Tag: sickness

Thymosin Alpha-1 – The Immune Health Breakthrough

In order for our immune system to fully protect us, it needs to be able to maintain balance. Too strong or too weak of an immune response can manifest any manner of disease and dysfunction. How this internal balance is struck involves an incredibly complex network of organs, cells, hormones, growth factors, minerals, amino acids, neurotransmitters, vitamins, and antioxidants, along countless other teammates that together form the barrier between you and the outside world. This intricate system relies upon you to support it by getting enough sleep, reducing stress, eating a diet that is actually full of nutrients, and by building your resilience through exercise.

Thymosin Alpha is an Option

If you are already living a healthy lifestyle, and you’re seeking to further enhance how your immune system can function, you may want to consider a clinically proven tool from the fascinating field of peptides: the biological response modifier (BRM) thymosin ɑ1 or TA1. Peptides are fundamentally changing the way we can approach chronic disease, hormonal insufficiencies, cognitive disorders, infections, and even the root causes of aging. By using highly specific substances like peptides which are created naturally in the body, we are able to avoid the unwanted side effects that are the major drawback to modern pharmaceuticals. TA1 seems to be an especially effective peptide that has shown promise through testing in both animals and in humans, as well as the lab and in the clinic, and has been shown to have less side effects than placebo in some research.

Thymosin Alpha-1 is a peptide, derived from a protein found in human thymus glands called prothymosin alpha. Consisting of 28 amino acids, TA1 was originally isolated from thymus tissue way back in the 1970’s and its potential for modulating the immune system, inhibiting cancer growth, calming autoimmune disorders, controlling infectious disease, and much more has been studied extensively ever since. Currently, TA1 seems to be painfully underutilized in a healthcare system that concentrates on treating symptoms rather than their root cause. This allopathic or symptoms-focused approach to “healing” is approaching an eventual shift in the public’s paradigm that will call for more individualized approaches to treating and eliminating chronic disease by utilizing tools such as peptides and other modalities. TA1 opens many doors for supporting and improving immune function by acting on immune cells, modulating inflammation, influencing genetic expression and transcription factors, and so much more. All this sounds very technical, but in reality TA1 was discovered due to research investigating a very obvious avenue to approach for immune system enhancement.

What is Thymosin ɑ1 and How Does it Work?

If you can remember back to your high school anatomy days, you likely recall that the thymus gland is essential for both immune and endocrine function – more specifically for the development, maturation, and education of T cells who are our little immune warriors and crucial for our ability to adapt to and overcome specific pathogens. If any of this jogs your memory, you are also probably aware of the fact that, after puberty, your thymus gland begins to atrophy or wither away in a process known as involution. Although the T cells that your once-robust thymus produced still remain effective, the actual gland itself becomes but a shell of what it once was – in fact, it was once considered to be a vestigial organ in adults, although it does still remain somewhat active throughout life.

Thymosin Alpha-1 Research

Research in animals that were missing a thymus gland found that reintroducing thymosin fraction 5 (TF5, the origin of TA1) was able to enhance immune function. Thus, the next logical step would be to isolate the active section or functional component of TF5 of this protein (a.k.a the peptide fragment: TA1) and begin testing. As the research progressed, scientists began to identify the mechanisms by which TA1 can impact overall immune function, some of the potential benefits for individuals suffering from things like cancer and hepatitis, how it might prevent the escalation of infection, and much more.

How Does it Work?

To understand how TA1 can influence the immune system, it is important to understand some of the key players that regulate immunity. These include cytokines, chemokines, thymosins, growth factors, and various endogenous antioxidants and other compounds. Each of these unique compounds are dubbed “biological response modifiers” (BRMs) due to their ability to either enhance or inhibit immune system function – depending upon what is required at any given time. In many cases, the use of TA1 or another BRM has been proven extremely effective in combination with conventional therapies and may increase the efficacy of treatment, decrease mortality, and lower morbidity when compared to any single treatment alone. In addition to modulating the immune system, TA1 can influence both the central nervous system and endocrine system, a rather unique ability even in the fascinating realm of peptides. TA1 may also be able to enhance immune system function by:

  • Increasing the maturation of T cells.
  • Boosting the overall rate of immune cells.
  • Stimulating NK (natural killer) cells – crucial for the elimination of viruses and viral-infected cells.
  • Managing cytokine/chemokine levels to ensure an appropriate immune response.
  • Directly depressing viral replication.
  • Modulating genes involved with immune function.
  • Facilitating differentiation of toll-like receptors (these guys sense pathogens and initiate an immune response).
  • Increasing the expression of class I MHC (this major histocompatibility complex is on the surface of cells to signal to the immune system they have been invaded by a virus).
  • Amplifying cytokine receptors.
  • Enhancing the activation of dendritic cells.

