A Smarter Immune System is More Resilient to Environmental and Infectious Exposures

by Dr. Donald Dennis, MD

The immune system is designed to recognize what is us and what is not us–what should be in our bodies and what should not–and then to destroy or neutralize anything that is harmful before it can cause illness and/or disease. This is the ideal design anyway, and, within the context of a healthy body living in a healthy environment holds up most of the time. But, sometimes, there are factors at play–high-stress levels, poor diets, lack of sleep, and environmental pollutants–that slow down or interfere with the proper immune response. As a doctor working with many patients harmed by environmental toxins, like mycotoxins from mold or heavy metals, I am often confronted with the quandary of how to “boost” their immune systems so that my patients can avoid further sickness and subsequent disease without also contributing to the inflammatory cascade that is causing their issues and heightened sensitivities to all stimuli. To be honest, I am not a fan of the expression “boosting the immune system”–not because I do not like the way it sounds, but because I do not feel it is the correct or most accurate expression of the goal. Rather, after well over 20 years of treating mold patients, I believe, that the key to healing and to helping patients live more normal lives in the context of our current world and environment is to capitalize on “immune intelligence“. We need to harness ways to assist our immune system to do its job better, smarter, and more efficiently. In other words, we need interventions that impart the immune system with the intelligence to create more direct paths to defending the body against invading pathogens–a better response, not a bigger response. That way, the patient recovers from their current mold-triggered illness but also becomes more resilient to future mold exposures and challenges to their immune system.

Before I go into how we can impart our immune system with “intelligence” or the tools to do its job better, I think it may be helpful for me to explain how the immune system works in the first place.

Creating Immunity

There are two parts of the immune system: innate and adaptive. The adaptive immune system is composed of the cellular (cell-mediated) and humoral immune systems. The innate immune system is immediate and is made of defenses against infections that are activated once a pathogen attacks.

The Innate Immune System

The innate system is made up of barriers that aim to keep viruses, bacteria, parasites, and foreign particles out of the body or limit their ability to spread and move throughout the body. Physical barriers include the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, nasopharynx cilia, eyelashes, and body hair. Innate defense mechanisms also include our body’s secretions, like mucus, bile, gastric acid, saliva, tears, and sweat. Then, there are general immune responses, like inflammation, complement responses, and nonspecific cellular responses that enhance innate immunity. The inflammatory response brings immune cells to the site of infection by increasing the blood flow. Complement is an immune response that marks pathogens for destruction and makes holes in the cell membranes of the pathogen. The innate immune system operates generally, thus anything that is identified as foreign is a target for the innate immune response.

The innate immune system is comprised of different white blood cells:

1. Phagocytes – Phagocytes circulate in the body and engulf viruses and bacteria and other potential threats.

2. Macrophages – Phagocytes that go outside of the capillary vessels, which allows them to find pathogens everywhere. Macrophages also release cytokines which are signals to recruit other cells to the area to destroy the pathogen.

3. Mast Cells – Mast cells are in mucous membranes, connective tissue, and play an important role in wound healing and in the defense against pathogens by initiating an inflammatory response. When mast cells are activated, they release cytokines and granules that contain chemicals to create an inflammatory cascade. This alerts immune cells like neutrophils (see below) and macrophages to go to the affected area.

4.Neutrophils of Phagocytes – Neutrophils contain granules that are toxic to bacteria and fungi and cause them to stop proliferating and die.

5. Eosinophils – Granulocytes that target multicellular parasites and fungi in patients who have a genetic predisposition to chronic sinusitis. To combat the targetted pathogen, eosinophils release toxic proteins and free radicals that cause tissue damage and pits in the lining of the sinuses. Mucous pools in those pits and when bacteria also enters the pool, chronic infection can begin in the sinuses along with the formation of polyps. When the antigen, mold/fungus, is removed from the nasal passages and sinuses, this is all reversible. Depending on how far along the process is or how long the exposure has gone on, surgery may or may not be required to remove the infection and/or polyps.

6.Basophils – A type of white blood cell produced in the bone marrow, but found throughout tissues in the body. They are full of granulocytes that attack multicellular parasites and release histamine-like mast cells.

7. Natural Killer Cells (NK cells) – These cells do not attack pathogens directly. They destroy infected host cells in order to stop the spread of infection and control the proliferation of early cancer cells. Infected host cells signal natural killer cells by expression of receptors in antigen presentation. Activating receptors recognize molecules that are expressed on the surface of infected cells, “turn on” the NK cell. Inhibitory receptors act as a check on NK cell killing. Most normal healthy cells express receptors that mark them as “self”. Inhibitory receptors on the surface of the NK cell recognize “self” cells, and this “switches off” the NK cell so that it doesn’t kill healthy cells. Cancer cells and infected cells often lose their inhibitory receptors, leaving them vulnerable to NK cell killing. Once the decision is made to kill, the NK cell releases cytotoxic granules, which leads to the death of the target cell.

