How Our Immune System Drives Social Preferences

How Our Immune System Drives Social Preferences

by Chris Kresser

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immune system drive social interaction
istock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Most of us enjoy, if not even prefer, spending time with others rather than spending all of our free time in social isolation. Some studies even suggest that social connectivity plays a significant role in our overall health and well-being (1, 2). So what is it then that drives this preference to be with others, and similarly, what contributes to the social indifference or even social aversion seen in some neurologic disorders like autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia? It looks like, at least in part, it’s pathogenic microbes like bacteria and viruses.

Exciting new research suggests that our immune system may drive our preference for social interactions, and these new findings raise fundamental questions about human behavior. There’s a quote that’s been circulated widely among researchers studying the interactions between microorganisms and humans that I read in an interview with Justin and Erica Sonnenburg: “Humans are elaborate culturing vessels that have evolved to propagate and pass on these micro-organisms,” and this new research, published last month, suggests that even our behavior may have evolved as a means of supporting the spread of microbes.

There are a few reasons this research is so significant.

The brain is directly connected to our immune system

The first huge finding to understand is that our brain is intimately connected to our immune system. This may not seem like a novel idea to many people since we intuitively know that we generally feel lousy all around when we’re sick. But up until about a year ago, the widely held notion taught to all medical students was that the brain was a protected organ, essentially separated from the rest of the body by the blood-brain barrier—a fortress of tightly connected cells surrounding the brain’s vessels that allows selective passage of nutrients and protects the brain from an onslaught of invading microbes or overwhelming immune response. The brain had thus been considered “immunologically privileged.”

Neurologic disorders including autism and schizophrenia are directly linked to the immune system.

In addition to the protective blood-brain barrier, the brain was thought to be lacking lymphatic vessels, layering on additional isolation from our immune system. Lymphatic vessels are the third system of vessels, along with arteries and veins, that support the flow of fluid from cells into the bloodstream. Lymphatic vessels importantly drain our lymph nodes, structures situated along these vascular networks that store immune cells. (You can often feel enlarged and sometimes tender lymph nodes when you have a cold or other infection—this is a sign that your immune system is working to fight an infection.)

But last year, lymphatic vessels in the meninges—structures surrounding the central nervous system and containing the reservoir of cerebrospinal fluid—were identified (3). This discovery created a paradigm shift in how we can understand and explore the interaction between the immune system and the brain. It also opened up a whole new avenue from which to explore the interaction between immune dysfunction and disorders like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder.

As the article, published in Nature in June 2015, notes, “The discovery of the central nervous system lymphatic system may call for a reassessment of basic assumptions in neuroimmunology and sheds new light on the aetiology of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases associated with immune dysfunction.” Or put more simply, we now need to reconsider how the immune system affects our brains because our brain is not as isolated and protected as was once believed.

So that’s the first really cool and important discovery to understand here: Our brain and immune system have a direct link.

Immune deficiency and a lack of interest in socializing are linked

Next, researchers set out to better understand this interaction. An article published last month clarifies one pathway in which our immune system’s response to pathogens may drive our normal social behavior (4).

Normal social behavior is important for a number of reasons, and in humans, this includes a benefit for our mental health. Social dysfunction is seen in several neurologic and neuropsychiatric conditions including autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, and certain types of dementia. Interestingly, these conditions are also associated with immune dysfunction, specifically with cells of the immune system called T cells (5, 6, 7).

Researchers took mice deficient in T cells and showed that these mice, in contrast with normal, or “wild-type,” mice, showed no preference for social interaction over an inanimate object (yes, these are mice, but I think we can still agree this is social dysfunction). Then, these T cell-deficient mice were injected with normal immune cells, specifically with lymphocytes to supply the T cells they were previously missing. After a few weeks, allowing the immune system to respond to this lymphocyte injection, these mice showed a preference for normal social behavior. So the social dysfunction was reversed by restoring immune balance.

Additionally, there is a type of imaging called functional MRI that can assess brain activity (not just structural information, but actual measures of tissue activity). This type of functional imaging has shown hyperconnectivity in certain regions of the brain in people with autism spectrum disorder (8). This functional imaging was also performed in mice and showed a similar pattern of hyperconnectivity in the mice lacking a normal immune system. But again, once these mice were injected with lymphocytes allowing the immune system to normalize, the brain imaging also normalized.

