Monday, February 1, 2016

Tregs for the Rest of Us: Part 1 Probiotics

Treg, or Regulatory T cells, have the job of regulating the immune system. Many treatments of allergies have been found to influence the Treg population (DBV's peanut patch, FAHF-2 (Chinese Herbal Medicine in trial with the same doctor James is seeing, OIT, and SLIT  (the SLIT research I found regarding Tregs was for environmental allergies, not food).

T cells are made in the bone marrow. Depending on chemical influences, a T cell, when made, will either become a Treg cell or a Teff (effector) cell. Everyone has both types of cells, but in different ratios. Increasing Tregs is a part of the puzzle on how to increase tolerance.

I ran across an article, "Influence of Dietary Components on Regulatory T Cells," from the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre in Copenhagen. Fair warning, it is dense. I've done my best to summarize it below, but if you find the information interesting, you should take a stab yourself.

It is a literature review, so there are many other articles referenced if there's an area you are particularly interested in and want to dig further.

Probiotics in the Gut

There are dendritic cells (a type of immune cell, not related to neurons) in the gut that help to balance immunity and tolerance. Dendritic cells can both activate effector T cells and promote non-inflammatory T cells, such as Treg. If Tregs are low in the gut, it can result in chronic inflammation.

With the exception of H. pylori (and the point of the experiment was to induce inflammation using H. pylori and then use Tregs to reduce it), all experiments reviewed showed a positive reaction of the intestinal disease with the use of probiotics.

Probiotics Outside of the Gut

Probiotics have been shown help with asthma, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. There needs to be more research on different organs to see how the Tregs in the gut can influence them.

It is important to note that different probiotics behave differently and some can be inflammatory. There appears to be evidence that different probiotics work with different dendritic cells in the gut and this may account for the differences.

Probiotic Caveats

Some studies have shown that probiotics can cause or contribute to inflammatory illnesses. The studies are not standardized, with different probiotics, doses, and type of administration. Additionally, genetics may play a role in the differing results. How any treatment behaves in vivo, with all the complications of an entire system can differ from results found in vitro.

There is the possibility that Tregs are increased simply by exposure to bacteria, and that any probiotic results are due more to the general bacteria load verses something special about any particular probiotic strain.

The data is not clear enough to allow a statement that all probiotics are protective.

My Thoughts - Or, the more I learn, the less I know

James does not take a probiotic, for a couple reasons. The first is that I would like some clarity that the probiotics available on the market are beneficial. The second is that he already takes so many pills (some of which have research to support that they affect Tregs) that I hesitate to add any more pills.

After he is weaned (someday) from Dr. Li's protocol, I will likely find a probiotic for him daily, under the "it can't hurt' philosophy.

Part 2

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