Immune System Enhancer Use and Safety in Autoimmune Health
By Karen Sadowsky Kaufman, MS, CCN


This newsletter has featured a number of articles about the novel dietary supplement EpiCorô. The writings focus on the many ways EpiCor can strengthen oneís immune system and improve its functioning. However, none of the essays written thus far have directly addressed the issue of autoimmunity. In this article I will address EpiCorís potential role in autoimmunity from my own personal perspective.

Some readers may remember a little about my personal story. Over the past 16 years, Iíve struggled with systemic autoimmune disease of the connective tissue and have had to deal with the complications of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In responding to these conditions, Iíve always been proactive. I have integrated medical therapies with lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements. But the last three years have proved an extraordinary struggle. Fortunately, with the help of physicians and some pharmaceutical drugs, I began to win the battle this past spring. SLE is a chronic lifelong systemic illness, so it would be foolish for me to say Iíve won the war.epicor

When EpiCor became available, I thought long and hard about whether I should take it. Lupus is an autoimmune disease and I didnít want anything to over stimulate my immune system. After all, I would do anything to prevent a painful and difficult relapse. You know the theory: ďif it isnít broken, why fix itĒ? But it is precisely because SLE presents lifelong challenges that I chose to take a chance on the novel immune system modulator EpiCor. I might add that Iíve never taken a supplement that targets the immune system before, unless it was an immune system booster and I was already ill with a cold or flu.

This was not an easy decision for two reasons. SLE is the prototypic autoimmune disease. Although itís been the subject of a lot of research, at this point no one knows what causes SLE. It is probably one of the most difficult autoimmune diseases to understand because in SLE any organ or organ system can become the target of an immune system that has lost its way: the joints, the heart, the lungs, the kidneys, the liver, the brain, the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, even the blood system. In fact, in fifty years there has not been one drug that has made it to the market that specifically targets SLE. You can see the difficulties. It is disease characterized by periods of exacerbations and remissions. People who are affected by SLE are like snowflakesóevery patient is different and no two patients are affected the same way.

 



The second reason I hesitated to take EpiCor is because it is a new and unique product. It has been the subject of a lot of research, but the research is in its infancy. Thus far the research has been conducted in vitro [in a Petri dish], in animals, or in a small number of healthy human subjects. As with most things in medicine and nutritional supplements, it will be years before we have the results of long term clinical trials. Most of the results of experiments already conducted have yet to be published. I must base my decision on what is known about the biochemistry of this novel nutrient and what I know about the mechanism and physiology of autoimmune disease. Actually this is the way I have approached every medication and nutritional supplement I already take or have taken. Iíve convinced my mainstream physicians with my logic. My physicians have cooperated with me and have prescribed medications for ďoff labelĒ use based on my research. In the beginning they may have thought I was crazy. But my PCP now says: ďKaren, eventually the literature will catch up with you.Ē In some cases, Iíve even contacted the MD and PhDs who are currently researching the disease.

This article is a vehicle for me to share with you my logic for taking EpiCor, which I started in early July. Perhaps readers will take my reasoning and apply it to their own situation.

Autoimmune Disease
I donít have the space in this article to go into an in depth explanation of autoimmunity or SLE. What all autoimmune diseases have in common is the immune system loses the ability to distinguish healthy cells from a pathogen (bacteria, virus, parasite or fungus) and mounts a campaign against the healthy cells. It is the loss of self-recognition that is at the core of autoimmunity. In type I diabetes, the immune system thinks the insulin secreting glands of the pancreas (the islet cells) are a harmful virus or bacteria. Type I diabetes is an organ specific autoimmune disease as are Gravesí disease and multiple sclerosis (MS). SLE and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are examples of systemic autoimmune diseases.

No one knows what causes a person to develop an autoimmune disease. There are a number of theories that have been proposed. For example, certain people are genetically predisposed to develop an autoimmune disease. The disease is then triggered through some environmental insult. There seems to be a huge array of potential triggers. In many cases the trigger is a bacteria or virus.

Why EpiCor? Secretory IgA
The skin provides an important barrier against invading bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. The second barrier against invading pathogens is the mucosal membranes that line the eyes, nose, throat and GI tract. The mucous membranes secrete immunoglobulins called secretory IgA (sIgA). A key ingredient in the effectiveness of the mucosal barrier is the levels of sIgA. Since people taking EpiCor had higher levels of salivary sIgA, a flu virus is more likely to be killed on contact. In my case, the event that likely triggered my immune system to malfunction was a simple case of influenza (the flu virus). Therefore, it is definitely in my best interest to prevent future infections. In addition, I am taking a medication that suppresses or compromises my immune system. While a cold or flu will not kill me, it certainly wonít help.