This broad list of mechanisms, and a complete lack of side effects is only part of the reason that TA1 is such an incredibly promising addition to standard treatments for autoimmune disorders, infections, viral disease, cancer, and more.

What Has Been Proven Thus Far?

Research has consistently proven TA1 to be effective at improving immune response and stopping the progression of many viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. Although a lot of the current research has been done in animal models (funding for peptides is relatively scarce), TA1 has been FDA approved since 1985 (it’s the active ingredient in brand name Zadaxin) and it is commonly used in 35 countries for the treatment of multiple forms of hepatitis and cancer. What seems to be precisely a ton of preclinical and clinical trials (a PubMed search yields over 700 studies) have investigated TA1 and a significant number of them have deemed this awesome peptide effective at treating other human viral diseases besides just hepatitis including those caused by cytomegalovirus, influenza, and various other disease states owed to microbes. TA1 may also increase the ability of immune-compromised individuals to respond favorably to vaccinations.

One of the even more intriguing effects of TA1 however, involves its ability to vastly improve the outcome of individuals suffering from sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. According to the Sepsis Alliance, sepsis is the leading cause of death in hospitals. This reign may hopefully end someday, as research is showing that combining TA1 with some more conventional antimicrobial strategies may be the key to making death from sepsis a far less likely occurrence. One study published in the Chinese Journal of Critical Care found that by adding the TA1 peptide to a standard sepsis treatment, survivability was improved significantly (86% vs. 58%) compared to the standard treatment only group. Not only that, but the TA1 group spent significantly less time on mechanical ventilation. Similar findings were reported by another study that consisted of 342 patients – basically, TA1 has plenty of research behind it that all points to the same conclusion: thymosin ɑ1 can increase our odds of overcoming the downhill slide that is the progression from infection to septic shock and death. Dig into the non-sepsis related research and you will find that TA1 has been utilized as part of the successful treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), AIDS, pneumonia, and as we already mentioned, hepatitis and different forms of cancer. TA1 is able to have such profound effects because it helps to maintain the fundamental balance that is required for optimal immune function. It not only increases the effectiveness of your immune cells, but it also acts directly on target cells – making them more visible to the immune system.

Bottom Line on Thymosin ɑ1

The burgeoning field of peptides is only beginning to become more widely accepted, as it becomes more understood. Thymosin ɑ1 stands out so much that the co-founder and vice president of Tailor Made Compounding (one of only a few compounding pharmacies that has the ability to create actually effective peptides) considers it to be one of his favorite peptides, and there are a lot of peptides. He has utilized it to help patients with certain kinds of herpes, Lyme disease, at the onset of flus and colds, autoimmune issues, and for general anti-aging purposes as well the obvious indications like hepatitis, as a vaccine adjuvant, and for some forms of cancer. It is genuinely difficult to find another intervention that has the ability to so positively impact your immune function and overall health. TA1 will almost certainly be part of most people’s health and wellness protocols in the future, as well as part of standard care for seriously deadly issues like sepsis, cancer, and more. Ikon Health is thankful to be able to offer Thymosin to our customers and clients as an incredibly effective and safe means to enhance immune system function, and generally improve health. Although we have already preached this, it is important to note that TA1 won’t be effective at supporting immunity unless you are also taking care of (at least most) of the fundamentals for immune health:

  1. Get enough good sleep. 
  2. Stay active/lift weights.
  3. Manage chronic stress.
  4. Eat food that actually supports physiological function.

The Ultimate Guide to Immune Health

The Importance of Sleep

Arguably the most important thing that you can do to support your immune system is to get enough quality sleep. Our immune cells have a day/night cycle just like the rest of our physiology, which results in the immune system being highly active (from a circadian biology perspective) during the rest and recovery time provided by nightly sleep. Because of that fact, the activity of certain immune cells varies immensely between day and night. Basically, if you aren’t sleeping enough, you can bet your immune system isn’t firing on all cylinders. In a fascinating study investigating the effect of sleep deprivation on immune function it was found that not getting enough sleep will negatively impact your immunity on many levels and to varying degrees. Other research has found that sleep restriction causes chronic low-grade inflammation, decreased natural killer (NK) cell activity, hormonal dysregulation, and eventually results in immunodeficiency, none of which are favorable for optimal immune function. Slow-wave sleep is especially important to the health of our immune system, and mechanisms that allow your body to identify pathogens or other invading cells is especially enhanced during this part of the sleep cycle.

