We believe that The Story of Health is the ‘missing link’ – the piece of the jigsaw puzzle we keep overlooking. Without it out best endeavours to achieve health are foiled. With it, the story of disease also becomes clear and so what’s required to transform our fortunes becomes visible.
In this article we focus on the immune system, but as this is such a vast subject what we’ve tried to do is offer some useful headlines. If we are to achieve true immunity, we must meet the needs of the mind, body, spirit and make the adjustments to our environment that will support all three.
That said, beginning with your physical immune system, in terms of the body, is a good place to start. There are two immune systems – the acquired immune system and the innate immune system. To find out more about the anatomy of the immune system, please click here.
Far too easily we give our power away, through poor food choices, insufficient sleep, continual exposure to stressful situations, inadequate hydration and overtrading – all of which make us vulnerable to our environments. So we hope you’ll be inspired to meet the needs of your immune system and move ever closer to a synergistic way of life.
The Immune System
When it comes to maintaining good health the immune system is the body’s most precious asset. It offers us protection against common infections and the deadliest diseases. Yet despite modern scientific advances in medical treatments infection is still the commonest cause of illness and death worldwide and cancer in all its forms (breast, stomach, bowel, lung, prostate and cervix) is rapidly closing the gap, as the incidence of cancer continues to rise. So what is going wrong?
In our attempts to destroy the many pathogens, toxins, microorganisms and cancer cells that exist in our bodies, we’ve lost sight of the need to strengthen our immune systems. It’s clear that our attempts to annihilate those things that attack our bodies, has proven to be an unsuccessful strategy, as we have now created a generation of superbugs, which are making us pay for our relentless attacks against them. Health has to be about prevention as well as cure. Far too often we busy ourselves only responding once the problem has turned up. What about trying to do something before the problem actually emerges?
The evidence is clear that since the 1950s, despite our powerful technologies, vaccinations, antibiotic treatment programs, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, disease in all its forms continues to rise and despite our best efforts our immune systems are struggling to cope.
As human beings we have a tendency, when things are not working, to keep doing them, but only harder! We think if we push harder we will get a different result, when in fact most of the time what we really need to do is to rethink our strategy. It’s time for us to work with nature and the natural healing powers of our own bodies. Our ‘warlike’ model and adversarial approach has failed us. Life is not a battle between us and the microorganisms or cancer cells – it is this approach that has left us reeling. See: The Secrets of Your Cells by Sondra Barrett.
The pioneers of microbiology, Louis Pasteur, Antoine Béchamp and Claude Bernard encouraged us to think of the microorganisms and pathogens as ‘agents’ of disease and not the causes of disease. This is where we have lost our way because if we think of the diseases we are afflicted by as the problem then causes of those diseases will continue to elude us.
This is where the founding fathers of medicine, those from the Ayurvedic tradition and Hippocrates and Plato laid a beautiful foundation, which we have continued to ignore. Their message was simple – we can’t heal the mind without healing the body and we can’t heal the body without addressing the needs of the mind. Plato went even further in underlining this approach to health because he said that where we ignored the relationship between mind and body, such an approach could not be called medicine, as it was a crime against the obvious.
And here we are over 2000 years later with all our advances in medicine, still committing this crime against the self and common sense. How can we ‘dismember’ the body, brain and mind and believe we can treat them as separate ‘bits’ that do not relate to one another – and expect to get the best results?
Prevention is better than cure
The sad truth is, although we are busy denying it, many of the diseases that we are afflicted by exist as a result of our toxic environments, poor diets (even where there is an abundance of food), poor hygiene, a lack of strategy and policy to address poverty and malnutrition. Furthermore, we continue to rape our soils, not replenishing them with the essential minerals they need to maintain the vitality of our food. The list of crimes against our planet and ourselves is growing all the time and our responses to these crimes are simply inadequate. If we want better health than we need to start thinking in terms of prevention rather than cure. We can’t keep waiting until there is a problem before we act. We are rapidly running out of options. So what can we do? See: Soil, Soul and Society.
We started this item by looking at the immune system because it has so much to teach us but we need to put down our weapons and listen to its very simple message. Prevention is the key! As indicated earlier, some of the giants of microbiology, Pasteur, Béchamp, Lister, Ehrlich and Koch recognised that the microorganisms that they sought to find an antidote for were in fact the agents of disease and the impact they had on the body was determined by the biological terrain they encountered. In other words, subject to our immune health we would either be contaminated by the pathogen or it would be neutralised by our system. So the pathogen ‘alone’ is not the problem.
So what does prevention look like? Well, we need to change our diets to ensure that they are diverse and colourful. What we eat must be as close to nature’s original composition as possible. The more we interfere with the molecular structure of food, the more we interfere with the molecular structure of our bodies. This in turn undermines our natural defences – especially the immune system.
If we are to get the best from the foods that we eat we must chew thoroughly. Digestion begins in the mouth! There are so many health problems that begin with poor digestion, which leaves food rotting in the gut due to inadequate mastication. The digestive system then has to work far too hard to extract the necessary nutrients from the food and then dump the toxic compounds. This habit of poor chewing and inadequate digestion leads to the reabsorption of waste, turning our bodies into cesspits in the process. This position is worsened by inadequate hydration. When we don’t drink sufficient water, nutrients are not adequately distributed and waste products are not fully flushed out of the system and as you can imagine, that does not create an effective ecosystem able to meet the challenges of disease, whatever its form.
