According to Dr. Michael T. Murray, nationally known lecturer and co-author of the best seller Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, “The most effective method for maintaining or attaining a healthy immune system is supporting the functions of the thymus gland…to a very large extent, the health of the thymus determines the health of the immune system.”
The thymus gland lies just beneath the breast bone. It is large in infants and children and atrophies as we grow older. The thymus seeds the body with immature T-cells, the white blood cells responsible for “cell-mediated immunity”. This gland secretes special chemicals called cytokines (ie.- interferon, interleukins) that influence the specialization and migration of T-lymphocytes throughout the body. The thymus also releases hormones that regulate immune function. These thymic hormones help immune cells to mature, “programming” them to recognize tissues as either self or invader. Recognizing the enemy is the first and likely most important step in the immune response.
The thymus shrinks as its role shifts from immune cell production to regulation of the immune response. Lower thymic hormone levels in the blood are associated with depressed immunity, and are typical of the elderly, individuals with chronic infections, autoimmune disorders, cancer and AIDS patients. The thymus is extremely susceptible to free radical and oxidative damage caused by stress, radiation, poor diet, infection and chronic illness. People who have undergone radiation, chemotherapy or other immune-suppressing treatments also typically have low thymus function. Whatever the cause, depressed immunity can lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of colds, fatigue, allergies, or the onset of opportunistic infections.
The thymus is quite responsive to environmental stimuli and thus is the beneficiary or the victim of the choices that we make every day. In addition to a healthy diet, adequate rest, water and exercise, we must learn to manage stress effectively. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E, beta carotene and selenium help to protect the thymus from free radicals, unstable molecules that damage our cells.
Other nutrients such as zinc, vitamin B-6 and certain amino acids are important because they are required for the production of thymic hormones. Vitamins and minerals serve as cofactors and catalysts in the enzymatic pathways that regulate our metabolism. As we age, many essential vitamins and minerals become depleted and must be replaced. Their presence is essential for the proper working of the chemical factories within our cells.
Glandular hormone replacement therapy is based upon the use of animal glandular and organ substances to bolster the function of the human body’s organs and glands. Modern medicine replaces the thyroid gland with thyroid hormone, the adrenal gland with cortisone, the pancreas gland with insulin, and the ovaries with estrogen and progesterone. However, physicians have not routinely replaced the thymus gland. As your thymus shrinks and weakens with age, the most effective and direct way to stimulate it is by consuming thymus tissue.
Thymic factors are said to be immune modulators. Thymic extracts have been shown to normalize the ratio of T-helper cells to suppressor cells whether the ratio is low as in AIDS, chronic infections and cancer, or high as found with allergies and autoimmune diseases like psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. In other words, thymic factors appear to influence the immune response up or down as needed!
Julian Whitaker, M.D, famous advocate of wellness and nutrition and author of the nationally syndicated newsletter, Health and Healing, is a long time proponent of thymic replacement therapy. In a recent report in which he focused on the benefits of a single thymic protein, he stated “Even if you’re healthy, I recommend a maintenance dose of thymic protein to support your immune function. Because decreased thymic function, like falling hormone levels and gray hair, is an inevitable part of aging, it is a valuable addition to your general anti-aging/longevity program.”
Thymic Factors can help with the following
Multiple Sclerosis / Risk
Through his clinical experiences with thymic supplementation, Dr. Burgstiner said he observed 10 cases of multiple sclerosis go into remission.
Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis) / Risk
Through his clinical experiences with thymic supplementation, Dr. Burgstiner said he observed 12 cases of systemic lupus go into remission. Some of the patients were using as many as 22 different drugs and are now diagnosed as asymptomatic.
AIDS / Risk
Thymomodulin is one of at least six substances produced by the thymus gland which have been scientifically examined as a possible HIV/AIDS treatment: the others are thymosin a1, THF (thymic humoral factor), TP-5 (thymopentin), thym-uvocal, and thymostimulin. Of the six, thymomodulin, thym-uvocal, and thymostimulin are crude, or “natural,” thymic extracts,
containing a number of chemically distinct substances; the other three are made synthetically, each consisting of a
The largest published study of thymomodulin and HIV was conducted in Italy, and published in 1987. It reported on 15
patients with HIV who were treated with the drug (60 mg per day orally, as a syrup) for more than 50 days. Two of the
patients with late-stage AIDS had no change in their condition, and died shortly after the end of the study. The only one with Kaposi’s sarcoma who entered the study was reported to have had “an evident clinical and laboratory improvement with remission of the neoplasia.”
