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Winter Wellness - Boosting Your Body's Defenses

Winter Wellness - MyFriendDebbie.com     Wintertime is typically the height of the cold and flu season. Each year billions of dollars are spent on over-the-counter medications for cold, flu and other viral and bacterial illnesses. Yet in spite of all the advancements in modern medicine, no real “cure” or “wonder drug” has ever been invented to eliminate these sicknesses. The common practice of taking symptom-suppressing drugs is not really a good solution, especially in since it does nothing to address the underlying causes that initially make people susceptible to these illnesses.

      God has equipped our bodies with an immune system intended to help us stay healthy in a variety of ways. Besides providing protective barriers to keep out harmful microorganisms, the immune system prevents viruses and bacteria from reproducing.  It thenlaunches a full-scale attack to eradicate them should an infection set in that would compromise the health of the body. The best way to keep healthy during any season of the year is to boost the body’s natural defenses to make it less vulnerable to sickness, and then learn to support the way in which God designed the immune system to function when a threat is encountered.

 Understanding How the Immune System Works

Winter Wellness - myfriendDebbie.com     To know how to better boost our body’s natural immunity, it is helpful to first understand a little about the immune system and how it works.  This system is different from most of the other systems of the body because it is not necessarily associated with a particular organ or set of tissues.  Rather, it is an intricate network of biological processes that involve nearly every system of the body. The immune system primarily includes the bone marrow, spleen, and lymph system, in addition to specialized blood cells and protective barriers such as the skin and mucous membranes.

      Immunity is both innate (something we are born with) and acquired (something that must be built up). Although we are born with various immune cells, enzymes, and secretions, it takes exposure to antigens (molecules foreign to the body) to develop antibodies to protect us from different harmful microorganisms.  Antibodies give the body memory about toxins or microscopic invaders to which it has been exposed. 

     The immune system serves a dual function with its chief job being to distinguish what does and does not belong in the body. Once that function is achieved and it recognizes what it deems a foreign invader, its next job it to mount an attack to neutralize or eliminate any “enemy” (irritant or pathogen) that managed to get past the first line of defense of the skin and mucus membranes of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

      Without going into detail involving the various names, suffice it to say that a number of different types of immune cells, biochemicals and mechanisms are involved in the process of detecting and engulfing these foreign invaders. Some sound chemical alarms signaling danger that bring more specialized immune cells to the scene. Other immune cells identify invaders by producing antigens that enable them to be recognized by the appropriate specialist cells.  Still others directly kill infected cells, while yet a different type produces antibodies that bind to microbes circulating in the blood so that they cannot infect other cells. The attached antibodies also serve to make the microbes known to cells designed to engulf and destroy them.

 The Reason Symptoms Occur

Winter Wellness - myfriendDebbie.com     While all of this battle rages on, symptoms such as a sore throat, fever or congested sinuses are produced in the body.  Allergies, for instance, occur when cells in which antigen and antibody reactions takes place (mast cells) get overwhelmed and burst, releasing histamine and bradykinin. The release of these chemical substances triggers an inflammatory response, which then produces an allergic reaction.

      Symptoms such as these are physical indications of inflammation from the build-up of fluid and cells that takes place as the immune system fights a hostile invader.  Hippocrates, the ancient Greek who is regarded as the “Father of Medicine” taught that inflammation is “the flame that cleanses the body.” In the second part of this article next month, we will learn how important it is not to quench that fire but allow it to completely do its work.

      Once the invaders and infected cells have been destroyed, inflammation subsides and symptoms begin to disappear.  Although most of the immune cells leave the scene, certain types of memory immune cells remain to provide instruction for how to attack that same invader should it return. In a successful response, the pathogens are killed and antibodies are produced to more efficiently respond to future attacks.

 The Need for Exposure

      If we are not exposed to anything or we quickly suppress the symptoms (which are the bodies’ efforts to get rid of irritants and invaders), then the work of the immune system is stifled and the disease is not resolved from within. When this is the case, antibodies are not as readily produced and the immune system is not built up.  A person’s immune system may be weaker when it is not exposed to enough microbes to help train it to overcome disease.

      Contrary to popular belief, the answer to less sickness is not in killing all of the microbes. In fact, sterile environments can actually cause the immune system to be weaker. Research shows that children raised in homes where disinfectants are overused are actually more prone to respiratory ailments such as allergies, colds and asthma. 

Are Germs Really the Problem?

Winter Wellness - myfriendDebbie.com      While the immune system helps to protect us from “germs” gaining entrance as well as eliminating them once they are on the scene, is sickness really due to the presence of germs?  The idea that external germs invade the body and cause sickness was popularized by Louis Pasteur, a 19th century French chemist who invented pasteurization (the process of heating milk or other foods to high temperatures to reduce the presence of harmful microorganisms). Because our modern day medicine is based on this “germ theory” of disease, people are conditioned to blame bacteria, viruses and other”bugs” for illnesses they “catch.” The focus then becomes killing the germs in order to prevent and treat these types of illnesses.  

      The problem with this theory is that microbes are with us all of the time, whether on our skin, in our mouths or gastrointestinal tract or in the environment around us. Yet we are not continually sick.  As a case in point, you could put a hundred people in a room and expose them to the same virus or bacteria at the same time and to the same degree, but only a portion of them would become ill.

       Another 19th century French scientist by the name of Dr. Claude Bernard posed a different theory to explain why illness occurs.  He theorized that the condition of the internal environment of the body (otherwise known as the “biological terrain”) was the primary factor that determined if a person exposed to harmful microbes or toxins would become ill.  Factors such as poor diet and lifestyle habits, an acidic body, stress, and the accumulation of toxins were thought to weaken and pollute the biological terrain. The belief was that germs do not initiate disease, but more readily multiply into an infectious condition in people whose immune system and overall health are in a weakened or imbalanced state.

      In other words, an environment that favors the growth of microscopic organisms must first be present for an infection to take root. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and the like only show up in numbers when the terrain is damaged or out of balance and an environment is created that allows them to replicate and thrive. Seldom do they cause problems in a healthy body.  So instead of being “caught,” sickness often occurs due to some type of breakdown of the body’s natural immunity.

      To understand this concept better, think of germs as flies that are attracted to garbage.  If you get rid of the garbage, the flies lose their hospitable environment and you no longer have a fly problem.  Spraying a pesticide may kill some of the flies and provide some temporary relief, but it does not get to the source of the problem or prevent it from reoccurring.  In the same way, using symptom-suppressing drugs does not provide a solution to disease since they only add to the toxicity of the body and create worse problems down the road.

 Concluding Thoughts

      Rather than artificially suppressing a sickness with medications, our efforts should instead be directed towards supporting our natural immunity by working with the body instead of against it. Strengthening and balancing the biological terrain so that Winter Wellness - My Friend Debbieit does not provide a hospitable environment for harmful microorganisms is the best way to prevent sickness and enable the body to successfully rid itself of toxins and harmful microbes.

      In next month’s article, we will learn in more detail how to support the immune system and work with its efforts to bring about a rapid recovery when our body is in need of healing. In addition, I will explain specifically about how to use herbs and other natural means to help the body ward off a full blown viral or bacterial illness and shorten the duration of unpleasant symptoms.  Remember, the body always recovers more quickly when it is given the resources and environment it needs and is allowed to complete its healing work unhindered.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Lucinda Bedogne, CNHP, CNC

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