Two of white blood cells the immune system produces to monitor what is happening in the body are called B-cells (which mature in bone marrow) and T-cells (which mature in the thymus gland).
T-cells stimulate the immune system when foreign invaders enter the body. Some T-cells (CD8) can destroy viruses or tumors that infect normal cells. Natural killer T-cells can also destroy tumor cells as well as the body’s own cells when they are infected with viruses.
B-cells are part of the body’s humoral immunity, so named because it includes materials found in the humors, or bodily fluids. B-cells produce antibodies when they come in contact with foreign invaders.
The human immune system is always working. When we eat, the immune system determines if food particles are safe to enter the bloodstream. If the immune system senses a food particle is dangerous, it will produce an antibody against it.
I test every patient who comes to my office for food allergies. Dairy testing is a crucial part of that. More than 80 percent of people I’ve tested were producing antibodies against casein, a protein found in most dairy products. A patient who produces antibodies to casein will cause his or her immune system to go into a reactive mode when casein enters the body, through drinking a glass of cow’s milk or eating a piece of pizza with cheese made from milk.
The immune system is recognizing casein as a foreign substance that should not be in the body, and is trying to eliminate it with antibodies produced by B-cells. Those antibodies tag the casein protein for removal by other white blood cells.
When a person who is sensitive to casein continually ingests it, the immune system reacts by repeatedly producing antibodies. That leads to an overactive immune system that can inadvertently start overproducing other inflammatory molecules, resulting in overwhelming inflammation.
As the cells of the body become more stressed, the immune system can mistakenly begin to produce antibodies against its own cells.
I have seen such an immune overreaction occur many times. For example, Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition of the thyroid gland. In cases of Hashimoto’s, the body produces antibodies against the thyroid gland itself. I have treated many Hashimoto’s patients simply by finding out what food is causing the immune system to become overwhelmed, and removing it from the diet.
Sensitivity to gluten — a composite of proteins found in wheat, rye, and barely — is one of the most common causes of Hashimoto’s disease. Researchers have shown one of the proteins, gliadin, has a similar structure to thyroid molecules. In fact, people with Hashimoto’s are more likely to develop gluten sensitivity (also called gluten intolerance), and those with celiac disease are more likely to develop thyroid problems, including Hashimoto’s.
Though it’s not noted as frequently in medical literature as gluten sensitivity, I have seen many patients with Hashimoto’s improve or even cure their condition altogether by avoiding dairy products.
But keep in mind that I don’t try just one therapy with these patients. For such patients, avoiding dairy and/or gluten is advised along with a holistic treatment plan that includes balancing the hormonal system and correcting nutrient imbalances.
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