Rerelease: Sock Doc 14: Your Immune System, Part 1 – What Is It, Blood Markers To Analyze It, How It Can Be Affected by Toxins and Our Environment, The Rise of Autoimmunity, and More

December 16, 2022


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On this episode we have The Sock Doc, Dr. Steve Gangemi, joining us. Steve is a natural health care doctor who founded and practices at Systems Health Care, an integrative wellness center in Chapel Hill, NC. Steve is also a longtime endurance athlete and is a wealth of knowledge for athletes looking to optimize wellness.

In part 1 of this multi-part series we take a deeper dive into immune system function.


Immune system 101

  • We’re in an era where research on the immune system is exploding, and ever-evolving
  • Components of the immune system include
    • Gut
    • Spleen
    • Thymus
    • Lymph system
    • Skin
    • Point is, it’s not just one specific area
  • Every organ may affect the immune system in one way, and vice versa
  • The idea of practicing hygiene but also not trying to be overly sterile and germ-free. There’s a symbiotic relationship between
  • The role of the gut in immune system- it matters, but so do other things
  • Steve is seeing a strong need for other players too, and they’ve been minimized by our love for the gut. For example, he’s seeing a need to help spleen and thymus aide.
  • Signs to looks for: If you’re constantly fatigued, get sick and have a really hard time kicking it (weeks+), or you have some ongoing subtle health issues
  • Chronically high cortisol suppress thymus, therefore impairing
  • If you’re stressed out very easily this cold indicate spleen or thymus issues.

Blood labs analysis

  • CBC w/ Differential can direct or guide you on what is going on inside if you’re a bit unsure.
  • Do not just rely on conventional ranges on these tests.

Here’s a helpful guide of functional ranges (for optima health) to keep around and help you understand your results:

  • WBC
    • 5,500-10,500 (5.5-10.5 mcL)
    • Some normal ranges go down to 3.5 but, anything below 5 is a sign of being run down
  • Neutrophils (eg Segs) 50-60%
    • If these are high over 60% that could indicate bacteria infection or some cases could be a virus
    • Also increase in a bad accident, etc.
    • When these drop below <40% and lymphocytes go up >40%, this indicates folate or B12 deficiency or malabsorption type problem
    • If MCV is also high, eg red blood cell is larger than it should be, this could also point to folate/B12 deficiency or malabsorption.
    • FIGLU test- only accurate way to test for folate deficiency. Folate breaks down FIGLU, and this breaks down histadine. If don’t have 5MTHF you’ll have high FIGLU in your urine, and this indicates inadequate folate levels in the body.
  • Lymphocytes 25-40%
    • Viruses increase these
  • Monocytes 3-8%
    • These get high when there’s a viral infection such as Epstein Barr, Hepatitis—but usually they are high after infection not necessarily in the acute illness phase
    • Heavy metals can also cause monocytes to go high
  • Eosinophils 1-2%
    • If these are over 2-3% this can indicate allergies or systemic infection (2-9%)
    • If they go high and stay high (>10%) it could indicate a parasitic infection
    • Esophogitis and how these drive up eosinophils
  • Basophils 0-1%
    • Too high indicate allergies

Individual immune systems- why does it vary so much?

  • Why are some people more robust, whereas others have weaker immune systems, and why is it that our own immune systems can change over a lifetime (eg developing autoimmune)
  • Genetics play a role to some degree, whereas others are born with a compromised immune system and that carries forward with them through life.
  • Is it healthy to get sick?
  • If you catch everything that goes around and are often sick, that’s not great and indicates a problem.
  • But if you’re always well and never get sick, that doesn’t mean you’re “better off”. Occasional sickness does help our immune system and it’s a part of normal functioning.

The rise of autoimmunity: why are we seeing this?

  • It begins with T helper cells, these come from thymus, and suppressor cells.
  • These cells “self-check” and help decide which way your immune system goes.
  • These Cd4 cells have certain pathways, and they make T regularity cells, which make autoimmune cells.
    • They make certain cells suppress or extenuate infections, they make cells that help you deal with allergies, etc.
  • Th1 & Th2 cells – T helper 1 and T helper 2.
    • Either end of a see saw- if they’re equally weighed you’re more in balance.
    • When you have an infection, your Th1 gets more robust.
    • When you have too many allergies, toxins, high stress, etc, your Th2 get more robust.
    • Either way these things cause you to be out of balance.
  • How about vaccines?
    • Vaccines increase Th2 response, so it’s like putting a weight vest on that side of the seesaw (heavy Th2 light Th1) and this can exacerbate with more intervention.
    • So now if you get sick your TH1 may not be as capable- it’s “too light” whereas Th2 is “too heavy” and this makes it harder to fight off viruses, bacteria, infections.
    • Th2 response combines cytokines and can create an autoimmune response.
  • More people have autoimmune because they’re living in an Th1/Th2 imbalance.
    • This is becoming more common.
  • Look at things you can improve in your own life: don’t eat things you’re allergic to or even sensitive to, clean up environmental toxins, etc.
  • The other pathway to developing autoimmunity:
    • And it’s not just a medical intervention like a vaccine. Autoimmune issues can happen independent of that.
    • Th17 reaction- a more direct route to developing an autoimmune issue.
    • Extracellular bacteria, fungi, candida, chronic yeast infections, allergies, food sensitivities, gut infection, or any other infection with skin and so on.

Toxins & chemicals in our environment, food and bodies

How do we know if these things are present and affecting us negatively?

  • Mold:
    • Some stats say that 50% or more homes in the US have a mold problem, and some people (maybe not everyone) seem susceptible to mold illness—how this fits into a immune function conversation.
    • To some degree we can and should be able to live symbiotically live with mold because it exists everywhere. However, what about issues like living in a home with excessive or dangerous mold (something we may or may not be aware of)?
    • individuality matters a lot here, as does the location of the mold (eg in a bedroom where you spend a lot of time).
    • Basic mold tests are available online or in stores. Varying degrees of in-depth testing depending how deep you want or need to go with it.
    • For example of a place with petri dishes for mold testing:
    • Changing your health for the better can often drastically improve our tolerance to mold.
    • It’s often more than just the mold! We don’t necessarily want mold growing excessively all over the place; however, often it is the case where someone who is reacting to mold is also having some other health issues going on.
    • If you are having a chronic health issue, it would be wise to do a deep dive on your environment and clean up what you can.
    • Mold needs a “food supply” (eg wood, etc) and water source.
    • If you see a spot of mold, don’t just “paint over it.”
    • Bottom line: Steve rarely sees it where it’s just a mold issue affecting one’s health. Usually there are other things going on too.
  • And then there’s glyphosate
    • Remove it as best you can, and don’t use it (i.e. RoundUp)
    • Yes, its effects can be felt and add up in a negative way over time
    • Ecoblend- a healthier alternative
    • Monitoring the food you buy, and be weary of produce such as the “dirty dozen” (
    • Cooking and eating at home as much as possible makes a positive difference, but don’t go overboard by being orthorexic or paranoid
    • Environmental concerns like bee colonies dying off
  • Other ideas:
    • Use low/no VOC paints
    • Personal care products with cleaner ingredients (even nail polish)
    • You may see over time that you could be getting sick fewer times when you start cleaning up your life and environment more.

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