Immune function relies on a healthy Thymus Gland. The Thymus gland is situated under the breastbone at the top of the chest, just below the Thyroid Gland. It is the major gland of our immune system, responsible for many functions, including the production of T Lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell responsible for cell mediated immunity rather than antibody controlled immunity. Cell mediated immunity is extremely important in forming resistance to infection by mold-like bacteria, yeasts, fungi, parasites and viruses (including Epstein -Barr and Herpes Simplex). It is also critical in protecting us from the development of cancer and allergies.
The Thymus gland also releases several hormones which regulate many immune functions and low levels of these are associated with depressed immunity and increased susceptibility to infection. Thymic hormones are frequently very low in the elderly, AIDS patients and cancer patients ( especially those who have undergone Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy) and high stress levels deplete them more.
There are three main areas where you can do things to improve your Thymus function and boost your immunity.
- Prevent Thymus damage and involution (shrinkage). The Thymus is extremely susceptible to free radical and oxidative damage caused by radiation, infection, stress, exposure to high levels of pollution or chemotherapy drugs and chronic illness. Anti-oxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, glutathione, zinc and beta-carotene, anti-oxidant herbs like Astragalus and certain mushroom extracts can all help to prevent Thymus damage and enhance cell mediated immunity.
- There are many nutrients that are important in the production, secretion and function of thymic hormones. Deficiencies of any one of these nutrients can result in decreased thymic hormone function and impaired immune function. Zinc is particularly effective in restoring depressed immunity and low levels of zinc usually cause a lack of sense of smell and taste. Vitamin B6 and vitamin C are also critical nutrients and because they are water soluble and not stored in the body it is vital to maintain a sufficient daily intake.
- Stimulation of Thymus gland activity can be by high quality thymus extracts, either by capsule supplements or by a series of injections depending on condition of the immune system. I have seen someone who had a depressed white blood cell count of 2,500-3000 for 2 years following Radiotherapy and chemotherapy (the normal range is 4,000-10,000) rise to 5,300 after one course of Thymus injections. For more information click Thymus-Therapy The immune enhancing effects of thymus extract have been can be useful in treating the following conditions:
- Lowered resistance or susceptiblity to infection.
- Degenerative conditions of the spine and joints, including Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Autoimmune diseases – RA, ulcerative colitis, Chrohn’s disease etc.
- Metabolic disturbances such as Diabetes and gout.
- Diseases of the heart and circulation.
- Chronic inflammatory diseases of the respiratory tract, the liver, the gallbladder, the kidneys or the prostate gland.
- Thymus peptides can also be used as a supplementary measure in the treatment of cancer (pre- and post- operative treatment and for reduction of side effects during and after Radiation and chemotherapy)
- Also as a prophylatic measure against precancerous conditions in people who have a hereditary predispoition to cancer.
Other herbs which positively effect the thymus gland include liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and European mistletoe (Viscum Album). The most well known, often taken to prevent colds, is Echinacea angustiflolia but this should be taken with care by people who have an autoimmune disease.
If you wish to supplement with Thymus Enzyme Capsules (derived from calf thymus) then a quality product is very important and there are many on the market. I have used products from a company called Enzymatic Therapy and they have 2 products – Thymulus and Thymuplex.