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Immune System in Allergy

How Some Forms of Chronic Illness
Trigger Allergy Formation
And Vice Versa
(C) 1995,, all rights reserved.

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It is my understanding that some people are being given cyclosporine and other strong immunosuppresive treatments to reduce allergies. There are some problems with this kind of treatment, including:

Many forms of immune disease originate from a long term low level infection of _any_ sort, including bacteria, yeast, viruses, or parasites, or other persistent factors that the body has not been able to completely eliminate. With the immune system on alert and without rapid success, the natural mutation processes of the immune system begin to generate a broader set of antibodies. This is a strategy which will likely find another chink in the offending organism's armor; but may also hit upon a chink in the body's own armor, _possibly_ resulting in auto-immune disease if a prolonged battle ensues.

Immune System as Scavenger

At this point, we should note one of the less appreciated functions of the immune system. When you are injured, some cells die, others begin to malfunction. Those cells which are damaged, express so called "heat shock proteins" on their cell wall membranes. (The cause is not only heat, as originaly thought, but is now understood to include many other forms of stress and damage.) To clean up the site of the injury, these damaged cells must be attacked and destroyed by the immune system, and the debris flushed into the circulatory system, or as in the case of a sunburn or blister, allowed to fall off. To do this, the immune system has to be able to form antibodies against the normal cells of the body. That is to say, a healthy immune system, like a good police force, HAS to have the ABILITY to kill you, to do its every day work.

Take the example of a viral cold. During the initial period, the virus takes over cells and turns them into factories manufacturing more viruses. In response, the immune system sets out a two pronged attack, one aimed at destroying viruses outside of cells, and another aimed at identifying those cells acting as viral factories, and killing them before they disgorge thousands of new viruses, dying in the process. If your body could not kill your own cells, the virus would eventually take over. Together, they damage your body to the point where you will feel terrible for a week or two, as your body replaces the cells that it and/or the virus killed.

In some cases, those antibodies generated against your own cells, may persist for a long time, and the generation of replacement antibodies may continue. In most cases, however, the disulfide bonds within the antibodies, hold them in "closed" or inactive position until they are needed. But more on that later.

A Few Well Known Allergy Diseases...

A number of well known diseases have been found to be based upon this kind of persistent antibody action.

Late onset diabetes, we now believe, occurs when antibodies are formed which end up slowly destroying insulin generating cells in the pancreas. Milk consumption has been statistically related to this; but the major cause is speculated to be viral.

Rheumatic heart disease is another antibody related disease. It is triggered when a form of streptococcus infects the throat. In the course of fighting this off, the body makes antibodies which will also attack a protein in the heart valves. If treated quickly, the body does not continue generating these antibodies. If not treated, the cross reactions of these antibodies with heart valve tissue eventually convinces the immune system that there is a continued threat. As damage accumulates, the valves become leaky and must be replaced to avoid lethargy and death.

Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy, is another auto-immune disease. It is triggered by a fungus which begins growing on the skin. In short term exposures, not much happens. The second phase involves some scarring of the skin. As the immune system becomes seriously involved in the third phase, it begins generating antibodies which target other proteins. In those with a genetic predisposition, some of those proteins targeted, are those used in the nerve sheaths of a class of pain nerves, leading to a comfortable lack of pain. The horrors of this disease are not due to the disease itself; but rather, the lack of pain to discourage self damaging actions. People with leprosy are no longer aware they are harming themselves when they pick up hot objects, drink overly hot liquids, walk with sand or pebbles in their shoes, and the many, many little things we don't do because we find them uncomfortable or painful! With open wounds, chronic infections set in; these are often not treated adequately because they are just not painful. Like a rented car, without the warning pains of ownership, the mind is no longer prompted toward caution in the minutea of the body's use. Soon, the body shows the signs of abuse; burns, repetetive wear, infections, all lead to missing digits, even limbs, and death. All due to the missing "inconvenience" of pain.