Brain imaging in mice with immune dysfunction has similar abnormalities to brain imaging in children with autism spectrum disorder. The brain imaging normalized after these mice were injected with lymphocytes restoring normal immune function.

This is the second key point: Immune deficiency in mice was associated with a lack of interest in social interaction, but correcting this immune imbalance led to normal social preferences.

Next, researchers set out to discover how the T cells were affecting behavior, and interferon-gamma (IFN-?) was identified as playing a major role in affecting this social behavior. IFN-? is an important compound, more generally called a cytokine, in the immune system (specifically in the adaptive immune response and produced largely by T cells). This cytokine, IFN-?, is produced when our immune system responds to a pathogen, like a bacteria or virus. So, IFN-? supports our normal social behavior, and (at least in mice) low IFN-? is associated with social dysfunction.

This immune molecule, IFN-?, seems to be critical for social behavior.

What does this mean for you?

There’s still much to understand, but most of us are affected in one way or another by someone with autism, dementia, or schizophrenia, and this research shows us that the immune system, and by extension the pathogens that cause an immune response, may actually drive brain function. These new findings open novel pathways for additional research into understanding and treating these complex conditions.

I want to make an important point here that I don’t think autism, schizophrenia, or any of these neurologic disorders will be corrected by one strategy, and at the same time, I do think we need to pay careful attention to the immune system in these conditions. This may mean removing any toxins or chronic infections that could be contributing to an immune imbalance, but there is still much to learn.

And, I think this information provides yet another reason to keep our immune system balanced and functioning well (as if we needed another)!

Amy NettAbout Amy:  Amy Nett, MD, graduated from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 2007.  She subsequently completed a year of internal medicine training at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, followed by five years of specialty training in radiology at Stanford University Hospital, with additional subspecialty training in pediatric radiology.

Along the course of her medical training and working through her own personal health issues, she found her passion for functional medicine, and began training with Chris in June of 2014.  She subsequently joined the California Center for Functional Medicine to work with patients through a functional medicine approach, working to identify and treat the root causes of illness.  Similar to Chris, she uses nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, supplements, stress management, detoxification and lifestyle changes to restore proper function and improve health.

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  1. Very informative article that describes the intricate relationships between the immune and neural systems; in fact, it explains why Alzheimer’s disease (AD) active immune therapy or vaccination, has delivered only failures. Evidently the result of pro-inflammatory immune modulators used in many AD vaccines, which induced an uncontrolled secretion of inflammatory cytokines. While the current research focus seems to be on the proteins involved in the immune response, from the described polysaccharide’s effects on such response we can deduct that carbohydrates play a critical role in its modulation. Significant is that certain microbial polysaccharides modulate neuroinflammation, an effect reminiscent to that seen with some helmintic glycans that bias the immunity to an anti-inflammatory one. Indeed, recent reports have described the role of some sugars in the modulation of immunity in neuropathies. Hence, it is possible to conclude that these new findings would help to understand the past clinical failures as well as the design of new compounds, very likely carbohydrate-based, that would induce and boost the natural protective immunity against some proteopathies.

  2. The disruption of the immune system is powerful. I have Rhematoid Arthritis plus Secondary Sjogrens Syndrome .
    I have changed my entire life to monitor and stay ahead of immune disorders if possible.
    Change of lifestyle : diet, eliminating sugar to only 24 grams a day, exercise, staying active with regular
    visits to my Rhematologist ( a specialist) to monitor my inflammation factor, now down to 14.
    I suffered from a terrible outbreak of execma for 2 years, now finally under control after finding a dermatologist that listened.
    All of this happened to me after relocating from Birmingham,AL ( after an early retirement ) to a lake about one hour north of Birmingham. I never wanted to relocate but my husband won the battle and the war!
    I am a firm believer environment can have a strong impact on a person’s immune system.
    I retained my doctors in Birmingham along with my pets ( 2 Corgis) Vet.
    My doctors plus the vet confirmed that I plus my Corgis were more sick over the eight years I have lived here. An analysis was completed on my health five years prior to and five years after relocation. Same analysis completed by vet on Corgis.

