Better to light a candle than curse the darkness
A recently completed study by the Stanford university school of medicine on the immune system showed that the environment - life habits, attitudes and experiences shape the immune system more than the DNA handed down from our parents. In effect, we are the architects, builders, and destroyers of our own immune system.
To maintain a vigorous immune system, we must cultivate:
A strong ikigai
Sound and regenerative sleep
An efficient detox system
A daily exercise regime
A finely tuned and integrated hormonal system
We should avoid hormone disrupting chemicals that interfere with the body’s endocrine system and induce adverse developmental, neurological and immune suppressing events. These chemicals are found in petroleum derivatives, herbicides, pesticides, plastics, cleaning solvents, cosmetics and even soy derived products.
Let the Sun Shine In
The ancient yogi’s called it “atopa snana” or the healing therapy of sun bathing. The ancient Greeks “heliotherapy” or “sun therapy”. Research from Sweden, Austria, Great Britain, Australia and the United States is now systematically pointing to the positive effects of sunlight on physical and mental health, and longevity.
Studies show that exposure to sunlight improves brain function reducing depression, anxiety and lowering the incidence of multiple sclerosis and parkinson disease.
Sunshine also improves skin disorders: acne, eczema and psoriasis. Exposure to sunshine regulates the hormones melatonin, insulin and leptin, reducing obesity, insulin resistance and type II diabetes. Children exposed to sunshine rather than radiation from tv’s and computer’s have a lower incidence of myopia, and time in the sun improves the libido in adults. Another very important benefit of sunbathing is the reduction of inflammation caused by many chronic, degenerative inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Finally, exposure to sun reduces blood pressure, dilates the blood vessels and reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
A Strong Microbiome
The microbiome consists of some 100 trillion bacteria that co-inhibit our bodies, specifically our gastro-intestines tract. These bacteria make up 70% of our immune system. They secrete antibiotic like substances, synthesize nutrients, keep pathogenic bacteria in check, and have even been known to act as our intuitive brain.
To cultivate a vigorous microbiome, and by consequence a strong immune system, we must avoid eating non-organic meats laden with antibiotic residues as these can cause a die off of our beneficial gut bacteria. We should try to eat a primarily plant based diet high in fiber, as this fiber will fuel our friendly bacteria. Finally, our diets should include many naturally fermented and cultured foods and drinks, rich in microflora that can strengthen and rebuild our existing microbiome.
Maintaining a Strong Immune System
Seventy percent of the immune system comes from the bacteria in gut; the other thirty percent from the lymphatic system, specifically the gut associated lymphoid tissue known as the G.A.L.T; the spleen, the thymus gland, and the bone marrow, all can be weakened by a lack of sleep, poor diet, hormonal dysregulation, a compromised detoxification system, a sedentary life style, and faulty metabolism.
The small and large intestine house over one hundred trillion bacteria, most beneficial and some harmful, and over quadrillion bacteriophages. Fortunately, the good bacteria not only keep the pathogenic bacteria in check but also play huge role in maintaining health. Good bacteria fight off pathogenic microbes; they secrete bacitracin a natural antibiotic; they prevent tooth and gum disease, they help metabolise carbohydrates, they stimulate the regulation T-cells of the immune system; they control inflammation, they prevent us from coming down with allergies, asthma, eczema; they influence brain function, prevent senility, autism and depression, they mitigate eating disorder and obesity, and protect us from a myriad of auto-immune disorders.
Bacteria also outnumber human cells by a factor of 10-1 – we are more microbe than human.
Keeping the immune system strong:
Eat organic meats: poultry pork, and beef containing certain low doses of antibiotics which can kill off good intestinal bacteria.
Eat lots of fermented foods: organic wines, sauerkraut, yogurt, cultured cheeses, kefir, etc.
Eat a diet high in fiber mostly plant based.
Make sure that you have good intestinal transit and are not constipated; that fecal material doesn’t sit in your intestines, re-absorbing toxins.
Exercise regularly to move lymph.
Avoid stress and learn to relax. Emotional tension can change the ph of the gut a cause of bacterial die-off.
Get enough sleep
If you are sick, or have been sick and have been on or are on multiple courses of antibiotics you will probably need to reset your gut with probiotics. The practitioners at Immumed can test commercially available probiotics that are the most biocompatible and will have the greatest chance in reseeding your gut.
The Art of Healthy Living
Yang shen fa
A healthy lifestyle must include a nutritious healthy diet and regular moderate preferably non-violent exercise. Both are vital to exemplary health, wellbeing and longevity. East and West have quite different perspectives regarding food and movement.