In a manner analogous to the disabling of the nervous system by Leprosy, cyclosporins disable another vital but occasionally irritating system of the body -- the immune system. Suppressing it is like getting a mild case of AIDS. The initial infections or other problems are not dealt with, and may continue to cause more and more damage to the body, while other low grade problems begin to occur. In addition, it is my understanding that there is often kidney damage which often leads to dialysis after a number of years, and the incidence of cancer rises as the body fails to suppress malfunctioning cells at a stage where this is easily done.

Antibody Function

Now a quick jump back to the antibody story. It has been proposed that antibodies are normally inactive in a healthy individual. It has been said that 60% or more of the action of a healthy immune system is to deal with the leakage of larger food molecules from the gut. There is, after all, a high degree of similarity between various mammalian animal proteins in our diet and those found in our bodies, even without considering the cases of cannibalism formerly found in various primitive societies, or occasionally encountered in conditions of extreme deprivation. If our immune system were to attack all instances of these proteins, we would all have arthritis, lupus, and many other auto immune diseases. Yet, in some people this type of antibody based damage does occur.

A typical antibody consists of two light polypeptide chains and two heavy polypeptide chains held together by disulfide bonds. When most of these bonds are reduced, the antibody is "closed" and unlikely to attack anything. It is believed by Dr. Cathcart and others, that in the normal state, these key bonds are closed, and the antibody circulates relatively inertly in the blood. (A link to his articles is at the end of this article.)

When the antibody encounters an area of free radical activity, such as an area where phagocytes are attacking other cells or invaders, the free radicals oxidize some of these bonds, causing the antibody to open, becomming primed. Any loosely matching item the antibody then encounters, is attacked by the antibody. This provides a highly localized method of dealing with invading organisms. Since there are times when the body must destroy its own cells, and phagocytes do use free radicals as an attack method, this scheme of activating antibodies would seem a relatively safe design for Nature to employ. In addition, the presence of adequate free radical scavengers will reduce the mean free path of the free radicals generated by the phagocytes, sparing nearby tissue from damage by "ricochet" free radicals during battle.

The natural fresh food diet of our distant tree dwelling ancestors use to contain large quantities of ascorbate laden fruits and vegetables, insuring a good reductive blood ph. Most foods would be in season for but a few weeks, providing a natural rotation of perhaps two thousand different foods. And our elevated status kept us away from dead things and "droppings", somewhat reducing our exposure to pathogens and parasites. Meat was relatively rare. Thus, Dr. Stone and others suggest, we had considerably more antioxidants in our blood, and permitted Mother Nature to propagate a genetic "defect" that turned off our primate ancestor's ability to turn glucose into vitamin C. Later on, when some primates transitioned from the high garden to the grasslands of the savanna, periodic famines may have killed off those who converted glucose to vitamin C too freely in times of nutritional stress.

Along with the benefits of modern civilization, our diet changed to include far more "dead" foods, such as meat and vegetables which have been picked weeks, even months before consumption. Some studies in the sixties have shown that the ascorbate content of these vegetables drops dramatically after picking; and when it reaches near zero, the foods begin to rot. Thus, our diet no longer has the grams of ascorbates and other anti- oxidants our bodies evolved to use. Nor the seasonal nutritional stress and famines which helped kill so many.

As a side note, if we were to feed our modern processed food diet to a monkey, the SPCA would likely charge us with maltreatment of the animal as we would not be providing it with adequate ascorbates and other nutrients. The FDA's RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of most nutrients is based not on biological need, which we are not very certain of; but upon the FDA's compilation of the so called "average" diet. There have been some strong discussions between the National Academy of Sciences and the FDA regarding these recommendations, resulting in the reluctant increase in some of the values. (Not to mention the open recommendation of "eat more vegetables", take vitamin C to avoid colds, and now, rumors that vitamin E combats heart disease. )

Back in our blood, the lower levels of antioxidants result in a higher average free radical concentration. With any disease processes or other perturbations, this can reach the levels at which statistically more and more of the antibodies become open and "armed", ready to strike anything similar to their intended targets.

