Monday, April 7, 2008

Pathways of Immunity—T1 and T2

In talking to your doctor or during the course of your research, you might have encountered the terms "T1" and "T2" in relation to MS. T cells are lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell made in your thymus gland that is very important to optimal functioning of your immune system. Simply put, T1 cells are pro-inflammatory and T2 are anti-inflammatory. MS is basically a T1 pro-inflammatory condition, as are all autoimmune diseases. Interestingly enough, aging and hormone deficiency also cause us to travel down this T1 path. Studies have shown that replacing deficient hormones can shift you back to T2 dominance and increase anti-inflammatory activity. Testosterone is key in causing this shift, but other important hormones involved are progesterone, estrogen, and Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone, not a vitamin). <>

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Connection Between Multiple Sclerosis and the Endocrine System

We have only to apply common sense to see the connection between hormone levels and MS. There's an obvious relationship between age, hormones, and the progression of MS <>:

•    MS is approximately four times more prevalent in women than in men. Ovaries shut down at menopause and testicles don't, so women lose much more of their hormone levels (and much earlier) than men do.
•    The mean age of onset of MS is 32. Hormone production in the ovaries drops significantly in the mid-30s, closely mimicking the typical time MS starts.
•    The increased levels of sex hormones produced during pregnancy are associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of MS, while symptoms often worsen postpartum, when there's a significant drop in hormone levels.
•    The first clinical symptoms of MS develop after puberty, when hormone issues begin.
•    The disease moves to the "secondary progressive" phase, characterized by chronic, progressively worsening symptoms, in the same general time frame as hormone levels decline. Of MS cases, 50% become progressive within 10 to 15 years, and an additional 40% do within 25 years of onset. MS generally progresses faster in those who experience their first symptoms after age 40. 
•    The symptoms of MS are also well-known symptoms of hormone deficiency. Look at the list and then at the inhabitants of your local retirement home: numbness and tingling; chronic fatigue; bladder and bowel problems; balance problems and decreased coordination; vision abnormalities; cognitive impairment; sleep problems; gastrointestinal reflux; emotional problems; mood swings; depression; sexual dysfunction; muscle stiffness and cramping; and neuralgia. Do you see the similarities? Neither of us has any hormones left.

All this, albeit anecdotal, evidence shows a clear connection between hormones and MS. Fortunately we do not have to go on supposition and detective work alone. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of well-documented studies that support this hypothesis. "The MS Solution" by Kathryn R. Simpson, M.S., looks at these studies and the role that individual hormones play in neurological health.