]by Kurt N. Woeller, D.O.
It is well known that immune dysfunction can play a role in autism, but also other neurological disorders as well. An adult with repeated colds, ear infections (in kids), and upper respiratory problems, or a child with chronic diarrhea and intestinal inflammation has all the indicators of a faulty immune system. Even those situations that involve neurological inflammation, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s are influenced by immune dysfunction. Many autism-spectrum (ASD) children are also dealing with a level of neurological inflammation as well triggered by heavy metal exposure, adverse vaccine reactions or chronic viral infections. Luckily, there are therapies available.
The antiviral prescription medication Valtrex (which is effective in reducing Herpes virus replication) is often used on a trial basis to reduce viral load. Often, after only a 6 to 8 week trial period an ASD child will respond positively with increased eye contact, spontaneous or more complex speech, and better focusing and attention. At times some of these positive changes may be short-lived while others are more long-lasting. In either case it helps to reveal that an underlying problem with an ASD child’s condition could be a chronic infection. The antiviral therapies are focused on one specific area only – to inactivate a virus from reproducing itself. There is no doubt this is helpful in reducing a trigger for neurological inflammation, but ultimately does not remedy a potentially deeper problem – the immune imbalance that allowed this to happen in the first place. If this problem can be corrected the susceptibility to infectious agents can be remedied. One very interesting product has the potential for this – Transfer Factor.
What is Transfer Factor?
Transfer factor (TF) was first discovered back in the late 40’s. To date, there are well over 3000 research articles on the specific use and function of TF, including autism and other health conditions. So what is TF, and how can it be used to correct a faulty immune system? Simply put – TF’s are immune information that is “transferred” from one immune cell to another to direct the activity of the immune system. Just as we describe antibiotics as a specific category of medication with their being many different types of antibiotics, the same applies to TF’s. There are many different types of TF products.
Transfer factors are small molecules that transfer immune information from one cell to the next. They are products of white blood cells that have registered and catalogued specific immune information from exposure to various pathogens. In pregnant mothers this immune information is passed to their offspring via breast milk in the form of colostrum. This provides the newborn with initial immune protection, and also helps educate the newborn’s immune system against pathogens the mother had been exposed to. Immunologists believe that each microbe has an identifying code that is registered by the mother’s immune system in the form of specific TFs. One could think of TFs as a natural vaccine. They have similarities, but overall they act on a variety of immune cells in the body providing more wide scale protection and usefulness.
For our body to be healthy our immune system must be able to perform three critical functions:
- It must recognize a virus, bacteria, yeast, etc. as a threat – an enemy to our body.
- Then it must attack and destroy the enemy.
- Finally, it must develop memory against the specific pathogen so that it can recognize it in the future.
This last step is critical and is what helps us build an immune library of all the things we have been exposed to. If nothing else, TF could help our immune system be more efficient at controlling chronic infection so that we are not overly symptomatic. One example of this would be to take a specific TF that is targeted against the herpes virus which could lead to less cold sores and lesions.
TFs also have the ability to promote an immune response to not only a specific pathogen they have been exposed to, but similar looking pathogens as well. This is called cross-reactivity or “molecular mimicry” where the immune system reacts to one substance and anything else that looks similar. This works to our advantage and broadens our immune system’s ability to fight off invading infections. In cases of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis where the immune system is overcharged, TFs can be useful to down regulate this aberrant immune activity.
Transfer Factor is immune specific – not species specific
TF’s are immune specific substances – not species specific. This means that TF derived from animals such as cows or chickens (the most commonly used animals for TF production) are safe for humans to consume. The reason is that each TF produced in these animals is targeted against a specific pathogen it was exposed to. It would be the same (or similar) TF we would make if we were exposed to that same pathogen. Many TF products are sequestered and filtered from cow colostrum (colostrum is the pre-milk substance that provides an offspring with a large amount of nutrients and immune factors) or chicken egg yolk (the egg yolk providing the bulk of TF’s). Each animal is exposed to a specific pathogen, for example, a virus such as Epstein-Barr or Cytomeglovirus. The animal’s immune system processes the pathogen and specific TFs are produced. These exposures from animals can occur naturally from the same pathogens we are exposed to, or from vaccinations that the animals are given to bolster their immunity while in herds.
There is always concern about the use of animal products for people who may be sensitive such as egg yolk allergy or casein intolerance in autistic children. As is usually the case, there is the potential for sensitivity reactions to any supplement product. However, because of the ultra-filtering process for TF products the amount of egg yolk and/or casein protein is very, very small, if present at all. Most individuals, even very sensitive individuals, do not have a problem. For example, the common probiotic supplement Culturelle (acidophilus GG) widely used in the autism community, contains a very small amount of casein – so small that it has been used for years without issue by many ASD that are casein intolerant.
Long-Term Use Shows Good Safety Profile
TFs have been used for over 30 years in medicine and carry the label GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) by the FDA. Side effects are minimal, but in a severely immune compromised individual with a high viral load symptoms of fever, malaise, body aches, etc., may be experienced in the early phases of use. These reactions are not to be feared for they indicate that the immune system is being engaged and is helping remedy the situation. TFs activate the immune system by stimulating the activity of a particular immune cell called Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells). NK cells are primarily responsible for going after cells that are cancerous or infected with viruses. Lyme bacteria is another pathogen that hides in our cells and NK cells are responsible for promoting immune activity against the bacteria responsible. In many individuals with chronic illness, including children on the autism-spectrum, the activity (or responsiveness) of NK cells is compromised. TF helps to prompt these cells into action.
Helpful For Many Conditions
TFs have the ability to up-regulate (increase) the immune system against cancer cells and infections, and down-regulate (decrease) the immune response in cases of allergy or autoimmune conditions when needed. They are considered an immune modulating substance which helps bring balance to our immune system, instead of immune stimulating which can be problematic over the long-term. This makes TFs safe to take for prolonged periods of time – months to years. Listed below are some of the conditions TFs have been known to be helpful for:
- Chronic upper respiratory infections – lungs, ears, sinuses.
- Cold and Flu
- Digestive problems (constipation, diarrhea)
- Eczema – and other inflammatory skin conditions
- Immune dysfunction – including NK cell activity, high viral loads, etc.
TFs have great usefulness for anyone needing more immune balance, as well as specific activity against chronic pathogens. There is TFs available called “antigen specific.” These TFs are directed against specific pathogens such as herpes viruses, strep bacteria or even Lyme bacteria. These products are not considered drug therapy, nor are they being used to treat a specific disease but instead are immune supportive therapy. Dosing recommendations are always the same – start low, go slow and allow for the product to take effect over time. The key is to be patient and with prolonged use health benefits can be derived.
There are three Transfer Factor products available from Researched Nutritionals – www.researchednutritionals.com called Multi-Immune. Product code CRN 103 is the general TF product which includes medicinal mushrooms for added immune benefit. Product code 111 is a mushroom free version. Finally, the TF for very sensitive individuals is product code CRN 123 which has no added immune enhancing ingredients other than Transfer Factor.
The general dosing recommendations are to take two capsules daily on an empty stomach (two hours after eating or one hour before food). For children, the contents of the capsule can be added to dilute juice, and if absolutely necessary a small amount of food, i.e. pear sauce. However, full potency is achieved on an empty stomach. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to start dosing with ½ to 1 capsule daily in sensitive individuals.
The access code for purchasing Transfer Factor is: WOELL