UNDERSTANDING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Cold + flu season is here. My next few posts will be dedicated to explaining how our immune system works, what strengthens and what weakens it, as well as my tips for boosting your immunity naturally throughout the year, and especially for the next few months.
- We all live in balance with trillions of germs in our bodies from soon after birth throughout life, including some nasty bugs, and we only get ill when other factors and stressors disturb this balance.
- Germs usually are more scavengers-like than predatorial. At a deeper level, germs don’t really cause the illness, but they certainly intensify them by triggering our immune system to create inflammation.
- Exposure to virus or bacteria: While there are measures we can take to reduce our exposure to a virus, like washing our hands, etc, it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate getting exposed to infectious microbes like bacteria and viruses. Taking care to reduce exposure is important. But the biggest determining factor in regards to getting infected or not, is whether or not you are susceptible to the infection.
- Susceptibility: A weak immune system is more susceptible to infection or disease. By boosting the integrity of your immune system, you will reduce your susceptibility, or the likelihood of getting infected. In one study, when 50 cows were exposed to anthrax, only half the cows succumbed to the disease, meaning that half the cows were not susceptible to becoming infected because their immune systems were stronger.
- The immune system begins in the digestive tract. In order to have a strong immune system, you need to have strong digestion. The health of your colon is of particular importance, and a healthy colon means healthy bacteria.
- Our body lives in a healthy symbiosis with bacteria, so mild colds are good to strengthen our immune system, and especially for kids.
- Stress, which is now recognized as the cause of 80% of diseases, is a huge factor in how healthy our immune systems are.
- Overuse of antibiotics. At Congressional hearings in 2006, data was presented that showed that antibiotics are mis-prescribed 60% of the time. Antibiotics don’t work for the common cold or flu. Those are typically virus infections, and antibiotics kill bacteria.
- Antibiotics also kill the vital bacteria in your gut, weakening your digestion and thus weakening our ability to fight any harmful bacteria that comes our way in the future.
- Overuse of antibiotics creates resistant strains of bacteria, making it harder and harder to fight the superbugs.
OVER THE COUNTER PHARMACEUTICALS
- Cough Medications (NyQuil, Robitussin, Dimetapp, Codeine): are not effective and can actually worsen an infection due to insomnia induced by the medication.
- Cough symptoms exist for a reason: to upwardly mobilize mucous and dead cells. If cough meds were effective, viral illnesses would turn more serious.
- Antihistamines: can improve symptoms in adults, but show no evidence of speeding recovery. Side effects such as headache, stomachache, weakness, anxiety are often mistaken for symptoms of the infection.
- Ibuprofen + Aspirin: can relieve some discomfort but do not speed in recovery. Taking these to reduce fever may actually prolong the illness. ***Fever is a positive sign that the body is fighting the infection.***
- Acetaminophen: is actually more toxic than Ibuprofen, and for anyone not eating or vomiting it can dramatically increase potential for liver toxicity. Can also increase the risk of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and strokes.
- Disinfecting everything and using antibacterial soap. Harsh disinfectants and antibacterial soaps work much like antibiotics: they remove the opportunity for our bodies to take care of the bacteria by themselves.
- The old-fashioned practices of using hot water and soap, alcohol, bleach, etc are sufficient in most cases.
DRYING OUT SINUSES
- According to Dr. John Doullard, drying out sinuses with over-the-counter drugs in fall only leads to colds in winter and allergies in spring.
- The first level of susceptibility to the common cold and flu is stress and tension, which often cause tight neck and shoulder muscles that compromise cervical lymph drainage. The cervical lymph drains the head, neck and sinuses and provides immune support to fight potential infections in the upper respiratory tract.
- The second level of susceptibility is when dry respiratory cilia cause a scratchy throat or irritated sinuses. The cervical lymph in the neck dries out and causes a sore throat. Dry mucus membranes produce reactive mucus and the nose runs.
- The third level of susceptibility is when this reactive mucus overwhelms and congests the cilia and the cervical lymph.
- Bacteria or viruses can proliferate in the excess reactive mucus and cause infection.
- At this point, we can get caught in a cycle where continued dryness causes continued reactive mucus production, which can lead to post nasal drip and a dry cough.
- Consuming fried, processed, sugar, coloring, artificial flavors, etc. weaken the immune system and body in general.