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Cell Danger Response

The Innate Defense of the Body

The Cell Danger Response (CDR) is the complex innate defense by our individual cells to a danger or cellular threat. At a very basic level we are a complex organism made up of individual cells. The cells work together like small communities to form tissues and organs and ultimately the complex organism we are as a human.

Within each individual cell are many components, including the mitochondria, or power plant of the cell. Mitochondria produce energy from the food we consume to power our cells, tissues and organs. They serve as energy sensors within the cells and as agents of cell defense.

Our cells must maintain a certain level of energy to maintain cellular homeostasis, or balance. In other words, there is a minimum level of energy required at any given time to maintain the day to day functions of the cell. If there is a significant drop in energy (electron flow or voltage drop) below a specific threshold the mitochondria will sense this drop of energy as a threat. As a result, the mitochondria will change their primary function from energy production to cell defense. This shift in cellular physiology from energy production and optimal cell metabolism to cell defense is called the “Cell Danger Response.”

Factors that Reduce Cellular Energy

Any factor that reduces cellular energy or increases cellular stress, has the potential to reduce thyroid hormone transport and cause thyroid hormone deactivation.

  • Nutrient depletion or deficiency
  • Hypoxia or low oxygen
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Microorganisms
  • Inflammation
  • Oxidative stress
  • Organic chemicals
  • Toxins
  • Medications

Mechanism of the Cell Danger Response

Any time you have an infection or illness, the body invokes a cell danger response. When the danger response kicks in, we often feel its effects. We may feel tired, fatigued, feverish and depressed. The signs and symptoms we experience are not the problem, but rather the result of the body’s natural defense response to a cellular threat such as an organism, bacteria, virus or toxin. This response is meant to be short-term.

Cell Danger Response and Hypothyroidism

Cellular thyroid physiology is altered as a part of the cell danger response. Two primary changes in cellular thyroid physiology are the reduction in thyroid hormone transport and the deactivation of thyroid hormones.

Often times, the hypothyroid symptoms patients experience are induced by actions of the cell danger response. Under the activation of the cell danger response we see a few key things happen which can result in altered thyroid physiology.

  • Thyroid hormone transport into your cells is energy dependent. If the cell is under stress and there is reduced energy, thyroid hormone transport is going to be reduced. If there is less thyroid hormone (T3 or T4) entering the cell, than less thyroid hormone is able to reach the thyroid receptor, resulting in hypothyroid symptoms.
  • When the CDR is activated, inflammatory chemicals are released that result in increased deactivation of T4 and T3 in the cell.
  • When cells are in a cell danger response, they release signaling molecules called DAMPs and PAMPs. These molecules are released into the blood stream to alert the immune system that the cells need help to fight a threat, such as a virus, heavy metal or toxin. The thyroid gland is uniquely sensitive to DAMPs and PAMPs and can initiate self-destruction of the gland. This autoimmune attack on the gland can then become Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

The problem with so many people who struggle with chronic hypothyroid symptoms is that their cell danger response becomes chronic. The stressors impacting and robbing the cells of energy are unrelenting. This causes chronic thyroid hormone deactivation in the cells. To clarify, this is not a complete deactivation of thyroid hormone in your cells. However, there is a significant change in your cellular thyroid physiology which causes chronic hypothyroid symptoms Unfortunately, while you experience these symptoms, your TSH and T4 lab values may show in normal range.

The traditional medical model has taught us that symptoms equate to a disorder or disease. Many of the symptoms we experience; fever, fatigue, depression, etc, are not a disorder, but often the normal consequence of the cell danger response. Even inflammation, the root of most acute and chronic health care problems, is often the result of cellular stress. Too often we attempt to suppress the inflammation and symptoms we experience with medications. When we intervene and suppress the body’s natural innate defense mechanisms, we often perpetuate the cell danger response and contribute to the chronicity of illness.

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Hi, I’m Dr. Eric Balcavage, owner and founder of Rejuvagen. If you’re struggling with health issues or have questions, let’s chat. You can schedule a 15-minute call with me to get started.