A cost effective path to a healthy immune system

Today, people are living with bacterial and viral infections in the gut or digestive tract, but are being treated for indigestion.

by Dr. Steven Siegel — 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Never has that saying been more true than today. As winter and the flu season approach, there are some effective steps you can take to improve your immune system. With the cost of health care soaring, it’s more imperative now than ever before to be proactive about our health and thereby avoid the astronomical costs of being ill.

In this article, I present a game plan for improving your immune system. Your body can then move itself in the direction of healing, rather than degeneration. If you are not moving toward getting healthy or maintaining health, then by default you are on a path to degeneration. This is especially true today, considering all the toxic assaults we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Let’s first understand how our immune system is being degraded. Equal or more important than fighting off infections, it is responsible for effective detoxification of toxins.

Toxicity and the immune system

We are constantly exposed to a wide range of toxins. There are pesticides in our food and in our living and working areas. The water we drink and bathe in contains halides, a group of chemicals that include chlorine and fluorine, which are added as disinfectants. In essence, chlorinated water is just a mild form of bleach, like Clorox.

Medications have also found their way into our water supply. It has been noted that many hospitals flush their expired pharmaceuticals into the sewage system, and cities often lack the facilities to remove these chemicals.

Moreover, there are the heavy metals our bodies have to deal with — the biggest offender being lead. Where did the lead come from? Mostly from breathing in the fumes of leaded gasoline, much of which has been stored in our bones over the years. As we age, we start losing bone density, and the lead gets re-released into our systems and migrates to our nervous system, especially the brain.

Lead can cause mental retardation in children, as well as dementia and memory loss in older adults. In fact, women’s, pre-natal and children’s vitamins can have a very high lead content. For a copy of the FDA list of products, e-mail: healthforums@aol.com.

Other sources include mercury from dental amalgams and certain seafoods. Arsenic is found in pressure-treated wood, which is widely used in building construction as a fire retardant, plus outdoor wooden decks and children’s playsets. Unbelievably, it’s also found in poultry — pesticides are sprayed on grains that are made into feed.

Even medications need to be broken down and eliminated. Throw in the chemical additives and preservatives found in processed foods, air pollution, toxic substances in hair and beauty products, and the list of harmful toxins assaulting our bodies daily becomes long. All these components put a load on our immune system, degrading and rendering it less effective in fighting off infections.

Infections, infections, infections

Most of us are aware that when we get a bacterial or viral infection, the immune system releases special cells that attack and kill these invaders. This is what is supposed to happen, but many times it doesn’t. Today, people are living with bacterial and viral infections in the gut or digestive tract, but are being treated for indigestion.

Infections include a wide range of ailments such as ulcers, colitis, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, constipation and gastric reflux. I suspect even hemorrhoids are caused by infection. All these put a strain on the immune system and lead to a decrease in infection-fighting capabilities.

How do we get these infections in the first place? Of the many avenues from which they enter the body, the most common is poor hygiene, such as not washing our hands and then touching our faces, or eating food that’s expired or has been improperly stored.

People struggling with these conditions often take antibiotics and steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The antibiotics initially have a positive effect, but end up killing all bacteria, good and bad, making the problem progressively worse. Good bacteria help support a healthy immune system. These many insults to the body wear down the immune system. It is like swimming against the tide. Eventually you fatigue, and the tide wins.

Steps to healing

How do we strengthen the immune system? Many people read magazines, books and consult the Internet for information about products and supplements that help to do just that, and there are good products on the market. But what is the right approach for you? For example, if you have an autoimmune problem, you wouldn’t want to strengthen your immune system and make your body stronger at attacking itself. Treating autoimmune problems successfully is a very different issue.

After 27 years of practice, I have learned what works. First, have a game plan. Mine is to reduce the body’s burden of the above-mentioned enemies of the immune system. If you lessen the load the immune system must deal with, it can build itself up and be more effective in fighting off any new infections that come along. Otherwise, you just add another job it has to perform, which further fatigues it.

I always start with the intestines. Introducing the proper balance of good bacteria in the gut will create an environment that impedes the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Next, use safe, natural remedies that change the pH of the gut so improper organisms can’t survive.

If you do this too quickly, you can get a large die-off of the offending bacteria, creating a toxic environment that can be very irritating. Many people call this a detox reaction and say it is a sign that the body is healing. I disagree. This reaction means that you have surpassed the detoxification limits of the body and are stressing the liver and kidneys to deal with it. You must support these important organs, not overload and damage them. Once you have reduced the load on the immune system, it will function better. You can then begin to safely strengthen it to a much greater effect and move in the direction of healing.

The time to start doing this is not when you are sick, but before you require intensive treatment to correct a condition. Many patients come for preventative guidance. This is the most cost-effective way of improving your health. Remember, you can’t sit back and do nothing and expect to stay healthy.

There are too many health stressors working against us that weren’t in our environment as little as 20 years ago. If you take some cost-effective steps today, you can create a healthy life for tomorrow. As with your car, if you do the preventative maintenance now, you reduce those big repair bills tomorrow. Yes, you can always get a new car, but you can’t get a new body.

 

Dr. Steven Siegel is a Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutritionists, a certified clinical nutritionist, Fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncturists, certified craniopath and a chiropractic physician. 480-603-9222 or healthforums@aol.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 5, October/November 2008.

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