cells. But not all Th-cells are alike. For example, Th1- cells defend against bacteria and viruses. Th2-cells work to eradicate parasites and mucosal infections. A well-balanced immune system can recognize each type of threat and give the proper response to any immune challenge. A Balancing Act Sometimes the immune system doesn’t work the way it should. As you might guess, an underactive immune response can leave you more vulnerable to any bacteria or virus that comes your way. But continually over-stimulating your immune system can also cause it to respond inappropriately. When this occurs, your immune system may look at an inherently harmless substance and react as if it was an enemy. This is what happens when someone has an allergy or intolerance to something like peanuts or pet dander that is otherwise safe for most people. An overactive immune response can also foster chronic inflammation that can contribute to serious conditions like arthritis, autoimmune disorders, or even cardiovascular disease. A poor diet, chronic exposure to toxins and pollutants, drug overuse, and chronic stress can compromise the immune system and lead to a cascade of inflammatory messengers to be released all over the body. Even the aging process in a healthy individual will diminish immune response. On the flip side, the stress of modern living paired with a diet low in essential nutrients can negatively impact your immune system’s ability to function correctly and keep your adaptive response on high alert. Instead, the ultimate goal is to keep the immune system in balance—not to boost it or suppress it. Adopting a diet filled with nutrient- dense foods, incorporating moderate physical activity into your daily life, managing stress, and getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night can support a healthy immune response. Another strategy is to utilize nutrients in the form of dietary supplements. For example, plant sterols and sterolins have been clinically shown to keep your immune system on an even keel. You can almost think of them as food for your immune system. Immunity on Overdrive Autoimmune conditions affect more than 50 million Americans—many of them women. They come with many different diagnoses such as celiac disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, type 1 diabetes, and Sjögren’s syndrome. These types of autoimmune diseases occur while your body is working hard to defend itself against an antigen and fails to differentiate between the pathogen and your own tissues. Mistaking healthy tissues for a harmful substance, the immune system turns against your own body, often with devastating results. There are many underlying factors that can cause people to develop an autoimmune condition. In most cases genetics play a small role in the development of autoimmunity. Lifestyle factors including chronic exposure to toxins such as mercury, infections like Candida or herpes simplex, food sensitivities, hormone imbalances, and even stress are also linked to the development of certain autoimmune diseases. The following symptoms, especially when experienced in combination, may indicate the need to be evaluated by your doctor for an autoimmune disorder: • Joint or muscle pain or weakness • Unexplained weight loss or gain • Insomnia • Rapid heartbeat • Recurrent rash or hives; a butterfly- shaped rash across your cheeks • Difficulty concentrating • Fatigue • Cold intolerance • Hair loss or white patches on your skin or inside your mouth • Abdominal pain or diarrhea • Dry eyes, mouth, or skin • Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet