Most people may not realize it, but there are lightly a few cancer cells in all of our bodies right now. So why don’t everyone have cancer? Well, we can think our immune system, however, on the other hand, nearly 2 million people get diagnosed with cancer every year in America, and evidence is emerging that some of these cases may occur not because of the breakdown in our immune system but with the unwitting aid of immune cells.
That contradiction is only the big tip of the iceberg when it comes to the immune system role in four of the big time deadliest diseases in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Just as the immune systems has the ability to prompt inflammation, it can be both helpful and harmful to the human body, it’s functioning can work to fight off those four diseases, however, it can also play a hand in promoting them, super confusing isn’t it? Keep reading my friends, and I’ll show you how to get that system on your side, for real.
I till my patients that if we didn’t have an immune system, we would all get cancer, says Allen Tan, who is a MD and the director of genitourinary medicine oncology at the Rush Medical College. Most of the time, the rapid response, of the so-called natural killer cells of the innate immune system recognize cancerous and precancerous cells as dangerous and declares war on them. We all have a mechanism to filter out a small amount of cancer cells in order to prevent us from having visible cancer in the body, our dear doctor Tan says.
He describes a fine balance between the ability of cells to mutate into cancer and our immune system’s ability to fight them off, however, over time that ability can be lost. The tipping over into inbalance is not completely understood by our medical world or the scientific world. Experts hypothesize that there may be different causes, that sometimes is related to the DNA of the tumor or the aggressiveness of the cancer.
But a new mechanism for that tipping point is coming into a new view: Sometimes cancer cells can actually recruit immune cells, by hijacking them from the immune system and using them to carry the cancer throughout our body. A study in Nature Communications back in 2017, found that cancer cells target a particular kind of immature immune cells, using some deceptive signaling to blindfolding them and tricking them into transporting cancer cells instead of killing them.
There is a very intricate balance in the immune system that is usually antitumorigenic, meaning it eliminates tumors, however, in such cases, if this balance is altered, these cells may actually give help to the tumors growth and develop into full-blown metastatic disease, Hasan Korkaya, explains, who is a PhD, associate professor of biochemistry at the Medical College of Georgia and the studies co-author.
Another type of immune cell which is called macrophages has been shown to be, “inadvertently licensed” by breast cancer cells to promote tumor growth, according to a 2016 study in Nature. I know that all of this hijacking may sound extremely frightening, however at the same time, researchers are making sufficient headway in harnessing the immune system to fight back in a targeted way with the aim of avoiding chemotherapy, (which kills cancer cells, but also kills many healthy cells).
Several immunotherapy drugs have already been approved that can reprogram immune cells, including one that uses a patient’s own T-cells, which are extracted, and modified with a gene and replicated by the billions, and then infuse back into the patient.
As with so many other diseases, inflammation is a major chauffeur of cancer. Chronic inflammation can definitely cause sustained cell proliferation, causing changes in the proteins that surrounds cells and activate inflammatory immune cells that can sometimes be totally hijacked by cancer cells. Specific cancers can also develop due to specific inflammatory behavior, for instance, smoking and lung cancer, an inflammatory diet and colon cancer, or cumulative sun exposure and skin cancer.
Many of the healthy behaviors that can lower inflammation, also can lower the rest of cancer, avoiding process and high sugar foods, exercise regularly, eating a lot of plant foods and getting the proper sleep. One advantage with the prevention of cancer versus other diseases: there are many screening tests now available. For example, pap smear, colonoscopies, mammograms and skin checks for moles, so people please keep up with yours.
For a lot of years, the role of the immune system in cardiovascular disease went unrecognized. The major culprits were seen as cholesterol, smoking and an unhealthy, meat-focused diet, all of which were seen to increase arterial plaque. As the plaque grew, it obstructed blood vessels and led to having heart attacks, even though narrowing of the vessels or through the breaking off of a large clot that abruptly stopped blood flow to the heart.
There has been large studies that has been made on lowering cardiovascular deaths through behavioral changes, although heart disease is still one of the leading cause of death in both men and women. What has become increasingly clear, through, is that the universal condition underlying all of those other risk factors is actually a function of the immune system: inflammation. The emerging consensus is that, while cholesterol is involved in promoting inflammation, you see my friends, it’s the inflammatory process itself that damages the cardiovascular system.
Inflammation is at the very heart of the dark side of immunity: when it continues in a chronic, systemic fashion, as opposed to acute inflammation, which cruises in to fight pathogens and retreats. The helpful cells of the immune response then becomes harmful. They continue to step up to fight and inflame even when the real threat is gone, and that big fight damages healthy tissues, that includes the lining of blood vessels.
A recent study in Nature Reviews Cardiology outlined the role of the immune system in the “pathophysiology of cardiovascular diseases,” describing not only the ravages of inflammation but also the way various immune cells can actually support or attack the heart. For instance, macrophage cells, which are a part of the innate immune system, it have been shown to stimulate the cells in the heart muscle, helping to keep the heart pumping steadily. However, my friends, when given a pro-inflammatory signal from immune cells that are called cytokines, they can become harmful and contribute to plaque buildup.
Another type of immune cell, that is called T-reg cells, appears to protect us against heart disease however, when they become impaired or reduce in their numbers, that protection can vanish. These discoveries have led to promising new therapeutic approaches to treating heart disease. A good example is in a study that was in the New England Journal of medicine, testing a drug previously used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, which is, an autoimmune disease, in a group of patients which had a history of heart attacks and high levels of C-reactive protein, a maker for inflammation.
The researchers found that the arthritis drug lowered the rest of another heart attack, more than statin drugs did, even though statins has been used for years to lower cholesterol. And as a bonus, individuals taking the arthritis drug also had a sufficiently lower risk of cancer. However, a magic pill against heart disease is still a very long ways away. But, at the moment, the best bet for having a healthy heart and keeping it that way is following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Exercise, let me say this again, exercise regularly is particularly important for a healthy heart, both for its anti-inflammatory effects and because it’s straightens the heart muscles and helps keep arteries flexible and clean. The American Heart Association recommends participating in 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 20 to 30 minutes a day, such as swimming or biking, running or walking.
And anti-inflammatory diet is also protective, (And you have heard me say this before), The Mediterranean diet, Will not only help against heart disease but will help your overall health from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. It focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, olive oil and protein sources like fish and beans. My dear friends keep track of your blood pressure and get it treated if it’s high, as that can damage your blood vessels and raise inflammation.
On this website, I have many articles concerning the Mediterranean diet, and some very good recipes are in them, please feel free to explore, my team and I only want the very best health possible for each, and every one of you. And if it’s anything, absolutely anything at all that we can do for you please, by all means reach out, we will be there.
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May good health and prosperity be always with you.
Humbly yours Paul Earl.