ, and, worse yet, you made antibodies against the artificial antibody you took to be well. Your illness was therefore left in some kind of holding pattern. You were prevented from ever completing the immune jobs the body was designed to perform. Ultimately, you will have other illnesses, which if treated in the same manner will just stack up behind the other unresolved illnesses until your immune system can never dig its way out. This backlog of illnesses is how most people live – but not very well.

This, unfortunately, leads to a familiar scenario. How many of us have had a friend or relative who had never been sick a day in her life and then was diagnosed with an illness and died a short time later? How was it this person, who was never sick a day in her life, could be so sick without ever knowing it? You might be able to relate to this much less catastrophic example. Let's say you work extra hard to go on vacation, and as soon as you arrive at your destination, you get sick. Many of us have had just that experience and never understood why. See if this explanation helps: The adrenals are energy- and stress hormone-secreting glands. They are each about the size of an almond and sit on top of the kidneys on both sides of the spine just above and below the bottom of the lower ribs. When we are stressed, overworked, and not taking care of ourselves, our nervous system calls upon the adrenal glands for the emergency energy. The fight-and-flight response to the stress results in excessive steroid secretion, which turns down or off the normal immune response. As the body rests and the fight-and-flight response normalizes, the body's natural response is to go back and handle any of the immune chores left on hold.

The person who had never been sick a day, but passed away suddenly, and the person who got sick on vacation were, in fact, both suffering from the same condition. In both cases, the immune system was blocked from doing its job. Both conditions started as an inability to mount an appropriate immune response and maintain that response until the germ was killed by the body and the appropriate antibody was formed to fight the next invasion.

Another Look at Immunity 101
When the smoke clears from all the theorizing about how the immune system really works, there appears to be agreement at least about the role of the thymus helper cell of our immune response. The thymus is a large organ at birth, located in the upper chest. It has several functions, one of which is to act as an early warning defense system against infection and allergic invasion of the body. The thymus helper cell differentiates into at least two specific cell types: thymus helper cell one (TH1) and thymus helper cell 2 (TH2). These two helper cells stimulate the secretion of specific immune cells, each having different targets, yet similar functions. The T Helper cell 1 and the T Helper cell 2 populations have many important functions, which include stimulation of cellular immunity, production of antibodies, production of inflammation regulators, stimulation of bone marrow to produce immune active cells, etc.

One of the most interesting aspects of the T helper cell subpopulation is their ability to block the activity of one another. These two specific immune responders are two different parts of the same team yet can't be on the playing field at the same time. In other words, when TH1 is actively engaged in an immune response, the TH2s are blocked from any immune response and visa versa.

What that means to sick people is that when they are having an allergic reaction, which is a TH2 response, they can't fight a viral or bacterial infection, which requires a TH1 response. Once the allergic problem has been properly addressed, the immune system is free to fight the viral and bacterial problem with the immune cells stimulated by the TH1 system. What that could mean to allergic people is that just as they are beginning to feel better from their allergic reactions, they are hit over the head by the viral or bacterial problems that have been waiting in the wings for the TH2 responders to finish their job.

Another possible negative reaction of an otherwise normal bodily response could occur in a naïve immune system, such as that which exists in a child. A reaction to an allergic stimulus (TH2) could block the body from mounting a much-needed response to a more damaging (TH1) infection. For example, vaccines require an appropriate immune response to be effective. If this response is blocked because of an allergic reaction to either a carrier substance or preservative in the vaccine itself, such a reaction could theoretically prevent the desired immune reaction, causing untold damage to the host.

On a much less catastrophic note, we have all had the experience of just beginning to feel good from one illness when, all of a sudden, we are sick from something else. If doctor or patient goes through this several times, it may cause everyone to throw their hands in the air. The doctor refers the patient to a psychiatrist, and the patient gets frustrated and withdraws from further treatment.

Determining how deep the immune pond may be is the challenge. By this, I mean that it's difficult to determine just how many TH1 and TH2 illnesses are waiting for the other immune team to finish their job so the next team can get to work? The real challenge is to know, with any certainty, where you are in the process of recovery. If these two immune system responders have a lengthy backlog of immune problems, the immune system can become trigger-happy, mistaking all sorts of body-part proteins such as muscles, nervous system tissue, and organs as germs. A few examples may be a Type 1 Diabetes arising from an unresolved TH1 infection being blocked by a TH2 allergic reaction, or Crohn's disease TH2 response blocking the body from addressing the real TH1 culprit. There is also evidence of Crohn's disease going on to attack neurological tissue. Certain psychiatric problems, including depression, may also be autoimmune TH1 and TH2 problems mounting an attack upon neurological tissues. Autoimmune disorders are affecting a major share of the chronically ill population.

One can only begin to imagine the number of conditions doctors and patients are chasing with this supplement and that medication in an effort to unwind these conditions, sometimes without complete success. At least for me, some part of the answer is to support the body in its process of repair by treating the outermost layer of the immune imbalance, using the TH1 and TH2 as the road map back to health.

