Immune Health

Immune health is getting a lot of attention these days so I thought that I would talk about it briefly. I am sure that everyone has read and heard countless things by now, so we would like to share our perspective with you as well. 

Green leaf
Let's take a brief look at the immune system. The immune system is a network of cells and organs throughout the body, and is very concentrated in the small intestine. Its purpose is to define and eliminate invaders in order for the body to continue to function and remain in a state of homeostasis. These invaders can be any toxin - a virus, a pesticide, a parasite, or any other perceived threat. The key to that statement truly are the words "perceived threat". There are times that the perceived threat isn't actually a threat at all, but one's own healthy cells. A healthy immune system is able to recognize the difference between self and non-self and is designed to destroy the non-self cells. Any substance that creates an immune response is called an antigen. The interesting thing is the body will also perceive fear and other stress emotions as antigens. There is a distinct connection between the immune system and the nervous system. Hormones and other chemicals that convey messages to the nerves cells have also been found to communicate to the immune cells.  But something occurs when the immune system becomes overwhelmed. The system becomes dis-regulated and is no longer able to attain, nevertheless maintain homeostasis. This can turn into a vast array of auto-immune disorders. Currently there are over 80 auto-immune disorders known that may affect almost any organ in the body. Allergies are considered so common these days that people don't stop to realize that they have an auto-immune disorder. Even diabetes is considered (by some viewpoints both Type 1 and Type II) an auto-immune disorder. 

Let's look at an analogy. Take a basket ball team. The game is a healthy competition in which there is a referee present to insure that the competition remains friendly and to step in should any "eruptions" occur. Without the referee, the possibility of the competition becoming unmanageable and uncontrollable and even turning into chaos exists. This is, in a way, what happens to an overstimulated immune system.

How can we maintain a heathy immune system? Many of my clients have heard me say, "toxins are your friend" (in small, normal amounts). When our immune cells are allowed to be activated, some become memory cells. So the next time an individual encounters that same toxin, the immune system recognizes and destroys it quickly. Long-term immunity is stimulated by infection and exposure to antigens. With all the use of anti-bacterial soaps (actually anti-bacterial just-about-everything these days, including clothes), we are doing our immune system a dis-service. Germs really can be a friend. And that occasional cold can be a sign of a good healthy immune system. A little flag goes up in my head when someone says to me " I haven't been sick in years!" Or, how many times have you heard that they were never sick a day in their life and now they have cancer/heart attack/stroke etc. I am not in any way suggesting that we need to be sick in bed in order to have a healthy immune system. Many truly healthy people will experience exposure to an infection with very slight symptoms. I can remember going to the doctor when I was in my 20's. It was my first visit with this particular doctor and I happily proclaimed, "I never get sick!" He started chuckling to himself and said, “You have a cold now." I said, "I feel fine!" He guided me to feel the lymph nodes under my jaw and sure enough they were slightly swollen! He told me that this is probably as sick as I get, but that my body is fighting something right now. Interesting! Also, did you know that people who work in sterile environments, such as manufacturers of over-the counter medications, are the sickest people around? 

Now things are a bit different with the flu that is getting so much press. We don't want to expose ourselves foolishly. We want to make healthy choices. Some common sense choices will serve us well. Avoiding processed foods and sugar as much as possible. As I have mentioned in previous newsletters, these food choices deplete the body and lower our immunity. Manage your stress as best you can for the reasons mentioned above. Get plenty of rest, both sleep and actually rest. Sleep is so important but so is rest. Take time to walk, this will increase your circulation and blood flow and provide your body/mind/spirit with rest. It's probably good to leave that iPod home. It's much more restful to hear the sounds of nature and enjoy the sights. Do wash your hands before putting things in your mouth if you think that you may have come in contact with an ill person? Above all make wise choices, don't panic and trust your body. 

As always, we are here if you need us! Believe in your body - it is a magical thing. Treat it well and it will serve you well for a long time!


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