Why is “boosting the immune system” dangerous? Experts reveal that it is more important to do one thing well

What happens when you boost your immune system?

Do you want more aggressive and stronger macrophages, or neutrophils? Well, that means more and more intense inflammation, more fever, more discomfort and tiredness, even if it’s just a mild infection. Or do you want super natural killer cells to kill more infected cells or cancer cells? OK, but they can be too aggressive and gobble up healthy cells that happen to be nearby!

Want to boost your dendritic cells so they can start activating your acquired immune system? This way even a small danger can drain and deplete the resources of the immune system. And it leaves you more exposed and vulnerable to really serious dangerous infections.

Or maybe boost T cells and B cells so they become more activated? But this can lead to autoimmune disease, because some of these cells will definitely start attacking their own tissues. Once the boosted antibodies and T cells start killing heart cells or liver cells, they don’t stop until the job is done.

Maybe all this isn’t dangerous enough for you, rather boost your mast cells and IgE-producing B cells? These two cells are the combination that causes allergies. Even the slightest food irritation in the gut can now cause severe diarrhea or an allergic reaction that can kill you in minutes.

Isn’t all this boring? Why not go outside the box and boost all the regulatory parts of the defense system to shut down the immune system? This can render you helpless against even the most innocuous of pathogens. You probably know what I mean here – boosting your immune system is a terrible idea that is often abused by people trying to convince you to buy something that is useless!

Fortunately, boosting your immune system can actually pose very little danger. Basically, anything that can be legally purchased actually has no such effect! Even just “a strong immune system” is a misnomer. Most importantly, you need a balanced immune system, that is, an internal constant between aggressiveness and calmness. You need a graceful dancer who can remember the steps more than a football player who wants to smash things. In all cases, allow the immune system to function exactly as intended.

OK, wait a minute. If boosting your immune system is such a crazy, complicated, and dangerous thing, why is the internet full of products that claim to do it?

From brewed coffee to protein powders, mysterious tree roots dug up from the Amazon rainforest, or vitamin pills, you can buy an endless supply of products to help “boost” your immune system.

In fact, no one knows exactly which types and numbers of cells are at what level of viability for the immune system to function most effectively. Anyone who says they know what you need is probably trying to sell you something.

At least for now, there are no easily available products that have been scientifically proven to directly enhance the immune system. Using these products without medical supervision, if any, is very dangerous.

What to do to have a healthy immune system

To have a healthy immune system, the most necessary and important thing is to eat a diet that provides all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. The reason is simple, the immune system is constantly making billions of new cells. All newborn cells require resources to function properly. Malnutrition is closely linked to a weak immune system. If starved, you are more susceptible to infection and disease. Because the body has to make tough decisions, and the immune system can be affected as a result.

But assuming you eat at least a moderately balanced diet, including some fruits and vegetables, you’ll get all the micro and macronutrients your immune system needs to function properly. Interestingly, even in developed countries there are micronutrient deficiencies, especially among the elderly. It simply means that someone is deficient in essential nutrients and vitamins—usually because they don’t eat enough or eat too little variety. So it should be pretty sure that eating only pizza is not healthy. As long as you’re eating reasonably well, your immune system will most likely work as expected.

The health benefits of even just moderate regular exercise, in addition to eating right , have long been known. The body was made for movement, so moving it a little bit keeps various systems in good shape, especially the cardiovascular system. Exercise also directly strengthens the immune system because it promotes good circulation of fluids throughout the body. In short, just moving, stretching and squeezing body parts is better than lying on the couch all day, so that bodily fluids can flow better and more freely. Good blood circulation is very beneficial for the immune system. Because it allows cells and immune proteins to move more efficiently and freely so they can work better.

That’s basically all you can do.

Some people do have flaws and need to improve with certain supplements, but that’s not something you can self-diagnose. The brutal truth is that humans are quite different from each other, and the reasons why a change in diet or lifestyle can affect you for good or bad are too complex to be summarized in a book on the immune system. popular science book.

If you feel like you are deficient in things like vitamins or trace elements, this is something you should discuss with your doctor in real life.

This sweeping statement will upset a lot of people. How is it possible for humans to fly to the moon, build particle accelerators, and come up with 980 different Pokémon and not be able to improve our immune system?

Well, think of it this way – if you have an old car that’s been used off-road for decades and it’s rusty, it’s got a broken axle, a flat tire, a cracked headlight, and you think you can fix it by putting special gasoline in the tank And tidying up the look to fix it? You can’t use magic tricks to save a car that’s been wrecked by bad treatment. If you want your car to run better and last longer, you just need to take good care of it. As you may have guessed here, the same is true with the body. If you want to “boost” your immune system to be healthier, please take good care of yourself with a healthy lifestyle.

The complex arrangement of billions of different parts of the immune system doesn’t take long to function properly. Unfortunately, it won’t be permanent either, neither cars nor humans are made for it, it’s just longer and better. That’s what science can offer on this topic, at least for now.

It’s kind of funny to discuss immune system boosting and unscientific arguments made by those working in the multi-billion dollar supplement sales industry. Because the worst thing most people can do is waste their money. Unfortunately, it’s no fun that there are millions of people living with real and serious diseases, from cancer to autoimmune diseases.

And these people, often desperately trying to alleviate their symptoms, or, frankly, trying to stay alive. They are the most likely innocent victims of those supplement industry blank checks. Worse, some people may even, for these reasons, fall for true medical treatment by believing lies backed by greed or well-intentioned but ill-advised naturalistic appeals. These biased ideas about health and boosting the immune system may be perpetuated by our collective misconceptions about how the immune system works far from the truth.

Why is manipulating the immune system dangerous?

Even experts trying to boost the immune system have to be very careful. This might be a good time to tell that story where it all went wrong.

Over the past few decades, as our understanding of the mechanisms of the immune system has increased dramatically, scientists have attempted to come up with new ways to tackle the diseases that plague us. If the intricate defense system could be manipulated, the benefits to our species would be enormous. But as I said before, manipulating the immune system is dangerous. It’s constantly on the balance between being too harsh and being too mild, and trying to interfere with it could spell disaster.

A notorious example is TGN1412, a very horrific drug trial. Its grave blunders extend beyond immunology and have made some newspaper headlines. The purpose of the trial is to test the side effects of a drug that, when given to humans, is supposed to stimulate T cells in cancer patients, making them live longer.

The drug is an artificial antibody that binds to and stimulates the CD28 molecule on T cells—we’ve encountered CD28 before, but didn’t name it, and it’s one of the signals needed to activate T cells. We describe it as a tender kiss that dendritic cells need to give T cells in order to activate them.

So the concept of TGN1412 is very simple – give T cells an artificial “kiss” to stimulate them to become more effective and more easily activated in cancer patients. Basically, this “boosts” the immune system, making it stronger in the face of a life-threatening disease like cancer. Yes, well, it did.

To be on the safe side, the dose of TGN1412 was less than one-fifth of the dose that would produce any response in rhesus monkeys (cute monkeys, in case you were wondering). So when researchers test drugs, they don’t expect any real response from human subjects.

However, within minutes of administering TGN1412 to healthy young men, the gates of hell opened. It turns out that macaques (the animals used to test drugs as an animal model) happen to have much fewer CD28 molecules on their T cells than humans, so the macaques’ response to the drug is not as strong as expected, resulting in false safety feel. Also, for some reason, the rate of dosing in human subjects was ten times faster than in animal models.

Within minutes, the volunteer subjects experienced a powerful cytokine release syndrome, an extremely rapid storm of cytokines. Billions of immune cells throughout the body, normally undergoing a careful activation process and maintained by the protective measures discussed previously, are now awakened at once. Essentially, T cells in all volunteer subjects were overstimulated and burst into release of activating and inflammatory cytokines. These floods of cytokines activate more immune cells, which release more cytokines and cause more inflammation. The horrific chain reaction is constantly self-perpetuating and accelerating.

The immune systems of the volunteer subjects were liberated, but none were prepared for what was happening. In a rapid, violent, and generalized reaction, fluid rushes from the blood to tissues throughout the body, causing the subject to writhe and swell in excruciating pain. Multiple organ failure followed, with volunteer subjects surviving on machines and copious amounts of drugs that shut down the immune system. The most severely affected volunteers suffered simultaneous heart, liver and kidney failure, followed by the loss of many toes and some fingertips. Fortunately, all six volunteer subjects survived the horrific day, and after several weeks of intensive care, most were able to leave the hospital again.

As the TGN1412 trial failed in the worst possible way, it clearly sent a strong shock through the medical research community. Many guidelines for human trials have been revised accordingly.

OK, so what is the purpose of this horror story? Certainly not to generalize that drugs that boost the immune system are a bad idea, but it teaches us about the complexities and dangers of using them. If we look at the scale, incredible detail, and complex interactions of the immune system, the difficulty of manipulating it becomes clear. So don’t be misled—while this book does discuss a lot of stuff, I’ve greatly simplified everything. From the point of view of immunologists working in the field of immunology, we have barely scratched the surface of things.

Think of the immune system as one insanely large machine with thousands of levers and hundreds of dials. Billions of gears, screws, wheels, and blinking lights are constantly interacting within. Pull any one lever and you won’t be able to determine what the downstream interactions will be.

OK, so boosting and strengthening the immune system is complicated for experts. It’s nearly impossible (and unwise) for the average person to do anything other than follow a healthy lifestyle. But you can actually do one important thing to avoid breaking it. It turns out that many people actually suppress their immune system without knowing it.

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