    We renovated a 34 year old home on the lake- that is when the illness issues started.

    Just sharing my experience . My suggestions: eliminate sugar, be very careful of what you eat, exercise, purchase your health supplements from a very reliable source. Listen to your body, it will talk to you! Talk to your doctor and if you can’t speak openly with your doctor find another . Do your own research

    • Hello Mary Ann,
      I can’t help but wonder if your decline in health could be related to mold??? Have you seen the documentary “Moldy” by Dave Asprey? He suffered from multiple immune system diagnoses for years due to a mycotoxin sensitivity.
      Wishing you all the best!

  3. Wow Chris,
    Awesome Article!!
    I’ve recently been working with Gall bladder focuses on the head for Chronic Pain and Immune framework issues that have truly been peopling make jumps forward in their conditions.
    The new data about the Lymphatic-safe arrangement of the cerebrum and it’s capacities fits directly into these new disclosures for employments of scalp focuses! Include dietary and hostile to viral herbs and supplements and genuine change is feasible for incessantly sick individuals!!

  4. Do you feel that everyone with anti social behaviour has some sort of immune deficiency? Specifically, people with high IQs is whom I am thinking of. Many highly intelligent people are very antisocial or is that a function of simply not finding anyone to have intelligent conversation with and not specifically related to immunity?

    • This is such an interesting thought, and I would be very interested in finding out the answer too, but they’ll need to do more research to find it: “This may mean removing any toxins or chronic infections that could be contributing to an immune imbalance, but there is still much to learn.” This quote immediately reminded me of Candida, which is a really nasty yeast infection that starts in a person’s digestive tract. Severe cases will wipe out an immune system, but it also turns wheat and other carbs that are consumed into alcohol. Being drunk definitely lowers your IQ; but this is one specific type of infection. They would have to look into the root causes of the lack of immunity, and probably try to find a correlation between them and specific mental disorders before they could begin to understand and predict how it would affect an individual’s IQ.
      These probably wouldn’t correct the underlying condition: with schizophrenia, for example, you would probably still need something to correct the chemical imbalance in the brain, but once you’ve on the right cocktail, it’s possible that correcting the immune imbalance might make it easier to learn how to socialize with others.

  5. Sorry this comment is off topic, but I’m very upset. The National Academy of Medicine is about to appoint only calories in, calories out scientists to review the science behind the 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines. See: http://www.nutrition-coalition.org/stop-the-national-academy-of-medicine-from-stacking-the-panel-on-dietary-guidelines-with-government-insiders/

    Where is everyone? Why are the American LCHF gurus not sounding the alarm? Do you guys not remember how we even got the US Congress to spend a million dollars to investigate the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines? Congress members don’t know how our money is being spent. We need to tell them.

    Short story about my Easter ham. Tyler Jones learned to farm by being an intern at Polyface Farm with Joel Salatin. One year Tyler’s Easter hams were confiscated by the USDA. (The reason was due to some miscommunication between the new USDA inspector and the previous one.) As it happened, Joel Saladin gave a talk where I lived and I got to ask him how best to get my ham back and the rest of Tyler’s hams. He said call and write your Congress person. I did that. Sure enough it took only a few weeks and we got all of the hams back.

    Every American LCHF eater should be writing NAM and their Congresspeople. Why is not every American blogger on the Diet Doctor page not commenting and rallying the troops?

      • I’m from the UK also. My impression from this side of the Atlantic, is that no one here would trust an organisation like the USDA. Thanks to them, the FDA and government lstooges, you now have detectable roundup in your cells.
        As for historical corruption, simply type in USDA corruption in a search engine and you will be appalled.
        Here’s a starter.
        http://www.thomhartmann.com/users/telliottmbamsc/blog/2013/10/obamas-highly-corrupt-usda-end-monsanto

        • Agreed yes am familiar with this. Signed (there was an international section).
          Are you now living in The States?
          I’m in the UK currently.

        • That headline is irritating as all get-out. I’m tired of people acting like corruption began with Obama. It didn’t even begin with his predecessor. And some of the problem isn’t corruption per se but severe underfunding. I used to be acquainted with a USDA inspector and she said they were constantly slammed with work because there wasn’t the funding to hire enough people to do the job timely. It’s a miracle we don’t see listeria and salmonella breakouts more often than we do.

    • Some of us just plain didn’t hear about this yet. Whatever anyone else does, I’ll spread the word. I’m not big and famous, but I’ve got a fair following on Twitter.

  6. Wow Chris,

    Great Article!!

    I’ve just been working with Gall bladder points on the head for Chronic Pain and Immune system problems that have really been helping people make leaps forward in their conditions.

    The new information about the Lymphatic-immune system of the brain and it’s functions fits right into these new discoveries for uses of scalp points!

    Add in dietary and anti viral herbs and supplements and real change is possible for chronically ill people!!

    • Hi David,

      I am interested to read that you are working with pressure points for gall bladder patients, my partner has chronic cholecistitis and I use massage which helps a little to manage here pain, I apply extra pressure to a few points that I have learned. Have you written any articles about this. If you have, I would appreciate a link to them if they are online.

  7. I think this article about immune system and brain health is part of a new ground swell of growing research that is finally proving and documenting what has been long known in older health systems (Chinese and aryuvedic medicines).

    Another author to consider reading is Kelly Brogan MD, who was a “dyed in the wool allopathic Doctor (psychiatrist)” before she began investing the “why” of mental health or imbalance. http://kellybroganmd.com

    I love all the food for thought on how we humans find health, happiness and balance in the evolving world.

  8. Has there been any research been since on Accutane? I feel like thats when all of my issues magically appeared. IBS, anxiety, fatigue, etc.

  9. I have suffered from social phobia and agoraphobia since I was a little girl (now 35). I am terrified when I am around other people. It’s not that I don’t want to be around others, it’s I feel I can’t. My immune system is on the weaker side and my blood work always comes up in the low normal range. But, I also have an auto immune disease called Hashimoto’s and the doctors are also looking into Lupus as another possibility I may have. So my concern is.. if I make my immune system stronger, my body will attack itself even more. So, it’s a lose lose situation.

    • Autoimmune conditions can be helped greatly by healing a leaky gut and preventing proteins that don’t serve you from getting into your system by tightening up your loose gap junctions in your intestines (which are supposed to be “Tight” gap junctions. Once the leaky gut is healed and you’ve supplemented with probiotics, etc, to balance your gut flora, your stomach will produce the appropriate amount of HCL to properly digest these proteins and you will see much less of an inflammatory effect and autoimmune reaction. This is an extremely generalized approach & I do suggest you work closely with a professional to customize to your specific needs, but hopefully it’s helpful info. Wishing you well!

  10. Maybe the social aversion seen in such illnesses is much to do with some part of that person knowing that if they spend much time around others, they are likely to pick up pathogens that will add to their illness. Such illnesses usually involve systemic infection to whatever degree, and everyday pathogens that don’t pose a threat to most people, do pose a threat to such people. I’ve had the cr*p belted out of my health long term by common bugs I’ve picked up from socialising with people when I’ve known I shouldn’t.

    • Yes, I agree!
      Just recently, I ended up with a nasty “eye infection” very probably, because one of my visitors got into my eye makeup – trying it out, just for fun, as she later justified it to me – while using my bathroom during a visit!
      I ended-up with a pea-size cyst inside my lower lid that had to be lanced. By the way, its then that my eye MD asked me about this possibility! I would have never suspected that it…

  11. I completely attest to that. I have been on and off with kids for the last 7 years. I have been significantly less sick over this time in spite of having plenty of interactions. Good article!

  12. “Immune deficiency and a lack of interest in socializing are linked” This seems a broad statement needing lots of qualification. I’d love to see it studied more and narrowed down. For myself I’d say on a scale of one to ten, I might be a five in terms of social interest. The implication would be if I socialized more my health would be better? However I generally don’t get sick–haven’t been in a doctor office for a health problem or illness since the mid 1990’s.

    • Dr. Nett did qualify the statement. She makes clear that she’s talking about individuals with specific, severe neurological conditions, not the average person.

      • And you don’t think a lesser writer, blogger, journalist, etc, might not go off on a different path…and draw conclusions that the science doesn’t support?

