How to Train your Immune System: Introduction
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Or: How to awaken the dragon within you and how to get it working for you in the context of surviving the Pandemic.
When it comes to ensuring health and longevity, other than preventing physical accidents, it mostly comes down to how effectively your immune system protects you from disease. So what I'm sharing here is the introduction to how to nurture and exercise your immune system so that it faithfully serves you for the duration of your allotted time on Earth.
I'll start by telling you a story.
I get a phone call: "I'm sorry, I have a sick child at home, so I'll have to cancel our appointment".
"Is she in bed or up and about?" I ask.
"She is up and about".
"Well, bring her with you, I'm in good health, so I'd like her to share her bugs with me".
I want to exercise my immune system, I want it awake, alert and strong, and this will only be the case if I:
Nurture it with a rich supply of nutrients and
Give it regular, pulsed workouts.
Our immune system is like our muscles, bones, and brain: it requires regular, pulsed workouts to adapt and grow stronger, best described as building resilience. If not regularly stressed, precious bodily resources go elsewhere so they are put to better use while the unexercised part or system weakens and ultimately withers. This selective allocating and reallocating of resources for resilient adaptation takes place 24/7 within your body to the day you die.
Athletic conditioning is about building resilience and a great way to explain this process of adaptation for the better: The athlete lifts a weight several times until failure. Then, the athlete repeats the workout after a rest period of 2-5 days. As the weeks become months, the weight able to be lifted has increased significantly. This is resilience and this is how your immune systems adapts to the changing environment we live in.
Here are a few slides from a lecture about athletic resilience. The same ideas apply to nurturing your immune resilience.
Stress is applied which temporarily weakens the system/structure.
Then there is then a period of recovery, usually a day or two.
Then there is super-compensation which has you a little stronger.
If the stress is not reapplied at this peak in compensation, the gains will gradually be lost.
When stress is applied in a timely manner and in the right amounts, over time, there is a progressive gain in resilience, such that stress, many times greater than the starting level can be tolerated with relative ease.
This slide portrays the Couch Potato, or in this case the "Germophobe", with their unhealthy obsession with hygiene. (this is 80% of Kiwis today, unfortunately). The slide is self-explanatory!
The consequence of excessive cleanliness is a weak, confused and ineffectual immune system.
When an infection is too sudden, too aggressive, too many, or too prolonged and especially when there is a lack of supporting nutrients, there is a progressive decline in resilience.
An example not often thought of is the deliberate bombarding of an infant's immature immune system with multiple stressors by way of multi vaccines. This is not the way Mother Nature ever intended for training an infant's delicate immune system: she intended a more gentle, progressive strategy with one major pathogen at a time, not the lot in a single one or two shots! It is hardly any surprise that we now have generations of people with damaged, confused and weak immune systems!
You may have heard that rural children are healthier than their city cousins for just about every measure, including autoimmune conditions such as asthma. Their superior health is this idea of gradually building resilience in action: The regular exposure to farmyard bugs trains the immune system to be robust, appropriate and reliable in its response.
Our decline from being one of the best to be one of the worst
When I was a child, New Zealand was competing with countries like Finland and Norway to be one of the healthiest countries in the world. We had milk in schools (full cream milk), health camps for sickly children, state housing for low-income families, dental clinics in primary schools, the "sunshine school" design, and there were maternity hospitals in most towns. New Zealand indeed was "Godszone"! Today, we are competing to be one of the most unhealthy countries in the OECD. So how did we end up going almost full circle from best to worst? The answers are in the first sentences of this paragraph.
Consider the following:
Around 70% of Kiwis are now overweight.
30% of us are clinically obese.
About 30%, perhaps more, are either diabetic or close to it.
80-90% are vitamin D deficient, some severely so.
By my testing, at least 90% of us are zinc deficient, and probably 80% need more selenium.
Every one of us has mercury in our bodies, with maybe 20% harbouring toxic levels. Mercury is a terrible toxin.
Many of us have other toxins inside us, such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and organic toxins from pesticides and herbicides (per capita, NZ is arguably the largest user of herbicides).
