Immune Dysregulation

The immune system is how the body defends itself from harmful substances in the environment.

Although there are many environmental factors that contribute to chronic illness in children, one of the most important outcomes of all these environmental influences is immune dysregulation.

A dysregulated immune system simply means that an individual’s immune system is not working properly.

Examples of Immune Dysregulation

Here are some examples of what happens when an immune system malfunctions:

  • It can over-react to innocuous stimulus (like cat dander) and cause symptoms like sneezing or itching.
  • It can attack its host’s own cells and tissues (like what happens in an arthritic joint).  This is called autoimmunity.
  • It does not have the ability to detoxify and eliminate harmful substances that enter the body.
  • It cannot effectively combat pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes (germs!) that invade the body.
  • It can keep the body in a heightened state of “attack” causing inflammation and oxidative stress which can lead to disruptions in cellular functions and operations.

Symptoms of Immune Dysregulation

Because a dysregulated immune system is unable to protect a body from harmful environmental influences, it unleashes a cascade of harmful effects upon the body, often resulting in inflammatory or gastrointestinal symptoms.

Many of our children live with chronic infections in their ears, sinuses, and gastrointestinal systems, yet because their immune systems are dysregulated, they are unable to effectively “kick out” these infections.

For example, the following symptoms, displayed chronically, may indicate that your child’s immune system is not effectively handling certain types of immunological assaults (infections):

  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Chronic runny nose or cough
  • Chronic or recurrent sinus infections/strep infections
  • Chronically swollen lymph nodes
  • Chronic vaginal infections and/or urinary tract infections
  • Chronic athletes foot, ringworm or other fungal skin infections
  • Chronic thrush infections

Learn more about these and other soft signs of a dysregulated immune system.

More often than not, we do not even know that they have these infections because they do not show up on any conventional medical tests, and the early signs associated with these infections can be subtle and easily confused for some other medical or mental health problem.

When a body lives in a state of chronic infection, a whole cascade of physiological problems can unfold.

For example, immune dysregulation can lead to chronic inflammation which can destroy cells and tissues in all parts of the body (including the brain, liver, pancreas, lungs, and kidneys).

Chronic immune stimulation can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction.

Causes of Immune Dysregulation

Although it is not often discussed, modern industrial living has deeply impacted the functioning of our immune systems. Our children, who are among the most vulnerable, are showing the most obvious signs of an epidemic of dysregulated immune function.

Modern living has made our immune systems less capable of tolerating toxic exposures, immunological assaults (such as pathogenic infections), but it has also made our systems hyper-reactive (as you see with allergic-type reactions).

Immune dysregulation can be caused by a number of factors including:

How Can I Help My Child’s Immune System Return to a State of Balance?

  • Green your child’s life. Try to remove environmental exposures that may exacerbate immune dysregulation including:
    • Household toxins (detergents, cleaners, flame retardants, paints, fertilizers, pesticides, perfumes, fragrances, PVC, BPA, etc.).
    • Heavy metal exposures
      • Lead:  Found in old paint, drinking water and soil.
      • Mercury: Found in water, air, soil, food such as fish, thimerosal, compact fluorescent light bulbs, light-up shoes and high fructose corn syrup.
      • Antimony:  Found in flame retardant cloth including most children’s pajamas, mattresses, foam changing pads, etc.
      • Arsenic: Found in most conventionally raised chicken, some older wooden playground equipment.
      • Many heavy metals can be found in our air, soil, and water due to industrial pollution.
    • Food toxins (pesticides from conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, genetically-modified organisms).
    • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Evidence indicates that consumption of GMOs may impair gut and immune function.
    • Electromagnetic radiation (cell phones, wireless devices, computers, WiFi, cell towers)
  • Eat a clean diet. Serve your children nutritious, whole, organic/biodynamically-grown foods rather than processed, packaged foods. In the fruit and vegetable section of your supermarket, look for five-digit PLU numbers beginning with the #9, indicating that it is organic; those beginning with a #4 are conventionally grown, most often with pesticides.
  • Support good gut health by eating cultured foods, probiotics, low-sugar foods and low-refined carbohydrate diets.
  • Get outdoor exposure and vitamin D (from sunshine).
  • Encourage regular exercise.
  • Consider supporting cellular energy production and cellular detoxification with appropriate nutritional supplements (see an integrative healthcare provider).


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