        Don’t we see that all the time…I know I do, as I do a lot of health related research, and too often will see a carefully written piece one week become fodder for a shoddy piece a few weeks later…taking liberties that mislead people.

        Most of us are thinking out loud, which I’ve found interesting that many solo types feel a tad bit persecuted, maligned because of how the “health” industry keeps harping on how an active social life will help people live more healthy and longer lives. Which the culture misconstrues as a prescription, and diagnosis of others.

        It’s just people talking…no one is getting hurt.

        • Of course. Sure. People go off on impulsive tangents all the time because rather than read and absorb new information, they see the world through a self-referential lens and prefer to defend a point of view that nobody is refuting in the first place. Then the author’s point gets lost.

          It’s annoying, but widespread. Which is why I believe it’s worthwhile to try to bring the conversation back to what the author has worked so hard to express.

          True, nobody gets hurt, but it’s not productive if one wants to learn something new.

          • Again we agree.

            But I’m not defending a particular point of view – I was really just wondering if there are studies of equal value being done on the health effects of the solo life. The scientific community tends to default to the position that studying the social activated brain is the only mode to study. They are always stimulating it to do things or using animals as surrogates, mostly rodents, to draw conclusions.

            I’m all for autism research, if we can medically tweak people out of it, or lessen it, great! I’m all in! Well almost all…I do see ethical issues with maybe forcing people out of it.

            But what about the other side of the coin? You claim introversion…have you not been maligned, or teased for it? Felt less in a room of excessively social people?

            I’d like to see studies done on the brain that thrives on not being socially activated all the time. Maybe it’s the introverted mind that will provide more insights into the uber social isolation that is autism…???

            This here is called thinking outside the box…and if all you want to do is sit here and agree with the article…get us no where…especially since the author ain’t gonna make an appearance.

            Peace.

  13. I think many people here are confusing healthy introversion levels with anxiety-producing social disorders, poor communication skills and disordered relationships.

    I welcome this research and hope it can eventually help anyone who might struggle with disabling social issues or those who live with them. Thank you for the article!

  14. Backs the notion many of us have that removing harmful and processed foods like sugar, flour, harmful oils etc helps kids ‘recover’ a more or less from some effects of autism. This is awesome hope and hope.

  15. I’ve lived alone all my life (an only child, also a latchkey child) & at 67 I’ve never been happier. I go for days without seeing or speaking to anyone except my dog & that’s fine with me. As a writer & artist I require solitude. It’s not a disease that needs to be fixed! Most people I meet are boring and can’t conduct an intelligent conversation, so it’s no great loss not to be around people. My garden, my dog and my creative life are all I need.

    • WOW someone like me! Good for you Anna. You’re a first for me to know. I’m 70 this year. Lived alone most of my life. LOVE IT today. Rough as a Vietnam Vet with Zero help for 40 years. I despised and dislike much of the homo sapien. Terribly selfish and MEAN. I was an OFFICER Military Policeman that put bad folks in prison. Can’t do that now so I pick and chose where I go for safety from so many stressed out and angry people. Scary. ARTIST for sure. My Functional Art is all over Northern California as hand carved hardwood handrail and exotic staircases to Billionaire’s like Georg Lucus of Star Wars and the Hallmark Card Family etc. Worked alone most always. Really don’t have what people called “friends.” What for? Most want things etc. CONGRATULATIONS ANNA.

    • I’d much rather be an introvert than an extrovert. I suppose extroverts say the same about us.
      We are thinkers though, and that is so important.
      Books on introversion:
      ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’
      ‘The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World’
      ‘Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts’

    • This article is not a discussion of introversion v. extroversion!

      It’s a discussion about the relationship between the brain and the immune system, and how dysfunction in that relationship can lead to serious neurological problems that have social withdrawal as a side effect.

      • Actually it’s a discussion about anything – going in any direction we want. The discussion is run by the people posting…as neither the author, or the blog “owner” will be engaging us.

        I’ll take some responsibility for steering it in the current direction, but clearly a lot more people are interested in the underlying implications of what the author is presenting in how she presented her opinions on the studies she relied.

        I don’t think anyone is saying that complete introversion is the best lifestyle, but many of us are resisting the very often made accusation that introversion (non-neurological, etc) is as bad as the health and psychology industries, and pop culture want to make it.

