Low dose immunotherapy (LDI) is a treatment for “turning off” an overactive immune system. This applies to allergies, autoimmune diseases, or any process in which the immune system is activated.
Traditional immunotherapy involves administering a diluted solution of the allergen by injection, under the tongue drops, or topical cream. The concentration of allergen is relatively high and stimulates the body to make “blocking antibodies” which block the portion of the immune system that is overactive. The injections take years to work and are dangerous due to the high concentration of allergen. Under the tongue allergy drops are much quicker and safer, yet both injections and drops are limited for use only with inhalants such as pollens or animal dander.
LDI is different because it uses much lower concentrations of allergens and may be used to treat not only inhalant allergies but also allergies to foods, chemicals, and certain autoimmune or overactive immune conditions. LDI is given as sublingual as an under the tongue drop since it gains access to the immune system quite well in this manner.
LDI for Autoimmune Disease
Using LDI for autoimmune diseases and conditions that involve an overactive immune system is a truly unique therapy. It is well established that certain autoimmune diseases, and perhaps most of them, are triggered by an initial infection. As the immune system recognizes the infection and mounts an attack there is cross-reactivity with their own tissue. This process is called “mimicry”.
Sometimes this happens only in people with specific genetic mutations in their self-recognition genes called "human leukocytic antigens" (HLA), which are part of the major histocompatibility complex markers. The HLA gene family provides instructions for making a group of related proteins known as the human leukocyte antigen complex. The HLA complex helps the immune system distinguish the body’s own proteins from proteins made by foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria.
Even after the bacteria are eliminated the immune system remains activated and the autoimmune process continues. Since the immune response is coded to recognize the original bacterial trigger, including the specific bacteria in the LDI, it will lead to a desensitization of the immune system, calling off the attack on both the bacteria and the body tissue.
Two examples of mimicry can elucidate this process better, and also point out why treating an acute infection may resolve a symptom, even though treating a chronic infection may be fruitless as the immune response is actually causing the symptoms.
First, consider acute strep throat, in which antibiotics kill the bacteria quickly before the immune system gets very upset. If strep goes untreated, however, about 1 in 3000 people will get rheumatic fever which is an autoimmune reaction that requires anti-inflammatories to treat, not just antibiotics. The autoimmune reaction was triggered by strep.
Second, consider Lyme disease, in which once again early antibiotic therapy will usually kill the bacteria before the immune system really gets involved. But, with chronic Lyme, the immune system activation is what causes the symptoms. Not only do the bacteria mutate and hide via different intracellular and cystic forms making eradication increasingly impossible, eradication still does not necessarily turn off the immune response that is causing most of the symptoms. Chronic Lyme should be thought of as an autoimmune disease…
What is in an LDI dose?
LDI combines specific antigens (bacteria, toxins, or other foreign substances that induce an immune response in the body) with an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This enzyme attracts T cells, which are specialized white blood cells involved in the immune response, and tells the T cells to pay attention to whatever antigens are included with the enzyme. Then the enzyme causes the down-regulation, or desensitization of TH2, the part of the immune system that was over-reacting to the included antigens. When the over-activated TH2 portion of the immune system is reduced, the depressed TH1 immunity is enhanced, which can effectively destroy intracellular infections.
For example, let's say that the patient's LDI dose included antigens to Lyme bacteria. By combining the beta-glucuronidase enzyme with Lyme antigens, the LDI diminishes the abnormally activated TH2 immune system, which is the major cause of symptoms in chronic Lyme disease but allows the TH1 to take over and effectively attack the Lyme bacteria in the cells.
What Can be Treated with LDI?
Low-dose immunotherapy has proven to be a safe and effective treatment for many chronic illnesses that previously had no effective treatment options, or which were often treated with expensive and toxic prescription medications. Some of the chronic illnesses that have seen improvement with LDI therapy include:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Lyme Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Autoimmune Arthritis
- Crohn's Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Psoriasis (some forms)
- Interstitial cystitis
- and other inflammatory type diseases