Sitnews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Compliments to Your Health #12

Immune Support
by Joann Flora,
Acupressure, Nutrition Counseling, Qigong


March 31, 2003
Monday - 8:40 pm

So much of our health depends upon how well our immune system responds to foreign invaders (virus and bacteria), diet, fatigue, and stress. Our immune system is a somewhat intangible collection of internal organs, chemical messages, body fluids, and cells. It's not as simple as a bandage protecting a wound. We can't see our immune system, yet we know it's there. How then, do we "support" it and what exactly does that mean?

©2003 Gigi Pilcher

Mountain Point - South of Ketchikan
Photo by Gigi Pilcher ©2003

Supporting the immune system can be simplified as two basic principles:

  • Don't do things that impair or interfere with its function, and,
  • Do things that encourage its proper function

Consider the first principle: things that impair or interfere with immune function. Life style habits are identified as the biggest offenders. Today, the top ten causes of death for all ages, all races, and both sexes are related to lifestyle. How they ranked in 1900 appears in parentheses in the list below:

Heart Disease (#4)
Cancer (#8)
Stroke (#7)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) (0)
Accidents - all types (0)
Pneumonia and Influenza (#2)
Diabetes (0)
HIV Infection (0)
Suicide (0)
Homicide (0)

In 1900, the leading causes of death were infectious diseases caused by organisms. Tuberculosis was #1, cancer and stroke were low in the top ten. Most importantly, COPD, HIV, diabetes, accidents, suicide and homicide didn't even make the top 10. A hundred+ years ago we were a more labor based, agrarian society. People rose early and tended to their animals and chores (exercise). Only then, after their metabolisms had been boosted, did they consume the first meal of the day. The food was not processed with the chemical additives, preservatives, colors, and enhancers as it is today. People did not sit for extended periods of time in front of TVs, computers (like I'm doing right now), or in office cubicles. Throughout the day, they moved. Many performed laboring jobs such as blacksmithing, construction with simpler tools, road building without benefit of heavy equipment. Even those in office occupations moved. They walked to work or public transportation. They walked on errands. Without so many modern conveniences they expended more energy in completing daily activities (cooking, cleaning, family care, maintenance). News was harder to get. They went to bed earlier and rested better. Additionally, the planet was not polluted to the degree it is today. Is it reasonable to extrapolate that the food, activity level, and environment of this era is related to the status of their health and cause of death? Absolutely. Infectious disease was their nemesis, not their lifestyle.

In the 20th Century, allopathic medicine advanced, we learned we could counter infection with vaccination and antibiotics. We became less susceptible to 'bugs'. Science and technology also gave us labor saving devices and preserved foods. We developed new materials for clothing, packaging, and building that made life simpler and more efficient. We had more leisure time, worked less strenuously on a physical level, and consumed new and convenient food products. Our weight went up and our activity went down. We became stressed, sedentary, overworked, and overtired. Our food was not compatible with our digestive system. Our soils became depleted of nutrients, and we poluted our environment. We experienced a huge shift in health and cause of death.

So what specifically are the 'things' that interfere with our immune system? Dr. Benjamin Lau of the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University lists the introduction of non-food substances into the body as a principle source. He identifies alcohol, tobacco, street drugs, and caffeine as substances that "down-regulate" or depress immune function and interfere with the immune system's ability to respond to invading organisms. He also identifies stress as depressing all of the immune cells. From a dietary perspective, Dr. Lau points out that sugar and cow's milk can contribute to respiratory problems, that coffee lowers T, NK, and B Cell activity, and that high fat foods impair immune cell activity. Since 1936 our government has recognized that over farming had resulted in farm land lacking the mineral nutrients necessary to produce crops of sufficient nutrient density (Senate Document 264, 74th Congress). And, in an effort to protect us from infectious disease, science gave us vaccinations and anitbiotics, both of which are highly controversial. So here we are in 2003, eating food with less nutritive and greater additive value, consuming food and non-food products that impair normal immune function, building drug resistant strains of bacteria through antibiotic abuse, teaching our immune systems with vaccinations that they don't have to work so hard anymore, as we live in a polluted world.

Now consider the second principle: what can we do to support our immune function against those kinds of odds? First, we can do the obvious: don't smoke and quit if you do smoke, drink alcohol very moderately if you want to drink at all, avoid all street drugs and most over the counter pharmaceuticals in favor of a more natural approach (herbs, acupressure, qigong, meditation, homeopathy, naturopathy, nutrition). Second, we can eat as clean a diet as we possibly can, eliminating or greatly restricting the obvious offenders: additives, caffeine, sugar, cow's milk, processed foods. Eat organically grown food if you can afford it and thoroughly clean food grown with pesticides and herbicides. We can eat fresh or frozen produce, whole grains (being careful of wheat which is a very common allergen), and avoid red meat. In short, eat low on the food chain with the simplest preparation possible. The more food is processed, the less nutrition it retains. If it's white, it's not all right is a good guide though not an absolute. White foods include things such as milk and other dairy, sugar, refined wheat flour and related products. Food prepared for convenient boxed sale (just add water) is more empty calories, sodium, and additives than nutrition; if you read the label, you'll note the vitamin and mineral content they tried to add back in. Food in a can is more fat, sodium, flavoring, and coloring than food. The longer a plant food is separated from its root source, the less nutrient density it maintains. Therefore, frozen corn that went from field to freezer very quickly will be more nutritious than canned or "fresh" corn that was picked, shipped, and sat in the store for a prolonged period of time. Also, freezing does not deplete nutrient as canning does. Third, don't pollute yourself: use adequate ventilation and protective equipment when working with toxic substances at work and home. This includes common household and industrial cleaners, paints, solvents, fuels, and any product emitting strong fumes or producing skin irritation. Fourth, get more exercise: walk, use the stairs, stretch, rebound to cleanse the lymph system, breathe deeply. Maintaining a good weight for your age, frame, and height can stave off cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and joint degeneration. Moderate aerobic, weight bearing exercise helps us de-stress, increases red blood cell counts and therefore oxygen to the body, and increases our white cell defenses such as NK cell activity, phagocytes, and Interluken 2 from T Lymphocytes. Fifth, don't get bugged; don't let anything or anyone raise your blood pressure or tighten your jaw. Stress is deadly. Learning to accept the world as it is, is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. This does not mean we have to like the negative things going on around us. We can still work to eliminate war, poverty, injustice, discrimination, or an intolerable situation at work. We can still take action in dealing with thoughtless neighbors or unfair bureaucracy. We just don't have to put it into our bodies, minds, or spirits. We don't have to own it, wear it, or let it eat us alive. What happens to us is not nearly as important as how we react to it. For thousands of years, the Asians have recognized the impact of negative emotions on health. They associate negative emotions with all impairments to the energetic organ systems. We can process these stresses through exercise, body work, counseling, acupressure, or therapy. We can take a walk, pump some iron, do some yoga, practice qigong. We can actively practice not absorbing stress.


E-Mail Joann Flora
 E-mail Joann Flora


©Compliments To Your Health
Joann Flora 2003


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