        Let’s be honest the US culture tends to vilify those who prefer a solo-lifestyle over what “they” deem as the best, being hyper social. Introverts are deemed dysfunctional, abnormal, and too often in the media as deviants.

        I wonder why it bothers You that we went in this direction?

        • I’m an introvert myself and loved Susan Cain’s book on the topic, “Quiet.” The reason it bothers “Me” is that this article is about something else, and it’s something else that is new and extremely interesting.

          I’d rather see a discussion of that.

          • Fair enough. I get-it. All of did was raise a point, that some readers found interesting too…perhaps more so then the articles points.

            But the reality is neither the author, or the blog owner is coming back to discuss the many and diverse points raised by the article. So it’s only us…so what do you have to add (information wise) to the diverse subjects raised by the article?

            I have none, as I concure we need to socialize (there is enough science to support the positives) for our well being, but I firmly believe we need a lot of solo time as well. And I wondered if anyone was doing positive studies of the solo-life – and presenting that evidence in equal measures. ???

            Can’t we all just get along…? Lol…

            All I did was make a point that some readers found on-point.

            • yes i agree
              I value my own time but also do note when i’m feeling lonely and seek out connection. I hope this is ‘healthy’.

              • oh by the way ‘chris’ kresser is male. He’s a Functional medecine practitioner and I’m sure he’d love this conversation to run on as it has been doing … but the point I think is that this is an issue of wiring. There is a physical connection between the brain and the gut via the vagus nerve and healing and sealing the gut can be an antidote to depression. This is all familiar stuff to those following the Functional trend. Chris is taking it further, he always does he’s a researcher and I love following him and also the comments that arise so many thanks for contributing and livening things up! xx

  16. I find this fascinating, I have long suspected that the is a bio-chemical reason for many social and mental/emotional disorders. I feel as though the information in this article could easily expand into the realm of depression and addiction. It seems that many many issues that make our lives more difficult could be reduced or relieved by simply taking care of our intestinal and lymph systems.

    • Agree…but IMO, the more we discover these innate, biological causes – the more we, society, must temper our reactions toward what we call disorders. If something like say depression (which is vastly misunderstood by the general public) is due to biological causes (and let’s say they are truly not being caused by the person’s diet, etc) calling them “disordered” is wrong, as the more we learn about the diversity of everyone’s biologies, there is no real metric for what is not “disordered”. (I’m playing with the term disorder, but I hope you/others get my drift..)

      In other words we – society – has to stop trying to put people who are different into a few dozen ” broken” categories. So the bigger questions should involve, who among us is not “broken” in some manner, and if we can’t find a perfect human model, why do we spend so much time, energy, money and stress trying to become what no human has ever been…?

      Disclaimer; I’m not saying there are not serious disorders that truly make life miserable and need exploration as to ways to lessen if not outright fix. But the way we generally treat people we deem unsocial, depressed, moody, etc, truly needs some serious reform. If my body makes me this way and yours makes your way…who am I/you to judge?

      I’m not attacking you personally, just talking out loud about what your post prompted…peace.

      • I agree again, how many ‘disorders’ have sprung up over the last 20 years or so that need fixing (and likewise, I’m not talking about serious disorders here). I would say the most damaging thing to our health is constantly having it pointed out in some way or another that we have an issue if we do this or don’t do that. What exactly is ‘normal social’ behaviour anyway? And at what point do you become socially dysfunctional? Until I read up only in the last couple of years about introversion (both books mentioned by gh), I actually thought there was something wrong with me as I didn’t enjoy essentially doing what everyone around me did, ie having lots of friends, going to parties/the pub etc. That actually created a lot of stress and anxiety and I actually attribute my IBS to that anxiety.

        • Yes. You get it! Thank you.

          Normal is not a very useful term when discussing the human condition. Normal to me is code for perfect. And absurd when applied to humans.

          Culturally, especially here in the US we’re obsessed with categorizing people as broken, or out side the norm. It’s crazy when thats exactly what we are…as no one is normal!

          You’re as normal as you want to be, and personally, normal ain’t all that its allegedly cracked up to be..!

          Peace.

