Natural Medicines & Family Practice
David Overton, PA-C
1315 Ruddell Rd SE
Lacey, WA 98503
360-357-8054 website: www.natmeds.net
Selectins are part of the immune system and are used to attach infections to cells and tissues. Many infections are eliminated, but some infections are attached and so tightly bound they are difficult to destroy. A common example is when urinary or prostate infections are treated with cranberry extracts. These infections are attached to or invading tissues, causing symptoms and abnormal blood in urine tests. Cranberry extracts help to break the attachments, relieving symptoms but not necessarily “flushing out” the infection completely.
The first lines of immune defense include the white blood cells, antibody system, complement system and the alternative immune pathway, which uses lymphocyte, platelet and endothelial selectins. The alternative immune pathway was only discovered in the last decade or so and many people and clinicians have not been educated to recognize and treat selectin immune problems.
Selectins are inappropriately called lectins and may cause food sensitivities. Food “lectins” are mostly inactivated by cooking but can be treated with supplements and changes in food intake. Selectin reactions are far more common and there are several types. Lymphocytes (white blood cell) use selectins to attach themselves to blood vessel walls, cells, tissues and infections. Platelets also use selectins to attach to vessels, injured cells or tissues and infections. Platelets and lymphocytes signal endothelial cell (which line blood vessels) selectins to allow attachment to blood vessels. These reactions program the individual blood vessel cells to open the spaces between them, allowing the immune system to attack infections or resolve short term inflammation in tissues or organs. Unfortunately, some infections attach themselves to the lymphocytes, platelets, endothelial or other cells, making them very difficult to treat (unless the clinician is trained how to) and creating inflammation (i.e. use of anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids). Anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids suppress symptoms but tend to perpetuate or aggravate immune problems and contribute to other problems, especially kidney damage, acid/ulcer problems or high blood pressure, heart disease and other preventable problems.
Selectin reactions should be considered with chronic inflammation (allergies, lung disease, asthma, heart disease, arteriosclerosis, fatigue, fibromyalgia, arthritis, recurrent infections, sequential infections and many other conditions), “silent” inflammation (present with most chronic conditions), abnormal CRP or other immune tests, abnormal white blood cells and abnormal platelets.
Selectin reactions cause inflammation (pain, redness, swelling, congestion and fever) as they clear out short term infections or other injuries (bruises, fractures, splinters, etc.). Unfortunately, some infections are not cleared out and these tend to be perpetuated by steroids (nasal sprays, inhalers, creams, pills or shots), anti-histamines, recurrent antibacterial or antifungal (“candida”) treatments. These infections tend to infect the lymphocytes and other white cells, platelets or blood vessels or get attached by selectins and cause chronic problems and/or recurrent or “hidden” infections that are difficult to eradicate or control unless selectin attachments are treated. Treating selectin attachments helps the immune system suppress or resolve infections, helps to “flush out” infections but can unfortunately cause a healing reaction (where symptoms get worse before better). Healing reactions are very common and include a mild flu reaction where you get aches, pains, fever, back pain (often kidney pain) and then you get better.
No drugs exist for selectin problems yet, but specific supplements are available to use. These supplements are very specialized (different concentrations, combinations, molecular weights and chemical constituents) and best left to appointments with clinicians.
David Overton, PA-C works at Natural Medicines & Family Practice combining conventional and alternative treatments under the supervision of Dr. Richard Faiola, MD, ABFM. 360-357-8054