Exercise: The Movement of Life
A vital component of health for life is movement. Our bodies were meant to move. Vigorously during the day; recuperate and detox ay night. Our bodily organs are in perpetual motion; each organ has an inherent movement (motility) independent of the body’s mobility. They follow a pre-set biological time clock called the circadian rhythms. During sleep, the cerebral spinal fluid floods the brain backwashing and ridding it of unwanted plaque. At different times of the day there is an ebb and flow of hormones and neurotransmitters; nutrients flow into cells, toxic metabolites flow out. Whether it is day or night, our heart beats, our blood flows, our lungs inhale life-giving breath, exhale toxic gases; our immune system remaining ever vigilant.
There is also a perpetual movement of information from cell to cell, from brain to cell and cell to brain. 300,000 bits of information are exchanged and processed by every single cell of the hundred trillions of cells that make up our bodies. With sickness, with aging, there is accelerated slowing down of movement leading to sclerosis, stiffness and often premature death.
There is unanimous agreement amongst researchers that regular moderate exercise that also promotes flexibility, the cardiopulmonary efficiency, dramatically improving health by strengthening the immune system and prolonging life.
Yoga, qi gong, tai qi, exercises that incorporate breathing, flexibility and movement are particularly beneficial, but by no means the only ones. Walking, preferably in nature, cycling, swimming in non-chlorinated pools, the list goes on.
The lymphatic system, an indispensable component of the immune and waste management system of the body, can only be activated through exercise. Lack of movement, lack of flexibility leads to stasis of blood and lymph. With stasis comes chronic inflammation, degeneration of connective tissue, stiffness, pain and the onset of disease. The practitioners at Immumed strongly encourage all our patients to move and move and move…
Diet – The Western Perspective
Time: nobody has time anymore. People are perpetually pressed for time; deadlines at work, juggling a multitude of activities and responsibilities, glued to their cell phones, computers and e-mails, never far from their anti-depressants, anti-anxiolytics, their sleeping pills, their painkillers, no time to cook, to prepare healthy meals using live foods and becoming increasingly dependent on the denatured, devitalized and processed foods, foods that are quick and convenient to prepare, loaded with additives, conserving agents, sugar, salt with few added nutrients, foods that are increasingly being blamed for the exponential rise in obesity, insulin resistance, type II diabetes and a multitude of chronic, degenerative, and autoimmune disorders.
The process of adding a few nutrients to foods that have been stripped of their nutrients and energetic value has given rise to a sort of nutritional reductionism called nutritionism. Nutritionism is based on the flawed assumption that only scientifically identified nutrients can determine the nutritional value of food, and that the intrinsic value of any food is equal only to the sum of its individually known nutrients.
With an ever-increasing number of patients consulting naturopathic and other natural health practitioners, for a variety of chronic, degenerative and auto-immune health issues, in part due to inadequate nutrition, practitioners have been increasingly forced to rely on nutritional supplements as indispensable components of their therapeutic toolkit, thus, falling into the trap of nutritionism, a much easier therapeutic process than discussing whole food nutrition with often reluctant and skeptical patients. Unfortunately, “food as medicine” has been replaced by “supplements as medicine” by far too many natural practitioners.
Diet – The Oriental Perspective
The emphasis in the East has historically been on food as medicine, food as sustenance, food as social interaction with family and friends; The Oriental idea that food is medicine for the body as well for the spirit can be traced as far back as the Xia Dynasty (2070 BC- 1600 BC). Historical records show that physicians during this period placed an overwhelming emphasis on the therapeutic value of food, even more so than other forms of medicine including herbal medicine.
The earliest systematized written textual reference on food therapy appeared in 625AD with the publication of Sun Simiao “Medical Canon” Prescription Worth a Thousand Gold Nuggets, the be ji qiao yin yao fang in which Sun Sumiao devotes an entire chapter containing over 154 entries divided into four sections to fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats, their medicinal properties how they affect the body and the spirit.
Sun Sumiao’s discipline, Meng Shen (621-713) completed the first treatise entirely devoted to food energetics, the shiliao bencao considered for many practitioners of Chinese medicine as the canon of energetic nutrition. Meng Shen saw food as life sustaining and the quality and quantity of energy delivered depended on its freshness, taste, color, where and how the food was grown. A far cry from the industrially configured foods so prominent in our supermarkets.
Even though Immumed practitioners have access to an extensive dispensary of nutraceutical, homeopathic and herbal remedies from major North American suppliers, these are only prescribed as stop-gap measures or as therapeutic catalysts, and are never meant to replace whole living foods.