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“Beasty bits” for autoimmunity, cancer recovery, and more
While the meat of animals is rich in iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and protein,,, the glands of these creatures may play an equally important role in immunity. Let’s take a closer look at what preparations of animal glands can do for our immune systems.
For this nutrition news update, we’ll be speaking with Linda L. Isaacs, MD, a physician certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine who regularly recommends glandulars to her patients – specifically those bouncing back after cancer treatment or living with autoimmune disease.
Thymus gland and cancer recovery
Glandulars – or “beasty bits,” as they’re sometimes affectionately called – are thought to gently support the regeneration of our own tissues. The most researched of these preparations is perhaps the thymus glandular isolated from calves. The thymus gland, which sits just above the heart, is responsible for producing T-lymphocytes (T-cells), white blood cells (WBCs) that help the immune system battle infections and fight cancer.
Dr. Isaacs states that she regularly uses thymus glandular in the treatment of patients with cancer and in those in remission from cancer.
“What we believe the glandular products are doing is providing all the raw materials so that the gland can actually fix itself,” says Isaacs, who was a long-time colleague of the late Nicholas J. Gonzalez, MD. (Drs. Issacs and Gonzalez co-authored the book The Trophoblast and the Origins of Cancer. Since Gonzalez’s untimely death in 2015, Isaacs has dedicated herself to continuing their collective work.)
It’s likely no coincidence that Isaac’s patients do well on thymus glandular products: Bovine thymus has been observed to restore the white blood cell count of cancer patients with chemotherapy-induced leukocytopenia (low WBC counts). Glandular supplements also contain all of the nutrients typically found within that gland or organ, further nourishing the system.
Bovine thymus has been observed to restore the white blood cell count of cancer patients with chemotherapy-induced leukocytopenia (low WBC counts).
In both animal and human studies, calf thymus derivatives have been shown not only to remain active after oral ingestion, but also to induce the maturation of T-cells and support the function of B-cells (antibody-creating immune cells), and macrophages (WBCs that engulf microbes). Clinical trials have shown that calf thymus products may help not only with malignancies, but also with respiratory infections, asthma, and allergies.,,,,,,
That’s why Isaacs also uses glandulars to help support the overall immune health of her patients. “The vast majority of my patients fall into a high-risk category for infections, being older or having coexisting conditions,” explains Isaacs. “I…tell patients to take a higher dose of thymus if they start to feel like they are coming down with a cold or the flu, right at the first sign of symptoms… It seems to be effective in helping them to not become particularly ill. Typically, we advise patients to take 1500 mg of thymus glandular three times a day if they are starting to come down with something.”
For general prophylaxis, says Isaacs, “I advise that they take 500 mg of the thymus glandular three times a day.”
Isaacs reports that she and Gonzalez have also had success in using glandulars to treat lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE) and other autoimmune diseases.
One of their patients was a woman in her mid-30’s on the verge of needing dialysis due to lupus. “On the protocol, all her symptoms and signs of lupus actually resolved,” says Isaacs. “Twenty-two years after beginning treatments, she credits the program with saving her life.”
Another woman with lupus “was completely exhausted to the point that she could barely get up and walk around when she first saw Dr. Gonzalez,” reports Dr. Isaacs. “I heard from her quite recently, and she told me that she went to see a rheumatologist who questioned whether she ever had lupus in the first place. Her father was a physician, and she had been diagnosed by reputable, trusted physicians with a clear-cut case of lupus, so there was no argument about whether she had it, from our point of view. But she was doing so well that the rheumatologist simply did not believe her story.”
Isaacs reports that she and Gonzalez have also had success in using glandulars to treat lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
Another patient, who developed lupus in 1998, was also started on a glandular supplement protocol. “When I spoke with her in 2007 or thereabouts, she was completely off all lupus-related medications and had been for quite some time,” reports Dr. Isaacs. “In the last time I communicated with her, which I think was about 2014, she had no signs of lupus at all.”
All three of these patients followed treatment plans that included high doses of the thymus glandular. “By high doses, I mean anywhere from three to nine capsules a day, taken with meals, for years and years,” explains Dr. Isaacs.
These patients were all also placed on a pancreas glandular product, taken away from meals. Dr. Isaacs explains the rationale for this recommendation: “Pancreas glandular is obviously high in the various enzymes the pancreas makes, and their precursors, and we believe that it may be helpful with autoimmune disorders because the extra proteolytic enzymes can help break up some of the autoimmune complexes that are at the heart of the disease.”
Choosing the right gland
Thymus and pancreas glandulars aren’t the only “beasty bits” that Dr. Isaacs employs when treating patients. “[Different] glandulars can each have an effect on the immune system, and I use all of them,” she explains.