8. Dendritic cells – Antigen-presenting cells located in tissues that can contact the external environment through skin mucous membranes in the nose, lungs, stomach, and intestines. They identify threats and act as messengers for the rest of the immune system by antigen presentation. Dendritic cells act as a bridge between the innate immune system in the adaptive immune system.

The Adaptive Immune System

The adaptive immune system is slower to react to foreign invaders. It is composed of B cells, called humoral (circulating in the blood) immunity because B cells release circulating antibodies and T cells. The B cells and T cells are derived from a specific type of stem cells called multipotent hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow. B cells mature in the bone marrow (thus name B cell) then move into the lymphatic system. Naïve B cells have antibodies bound to their cell wall surface. When a pathogen binds to the cell wall of a B cell, this activates a B cell to differentiation, where it divides into a memory B cell which presents the same antibodies on the cell surface, and a plasma cell which makes the antibodies and excretes them into the blood so they can circulate throughout the whole body.

Imparting Immune Intelligence

Now we get to the immune intelligence part. How do we impart the information to the immune system to do its job of identifying, marking, and eliminating antigens more efficiently? My answer came in the creation of Sinus Defense. Sinus Defense is a homeopathic therapy that contains transfer factor; a small molecule of approximately 5,000 Daltons–smaller than an antibody–but that acts as an antibody inside the body. It is made in the body’s lymphocytes. Transfer factor contains essential immune information which is normally passed down from the mother’s colostrum to her baby to maintain body health and to form the baby’s immune system. Although the body’s immune system is a miracle, it still takes time to react to viruses bacteria, and abnormal cell mutations. If our bodies were able to immediately recognize and attack an invading organism, we would not get sick from them at all. Transfer factors are nature’s way of compensating for the immune system’s slow humeral response to foreign substances.

Sinus Defense contains homeopathic Lac Vaccinium which contains transfer factor. Transfer factor is like supercharged colostrum but without dairy. For every gallon of colostrum, only one or two ounces of Transfer Factor is derived.

How Does Transfer Factor Work for Mold?

Mold lowers the immune system by lowering the IgG subclasses 1, 2, 3, and 4 in any combination. Put simply, serum levels of antibodies are lowered across the board, making the body more susceptible to all illnesses. In other words, mold is a superantigen. Typically toxic mold exposed patients struggle with illness due to exposure to common bacteria like Strep, Staph (in the nose MARCONS), Diplococcus, Haemophilus, and Pneumococcus, all of the common molds, and often get secondary infections by Lyme’s, Epstein Barr, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), and the three Herpes viruses. It is not because they have not had these viruses or infections before or, sometimes all along, but it is because mold, the superantigen, has wreaked havoc and the body can no longer control or defend itself from these invaders.

Having immediate antibody-like immune support through Sinus Defense (transfer factor) and having the ability to use it frequently, and within hours of exposure, provides antibody messages to the immune cells that the body desperately needs to fight. All inflammation with no fight just equals more inflammation. Transfer factor acts as the antibody bridge to bind to foreign invaders (like mold toxins) which identify the invader for destruction by the macrophages. Then, adding the additional support of a beta-glucan supplement (we make Beta Glucans) raises the circulating macrophage count to improve the removal of foreign invaders by as much as 300%. This further reduces the time required for the immune system to properly react to the mold and to mount the defense required to recover.

In Conclusion

I realize it all seems very complicated and confusing. The immune system is complex and we are still discovering new things about it and how it interacts with the world around us every day. I have seen that one of the most important pieces of healing is for a patient to believe in their body’s innate ability to heal itself; the belief that their body has not failed them and is capable of healing is as important as any drug or therapy, in my opinion. The transfer factor bridges the gap between the innate and adaptive immune systems by harnessing messenger molecules by antigen presentation for the rest of the immune system. Transfer factor essentially downloads the knowledge to ace the test or to defeat the pathogen directly to the immune system. The body still has to take the test and go in and do its job, but it has the information it needs to do so. Sinus Defense (containing transfer factor) is obviously not the only therapy needed to heal from mold illness, nothing can outdo the importance of breathing clean, mold-free air, but it certainly can and does help a lot a people who are struggling.