Natural Killer Cells are high and low in a variety of conditions. They can contribute and prevent disease. Do YOU have low or high Natural Killer Cells?
- Intro to Natural Killer (NK) Cells
- What Function Does Natural Killer Cells Have?
- Activation of NK Cells
- Conditions With Elevated Natural Killer Cells
- Conditions That Have Low Natural Killer Cells
- Natural Ways to Increase Natural Killer Cells
- Natural Ways to Enhance Natural Killer Cell Function
- NK Cell Inhibitors
- NK Cell Cytotoxicity Inhibitors
- Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
Intro to Natural Killer (NK) Cells
Natural Killer (NK) cells are a type of toxic lymphocytes that are critical to the immune system.
NK cells are produced in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, and thymus, where they then enter into the circulation.
They control several types of tumors and microbial infections by limiting their spread and future tissue damage that can occur.
The cells become active around 3 days after infection and respond to tumor formation in the body.
NK cells monitor tumors that may grow by directly triggering the death of tumor cells.
They have the ability to recognize stressed cells without having to have a previous exposure to the pathogens, allowing for a fast immune reaction.
NK cells can develop long-lived and highly specific memories to a variety of targets [R].
Extreme genetic diversity is present in both mice and humans coding for NK cells [R].
What Function Does Natural Killer Cells Have?
Individuals lacking NK cells have regular viral infections and die prematurely [R].
Individuals deficient in NK cells are prone to early phases of herpesvirus infection [R] and NK cells help fight HIV.
Mice with less NK cell function are more prone to cancers [R].
Activation of NK Cells
Circulating NK cells remain in their resting phase. NK cells activated by cytokines lead to the invasion of these cells into tissues with pathogen-infected cells [R].
NK cells release a membrane-disrupting protein, perforin, which causes cell death of the target cell [R].
So perforin perforates the “skin” of the pathogen [R].
Conditions With Elevated Natural Killer Cells
Obesity promotes the expression of inflammatory genes in the abdominal fat.
It elevates the number and activity of NK cells in only the stomach fat.
NK cells control insulin resistance by transmitting proteins that affect macrophages [R].
Higher NK cells form in women who have reoccurring miscarriages [R].
Th1 Dominance and NK Cells
I actually don’t do very well with the more potent stimulators of NK Cells. This could either be because I don’t do well with NK cell stimulants, or because NK Cell stimulators have other immune boosting properties – or both.
Conditions That Have Low Natural Killer Cells
- Cancer (low activity) [R] – NK cells ‘eat’ cancer cells.
- Viral infections (low number and activity) [R] – NK cells fight off viruses.
- CFS (low activity) [R]
- Multiple Sclerosis (low activity) [R]
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (low number and activity) [R]
- Lupus (low number and activity) [R]
Impairment of Natural Killer cells is also associated with advanced aging [R].
Natural Ways to Increase Natural Killer Cells
These strategies lead to increased natural killer cells.
- Curcumin [R]
- Zinc [R]
- Selenium [R]
- Garlic [R]
- Astaxanthin [R]
- Melatonin [R]
- Astragalus [R]
- Amla/Gallic acid – Not for Th1 dominant [R].
- Spirulina [R].
- Eleuthero [R].
- Danshen/Salvia Miltiorrhiza – A-glucosidase inhibitor. Slows carb absorption. Great for heart health [R]
- Blueberry [R]
- Echinacea or Cichoric acid (from Echinacea) [R].
- Spleen [R]
- Thymus Peptides – for weakened immunity [R]
Natural Ways to Enhance Natural Killer Cell Function
These strategies lead to increased function or cytotoxicity of Natural Killer Cells.
Supplements (if overactive immune system)
These supplements are safe if you are Th1 dominant and have an overactive immune system, but you’d still like to stimulate NK Cells.
- Curcumin [R]
- Resveratrol [R]
- Andrographis [R]
- Ashwagandha [R]
- Magnesium [R]
- Cardamom [R]
- Probiotics: S Boulardii [R], L casei [R], L bulgaricus [R]
- Vitamin B12 [R]
- Garlic (allicin) [R]
Supplements (if underactive immune system)
- Thymus -immune deficiency [R]
- AHCC [R]
- Astragalus [R]
- Beta Glucans [R]
- Goji Berries [R]
- Reishi – night time [R]
- Gynostemma [R]
- Amla/Gallic acid [R]
- Ginseng [R]
- Lion’s Mane [R, R].
- Echinacea, Cichoric acid (from Echinacea) [R].
- Chlorella Tablets [R]
- GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides) [R]
- Germanium [R]
- Cocoacalm – nice relaxer [R]
- CoQ10 – in older women, but not men [R].
- Vitamin E – in older women, but not men [R]
- Low dose naltrexone (LDN) (drug) [R]
- Arabinogalactan [R, R]
- T3 [R]
- Growth hormone [R]
- IGF-1 [R]
- Prolactin [R]
- MSH [R]
- Th1 dominance: IL-12, IL-2 (CD56bright NK cells) [R]
NK Cell Inhibitors
- Lectins initiate excess polyamine production, which may be the result of an effort to repair the damage to intestinal microvilli caused by lectins [R]. A high polyamine level may decrease NK cell populations [R].
- Lipoic Acid [R]
- CRH/ACTH/Cortisol [R] – from stress or other causes
- Indoleamine 2,3-Dioxygenase (IDO) – activated by cortisol and inflammation [R]
- Folic acid (synthetic form) [R]
- Somatostatin (Growth Hormone–Inhibiting Hormone) [R]
NK Cell Cytotoxicity Inhibitors
Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.
That’s why I decided to create tools that will help others cut down the guesswork:
- Lab Test Analyzer – a software tool that will analyze your labs and tell you what the optimal values are for each marker — as well as provide you with actionable tips and personalized health and lifestyle recommendations to help you get there.
- SelfDecode – a software tool that will help you analyze your genetic data from companies such as 23andme and ancestry. You will learn how your health is being impacted by your genes, and how to use this knowledge to your advantage.
- SelfHacked Secrets – an ebook where we examine and explain the biggest overlooked environmental factors that cause disease. This ebook is a great place to start your journey if you want to learn the essential steps to optimizing your health.
- SelfHacked Elimination Diet course – a video course that will help you figure out which diet works best for you
- Selfhacked Inflammation course – a video course on inflammation and how to bring it down
- Biohacking insomnia – an ebook on how to get great sleep
- Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
- BrainGauge – a device that detects subtle brain changes and allows you to test what’s working for you
- SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.
HOW WOULD YOU RATE THIS ARTICLE?