For example, she often reaches for adrenal glandulars to help with fatigue, and uses pancreas glandulars in the treatment of digestive complaints and autoimmune conditions. She also suspects that the amylase in pancreatic glandulars may help buffer the Jarisch-Herxheimer (“herx,” or “die off”) reactions that some people experience when undergoing treatment for Lyme disease and other infections.
Glandular products may also be of value in the treatment of hormone imbalances.
Sometimes Isaacs even prescribes several glandular products concurrently to her patients: “Often, patients will come in with what I would describe as a global fatigue syndrome and a tendency to catch frequent colds. With this, they wind up needing some support in all directions. I tend to bring in these three glandulars – thymus, adrenal, and pancreas – and I do think that they work synergistically.”
Dr. Isaacs also sometimes uses spleen glandular to further enhance the immune system: “In terms of where cells in the immune system are coming from, the spleen is the home of the B-cells that make antibodies, and the thymus is the home of the T-cells that are more directly involved with viruses and the like,” she explains, “so, it makes sense that different people with different conditions would need more of one or the other.”
“The glandulars are really quite safe”
“In my experience,” continues Isaacs, “the glandulars are really quite safe. Rarely have I seen a patient have a problem with the pancreas, thymus, or spleen glandulars. With the adrenal glandular, every now and then you get somebody that seems to be very sensitive to it, or they become sensitive to it. Patients who have been on a glandular-focused immune support protocol for a long time eventually come to no longer need the adrenal glandular.”
In other words: In Isaacs’ experience, patients tend to get healthier and “outgrow” some or all of their supplements.
Glandulars as part of a comprehensive treatment plan
For Dr. Isaacs, glandular preparations are central to the treatment of various immune conditions like respiratory infections, cancer, and lupus. But she is quick to point out that her treatment recommendations never consist of supplements alone: “Whenever you are doing something that is trying to create a fair amount of repair and rebuilding, having the patient eat a high-quality diet is a crucial part of that. Of course, there are other detoxification routines we often use as well.”
She continues: “Symptomatically, with these supportive protocols – which never just include the thymus – patients with these types of autoimmune disorders or fatigue-type syndromes typically start to feel better in around three to six months. Again, that is looking at patients doing the whole package. For somebody just taking the glandulars, I can’t honestly say what the time course of symptom improvement or the outcomes would be.”
Nevertheless, supplements derived from animal glands play a vital role in the health of her patients.
Click here to see References
 Fallon S. Proteins. In: Nourishing Traditions. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing, Inc.; 2001:26-33.
 Marz R. Iron. In: Medical Nutrition from Marz. 2nd ed. Portland, OR: Omni-Press; 2002:114-9.
 Marz R. Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin). In: Medical Nutrition from Marz. 2nd ed. Portland, OR: Omni-Press; 2002:220-5.
 Kouttab NM, et al. Thymomodulin: biological properties and clinical applications. Med Oncol Tumor Pharmacother. 1989;6(1):5-9.
 Kang SD, et al. The effects of calf-thymus extract on recovery of bone marrow function in anticancer chemotherapy. N Med J (Korea). 1985;28:11-5.
 Kouttab NM, et al. Production of human B and T cell growth factors is enhanced by thymic hormones. Immunopharmacology. 1988 Sep-Oct;16(2):97-105.
 Cazzola P, et al. In vivo modulating effect of a calf thymus acid lysate on human T-lymphocyte subsets and CD4+/CD8+ ratio in the course of different diseases. Curr Ther Res. 1984;42:1011-17.
 Cazzola P, et al. Update and future perspectives of a thymic biological response modifier (Thymomodulin). Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 1987;9(2-3):195-216.
 Fiocchi A, et al. A double-blind clinical trial for the evaluation of the therapeutical effectiveness of a calf thymus derivative (Thymomodulin) in children with recurrent respiratory infections. Thymus. 1986;8:831-9.
 Cavagni G, et al. Food allergy in children: an attempt to improve the effects of the elimination diet with an immunomodulating agent (thymomodulin). A double-blind clinical trial. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 1989;11:131-42.
 Genova R, Guerra A. Thymomodulin in management of food allergy in children. Int J Tissue React. 1986;8:239-42.
 Marzari R, et al. [Perennial allergic rhinitis. Prophylaxis of acute episodes using thymomodulin]. Minerva Med. 1987;78: 1675-81.
 Allergy Research Group. FOCUS on Pancreatic Glandular Therapies: How CAN They Be Effective? FOCUS Newsletter. Summer 2019:2-4.
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Dr. Erica Zelfand
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