We highly encourage that you follow some of the tips below to try and get some quality sleep in order to support immune system function. If you are already getting between 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night, and you wake up feeling rested each day, the next most important factor to focus on to support immune health is ensuring you are getting adequate nutrition from your daily diet.

Top Tips For Good Sleep:

  1. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday to firmly establish your circadian rhythm.
  2. Limit light exposure from screens or overhead lighting for a few hours before bed. Blue light blocking glasses can be extremely helpful if screen time is unavoidable.
  3. Create an entirely dark environment in your bedroom. Any and all sources of light have the potential to disrupt normal sleep patterns. 
  4. If you can, soak up some sun in the morning to aid in establishing your circadian rhythm.
  5.  Try to finish eating at least 2 hours before bed as the process of digestion can be disruptive to proper sleep.
  6. Keep your bedroom cool to support normal sleep. Research shows that around 65℉ is a great place to start.

To see a complete list of immune boosting services, learn more by clicking the link below.

Good Nutrition

By now we likely don’t need to remind you just how complex your immune system is. There are countless variables that can impact the system, and nutrition is definitely one of the major ones. Many of the cells, enzymes, chemical messengers, and hormones that work away for your immune system require certain micronutrients for them to function properly. What this means is that ensuring you get enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fats, and amino acids – in particular those that are essential to immune function, is one of the best strategies for supporting your overall health and resilience to disease. Some of the more important nutrients for immune system function include vitamins A, C, D, B2, B6, B9, and B12, as well as iron, selenium, and zinc. Poor nutrition can clearly compromise immune function and increase infection risk. Luckily, you can absolutely improve immune function by patching up any holes in your diet, or with added supplementation if needed. Here are just a few of the major micronutrients that can deeply impact the capabilities of your immune system:

Vitamin D: Vitamin D levels are notoriously low in America and it is no surprise that D can largely impact your immune health. Low levels of Vitamin D are especially detrimental to immune function due to the fact that it binds to or otherwise interacts with many immune cells such as B cells, T cells, and antigen presenting cells (APCs). This powerful vitamin/hormone has the ability to modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses, and should likely be taken by everyone on a daily basis depending upon a variety of factors.

Zinc: Zinc is a heavy-hitting mineral that is crucial for immune function and depletion of this key nutrient has been associated with many adverse events. For example, zinc deficiency can enhance atrophy (shrinking) of the thymus, decrease immune cell number and activity, and increase oxidative stress and inflammation by altering production of cytokines. As a result, your ability to fight off infections is dramatically reduced.

Vitamin C: Although it might sound obvious, Vitamin C is actually rather important for immune function. During infection, disease, or even chronic, the rate at which you produce reactive oxygen species is increased. This boost in ROS production further depletes vitamin C stores, requiring you to get even more than usual from diet or supplementation. Vitamin C is also crucial for modulating the inflammatory process, and has other roles within the immune system.

We typically recommend getting as much of your nutrition from whole food sources as possible. However, supplementation has absolutely been proven effective at boosting immune function if you are deficient in any of these key micronutrients. It is important that you keep in mind though, that adding in supplements likely won’t make much of a difference at all if you are not managing the other major sources of friction that can reduce immune function. Chronically elevated stress levels for example, are notoriously good at throwing a major wrench in things.

Top Tips For Nutritional Intake:

  1. Incorporate a wide variety of vegetables (and some fruit) into your daily nutrition plan. Opt for nutritional powerhouses like cruciferous veggies (broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, etc.), berries (especially blueberries), leafy greens, and any others that you enjoy. 
  2. Seafood options such as oysters, crab, and lobster, as well as some other meats and various beans are all solid sources of zinc – an absolutely crucial mineral for immune function, as you now know.
  3. Avoid heavily processed and packaged foods as much as possible as they are typically devoid of nutrients like fiber, protein, and micronutrients. 
  4. Get some sun exposure each day (around 20 minutes), to make some free Vitamin D (or supplement if needed). 
  5. Add in specific supplements to fill any voids that may exist. Do so strategically however, as more is not always better, especially when it comes to supplementation.
  6. If possible, get your micronutrient levels tested by your doctor or at home (Everlywell is an excellent brand of at home tests).
  7. One option for individuals who want a powerful boost of some of these immune fortifying nutrients, is with nutrient injections. Ikon offers a special nutrient injection that includes Vitamin C, Zinc, and Glutathione. Also, we can provide Vitamin D injections.

