It’s 1942 and you’re an American Army soldier stationed in the Pacific. Your orders are to protect a small island from attacks by the Japanese Army.
Every day, there is a skirmish around your outpost, but you’ve been holding your ground. Nothing gets past your security forces. Things are going well.
Then one day, several of your men come down with a contagious disease. You’ve gotten a shipment of contaminated food, and it has taken a toll on your defenses. In that same shipment, you got new ammunition for your big tank, but instead of wiping out the enemy, they explode inside the tank, destroying the tank. You’re in a real pickle. The daily skirmishes are not ending in your favor anymore. You radio for help, but they keep sending defective supplies.
How We Lose The Battle Every Day
It’s a crude analogy, but no matter how you feel about war, it’s sets the stage for what I want to talk about through the rest of the month of December.
Every Wednesday, we focus on how the things we accept into our bodies affect our health and wellness. Between the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the environment we live in, our bodies receive a never-ending stream of supplies…some good, some bad.
Our lungs receive oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, but there’s so much more in the air we breath – carbon, radon, methane, and a hundred other chemical compounds, PLUS dozens of different pollens, and hundreds of viruses and other cells.
Our food is made of nutrients that feed and rebuild the cells in our bodies, but it also contains a menu of poisons, including monosodium glutamate, dextrose, and other chemical preservatives.
We live in this soup all day every day and never give it a second thought, because we humans have the most sophisticated immune defense system in creation. Nothing comes close. In fact, the only time we ever think about it is when it fails.
This week, I want to look at why it fails, and what we can do to prevent it.
Taking Out The Soldiers
Remember when I gave the example of the shipment of contaminated food and how it made half the battalion sick? While that’s just a word picture, the reality is very similar. Your immune system is made up in part of thousands of “soldiers,” microscopic cells in platoons called “microbes.” They run reconnaissance through your blood stream, looking for enemy cells to destroy. The enemy cells are always there, always coming in through your air, food, and water, but your microbes are so effective at taking them out, that you never notice them. But when your microbes are down, the enemy cells grow and infiltrate your lungs, sinuses, and other organs. That’s when you feel “the flu.”
What causes your immune microbes to go down? What could possibly take out the most powerful defense system in nature?
Refined sugar is like poison to your immune system, and if you buy your groceries from the aisles in the center of the store, it contains an unbelievable amount of refined sugar. If you’re curious about this, take a look at this list of the 56 commercial names for sugar and see how many of them appear on the labels for your food.
Your mom warned you that too much sugar would rot your teeth, but she had no idea how destructive it really is. I’m not talking about making you fat (it does contribute to that), I’m talking about mood swings, energy swings, inability to focus, heart disease, lung disease, headaches, joint pain, inflammation, right down to how your genes express and reproduce themselves, and the list goes on.
For the purpose of our discussion, I want to focus on the damage it does to the immune system. Sugar not only suppresses the immune system, it has been shown to feed viruses and even cancer cells. I want to scream every time I see a hospital serving a sugary muffin to a patient. It’s undoing any good they might be doing for the patient. Unbelievable.
Now, I don’t want you to spend the holidays sulking because “Dr. Steve told you not to eat any sugar.” On the other hand, I want you to use common sense with your sugar intake, and reinforce your soldiers with a balanced diet of proteins, magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, and B-complex Vitamins. In other words, balance the Christmas cookies with salad.
The Tank You Didn’t Know You Had
If I had to defend an island from an invading army, I wouldn’t want a handgun. I would want a tank, tricked out with all the latest guns, sensors, and radar equipment. Your body has such a tank. The centerpiece of your immune system is the amazing bacteria colony in your gut. Now, you might think your immune system starts in your nose or throat because that is typically where you feel the effects of viruses, but the core of the system is in your intestines.
The bacteria colony in your gut contains trillions of cells made up of thousands of different varieties of bacteria that aid in digesting food, isolating and eliminating toxins, and cleansing the blood stream. They manage inflammation, absorb minerals into the blood stream, and help manage your blood sugar and your weight. There is even research linking gut bacteria to symptoms of depression.This colony (“tank”) is the most sophisticated weapon in the world. We need every single one of those good bacterial microbes, but we have been slowly depleting them for generations.
Our Modern American Lifestyle may be comfortable, but it is not healthy. When you compare “Western” lifestyle to cultures in Africa and Asia that have had little or no exposure to our “modern” life, they have less chronic illness, fewer allergies, less inflammation and joint pain, asthma, Chron’s Disease, and other autoimmune disorders. In fact, research from indigenous tribes in Papua New Guinea were found to have nearly 50 species of gut bacteria that Americans don’t have. Are we really better off?
Why do they have less incidence of disease? Their lifestyle promotes healthy microbe growth in their intestines. They don’t use antibiotics, pesticides, or processed foods. They get plenty of sunlight, which has a purifying effect, as well as Vitamin D. They live simple lives with minimal stress.
We live indoors, in recirculated air, flooded with chemicals to mask the smell of mold, mildew, and body odor. Most of us don’t get enough direct sunlight. We eat processed foods laced with pesticide residue, and we take antibiotics to kill viruses. When everything is a toxin, your body spends all its time fighting, and never get a chance to rebuild. Like I’ve stated many times in the past, antibiotics are like the ammunition that explode inside the tank. You may blow up the enemy, but you’re going to take out your allies with them.
Again, so many people think bacteria is the bad guy, so they go to great lengths to make sure they kill all the bacteria. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, there are virus cells active and moving in our organs, mouths, and on our skin (especially if you’ve been handling raw meat or visiting a sick friend). Yes, you can be a carrier. Yes, you should wash your hands often and thoroughly. But we’ve become a germaphobic culture, to our own hurt.
Exhausting the Army To Death
One other things we do as a culture that is destroying our bodies is neglecting our sleep. I can spend a whole month on this one topic. When you sleep, your body rebuilds and recharges itself, and that includes your immune system. The longer you go without a good night’s sleep, the more damage you do to the standing army. You need to sleep. Need.
Reinforce the Army
Next week, I want to look at one tiny little thing you can change in your life that will have a profound effect on your gut microbe and, by extension, your overall health. But for today, I want to leave you with one thing you can do to strengthen and reinforce your army.
If antibiotics kill every bacteria cell, regardless of which uniform it wears, then probiotics can be thought of as reinforcements for your army. A good probiotic includes a combination of acidophilus, lactobacillus, and a few other healthy bacteria strains that go right to your gut and start rebuilding your gut flora, without giving aid to viruses. Not all probiotics are created equally, so I’m happy to recommend the ones I think would serve you best, if you call my office.
Be sure to join me next Wednesday, as we continue building your healthiest you by strengthening your immune system. If you’re not currently following us on Facebook, be sure to look up Fundamental Health Solutions and follow us, so that the next article comes right to your news feed. I think you’re really going to enjoy it.
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas