Have More Sex And Other Fun Ways To Calm Inflammation + Balance Your Immune System
The bad news: A fatal heart attack happens every 60 seconds and 50 million Americans live with an autoimmune disease. In other words, inflammation is an epidemic. The good news: When balanced, your immune system’s inflammatory response could save your life.
Inflammation has the power to help heal injuries and infections. The monkey wrench in this well-oiled machine is chronic inflammation, which doesn’t subside when its job is done and rages uncontrolled, doing more damage than good and potentially affecting every cell of the body. The result could be heart disease, autoimmune disease, or worse, but like a forest fire, inflammation begins as a slow uncomfortable burn you may not realize needs your attention until it’s too late.
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What happens in an inflamed body?
Your brilliantly designed immune system contains two types of white blood cells that help to fight off intruders like viruses and bacteria, called TH1 and TH2. Technically speaking, these are two types of white blood cells that help ward off the body’s intruders. Like a seesaw, TH1 and TH2 need to balance each other, as if on a seesaw. When the seesaw gets unbalanced and either TH1 or TH2 become dominant, you fly right off and into the inflammatory autoimmune spectrum, and become at a much greater risk for conditions such as autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s or Graves), (1) diabetes, (2) inflammatory bowel diseases, allergies, (3) eczema, (4) multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. (3)
One of the reasons this can happen is because of a lack of T Regulatory (Treg) cells. Tregs bring balance (5) to your immune system, like the kid who stands in the middle of the seesaw with a foot on each side, keeping the whole thing level. I run immune labs on my patients such as TH1/TH2/TH17 dominance test to check for low Treg levels. (6) If yours are low, give Treg cells a helping hand, bring better balance to your immune system, and help to calm inflammation with these VIPs (Very Important Prescriptions):
1. Have more sex!
Not that you needed another reason, but having sex (and falling in love) is one of the best ways to increase your oxytocin levels. Peer-reviewed research found that increased oxytocin brings Treg levels up. (7)
2. Heal your gut with delicious natural food.
Around 80 percent of your immune system exists in your microbiome, so keep that part of your body as healthy as possible and your immune system will benefit. A University of Madrid study (8) found that an unhealthy gut led to decreased Treg levels, leading to food intolerances, allergies, and inflammation. A study published in Molecular Medicine (9) found that a probiotic blend of different lactobacillus also increased Tregs. My article on gut health lists my other favorite gut-healing foods.
3. Optimize vitamins A & D.
Get and take supplemental A and D because Treg cells need vitamins A and D (10) to function properly. But to really maximize vitamin D production you need to get out in the sun. Remember, vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, so it’s no surprise that getting out in the sun will increase Treg. (11) And when that isn’t an option, use food as medicine to help get these essential immune vitamins.
4. Spice up your cuisine with cinnamon.
Maybe it’s not quite as exciting as sex, of course, but cinnamon makes for good comfort food, and a study in the Journal of Immunology (12) found that sodium benzoate, a metabolite of cinnamon, increased Treg. Yum.
5. Tea-off with jasmine green tea.
I am a sucker for green tea and fortunately for me (and all you other tea-sippers), significant increases in Tregs (13) were observed in the spleens and lymph nodes of mice treated with EGCG from jasmine green tea. Drink several glasses a day to get the best therapeutic benefit. (I’ll join you.)
6. Savor a super-simple smoothie.
Black cumin seed oil, curcumin, (14) astragalus, (15) cat’s claw, (16) and cocoa (17) all have been shown to have a positive effect on Tregs. So why not add them to a delicious smoothie? Add 1 teaspoon of each of these to a base of coconut milk. Throw in three handfuls of greens, frozen berries, and voila, you’ve got yourself a grade-A, Treg pumper-upper. You’re welcome.
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- Glick AB, Wodzinski A, Fu P, Levine AD, Wald DN. Impairment of regulatory T-cell function in autoimmune thyroid disease. Thyroid. 2013;23(7):871-878. doi:10.1089/thy.2012.0514
- Suri-Payer E, Fritzsching B. Regulatory T cells in experimental autoimmune disease. Springer Semin Immunopathol. 2006;28(1):3-16. doi:10.1007/s00281-006-0021-8
- Cuevas A, Saavedra N, Salazar LA, Abdalla DS. Modulation of immune function by polyphenols: possible contribution of epigenetic factors. Nutrients. 2013;5(7):2314-2332. Published 2013 Jun 28. doi:10.3390/nu5072314
- Ismail IH, Boyle RJ, Mah LJ, Licciardi PV, Tang ML. Reduced neonatal regulatory T cell response to microbial stimuli associates with subsequent eczema in high-risk infants. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2014;25(7):674-684. doi:10.1111/pai.12303
- Palomares O, Yaman G, Azkur AK, Akkoc T, Akdis M, Akdis CA. Role of Treg in immune regulation of allergic diseases. Eur J Immunol. 2010;40(5):1232-1240. doi:10.1002/eji.200940045
- Becker C, Bopp T, Jonuleit H. Boosting regulatory T cell function by CD4 stimulation enters the clinic. Front Immunol. 2012;3:164. Published 2012 Jun 18. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2012.00164
- Poutahidis T, Kearney SM, Levkovich T, Qi P, Varian BJ, Lakritz JR, et al. (2013) Microbial Symbionts Accelerate Wound Healing via the Neuropeptide Hormone Oxytocin. PLoS ONE 8(10): e78898. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078898
- The Role of Regulatory T Cells in IgE-Mediated Food Allergy J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2013; Vol. 23(6): 371-382 http://www.jiaci.org/issues/vol23issue6/1.pdf
- Issazadeh-Navikas S, Teimer R, Bockermann R. Influence of dietary components on regulatory T cells. Mol Med. 2012;18(1):95-110. Published 2012 Feb 10. doi:10.2119/molmed.2011.00311
- Aristo Vojdani, Jama Lambert, and Gottfried Kellermann The Role of Th17 in Neuroimmune Disorders: A Target for CAM Therapy. Part III Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011. doi:10.1093/ecam/nep064
- Furuhashi T, Saito C, Torii K, Nishida E, Yamazaki S, et al. (2013) Photo(chemo)therapy Reduces Circulating Th17 Cells and Restores Circulating Regulatory T Cells in Psoriasis. PLOS ONE 8(1): e54895. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0054895
- Brahmachari S, Pahan K. Sodium benzoate, a food additive and a metabolite of cinnamon, modifies T cells at multiple steps and inhibits adoptive transfer of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis. J Immunol. 2007;179(1):275-283. doi:10.4049/jimmunol.179.1.275
- Wong CP, Nguyen LP, Noh SK, Bray TM, Bruno RS, Ho E. Induction of regulatory T cells by green tea polyphenol EGCG. Immunol Lett. 2011;139(1-2):7-13. doi:10.1016/j.imlet.2011.04.009
- Ma C, Ma Z, Fu Q, Ma S. Curcumin attenuates allergic airway inflammation by regulation of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Tregs)/Th17 balance in ovalbumin-sensitized mice. Fitoterapia. 2013;87:57-64. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2013.02.014
- Jin H, Luo Q, Zheng Y, et al. CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T cells contribute to the antiasthmatic effects of Astragalus membranaceus extract in a rat model of asthma. Int Immunopharmacol. 2013;15(1):42-49. doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2012.11.009
- Alexandre Domingues, Alexandrina Sartori, Marjorie Assis Golim, Ligia Maria Marino Valente, Larissa Camargoda Rosa, Larissa Lumi WatanabeIshikawa, Antonio CarlosSiani, Rosa Marlene Viero, Prevention of experimental diabetes by Uncaria tomentosa extract: Th2 polarization, regulatory T cell preservation or both? Journal of Ethnopharmacology Volume 137, Issue 1, 1 September 2011, Pages 635-642 10.1016/j.jep.2011.06.021
- Ramos-Romero S, Pérez-Cano FJ, Castellote C, Castell M, Franch À. Effect of cocoa-enriched diets on lymphocytes involved in adjuvant arthritis in rats. Br J Nutr. 2012;107(3):378-387. doi:10.1017/S0007114511003035
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.