Antioxidant Capabilities

 

SLE and many other systemic autoimmune diseases are characterized by chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation causes an excess of free radicals. That excess of free radicals increases the bodyís requirement for antioxidants. EpiCor has an oxygen absorbing capacity (ORAC) significantly greater than that of blueberries. In addition, healthy people exposed to EpiCor had red blood cells with a higher level of glutathione (one of the bodyís most important free radical quenching agents)

T cell activity
In vitro studies of EpiCor indicated a shift in T helper (Th) cell populations. T helper cells are involved in cell-to-cell communication. They can ramp up the immune system and call in reinforcements. There are both Th1 cells and Th2 cells. Th1 cells are involved in inflammation whereas Th2 cells are less inflammatory. In vitro studies demonstrated a shift from Th1 to Th2 when T helper cells were exposed to EpiCor. Iíll admit itís a leap from in vitro to in vivo. However, given the potential benefits of EpiCor versus the risk profile, this was a leap I was prepared to make.

Reduction of Immune Complexes
The study of autoimmune diseases has increased tremendously in the last twenty years. The research is probably an out growth of the research into the HIV virus. Autoimmune disease was considered fairly rare. There were pockets of researchers working in isolation on the more common diseases: rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), and insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). It was not until the 1990s immunologists realized there may be a commonality to all autoimmune diseases in spite of the fact that in each disease, the immune system was targeting different parts of the body. In the case of RA the joints become the target, in MS it is the myelin sheath, and in IDDM it is the islet cells of the pancreas.

Although SLE was identified 100 years ago, we are only now beginning to understand how the disease can affect the individual. In SLE, most of the research has focused on SLE and kidney disease. So once again, I need to extrapolate what is known about how the kidney is damaged in SLE and apply it to how the brain and central nervous system are damaged. One can biopsy a kidney, but we generally donít do that to the brain. There are many different hypotheses to explain organ and tissue damage in SLE. One of the things we definitely know is happening is immune complexes are deposited in places where they donít belong. One of the ways the immune system deals with a pathogen is by forming an antigen/antibody complex.

T cells and B cells are part of the adaptive immune system and these cells signal each other to act in certain ways. An in depth discussion of the immune system is impossible here and has been addressed by Dr. Meletis in a number of articles in recent editions of VR News. However, here is a thumbnail sketch how the body forms immune complexes.

The body makes a lot of a specific type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte. Lymphocytes begin their life in the bone marrow. Some lymphocytes are released into the bloodstream and sent to the thymus gland where they become T cells. Then the T cells circulate in the lymph system in search of foreign pathogens. Other lymphocytes are released into the blood stream and are called B cells. B cells circulate in the bloodstream on the look out for pathogens. Both T cells and B cells are able to recognize a receptor on the foreign protein called an antigen. Each can form an antibody to that specific antigen and come together in a ďlock and keyĒ fashion. Not only does that render the pathogen harmless, it also serves as a signal to the rest of the immune system to start replicating various T cells and B cells. The combination of the antibody and antigen forms the immune complex. In a healthy person the immune complex is cleared from the body through a variety of mechanismsóthe complement system and phagocytosis. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system forms antibodies against the bodyís own self proteins so an excess of immune complexes are in the blood stream. The immune complexes are produced continually so the bodyís mechanism for clearing these complexes is overwhelmed. The immune complexes can fall out of circulation or deposit in various tissues. Often in SLE they deposit in the kidney. Eventually this can stop the kidney from functioning. Immune complexes have also been found in the vasculature, in the brain, and in the joints. Healthy subjects who were exposed to EpiCor had lower levels of circulating immune complexes.

Conclusion
When I started taking EpiCor in July, I was feeling better than I have felt in five years. It is because I have been feeling so well and because I want to stay well that I chose to try one capsule of EpiCor per day. As mentioned above, I was at first afraid that EpiCor could cause a relapse. But since I have been consuming this immune modulator I have continued to feel extraordinarily well. Itís extremely unusual for me to feel this good for this long a time, especially at this time of the year, when my condition has traditionally been at its worst.

Furthermore, in the past, as the cold and flu season approached I lived in fear that I would contract a virus that would trigger a worsening of my autoimmune condition. However, recently, many of my acquaintances caught the stomach flu, but I remained free of the virus. Consequently, now that I am taking EpiCor, I am more confident than ever that I may survive the cold and flu season unscathed, allowing me to take a few more steps on my journey to better health.

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