Alongside the USA, Canada and Britain, we are the most medicated country globally (we were once one of the least medicated).
Consider, as well, what has been going on over the last 1.5 years:
The entire Team of Five Million has been in a near-constant state of anxiety and fear, the flames of which have been fanned by people who should know better. Unfortunately, fear and anxiety damage our immune health.
We are now a nation of germophobes due to the constant use of hand sanitiser, face masks and social distancing.
We have a new generation of babies, now toddlers, with weak and dysfunctional immune systems that have known only vaccines and little else.
We have an ageing population who, by our over-zealous desire to protect them, are now vulnerable to what may have previously been mild pathogens.
What this all adds up to is this: we are now highly vulnerable to bugs! You only need to see how a previously mild virus called RSV, that hardly anyone had heard of until now is wreaking havoc in New Zealand this Winter!
If a pandemic of even a mild infection, COVID-19, for example, were to sweep our land, there would be numerous deaths. Given the increasingly vulnerable state of our unhealthy population, we must keep our borders closed.
While our borders are closed, what do we do? How do we get out of this prison we have created for ourselves? It is obvious what we must do: We must invest in our health!
Invest in training your immune system
Here are a few slides from another one of my lectures on nutrition:
In any population, there is the bottom 10%. In the context of this discussion, it is this bottom 10% who are most likely to get very sick from a bug like COVID-19, those in the 80% will have a range of symptoms from mild to moderate and those in the top 10% will never know they had it.
If we were to improve everyone's health by, say, 10%, we could, in theory, prevent anyone from dying from the Pandemic, while vastly reducing its impact on society, including health services. With the political will, this is a realistic goal. Currently, there is no political will. This must change.
Think about it: If there was a positive 10% shift in health, then vaccination, isolations, PPE and other protective measures can be reserved for those that are most vulnerable: Ther very old and the immune-compromised. 90% of us will have nothing to fear. We can catch the infection, ward it off and grow stronger.
We, the healthy ones, the male and female warriors of these lands, who have fought and destroyed the virus, then become the sentinels that surround and protect the rest of our community from this most unwelcome invader. We become an impenetrable barrier of highly conditioned warriors, guarding the entrances to the city.
By the way, given there are sufficient protective sentinels, best produced by naturally acquired immunity, the virus will do what viruses do, which is to mutate and be selected out so that the ones that kill the least dominate. This is what happened with the Spanish Flu: it killed 20-50 million people then disappeared after a few seasons. It did not go away, it mutated to become a mild seasonal flu. The H1N1 flu is one of its offspring.
About viral load
The term viral load has been kicked around a lot lately: the higher the viral load, the worse the infection, the more ill you will be, you will infect more bystanders and the more likely they become very sick. This idea fits with the training principles I have outlined in this article. If it is a new and unfamiliar stressor (pathogen), it is best to start the exposure with a small one, allow the immune system to recognise the pathogen, figure it out, kill it off and have time to build a better defence before more significant onslaughts.
Obsessively avoiding a bug like COVID-19 is a strategy cooked up by fools, nor is elimination a practical strategy for the country. A better strategy is to let the bug waft your way in tiny amounts, initially, and we can do the same for the whole country while protecting the most vulnerable, but not yet. We are not ready; we are too weak and vulnerable. We have many preparations to make; then we can confidently battle this pesky Coronavirus and emerge victoriously and much stronger!
By the way, if you have had plenty of touches of flu and colds in recent times, on the proviso that you are well-nourished and rested, then you will be better placed to respond to a new member of the same family, in this case, COVID-19.
Given that you have been reading my blog, you will be getting an idea of where I am going for getting us out of the prison we have constructed for ourselves and how we can do this without the loss of a single life.
Part Two will be published soon. Watch out for it.
I'm off for a long run now. Hopefully, I will encounter some infected people who will pass some bugs my way, just enough to tickle and stimulate my tonsils. My tonsils are the sentinels that guard the entrance to my airway.