LIFE Health Centers offers multiple unique treatment modalities that better equip your body to combat disease. One of those modalities is hyperthermia, the process of artificially inducing fever-like temperatures in the body. The benefits of pumping the body up to fever-like temperatures have been well documented in research as reviewed by Evans et al in Nature Reviews Immunology1,9. Temperatures above normal body-temperature trigger a variety of favorable physiological responses including activating our immune system3. This article summarizes some of that research to better understand hyperthermia.
The phenomenon of having a fever has been around for more than 600 million years and is found in both warm-blooded animals (like humans) that can self-regulate body temperature and cold-blooded animals (like snakes and lizards) that depend on the environment for regulating temperature2-9. The fact that this phenomenon has been around and is utilized by many different kinds of animals is a testimonial to the benefits that it provides for better survival1. Research shows that just a small increase of body-temperature of about 1-40 C can help us fight disease-causing agents like bacteria.2,10. Fever is an important part of the immune system, studies have shown that anti-pyretic drugs (drugs that reduce fever) can cause as much as a 5% increase in deaths caused by influenza virus and negatively effects patient outcomes in the ER10-12. On the opposite side of the fever spectrum, uncontrolled high fevers can be extremely harmful to the body and in such cases, reducing body temperature by hypothermia (cooling the body) is seen as beneficial13-14. But overall, letting the body have a febrile response is extremely beneficial and some of the molecular and physiological responses are described below.
How a fever helps the body fight infection is still not completely understood. As we study the fever-response, interesting mechanisms are beginning to be unraveled including a significant activation of the body’s immune system. One obvious mechanism seems to be the direct effect of fever on disease-causing microbes. Temperatures of 40-410 C can greatly reduce the capacity of viruses and bacteria to divide and multiply and at the same time, make them vulnerable to the immune system15,16. This is especially true for thermo-labile bacteria, meaning bacteria that cannot absolutely survive at higher temperatures. Two forms of pathogenic spirochetes: Borrelia Burgdorferi and Treponema Palladium that are responsible for Lyme and syphilis do not produce the necessary heat shock proteins to survive higher temperatures17-19. Just slight increases in temperature can completely stop the growth of these microbes and can be lethal to them21. Before the use of antibiotics, neurosyphilis patients were infected with malarial parasites in order to induce a fever. The fever would then trigger the immune system to kill the spirochetes that caused the neurosyphilis. The malaria was later effectively cured using treatments available at that time. Dr. Julius Wagner-Jauregg won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1927 for using this healing modality20. This data would suggest that elevated body temperatures may be beneficial in treating the Lyme spirochetes as well.
In addition to being lethal to the disease-causing microbes, an induced fever can stimulate the two arms of our immune system: adaptive immunity (acquired from exposure to microbes or immunizations) and innate or natural immunity. When the cells of our innate immune system recognize the presence of a foreign body, they secrete chemical messengers to relay this information to other parts of the body. The main chemical messenger that carries out this function is a molecule called IL-6 22-24. IL-6 stimulates an enzyme called COX2 (cyclo-oxygenase-2) in the brain to produce PGE-2 (prostaglandin-2). PGE-2 then triggers fever in our body 25-27.
Thermal-range temperatures then stimulate and activate almost every step of the immune response and help the body fight infection. Fever-range temperatures can activate neutrophils (cells that fight infection), increase their capacity to kill bacteria and recruit them to different areas of the body including any sites of inflammation or tumors 28,29. Another important immune-cell type that is affected by fevers is natural killer cells 30-32. Natural killer cells are our first line of defense against tumors and viruses. Fevers can increase the cytotoxic (ability to kill) activity of natural killer cells and help in their recruitment to tumors. In fact, three decades of extensive clinical research has shown that hyperthermia is an effective modality in the treatment of tumors 30-32.
The most well-studied immune cell that is affected by fevers are the macrophages 33-34. Macrophages secrete a variety of chemical messengers in response to fevers that result in bacterial clearance from the body. The dendritic cells process antigen material and present it on the cell surface to the killer T cells and the fever-like temperatures increase their ability to consume and clear infected cells, as well as their ability to recognize organisms that cause disease 35-37. Finally fevers also activate cells of our adaptive immune system such as T and B-cells that further help in the clearance of pathogens 38-39.
Hyperthermia works at different levels of our immune system to better equip the body to take down any infection effectively. It is a powerful and natural way for our body to defend itself against organisms that can make us sick.
For more information about Hyperthermia please visit our website at www.lifehealthcenters.com or contact us at 385-336-7777. We are happy to answer any of your questions.
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