At some point during our time together, my patients are asked the following: “When we go to a mall, or a movie theater, or an airplane, and breathe recirculated air containing Tuberculosis, Varicella, Coxsackie, Mycoplasma, Pneumonia, Influenza – every virus, fungi, bacterium, parasite – why don’t we all emerge with some kind of sickness?”
Another question:”A patient has end stage cancer, is cachetic (profound weight loss), has no appetite, contracts pneumonia, and is admitted to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics. What gets the patient better?” Most say the antibiotic. Then I say, “But the patient died. Why?”
My patients are taught that we are constantly exposed to pathogens, but our immune system prevents the organisms from setting up residence within us and proliferating. So that’s the answer to the mall, movie, airplane question. The patient receiving intravenous antibiotics died because it’s not just the antibiotics that cure. Surely, they get the patient over the hump. But then the patient’s own immune system must kick in for healing to occur. With end stage cancer it is no surprise that the patient’s immunocompetence no longer is intact.
To enhance your immune system, please know that 70 (seventy) percent of your immunity is encased within that 35 foot tube running through the center of you – your gut -or in doctor talk the gastrointestinal tract. That 35 foot tube starts at the mouth and ends in the anus, whereupon, a functional toilet is mandatory. The tube also needs to be tight (see Leaky Gut page).
Some words you shall need to know:
- GI Tract commences with the mouth, then goes to the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, anus, toilette. Most bad guys enter via this route. The word GUT is used interchangeably with GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT/GI TRACT.
- Prebiotics are fiber, both soluble and insoluble. I call them the gut scrubbers.
- Probiotics are the good bacteria with many long names such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifida, Sacharomyces boulardi…We use a formulation that contains twelve strains of good bacteria.
- Pathogens are “cooties” as my patients call them. In doctor talk we call them bacterium, viruses, parasites, fungi (e.g., Candida). All a part of our daily lives, unless we live in a bubble, and rendered helpless with a good immune system.
To Upregulate Your Immune System
Take a quality source of probiotics (the good bacteria) on an empty stomach. My patients are advised to eat nothing three hours prior to bedtime, then take their probiotics. Yes, eat yogurt. But you would have to eat trucks of yogurt to get this much good bacteria in you. Here is how the game is played. That 35 foot tube running through the center of you houses good bacteria and bad bacteria. If the good bacteria outnumbers the bad bacteria you are winning the game. Since we are unable to live in a bubble, all kinds of bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi gain access via our various orifices. If they meet the good guy bacteria, pretty good chance they shall die. Please know that although antibiotics are occasional necessary, they kill the good guy and bad guy bacterium – which then need to be replaced. My patients take them daily anyway.
A functional immune system requires 22 minerals, 13 vitamins, essential fatty acids, and water. Quite earnestly, our standard American diet (SAD) of white sugar, white flour, white fats (including trans fatty acids/hydrogenated fats/saturated fats) are sorely deficient in nutrition. This overconsumption undernutrition lifestyle is a major contributor to our meteoric rise in obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
A personal note – until such time that we Americans stop controlling our anxieties with the most prevalent addiction (processed foods, carbohydrates, and sugar,) we need to take supplements. Intravenous nutritional therapies, done in Europe for decades, help many patients regain robust health. When you put nutrition in a vein, it doesn’t need to bypass the gut (see Leaky Gut page) and we know it gets in there. I’m not enthralled with the amount of supplementation we need. When we (including me) learn to eat to live, instead of living to eat, learn about whole food nutrition and our relationship to food, supplements will be of less importance.
Life would be pretty mundane without stress, but Americans have too much. We live in a world where we can’t live without a cell phone, but we can live without a mate! When teenagers were shown a movie of Mother Theresa’s work, their sIgA (secretory IgA), an important marker of immune function, INCREASED significantly. And that was whether they liked Mother Theresa or not. The point, watch what you put in your brain via the media and your relationships. Ghandi said “It’s more important how you come to the germ, then how the germ comes to you.” Also, a sense of humor is of paramount importance. Life can be difficult, but it’s the only one we have.
My patient’s immune markers are periodically measured so I have an idea of how well they are taking care of themselves. As always, this is not the end of the story. There are multitudinous products such as Transfer Factor, Siberian Ginseng…that help to upregulate the immune system.