What are Tregs you might be asking? Tregs are regulatory T cells that help reduce inflammation in the body by releasing anti-inflammatory cytokines like IL-10 and transforming growth factor beta. Tregs help maintain the balance of our immune system, keeping it from over-acting to various stimuli. Peripheral Tregs are specialized cell that are located in our small and large intestines. It is believed that dysregulation of Tregs may lead to autoimmune disease. Our immune and emotional systems mirror each other and are active and ever changing. Studies have revealed an increase in emotional disorders in people with autoimmune diseases. The reverse is true, an increase in immune disorders have been seen in people with emotional disorders.
The health of our immune system is closely linked to our emotional health. The good news is that both our immune and emotional system have the ability to change and adjust according to external factors and living conditions. This means that with the right support these system can improve. We know from studies that a healthier diet and stable emotions improve both system. We also know that stopping unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking alcohol can benefit the both of these systems. In other words, improving our emotional health will help reduce inflammation in our body. Below is a chart from https://www.affectiveimmunology.com/ showing how our emotions affect our immune system.
Moods impact the immune, nervous and endocrine systems and vise versa. The gut microbiome also impacts the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems and vice versa. The best way to support Tregs is through good nutrition and emotional health. A good diet supports healthy gut bacteria where as our Standard American Diet does not. Foods like wheat, dairy, and corn are food based opioids or exorphins which increase food additions.
Our emotional well-being is another very import piece to health that is often over-looked. I was not surprised that traumatic stress can cause c-reactive protein or CRP to be elevated as much as 20 years later. CRP is a protein that can be measured in the blood and is an indicator of inflammation in the body. I see the effects of traumatic stress in my practice daily.
So how do we increase our Tregs to reduce inflammation? Improving our gut and emotional health is a good place to start. A low inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, reduces inflammation and helps restore healthy gut bacteria. I also recommend taking a probiotic and learning about foods we call pre-biotics. Pre-biotic foods included walnuts, asparagus, bananas, legumes, onion and garlic. Fermented foods like kombucha, Kimchi, and sauerkraut are also pre-biotic foods that promote healthy gut bacteria. High-fiber foods, such as fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains, encourage the production of short-chain fatty acids which improve gut health and reduce inflammation. Vitamin D3 and Vitamin A are also important to gut health. Vitamin D is important in the lining of the gut and increases Treg activity promoting a healthy immune system. Studies have also shown that men and women who take vitamin D have less risk of colon cancer. Vitamin D is also recommended for prophylaxis against COVID-19 along with Vitamin C, zinc, and Quercetin. Niacin (B3) is another important vitamin that is found in lean meats like fish, beef, chicken, and turkey. Many legumes, nuts, and seeds provide a source of niacin.
Emotional health is a very deep subject and there is no way to really address it fully here. Life throws us curve balls sometimes that can leave us with emotional wounds. People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder show a decrease in regulatory T cell activity, which may explain why they are more susceptible to infections and autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, childhood trauma, like abuse and neglect, have been linked to physical and mental health issues in adults. Childhood trauma has also been linked to chronic illness, premature death , and aging. You can read more on this subject in Neuroscience News at: https://neurosciencenews.com/child-trauma-adult-mental-health-18318/
Emotional healing is an important key to physical health. In other word, emotional healing leads to a healthier body. We have all experienced negative emotions and their negative affects. These physical manifestations include chest tightness, stomach upset, head aches, fatigue, muscle pain, and diarrhea just to name a few. Interestingly, medical studies have shown that exercise, meditation, and singing improve emotional and physical health. Meditation increases IL-10 an anti-inflammatory cytokine and decreases inflammatory cytokines IL-6, IL-8, and TNF alpha. Music therapy, active singing and passive listening, increases anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-4 and IL-10 and decreases cortisol levels. Exercise also decreases cortisol and inflammatory cytokine IL-6 and TNF alpha. Cortisol is released from the adrenal glands during stress. Prolonged stress can raise cortisol levels promoting weight gain and suppressing the immune system making us more susceptible to illness and chronic disease. High cortisol levels decrease DHEA. DHEA is an endogenous steroid produced by the adrenal glands and is important in the synthesis of hormones. DHEA is also important in immune health.
Meditation and singing (prayer and worship) is God’s design for physical and mental health. I am reminded of the story of Paul and Silas in the prison. They were chained in prison, but as they prayed and sang hymns to God, an earthquake shook the foundation of the jail and everyone’s door was open and their chains fell off. Prayer and worship opens the door to communion with the Spirit of Jesus and breaks the chains that hold us down. We are a three part being- body, soul, and spirit. Our spirit is the eternal part of us, and I believe it longs to be at rest or at peace. This rest or peace is found in Christ.
Proverb 14:30 a calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones.
The bones are where our immune system and blood cells are made, but in scripture, bones are also are a metaphor for our inner being. Our inner thought life and condition of our heart (emotions) is vital to living a healthy full life. Unhealthy emotions can hurt us physically and mentally. The good news is that Jesus came to heal the broken hearted and to set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1).
The desire of us all is to be loved. God is love and there is no darkness in Him. He is nothing but love. He is the creator of the universe who created us in His image in love. It was love that drew Jesus to the cross. God Himself was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself:
It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor). 2 Corinthians 5:19
God is not trying to take us out of this world but is wanting to reveal to us our true identity in Him, in Christ. Jesus has told us to come to Him and He will give us rest. He said join with Him and learn from Him for He is gentle and humble in heart, and we will find rest for our souls. Are you weary and burdened today? Is your inner being in turmoil? Are you sick emotionally and physically? If so, their is one who can give you rest and peace-Jesus.