This is one of the ways that we have contributed to creating autoimmune diseases – where the immune system works against itself. When the immune system is weakened it cannot defend us and even worse than that it can, as a result of the chemical confusion that has been caused, ‘seemingly’ work against itself. In truth it is trying to survive in the best way it knows how but the results are conditions such as: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, AIDS and many more conditions caused by the immune system attacking its own body cells, as if they are foreign organisms.
In order to strengthen our immune systems, in many cases we need to detoxify the body first. This can include following specialist diets (see: Eat to Live by Dr Joel Fuhrman), lymphatic drainage massage, acupuncture, intensive juicing and raw food regimes, colonic irrigation and enemas. There is no one route to be championed above another – most people need to pursue more than one anyway, subject to their particular problem. You will almost always need some advice from a good, reputable health practitioner and consulting your general practitioner is also wise. The body will almost certainly need supplementation, herbs, homoeopathic remedies and other natural potions to give it the best chance of recovering in the first instance but more importantly maintaining good health.
Remember what the founding fathers of medicine said about the mind and the body – they are inextricably linked and so any strategy for recovery or prevention must include the mind. Until you change and improve the way that you think, the mind’s ability, via the brain, to pollute the body must not be underestimated. In fact, the pollution of the body, as a consequence of our own thinking, ought to be as great a concern to us as external contaminants.
It’s time we recognised that the mounting evidence, from cognitive neuroscience, epigenetics, psychoneuroimmunology and the noetic sciences is clearly showing us that consciousness is not only a significant player in the story of health and disease, but in fact it may be the most critical of all the factors – and so we ignore its importance at our peril.
Improving Immunity and Health
We have tried and hopefully succeeded in helping you to understand health is a multifactorial issue and so we should always be thinking of it in terms of mind, body, spirit and environment. To discount any one of these is in fact to discount optimal health. So although the focus has been on understanding something about the immune system, the real immune system are these four main factors. So whenever improving one area of your life, seek to improve the other three where you can. The more they move together, synergistically, the more you will find peace of mind, health and well-being.
Below are some of the things you can do to improve your immunity:
Chronic stress causes the adrenal glands to secrete higher levels of corticosteroids, which depress the immune system. High adrenaline levels, also caused by an increase in stress leads to a decrease in T-helper-cell activity and an increase in T-suppressor-cell activity, which leads to a degeneration of lymphoid tissues, increasing the overall vulnerability of the body. Chronic stress is a major risk factor in the development of all illness but particularly cancer and heart disease. Try practices such as: deep breathing, positive affirmations, meditation, self-hypnosis and yoga as antidotes to stress.
This is increasingly difficult in a world that is becoming ever more polluted. However, where you can reduce your exposure to microwaves, computer screens, television, mobile phones, radio transmitters etc. it is important to do so, because they are all able to scramble the electrical signals in the body. Also avoid pesticides, herbicides and insecticides where possible. Endeavour to improve the hygiene in your home to reduce your exposure to house dust, dust mites and moulds. One way of doing this is to open all the windows in your home every day for at least 5 to 10 minutes. It may surprise you to know that there is more pollution inside our homes than outside!
Control your weight
Obesity in the developed world has reached epidemic proportions and is clearly related to the high incidence of coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, the risk of cancer and premature death. So managing one’s weight through diet and exercise is critical. Our sedentary lifestyles and our overconsumption of processed foods have made this a much greater challenge. Make a plan to eat more sensibly and exercise more. If you can embark on this challenge with others it’s easier to maintain your motivation and the success rates tend to be higher.
Take regular exercise
The latest research has confirmed what common sense has long known, that regular exercise is not only good for you it actually prevents disease. In fact it has been proven to enhance immune function, therefore protecting you against conditions such as: cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. Evidence also shows that three or more 30 minute exercise sessions a week, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming, all enhance immunity. A word of caution though – overexertion suppresses the T-cell function and other immune responses and therefore that should be avoided. Also, excessive exercise produces too much lactic acid, which disturbs the body’s pH balance.
Avoid/reduce alcohol, cigarettes and drugs
Although in the developed world alcohol has become a cultural norm and some believe is essential to their lives, the truth remains that it depresses immune response and is clearly associated with heart disease, hypertension, pancreatitis, peptic ulcers, serious liver damage, strokes, gastritis and a deterioration in mental function (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome). Some of the other recreational drugs also add to this damaging list of health conditions as they undermine nutrients (they are anti-nutrients), which in turn compromises immune competence. Tobacco contains high concentrations of dangerous chemicals such as benzene, carbon monoxide and cadmium, which is a powerful immunosuppressant (also found in fungicides, fertilisers and rubber tyres!).
Work with nature
It is infinitely better to use nature’s pharmacy wherever you can, rather than suppressing the symptoms with drugs. With many minor illnesses, it is far better where possible to let the immune system do the job of ‘mopping up’ by itself. It is our interference that often causes the most problems. Using natural and naturopathic remedies that work with the body rather than against it is a much better way to go. One of the best things you can do to help strengthen and support the immune system is to take beta-glucans, which are found in yeast-based products, mushrooms and the bran of cereal grains. Arguably the best way to ensure you get enough is to supplement this particular nutrient. An excellent product we would recommend is Immunovite (from Cytoplan) – although if the diet is diverse enough one may not need this.
In our work, we use the term ‘persuading’ a lot. This is because we believe in co-operation, rather than competition. Conflict is far too common in our world and keeps us in either the fight, flight or freeze mode, where nothing works optimally.
In one of the central tenets of our approach (Persuading The Body) we talk about the relationship between mind and matter, where mind does not seek to simply impose its will on matter but rather it enters into a loving and mutual arrangement. It is our experience and our belief that this is the best way to achieve sustainable health.