A quick note on how chemistry works at this point. Atoms and molecules react only when they bump into each other hard enough. No collision, no reaction. Thus if the free radical concentration is low enough, few antibodies will become primed by collision with free radicals, and those so primed, are more likely to become un-primed by collision with free radical scavengers before they encounter their would-be targets. Also, whether an antibody latches on to a target depends not just upon fit, but also upon how hard the collision. A hard enough collision can jam an antibody onto a much poorer fitting target. There is a considerable spread of velocities in any solution, the curve tapers to an extreme range, enough to destroy the molecules involved in somewhat more rare occasions. These higher speed collisions give rise to a half-life phenomenon for antibodies and other bodily chemicals. (Rest assured, this molecular velocity has nothing to do with how quickly blood travels; it is orders of magnitude greater! Any observed relation between exercise and allergies is caused by Very Different means.)

So we see that as the free radical levels in the blood rise and/or antioxidant levels fall, more and more antibodies may become active, hammering away at anything resembling the targets they were designed to attack. Eventually, the sheer numbers of mistakes build up to the point where the accidental damage these antibodies cause, becomes noticeable as "allergies". As the quantity exceeds the body's ability to repair the damage, it becomes a form of degenerative disease.

What kind of damage is noticed first, would depend upon your immune history -- which antibodies your body has produced more of. During such attack's, some notice a strange phenomenon -- an injury at one site on the body, prompts faint symptoms at other similar sites on the body. Say you catch one finger in a door, or are bitten by a bee on one knuckle; in a day or two, the other finger may also begin to twinge. Antibodies created to mop up a specific class of damaged cells in one area, may be cross reacting with similar cells at another area because your general free radical scavenger status is too low. The sites of old injuries may also begin to hurt for similar reasons. Old mariner's tales of scurvey from the days before the British use of Lime to prevent scurvey, (hence the slang term Limy for a British sailor,) talk about old wounds spontaneously opening. Some of this is mentioned in Pearson and Shaw's books "Life Extension", and "Life Extension Companion", along with experiments on wound healing strength vs ascorbate dosage in guinnie pigs, another animal which does not make its own ascorbates.

Dietary Triggers and Avoidance

Here is where the rotating diet means of treating some allergies comes in. The constant collisions do take their toll on antibodies, with some kinds of antibodies lasting only days before neeting to be replaced by new ones. Rotating the diet provides lulls, suggesting to the immune system that additional production of replacement antibodies is not required. Days later, when levels are low enough, eating that particular food will not cause as many matches, and so will not stir up the rest of the immune mechanisms. In the the six to eight hours it takes to ramp up antibody production against those food macro-molecules, most of that food will have been used up by the body, keeping the immune system from becoming stirred up.

Sometimes, with some of these foods, one may note faint traces of the food odors released a day of so later as the antibodies break down and release the molecules. Other foods with molecules that better fit these antibodies may even "flush" such odors on to the breath. This is not to imply that this is the only cause of delayed food odors, but a phenomenon which has been noticed by some patients with food and other allergic materials. At times, massive doses of vitamin C have been noticed to produce similar releases of food, allergen, even pesticide odors on the breath.

This mechanism can also explain the occasional faint releases of potential allergen odors a day or so after exposure. This has been taken by some patients as an indicator that they are developing an allergic sensitivity to those allergens. The implication is that the body has learned to generate antibodies to that chemical, and may do so in larger quantities next time. Perhaps.

Then there is the strange matter of addictive food disorders. If free radical levels are high enough, large numbers of these antibodies become active. If there is enough of the allergen present in the blood, all the antibodies may be used up by the allergen, preventing cross reactions and hence allergy symptoms. As long as supply outstrips the immune systems ability to produce antibodies, symptoms subside. The combination of faint odors and accompanying aches soon teaches the victim to crave these foods or allergens to avoid the pain of allergy. The problem is that the body will divert other resources to the production of more and more of these antibodies, neglecting the production of more important antibodies, and potentially opening the door to infective disease and cancer. Also the individual may at some time end up in a situation where he or she can no longer get enough of that particular food, triggering massive allergy symptoms.

(Some have speculated that a component of "home sickness" for one's prior abode and diet, etc. may be related to a weak version of this phenomenon. Perhaps.)

Cures, "Cures", and You

Statistically, a "cure" rate, is measured by the percentage in whom treatment controls symptoms till some specific date, or till the patient is removed from the study group by unrelated causes, like death from cancer, or at times, bancrupcy, loss of insurance, and other things that prevent paid contact with the medical practitioner.

Do you consider this acceptable to YOU?

Some medical researchers, looking beyond the immediate, are just now beginning to sound the alarm that there is a statistical rise in cancer from antihistamines and many related drugs. (Science News, circa 1994.) There may, however, be other pathways that these drugs use which could also explain the increase in cancer rates. One suspected pathway is interfering with pancreatic function.

Other medications, as we have heard, lead to problems with bone damage. Even the matter of just taking enough pain killers to remove the pain so one can go on, encourages the patient to ignore the primary problem, and just go on with life as best as he or she can till something else breaks down.

Is this method of just treating symptoms acceptable to YOU? This is your body. Your life as you know it will end when your body breaks down and stops. We do not know what will happen after that. If you work at it, you may be able to delay that event.

(If you are interested in what may lay beyond, I would reccomend the rather curious book, "Children Who Remember Previous Lives", written by a medical doctor who became curious on the subject, and dedicated much of his life to researching actual cases. It's food for thought; and perhaps, hope.)

Find the Cause

I deal with complex computer systems, often those which have gone wrong. Quite often, the cause is a flaw in the design of the system, which NO ONE went back to fix. Everyone just kept adding more and more instructions (which we call code,) and fixes to the system. No one took the time to LOOK at WHY there was a problem. Finally, either that problem manifested itself in a way that could not be readily fixed, or the weight of additional problems which the additional code introduced, rendered the program no longer suitable.

Correcting the initial design flaw was often considered too time consuming or too expensive. By the time I am called in, we often find that MANY times that amount has been spent in "unrelated" costs and schedule slippages in other areas of the company. It is not that uncommon to find those costs exceed several million dollars.

How does that old saying go? For want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost. For want of a horseshoe, the rider was lost, for want the rider, the battle was lost, for want of the battle, the kingdom was lost.... Not in all cases, to be sure; but the cumulative weight of problems "dealt with" one at a time, usualy exceeds the cost needed to resolve the fundamental causes.

If you LOOK for the REAL problem, for the MECHANISMS behind the symptoms, and deal with those, either fixing the PROBLEM or arranging this so that it is not aggravated; then all the side effects Go Away! This usually involves taking a Different Approach; one that deals with fundamental mechanisms, not statistics.

It is NOT just taking more things like vitamin C. Vitamin C is a stop-gap measure, a way of helping the body. But you do need to get yourself to a point where you have the luxury of saying NO to risky, short term oriented treatments. Vitamin C can, at times help people gain some of that slack, and help the body heal. But if you don't clear whatever caused your problems in the first place, this becomes a never-ending race between damage and healing. Cure the Cause! (See Dr. Cathcart's articles for more information. Jump button repeated at end.)

Some doctors actually prescribe a long term round of antibiotics as a start of treatment. There are SERIOUS problems with this approach as well, but sometimes, it DOES work at killing the microbes which caused the original problem. Those such as myself, who have or have had candida albecans may recoil in horror. Perhaps rightly so -- FOR THEM! But the right kinds of antibiotics with the right kinds of antifungals and intestinal cultures, and the right foods, CAN help SOME people get rid of the root cause of their problems. Not all, not without problems. It's a trade off.

(If you have gut ecology problems, be particularly carful of Tetracycline and tetracycline derivatives. They are known to promote candida and other yeasts and fungi. Ask about alternatives. Check them out in the PDR - Physician's Desk Reference, and/or NDR - Nurses Drug Reference. Both are available in most libraries or can be bought (or borowsed,) in most larger bookstores. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH, don't simply let your physician read to you what HE thinks you should know, as he is too prone to leave out anything he thinks might fuel your imagination or lead to that catch-all, "Hypochondriasis".)

A friend of mine started having strange allergies and heart palpitations. It was only AFTER the slow failures in attempting to treat him with medications and the installation of a heart pacemaker, that anyone thought of testing him for Lyme disease! Once that was rectified, many of his problems went away. Unfortunately, his heart remains damaged, and with the pacemaker, the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) will no longer permit him his life long joy of piloting an airplane. (Not to mention the sharp reduction in estimated life span this all has caused!)

This is not to say that Lyme disease is the only possible, or even probable cause. Neither is the Candida Albecans, which Very Often preys upon those with misbehaving immune systems. But they are things to look in to, and Doc finds that the general anti-candid a protocol helps most patients, as it relieves the immune system and strengthens its ability to select and deal with Specific problems.

How Long Do YOU Want to Live?

How long do you want to live? A hundred and thirty is about the upper limit given the way healthy bodies seem to age. Can you attain that if you say that you will accept an improvement now, in exchange for kidney failure, cancer, or other terminal problems five to twenty years from now?

Take your life in YOUR OWN HANDS! Keep LOOKING for the ROOT causes of your problems!

Who is most strongly motivated to keep you alive for more than ten to twenty years?

Is your doctor?

Or is he more concerned at getting in and you out quickly, perhaps with fewer symptoms, so he can see other patients? What is more important to him, you, or his schedule? He DOES have to live, so he does have watch that clock. So whom does that leave? YOU!

There ARE good doctors who go beyond this near term point of view. They may be harder to find; but they ARE out there!

Quiet, Don't Suppress

Find out WHAT is the root cause; what initial incident, infection, chronic or otherwise, CAUSED this immunological alert status. Deal with it!

DO whatever is necessary to QUIET, not suppress, your immune system. Vitamin C can only be PART of the solution. (Link to C articles at end.) DO rotate your diet. DO try to avoid many of the immune stressors in your environment. KEEP a diary so you can LEARN what those stressor are! Start comparing them, you may find common ingredients which are the Real cause. This too, gives you more slack, as you can then use things without those ingredients.

Note that some allergies are cyclical -- if you avoid that food long enough, then you may be able to have it again once every X days without symptoms. (X is usually 4, 7, or sometimes, over 20. Part of that depends on your elimination rate, and other things. Here too, C can help. Ref. "Brain Allergies", by Dr. Pangborn and "The Yeast Syndrome" by Trowbridge and Walker.)

Who Knows More?

Who knows best what is around you? Does you doctor, or you? Most, NOT ALL, of the doctors, when they see a patient with a list, WILL NOT LISTEN, they think "Hypochondria!" Good immune specialists DO want you to keep that diary, to make an ORGANIZED list, and try to identify what triggers or worstens your attacks. If your doctor is not interested in your keeping that kind of diary, GET ANOTHER DOCTOR! (Or if he talks more about what you were thinking, more about what your psychological state was at those times, than how your body reacted, same thing. Not to say that psychology is not a component; but a computer with low voltage will NOT get the right answers no matter WHAT the program does! During a reaction, you very likely have the brain equivalent of "low voltage" -- blood with low oxygen, low glucose, the wrong ph balance, etc. for at least part of the brain you use. This manifests itself as serious muscle spasms and/or confusion. If you don't plug the computer in first, there is NO Point in trying to program it!)

It's Up To YOU!