All of the other 12 showed resolution of fever. All of them started the study with chronic lymphadenopathy, which
disappeared in six of them. Six started with thrush, which disappeared in all but one case. The CD4/CD8 ratio (a measure
no longer considered useful) increased; and the average CD8 count decreased. (This CD8 result is opposite from all of the
anecdotal reports we have heard, a discrepancy which is unexplained.) There was also a statistically significant increase in T-helper cells. No side effects of thymomodulin were seen. And there was no increase in neopterin, an indicator of T-cell activation.
A later study, conducted in Argentina and reported at the International Conference on AIDS in Amsterdam, in July 1992,
treated 11 patients with HIV — ten of whom had AIDS – with a combination of thymomodulin, AZT, and lithium carbonate
“which stimulates granulocytic colony forming units.” Two of the patients had died by the time the results were reported;
the other nine were still on the treatment. “All have a better life-style, weight gaining, less opportunistic infection episodes, and half of them returned to work… Overall, they all improved their CD4 count.”
Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome
Oral administration of thymic protein A was associated with normalization of immune function and improvement in clinical symptoms in a pilot study of 23 patients with CFIDS. [J Nutr Environ Med 2001;11(4): pp.241-247]
Immune System Imbalance (TH2 Dominance)
Thymic factors highly refined or crudely extracted help balance a TH2 dominant immune system by increasing IL-2 and T cell counts.
The thymus gland contributes to the maturing of T-cells. Thymus gland extracts will assist this process when the thymus gland is shrunken, as happens commonly in aging. Through his clinical experiences with thymic supplementation, Dr. Burgstiner said he observed 28 cases of rheumatoid arthritis cases go into remission where patients no longer needed to use prednisone, methotrexate, or gold shots.
Thymus extracts help immune cells mature and kill the virus as claimed by several clinical reports. Through his clinical experiences with thymic supplementation, Dr. Burgstiner observed that 84 cases of Hepatitis B and 34 cases of Hepatitis C were arrested, as well as the elimination of all traces of Hepatitis B infection in himself. Oral thymus extracts routinely raise thymosin alpha-1 serum levels.
However, thymosin alpha-1 treatment had no biochemical or virological effects in a meta-analysis of five placebo-controlled trials with a total of 353 patients with chronic hepatitis B virus infection. [Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2001;15(12): pp.1899-1905]
Through his clinical experiences with thymic supplementation, Dr. Burgstiner said he observed 12 cases of psoriasis that were completely cured.
Squamous Cell Cancer
Through his clinical experiences with thymic supplementation, Dr. Burgstiner said he observed 7 cases of squamous cell cancer of the skin cured.
|May do some good|
|Likely to help|
A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.
T cells are lymphocytes that are produced in the bone marrow and mature in the thymus. T cells are responsible for mediating the second branch of the immune system called "cellular immune response." T cells can live for months to years. This lymphocyte population is defined by the presence of a rearranged T-cell receptor.
White Blood Cell
(WBC): A blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin: a blood corpuscle responsible for maintaining the body's immune surveillance system against invasion by foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria. White cells become specifically programmed against foreign invaders and work to inactivate and rid the body of a foreign substance. Also known as a leukocyte.
Cytokines are chemical messengers that control immune responses. They are secreted by white blood cells, T cells, epithelial cells and some other body cells. There are at least 17 different kinds of interleuken and 3 classes of interferon called alpha, beta and gamma and various subsets. Interleukens and interferons are called “cytokines” and there are two general groupings, Th1 and Th2. Th1 (T-cell Helper type 1) promote cell-mediated immunity (CMI) while Th2 (T-cell Helper type 2) induce humoral immunity (antibodies).