Stress Management

Reducing your level of overall stress is one of the most impactful things you can do to positively influence the ability of your immune system to protect you from invaders and dysfunction. Normal, acute increases in the sympathetic (fight or flight) stress response undoubtedly has the ability to cause potentially beneficial changes in immune function (like activation of detoxification pathways from exercise, heat stress, or caloric restriction). Once any stressful experience becomes overwhelming or too frequent however, all kinds of dysfunction can emerge. The infamous stress hormone cortisol is actually a potent antioxidant that is required to make sure the immune system or inflammatory response is appropriate and under control. If cortisol is chronically elevated, as it is with unmanaged stress levels, your body (more importantly some kinds of immune cells) become desensitized and down-regulate their receptors for it. This is just one example of the physiological adaptations that can occur due to chronic stress and how they may limit your immune system capacity. Other psychological factors such as social isolation and depression have also been shown to negatively impact immune function.

To begin controlling your stress levels, a meditation practice has been proven effective time and time again. Interestingly, not only has meditation been proven to reduce stress in peer-reviewed research, it has been directly associated with increased immune function. In a meta-analysis looking at many randomized controlled trials (totaling 160 subjects) it was found that many markers of immune health were vastly improved by simply engaging in a mindfulness meditation practice. Researchers observed a decrease in Nf-kB activity (pro-inflammatory molecule), an increase in telomerase activity (DNA protective enzyme), and a decrease in levels of C-reactive protein (marker of inflammation), and an overall increase in many parameters of cell-mediated immunity. These findings were not the first to suggest that reducing overall stress can aid in immune function. It is hardly controversial to suggest that having a positive mindset is an incredibly important factor to sway the outcome of various disease-states in a more favorable direction. One of the final pillars in developing a robust immune system is consistent movement and (hopefully) exercise.

Top Tips for Managing Stress:

  1. Find a breathwork practice that you like. Start with just a few minutes each day focusing on consciously belly breathing. Tying this practice to already established patterns will make the process much easier. For example, each time you get in your car, your bed, or before each meal would be excellent opportunities to take some deep breaths and work on creating new patterns. 
  2. Try a meditative practice. Guided meditations are a great place to start, what matters is that you practice!
  3. Take a walk with no phone, podcast, music, or any other form of stimulation – your brain may need a break! Bonus points: get out in nature!

Exercise For Immune Health

Exercise, and in particular resistance training, has the ability to positively impact your immune system on many levels. At minimum, some form of movement is required for the circulation of lymph fluid (your lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump, instead it relies on your physical movement).  In contrast, too much exercise can result in overtraining which can be just as bad as not exercising at all – if you are wanting to stay healthy. This is why resistance training that is appropriate (for you), and the resulting increase in lean body mass, is likely your best route for improving immune function. Unsurprisingly, increases in lean body mass has been shown to result in more favorable outcomes from all kinds of health problems –  in fact, the importance of utilizing muscle mass as a new vital sign is becoming increasingly obvious. Scarily, the expected and preventable decrease in lean body mass (sarcopenia) that comes hand-in-hand with the aging process results in an increased risk of infection, slower wound healing, increased risk of pneumonia, enhanced risk of osteoporosis, fractures, and many more undesirable effects. But that doesn’t mean that you absolutely have to start lifting weights in order to boost your immune system – simply moving more throughout the day can increase the circulation of your lymphatic fluid and result in more robust defense capabilities. Combining relatively frequent resistance training with a good amount of daily low-level movement (get off the couch!) will ensure that you are getting the best of both worlds.

Top Tips for Exercise:

  1. Stay active throughout the day. If you have one, use a step tracker to ensure you are moving enough. 
  2. Exercise, but don’t train too hard. Excessively pushing yourself can be just as bad as not exercising at all.
  3. Focus on appropriate resistance exercise to build lean body mass.
  4. Reduce cardio training if needed.
  5. Ikon offers online training through our own special app. Our programs allow clients to get special exercise guidance for at-home training, or at the gym.

Last Word on Immune Health

Our immune system is always working, day and night. And the things that we do, or don’t do, can have profound implications on its ability to protect us from potential invaders. It is up to each of us to make sure that the habits and practices we implement in our daily lives are going to support this defense system in the fight against unwanted bacteria, viruses, cancerous cells, parasites, funguses, and more. No single factor will completely make or break your immune system, but consistently getting enough sleep, exercising, eating the right food, and managing stress are all crucial aspects to ensure your immune system isn’t going into a fight that it is rigged to lose.

Services to Boost your Immune System

While we recommend that clients adopt healthy habits to help bolster their immune system, one of the more powerful Immune Boosting agents that Ikon offers is called Thymosin Alpha. Thymosin Alpha is a peptide that is produced by the thymus gland, and it has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Thymosin Alpha can also help fight chronic viral diseases, support those who have autoimmune disorders, suppress infection and tumor growth, and help control inflammation with chronic diseases. Thymosin Alpha injections can be prescribed to help clients further strengthen their immune defense.

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