  17. This was very interesting! I would love a list of preferred immune boosting supplements, if you have one. My husband has social anxiety, and it would be amazing if it could be helped by boosting some T cells.

  18. Excellent article. Adding high quality flora to the diet and through supplementation as part of any program is always smart because it adds that living substance to the physiological equation. We may add minerals, vitamins, amino acids from plant based forms but nothing carries the vigor of adding life. The research on the cytokines is especially interesting because it shows how the tip of the sword of the immune system exerts such exceptional leverage.

  19. I am amazed and at one with all you discover and write,l remember watching a programme a few years ago about two people being awarded the Nobel prize for their contributions to cancer.Thier use of yeast to conduct their conclusions however a further programme continued it could have been on open university channel. It blew my mind away it looked at the human form with in and compared it with all we build around us. Our brains being the nucleus (Goverments head office) that relays messages to different departments eg. heart lungs etc. It all seemed to work in clusters emulating how we Build housing in groups roads traffic lights go to war and defend. The point l am trying to put across is every thing is interconnected.I have suffered a few set backs health wise and have been precribed drug after drug and l new that l held the answer to take my life back and try to connect with my own bodies needs. I am half way there but it is early days and thanks to reading your realistic articles and others like you that use joined up writing and research possible deficiencies that reflect your article we will be at the behest of non effective treatments. Thank you
    Ps. I discovered you articles when trying resolve some hair loss.

  20. I would love to see some studies done on the true soloist type personality, that isn’t looking to disparage, or otherwise vivlify those people who thrive on their solo time. Even some studies on those adults who grew into a solo type lifestyle…where they spent their youth and most of their adults lives immersed in social activities (family, friends, sports, etc) but we’re drawn to less and less interaction, and are doing damn well! In fact never felt better, more in tune, less stress, less sickness, more fit, more productive, etc.

    And I don’t mean complete and utter isolation like hermits in mountain caves, where the villagers leave them supplies, never seeing them. But living and working in the world and occasionally socializing, but more prone to being alone for stretches at a time.

    I’m not buying in that a solo life style is unhealthy in the way “experts” and people-persons want to make it out to be.

    • Absolutely agree. Last five years I have been staying home because of kids, so I can finally immerse in my solo lifestyle (we have guests once in month maybe, occasionally some friends, I go to shop and do other such things, but I do not look for people). Interestingly, last cold I had 5 years ago and that despite of constant lack of sleep.

      • This is exactly what I was going to say. I’m happy when I’m solo, and I’m happy when I’m with people. Being an artist, I am content when I’m creating *alone* in my studio for many hours at a time, sometimes days. As a side note, I rarely get sick.

      • Thank you…and everyone for getting my points.

        I was the social butterfly, the one who went to all the parties, organized all the teams for the sports, got people to go out and do stuff. Had to be “out there”, circulating, seeing, doing, etc. Then it began to slowly lessen…found myself looking for solo projects, activities. And it wasnt because I never paid myself any attention, or was distracting myself, I’ve always been introspective as well. Participating in silent retreats was fine by me.

        There just came a ” time” when less was more and way better. And I feel as healthy now as I did then…even more so. Especially physically, like someone else mentioned, I haven’t been sick, had a cold (now the jinx is on) in 6 years…! Even though my work keeps out in the public…

    • ‘Most of us’ are extroverts who thrive on social connection, but the rest of us, albeit a smaller percentage are introverts who need time alone to recharge. Being around other people too much is draining even if it is enjoyable. I’m not a hermit or unsociable but I very much relish my alone time and although I love spending time with my husband and close friends (of whom I have few by choice), I genuinely enjoy being out in nature, away from everyone, without the need to speak or interact at all. We are all different!

    • I think you’re conflating an introverted personality – one that gets energy from solitude and finds social interaction more draining – with a social communicative disorder. One is a trait, the other is a disorder.

      • Nah, I wasn’t conflating. I was simply wondering if anyone/group ever truly positively studies the benefits of the solo lifestyle. All I hear/read is how more social is gonna make people live longer, especially men. I’m simply saying it can’t be so simple. Especially the more we learn how individual each person’s whole biome truly is. (Heliobiome…??)

        I tempered my first post by specifically saying not a hermit lifestyle, but just one with long stretches of alone time.

