Can an intact immune system also protect against major diseases?
The immune system, from the Latin “immunis” (i.e. untouched), is a highly complex system that plays a prominent role in our actually highly industrialised world, due to our exposure to massive amounts of synthetic chemicals since the industrial revolution.
But how does it work and why is an efficient immune system so important?
First, let’s have a quick look at its components.
Bugs are trying to penetrate our body, day and night, but mostly in vain. Our defence system is so efficient that infections are being dealt with without any visible sign. However, some bugs require a more intense defence before they are neutralised. This can lead to cough, sniff, hoarseness or even fever. Although this discomfort is unpleasant, it is part of our defence system that deals with those invaders.
Bacteria, myco-bacteria, viruses, fungus, parasites are the names of those unwanted guests, that constantly are provoking our immune system. There are several systems: the anatomic barriers, the unspecific defence, the specific defence and the stomach acid. What represents a harness for a warrior are for the anatomic barriers the skin, the mucus, the nasal hair or the Cilia on the bronchial mucosa. They act as a first defence line and protect us from the coarsest attacks. The stomach acid avoids poisonous products, coming from ingested decayed nutrients, to enter our body.
Once these anatomic barriers are defect or weakened, bugs will invade our body easier. Those that have been successful in entering our body will taken care of by other components of our immune system: the so-called natural defence. It exists of a kind of “Pack-Man” type of cells, like macrophages, monocytes, and neutrophylic granulocytes. But also proteins, dissolved in our blood, are part of it. This natural defence system is also called “unspecific defense”. Everything that is alien to our body, is chewed up.
The intelligent defence system consists of B-lymphocytes, that are generated in our bone marrow. They concentrate in our lymph nodes and the spleen where they create anti-bodies against these bugs. In addition, help comes from the T-lymphocytes formed in the thymus gland. Together with the B-cells, they form the specific defence, i.e. these cells specifically target pathogens. A special feature of our immune system is that it stores the info about nature of the pathogens. In the event of a renewed infection by an identical pathogen, the body will be able to react faster and more effectively.
Our immune system is a highly complex, multi-layered mechanism, a collection of different combat groups, which can be compared with "police", "internal security" and "special combat groups".
But the medical statistics show a different story. In 2012 in Europe, 3,45 million people got cancer and 1,75 million died from it. Number one disease is breast cancer (464.000), followed by colorectal (447.000), prostate (417.000) and lung (410.000), all together covering 50% of all cancer. Regarding causes for death, lung cancer ranks highest (353.000), followed by colorectal (215.000), breast (131.000) and stomach (107.000). The annual growth rate for cancer in Europe is 1,4 million by men and 1,2 million by women, with a mortality factor of about 50% (1).
Our body – skin, blood and the epithelia-mucosal system (the lining of our digestive tract from mouth till anus) – generates about 60 billion cells per day. It is regarded to be normal that sometimes cell production is faulty and cancer cell are formed. In order to be able to act against infections and cancer cells, our immune system has to recognise and fight pathogens and alien components. However, it should regulate itself in such a way that it will not attack healthy body cells – like it happens with auto-immune diseases, like rheumatism, Hashimoto (Thyroid dysfunction), Morbus Crohn, etc. A dysfunction or a long-term weakening of our immune system can lead to these cancer cells not to be destroyed in a timely or complete way – they may then multiply undisturbed and one becomes a cancer patient. Since many years, the medical industry is constantly researching ways to cure diseases as a result of a weakened immune system. Big Pharma is developing medicines that trigger our immune system against tumours, a promising business segment. But should a medicine take care of our immune system? Do we need medicines to activate our immune system?
For a healthy person who has no genetic immune deficiency, surely not. But how does one get or maintain a well-functioning immune system? It would make no sense to present a general recipe, but anybody can keep him/herself healthy and with a stable immune system. Just avoiding poisonous products would be good start. Remember, smoking cigarettes releases 4.800 chemical substances and 250 poisons. Nutrients like sugar, saturated fats, alcohol – which a stressing our organs by prolonged consumption – can liberate aggressive by-products, like radicals, and have a negative influence on the reproduction of our body cells. One should also not neglect the negative effects of repeated professional and emotional stress. Stress makes our body release specific products that, when they remain in our body for a long time or in high doses, will cause devastating effects on our immune system. Certainly no one can be dictated a path to go, but a healthy life style, balanced food, low meat consumption, a lot of vegetables and fruits will certainly contribute to an alert immune system that will help to avoid cancer cells to proliferate. But don’t forget the popular “half hour” daily walking in fresh air and the stress-reducing exercises. Certainly, genetic disposition plays a role, but it only does it in 30% of the cancer diseases. The remaining 70% has its source from how we live and treat our body. We all have the free choice to decide how we live, what we eat and how we cope with stress and psychic pressure. But when the suffering is not high enough, no one will change his/her attitude. Naturopathy offers sufficient “good products” to help us stay fit and healthy. Many vitamins, like vitamin A, E and also C help our cells to do their job. Sometimes a vitamin C high-dose administration over a certain time can do “miracles”, like with several diseases or arthrosis. You are what you eat. Our modern eat culture leads to the regular intake of low-quality or junk food. How should a healthy cell production or our immune system be able to function properly? We stopped to actively take care of our own body and we started to delegate its repair and maintenance to medical offices, where doctors and therapists take over our own primary responsibility to become and stay healthy. When it comes to our health, we act like a “wreck-driver”. Each time after having made another dent in the body, we go to the specialist who – with a lot of effort – repairs the body. Once left the repair station, we blunder again at the next corner.
Instead of ourselves taking care in such a way that our “combat groups” can function properly for a long and healthy life, we make ourselves guilty of robbery…till the day x, when our immune system will be exhausted, stops functioning and our defence cells go into sleeping mode!
Manuela Ludwig - Naturopath
(Cura Natura – Tarajalejo)