Because the body continually shifts between these two systems of defense, it may be difficult to use them as a tracking system once the blocked immunity is on the move. Laboratory tests are an excellent way to see the various secreted immune cells when the body is squarely planted in one immune response or another, but it is challenging to use these tests continuously as indicators. My thought is that are more real-time methods to track the body. Because the electro-chemical system is ultimately in charge, looking to it for answers about tracking immune response becomes critical.

The Electro-Chemical Body
Most of us have very limited concepts about electricity. We plug into it with our hair dryers and our televisions. If we don't pay the light bill, our lights don't work. When the power at our home or office goes down, our lives get disrupted and none of our stuff works, and it is a major inconvenience. But if you were to ask most people about what exactly electricity is or how electricity is made or how it moves from place to place, you would find electricity is a mystery to most of us. With that said, how many of us have a concept of how our own bodies' electricity works or even recognize that it exists? I think if you are left with a blank look on your face, you would not be alone.

When we become ill, our doctors look at our chemistry. They take blood, send it to a lab, and await the results. But what do the results mean? Blood results tell a trained doctor if things are working as they should. They may test our hormones, organ wastes, harmful substances, immune cells, fats, etc. – the list goes on and on. As a diagnostic tool, blood tests are sometimes difficult. Blood tests are good for immediate feedback on certain things, like say insulin levels, but not so good on other disease processes, say, cancer. The diagnosis of disease is a lot more difficult than most people know. If it were easy, there would be no medical surprises like those we hear about everyday. Someone goes to the doctor for something simple, and before they know it, they "accidentally" find they have a terminal illness.

So where does the electrical component of the body fit into this model? What initial impulses in the body cause the chemicals that ultimately end up in the blood to be formed? What causes the heart to beat and the muscles to contract and the brain to think? Is it a chemical or is it electric? We might start by saying it is a little bit of both. There is a dance between our electrical and our chemical systems. It all starts with a very small electrical charge created as the result of chemicals called electrolytes. They react with one another, creating a micro-electric charge, and the motor starts. From there, each reaction is an electrochemical reaction firing throughout the body, causing this and that to happen in what we hope is an orderly manner.

Doctors use various devices to read the individual electrical patterns of the body: the electroencephalogram to look at brain function, tests of the electrical system of the muscles, electrocardiograms to study the electrical activity of the heart, and even electromagnetic pictures of the body by magnetic resonance.

In alternative medicine approaches, such as acupuncture, energy pathways called meridians help the acupuncturist diagnose the condition. These pathways of electrical energy travel between organs in a predictable and organized manor. When one becomes ill, the order is disrupted, and the acupuncturist places needles in strategic acupuncture points to reroute the energy and correct its flow. Acupuncture points have been tested and found to have electrical activity different from the surrounding tissues. Several German and Asian doctors have developed equipment to measure this electrical difference for diagnostic and treatment purposes. They have also found certain substances such as vitamins, minerals, electrical current, and even frequency can normalize the reading of previously abnormal acupuncture points. They could even track the change in the electricity of the acupuncture point following their administration of the treatment.

Each organ of the body has its own electrical output, much as organs have their own chemical output. Furthermore, the electrical output of the organ during times of illness can become disrupted, thus putting out an abnormal electrical signal. As the dysfunction continues, the chemical findings in the blood and urine may change as well. Whether these abnormal findings are the result of one specific organ or the cumulative effects of several sick organs may depend upon the length of time the dysfunction has continued or the type of insult to the organ itself.

One can therefore postulate that some portion of our health is dependent upon a balance of the electrical activity of the organs both individually and collectively. It has been shown that the abnormal electrical signals of individual organs or their energy pathways (meridians) can be normalized when exposed to certain sounds, nutrients, homeopathic remedies, and even frequencies. When testing, these substances can be used as filters, and the abnormal acupuncture point can be test through the individual filter. The results of such testing often yield a better understanding of cause and appropriate remedy for correction. The bottom line of this discussion is that the electrochemical body emits a distress signal of illness, and the cure depends upon one's ability to receive the signal of illness, followed by proper interpretation, which opens the door to successful treatment.

Finding the Body Blueprint
Each body, from conception through birth, is ultimately endowed with an individual blueprint. This life-function imprint is held in place by a delicate balance of electrical, chemical, and structural components. Through trauma, stress, infection, and environmental exposure, the balance of this life-giving blueprint may become disrupted. This can result in a psychological, physiological, biochemical, or electrical confusion that may prevent one from achieving or maintaining good health.

In the face of illness, all diagnosis and subsequent intervention is focused upon establishing a balance equivalent to or better than our original blueprint. This goal is not always easily achieved. The complexity of any given illness results in much tail-chasing, theorizing, model-making, etc., before one treatment…one cause…one cure…rises to the top as the winner. The politics of disease, cure, and treatment are at best left for another day. On a more constructive note, let's consider a simple model of illness and diagnosis.

