Can you reset your immune system? Yes. In many ways. One that is likely most unappreciated is to restore a reducing environment through the IV administration of a very large amount of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the primary extracellular reducing agent. Intracellularly, it’s glutathione.
The humoral immune system (antibodies, white blood cells, cytokine cell-signaling agents, antigen presentation mechanisms, etc.) operates in the extracellular environment. Antibodies react to oxidative stressors and relax when the body is highly reduced (the opposite of oxidized). Cytokine storms are triggered by out-of-control oxidative stress.
The high concept is redox-buffering for immune modulation. Redox is a contraction of REDuction and OXidation. Reduction is the opposite of oxidation, which makes it hard for people to easily understand. What’s the opposite of a burning fire? What’s the opposite of rusting iron? What’s the opposite of a browning apple slice? Well, the part we do not see is the reduction of atmospheric oxygen by the wood in the fire, the reduction of oxygen in the air by the iron that is rusting, and the reduction of oxygen in the air by the vitamin C in the exposed surface of the cut apple. So every oxidation is accompanied by an equal but opposite reduction. That’s why biologists, chemists and physicists call it redox. Calling it oxidation or reduction just depends on what you are looking at. If you look at the apple, vitamin C is being oxidized. If you are looking at hydrogen peroxide in a mouthwash, it’s being reduced by the microbes in your mouth.
Unlike pH (acidity and alkalinity), where we live in the middle, close to “neutral,” we live in a highly reduced state. In this state, our immune system idles. It’s waiting for something to happen. That “something” is oxidation. That something is a skinned knee from falling off a bicycle. That something is a cut from a bougainvillea or rose thorn. That something is an infection from a bacteria, fungus or virus. When an inner tissue is exposed to the air, oxygen causes oxidation. This triggers immune cells. When an antigen from a thorn or poison oak triggers an antigen-presenting cell, cytokines are released, which tell other cells how to release reactive oxygen species (ROS) to fight the infection. The cytokines also trigger vasodilation and vasoconstriction to help get blood to the site of an injury or infection, or shut it down to prevent blood loss. It’s a beautiful and adaptive system where oxidation turns on immune reactivity and reduction turns it off. Since we are reduced when healthy, it works like a charm: temporary oxidative stress when we get sick, and back to reduced when we recover.
Mitochondria produce 90% of the body’s total energy. People with normal, robust basal metabolic rate divert NADH (the primary reducing chemical in the body) from the Krebs cycle in the mitochondria to recycle antioxidants like glutathione and vitamin C (ascorbate anion) to keep the body reduced. Think of it as a refrigerator (reduction) to keep the body cool from the “heat” of oxidation from oxygen and infection. The NADH that is not diverted to reduce the body goes on to generate ATP (chemical energy or anti-entropy) that activates enzyme activity and drives “metabolism.” When that energy-production system falters, our immune system remains in a slightly activated state, and we are at risk of autoimmune diseases, degenerative diseases, shallow sleep, and impaired healing. In 2020 language, these hypometabolic conditions are called “pre-existing conditions.”
Vitamin C carries reducing power. When the body is flooded with vitamin C, reducing power is “topped up.” But vitamin C does not shut down oxidative stress. Vitamin C has a catalytic role in producing ROS. It’s called Fenton chemistry, and you can look it up. Basically, most of the reducing and oxidizing chemicals in the body have paired electrons that keep them from easily reacting with each other. Vitamin C, when combined with either iron or copper, unpair those paired electrons to make them react easily. This is the basis for the immune system’s ability to produce superoxide, hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals. It’s also how we make other cell-signaling molecules. So when we flood the body with vitamin C, we are promoting BOTH oxidation and reduction at the same time. The oxidation part of it makes the immune system work better, and the reducing part of it also makes the immune system work better. The immune “on” and “off” switches become integrated, better coordinated and resistant to the “runaway” of the cytokine storm.
This might be called a “reset” of the immune system.
Fabulous question. I hope my explanation does the subject justice.