YOU have to TAKE CHARGE of your own condition. That does NOT mean energy zapping arguments. It simply means asking polite questions till you understand WHY things happen, or till you see that the person you are talking to does not know. It means SELECTING what you will do, and whom you will see. It means LOOKING BEYOND tomorrow, looking TEN to THIRTY years into the future!

What should you do if your doctor says "Look, let's just deal with today?" Is that going to get you where you want to be ten to thirty years from now? I started looking for another doctor each time that happened.

As the months go by, the prepared mind -- YOUR mind, will begin to see patterns in all that information you are accumulating. You will not always be right. You must proof your ideas against reality. But if you watch how you react, and always seek to find out the specific causes of your problems, YOU will become the expert on your own body and your own illness. That's how it should be. YOU are the one with the greatest motivation to spend the time researching and experimenting with your disease. Your body is the only body you are likely to have in this life time. Your doctor, on the other hand, will see many. Each of you has a different focus, different information to share.

If your doctor disagrees with you, politely ask him to educate you as to MECHANISMS, not statistics. What if he refuses? Can you walk out? Can you look for another doctor? I did.

Ask yourself if you can trust this man to keep you alive thirty years. Is this man on an ego trip? Does he care for anything besides getting you in and out quickly so he can get on to the next patient? Does he want to be thought of as The Expert, any you as The Ignorant Patient? Would you put up with this kind of behavior if this were a garage or a used car lot? Just as there are many mechanics and salesmen, there are many doctors. Whom you consult, is up to you. It's your life this mechanic is tinkering with. Can you trust him to take your best interests to heart? If not, just walk out and keep looking.

YOU have to take YOUR LIFE into YOUR OWN HANDS! And do it in an intelligent, informed manner! It is up to YOU to hire good competent, trustworthy _Consultants_ to help you when you need advice or help, or just to get that other point of view. Working as partners, you and your doctor can improve your life. But just like auto mechanics, doctors do come in all kinds.

Gaining Slack

In the course of this, you need to find some keeping point, some coping point that will give you enough slack that you CAN say NO without too much pain. For me that was extreme vitamin C and a gas mask. (excuse me, OSHA / NIH approved industrial respirator.) Now, it is just vitamins, mostly C, [Co Q 10, some coconut oil] and diet. I am still looking, still trying various things. I have lasted ten years [now almost thirty years] this way, and may well last another ten to twenty years. I have become accustomed to it. Life IS good; so I have to keep reminding myself to keep looking. But if I don't understand the theory behind something, I refuse to try it till it is explained well enough so I can understand and believe. I look at most "cures" with suspicion, because they are NOT cures, just palliative measures to reduce or eliminate symptoms on a short term basis without regard to other long term consequences.

Not dying in thirty years, is NOT simply not dying each day. It is thinking and planning about how to avoid dying in the future from what you might do today, even if, at times, what you reject happens to be the best advice available today; sometimes, tempting advice which may make you more comfortable in the short run can cut your life short in the longer run.

Three Steps

It is up to YOU. You have to want to live those ten to thirty or more years. No one can want for you as much as you. No one can do what you can do, for you. First comes Desire; a calm, deep rooted desire that will motivate your actions.

Read, ask questions, learn what you can. But remember, knowledge is secondary. That's right, secondary. If there is no desire, all the knowledge in the world is useless.

Then do something. Take the initiative. Make it a habit. If you can only crawl one inch forward, do it. If the consequences of failure are minor, try it. Get in the habit of trying. Action is the third step. It's your initiative, take it before someone else steals it; when people see you are trying, they will be more willing to help. Action inspires action. And empathy.


I am no doctor. This is not medical advice. I am not responsible for your health or faith. Do not blindly accept what other people tell you. Think before you act. If you follow what I have suggested, you will be taking your life into your own hands.


Dr. Cathcart's articles on:
Why your doctor won't talk to you.

This document should not be construed as medical advice.
The contents are not guarenteed as accurate.
Comments should be submitted to

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