As a starting point, one might imagine a small handful of pea gravel thrown into a still pond. Every pebble breaks the stillness of the pond, and a ripple is born. Each and every ripple leaves its pebble behind as it starts its fragile journey across the pond as a very small wave. Think for a moment that the breaking of the stillness of the pond is like your body being shattered by an illness. When you have symptoms of an illness, your doctor examines you. If the illness is of little consequence and (to follow the above analogy) the number of ripples on your pond is few, the cause-and-effect relationship is easily established. Treatment is then decisive, and cure is often immediate.

On the other hand, if the illness is more complicated, your pond is without any calm water. It is then challenging, if not impossible, for your doctor to know which waves are important diagnostic clues and which are not. This, unfortunately, is the place many ill patients have found themselves in recent years as the complexities of our illnesses have increased. Much medical treatment has been forced to focus upon the relief of symptoms, as cure has been too difficult to achieve.

After thirty years of chasing what I thought, at the moment, were important diagnostic waves, I often found myself with nothing more than plain old pond water, at least until recently. What changed first was my dissatisfaction with not being 100% successful with all conditions which presented for my care. This motivated me to re-examine my use of diagnostic tests. I was looking for tests to help clinically guide me through the mine fields of patient symptoms.

I began with extensive and sophisticated laboratory tests of immune function. These tests supplied great amounts of data. I focused the tests to give me a timeline of disease and antibody formation. I found there were hundreds of tests for the immune problems I was seeing in my patients. There was a significant learning curve to become proficient in ordering the right tests with the highest probability of identifying the problem in a cost-effective manner. There was also a significant time delay before results were available, and patients often became frustrated while waiting for their results.

As I gathered more experience in both ordering and interpreting the tests, I found a way to make a test vial of each of the positive tests reported by the laboratory. I went on to make an individual test kit of all patients' positive laboratory tests in one test kit, so I could re-examine patients' progress by testing the vial to an acupuncture point at any time I choose. As I tested more and more patients, this resulted in more and more test kits. This resulted in each difficult case having its own test kit. In no time at all, I had multiple test kits, which represented a library of conditions that ultimately had application to other patients as well.

These test kits evolved into diagnostic tools for the various conditions that came into my office: Crohn's disease to Type I Diabetes to Lyme disease to parasites to allergies to autism. I now had a toolbox that gave me an amazing way to unwind the causal chain of illness to the basic common denominators of the condition. There were no more trial-and-error treatments, and the process became predictable and straightforward.

When the real-time tests indicated the desired change, I could again redraw the previously positive laboratory tests and compare the results. I could then see just how successful my treatment had been. That gave me the flexibility to retest, on demand, any of the previously positive laboratory findings without the difficulty and cost of multiply blood draws. It seemed I had used a combination of the body's electrical system along with the chemical system to arrive at a diagnostic protocol to help the body find its own blue print to support the healing.

Bio-Electric Balance
Putting this model into practice was much easier than I would have suspected. Using acupuncture points as electrical test reflexes and the individual vials as filters, I was able to apply specific immune challenges to unwind the most complex of problems. I came to think of the application of this technique as some form of bio electric balance. It seemed I was taking a very confused immune system and helping the body reorganize itself. I found my protocol could reverse most previously positive laboratory test. I could normalize allergy tests for the cause of Celiac and Crohn's disease (Gliadin, Tropomyosin, Saccharomyces, Cerevisiae, etc.). I reversed several Lupus cases and normalized their labs. Following the right procedures, positive biopsies for Basal cell carcinoma were also normalized.

Not only was I reversing the positive laboratory tests, but the patients were feeling the positive changes as well. It made tracking the causal chain of illness reproducible and the results of treatment predictable. I found that even with the most difficult of conditions, like autism, I could find a very logical pathway through what was previously a very complicated condition.

Unfortunately, my treatment of complicated conditions still took time. Many patients have to backtrack through some of what they had previously suffered on their way back to good health. It is one thing to have the clarity to see what caused an illness and totally something else to reverse it in a timely manner. The body responds on its own timetable and with its own priority system. This healing process is often frustrating to both the patient and the doctor, but if the body is to really get well and stay well, it is a process that only the body can control.

My protocol is being perfected and is becoming more streamlined. I am starting to teach the protocol to other doctors. To simplify the procedure, a computerized diagnostic library is under construction, which will make these same procedures available in a more automated manner. Along the way, I have developed products to non-invasively treat the patient. These products, coupled with my testing protocol, have allowed me to normalize many of the abnormal laboratory findings of my ill patients. As you can imagine, the real thrill is helping a patient be free of their disease and feel well again.

Consult your doctor before using any of the treatments found within this site.

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