A protein formed by the cells of the immune system in the presence of a virus, etc. It prevents viral reproduction, and is capable of protecting noninfected cells from viral infection. Several kinds of interferon exist including alpha, beta, and gamma.
Long-lived mononuclear white blood cell having the property of destroying target cells and responsible for cell-mediated immunity.
Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.
Usually Chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.
One of a large group of diseases in which the immune system turns against the body's own cells, tissues and organs, leading to chronic and often deadly conditions. Examples include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Bright's disease and diabetes.
Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.
A free radical is an atom or group of atoms that has at least one unpaired electron. Because another element can easily pick up this free electron and cause a chemical reaction, these free radicals can effect dramatic and destructive changes in the body. Free radicals are activated in heated and rancid oils and by radiation in the atmosphere, among other things.
A treatment of disease by any chemicals. Used most often to refer to the chemical treatments used to combat cancer cells.
Hypersensitivity caused by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen), resulting in an increased reactivity to that antigen on subsequent exposure, sometimes with harmful immunologic consequences.
A chemical compound that slows or prevents oxygen from reacting with other compounds. Some antioxidants have been shown to have cancer-protecting potential because they neutralize free radicals. Examples include vitamins C and E, alpha lipoic acid, beta carotene, the minerals selenium, zinc, and germanium, superoxide dismutase (SOD), coenzyme Q10, catalase, and some amino acids, like cystiene. Other nutrient sources include grape seed extract, curcumin, gingko, green tea, olive leaf, policosanol and pycnogenol.
The most abundant of the carotenoids, beta-carotene has strong provitamin A activity and is a stronger antioxidant than vitamin A. It is widely accepted today as a cancer preventative. It is found in leafy green and yellow vegetables, often missing in children's diets. Beta-Carotene is believed to be a superior source of Vitamin A because it is readily converted into a more active form of the substance: your body converts it to Vitamin A as needed.
An essential element involved primarily in enzymes that are antioxidants. Three selenium- containing enzymes are antioxidant peroxidases and a fourth selenium-containing enzyme is involved in thyroid hormone production. The prostate contains a selenium-containing protein and semen contains relatively large amounts of selenium. Clinical studies show that selenium is important in lowering the risk of several types of cancers. In combination with Vitamin E, selenium aids the production of antibodies and helps maintain a healthy heart. It also aids in the function of the pancreas, provides elasticity to tissues and helps cells defend themselves against damage from oxidation.
An essential trace mineral. The functions of zinc are enzymatic. There are over 70 metalloenzymes known to require zinc for their functions. The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Zinc is necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol, to get rid of the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and to transfer it to the lungs. Zinc is involved in the health of the immune system, assists vitamin A utilization and is involved in the formation of bone and teeth.
Influences many body functions including regulating blood glucose levels, manufacturing hemoglobin and aiding the utilization of protein, carbohydrates and fats. It also aids in the function of the nervous system.
Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.
A substance that acts with another substance to bring about certain effects, often a coenzyme.
The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.
Thyroid Gland: An organ with many veins. It is at the front of the neck. It is essential to normal body growth in infancy and childhood. It releases thyroid hormones - iodine-containing compounds that increase the rate of metabolism, affect body temperature, regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate catabolism in all cells. They keep up growth hormone release, skeletal maturation, and heart rate, force, and output. They promote central nervous system growth, stimulate the making of many enzymes, and are necessary for muscle tone and vigor.
A hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to elevated blood glucose levels. Insulin stimulates the liver, muscles, and fat cells to remove glucose from the blood for use or storage.
One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.
An inherited skin disorder in which there are red patches with thick, dry silvery scales. It is caused by the body making too-many skin cells. Sores may be anywhere on the body but are more common on the arms, scalp, ears, and the pubic area. A swelling of small joints may go along with the skin disease.
A long-term, destructive connective tissue disease that results from the body rejecting its own tissue cells (autoimmune reaction).
Compounds composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen present in the body and in foods that form complex combinations of amino acids. Protein is essential for life and is used for growth and repair. Foods that supply the body with protein include animal products, grains, legumes, and vegetables. Proteins from animal sources contain the essential amino acids. Proteins are changed to amino acids in the body.