        Personally, i think we’re too quick, as a culture, to take these burgeoning studies as the gospel, and then run with them like we’ve figured it all out. Look how far we’ve come since Freud and Jung…and their gospel truths…???

    • I agree. What about introverts who enjoy more alone time than extroverts. Is that caused by an immune-system dysfunction?

      • Again, I say we need to stop viewing such things as introversion on a positive-negative scale. Where intro is always the negative. IMO, extroverts are more weird then the introvert. Especially the extrovert who can’t not know everyone in a group of strangers, or inflict themselves on everyone else.

        We culturally need to stop trying to grade everyone on some scale of broken/dysfunctional. If someone is introverted (and its not making them miserable, except when people call them on it, and tease them) who’s to say their “system” is dysfunctioning? The wacky extroverts who need to be everyone’s friend…?

        Who put the extroverts in charge of what’s normal?

    • Agree!

      I would probably qualify for that study. (I’m diagnosed Asperger’s) The older I get the less I want to socialize.. I just realized a few days ago that I could go an entire day w/o talking to anyone & I’d be perfectly content. I have roommates so that’s hard to pull off however. Sometimes they talk to me while I’m concentrating on something, i.e. remembering a recipe while cooking etc, and it drives me nuts, I actually do feel myself getting stressed due to that! (side point, how rude would it be to walk into the kitchen wearing a pair of gigantic headphones like airport ground crew wear?)

      I used to have a roommate who kept saying I needed to ‘go out and socialize’, called me antisocial in front of his daughter when she’d visit because I didn’t want to chat for hours on end… as you said it’s not unhealthy, I’m just being me!

    • I don’t have Asperger’s, but I also find that the older I get the less I want to socialize. For me, a little socializing goes a long way. I often prefer “alone time” to getting out and “doing things” with other people. Does that make me maladapted or unhealthy? Not at all. Some of are just more self-sufficient in our interests and preferences than others are.

      • I agree with you. It Is sometimes called introversion and gets a very bad rap because we live in a 24/7 society of extroverts. But people don’t make money unless you think you have a “disorder” that needs corrected.

  21. Interesting stuff. Thanks for this article Chris.

    Personally I have noticed a pattern that before I have a cold sore flare up I have an acute bout of depression/anti social behaviour. I always felt this was a protection mechanism both for me and others.

    It is also interesting to note that this research raises further questions about how vaccines, antibiotics, poor diet and the barrage of chemicals we are exposed to in the modern world are contributing to the epidemic of these conditions.

    • Yes, we would all be dead, or paralyzed or very ill, from the illness we would get from not getting vaccinated! You only benefit from the fact that others are being vaccinated, if you are refusing vaccination in this society. We cannot all chose to forgo. Those that do forgo place compromised individuals at severe risk. You are creating your own little herd where lovely illnesses like measles, polio, and the like can survive and spread.
      Please do not place vaccination on the same scale as over use of antibiotics!

      • You may not have experienced the pitfalls of vaccination and a one size fits all idea that we all should be vaccinated. My child still suffers from a very bad reaction to 3 in one day. There are a ridiculous number
        Of vaccines compared to when I was a kid and we are not a healthier nation for it. Read up on the stats,
        We rate down with third world countries on many health issues or even infant mortality. Herd immunity is a crock.

      • Some of us have had our lives ruined by vaccinations. Regardless of whether a vaccine has any benefit or not, the harm caused by vaccines should not be swept under the carpet. The effectiveness of vaccines varies – some are next to useless. If vaccines worked very well, then the vaccinated would not be at risk from the unvaccinated. Most of those infected are vaccinated. Measles is usually not a dangerous disease. Those that die from measles have had their health seriously compromised. From what? – More than anything – pharmaceuticals. Antibiotics being the biggy, damaging microbiomes. That’s the biggest cause of death from illnesses like measles that otherwise would kill hardly anyone.

      • “Yes, we would all be dead, or paralyzed or very ill, from the illness we would get from not getting vaccinated!”

        Probably the most foolish generalisation I have ever read.

  22. If we injected politicians with some nice T cells, could they become more humane, less arrogant and elitist after this?

    After all, if it works for mice, just maybe, it will work for rats?

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