In the 1800s, the French chemist Louis Pasteur popularized the germ theory, proposing that microorganisms are the cause of most diseases. This paved the way for antibiotics—which kill both good and bad bacteria—and vaccines—which seek to prevent single diseases.
By contrast, Pasteur’s friend, physiologist Claude Bernard, taught that the ‘terrain’ of the human body was more important than the ‘pathogens’ that infect it. We are surrounded by, and even harbor, microorganisms in our bodies. When exposed to pathogens, we become ill if our defenses are weakened by deficiencies or toxicities. Unlike the germ theory, the terrain theory explains why some people get sick while others, when exposed to the same pathogens, do not. For this reason, it is said that on his death bed, Pasteur admitted, “Bernard was right: the pathogen is nothing, the terrain is everything.”
Nearly 200 years later, health experts continue to ignore Bernard’s wisdom, focusing solely on finding ways to kill ever-changing microorganisms. Conspicuously absent from all the public pronouncements are recommendations on how to strengthen the immune system so it can protect you from the current pandemic, the next one, and the one after that.
While COVID-19 has led some to become paralyzed by fear, others have taken it as a wake-up call to get their health in order. There is actually a lot you can do to strengthen your immune system, and it doesn’t just work for Coronavirus. It works for all infectious diseases, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and degenerative diseases.
- Eat real food. At first, it can take a change in mindset and then an adjustment in one’s taste buds to eat food that actually came out of the ground or from the range instead of originating in a factory or a cage, and coming to you in a box or through a window. Like all other living human cells, immune cells are powered by mitochondria, which require oxygen, vitamins, minerals, and fat, not chemicals. In particular, refined sugar is an immune poison which paralyzes white blood cells. It only takes a few days without sugar for a person to discover how good real food tastes when artfully prepared.
- Make sure you have enough micronutrients. Even organic food is deficient in micronutrients unless these are added to the soil prior to planting. Most laboratories measure levels of micronutrients in the bloodstream. What’s important is not what is floating around in your bloodstream, but what’s actually in your cells. Functional testing tells us whether you have enough of each micronutrient for your cells’ needs. Of particular importance to immune function are Vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium.
- Maximize oxygen delivery to your cells. Immune cells convert oxygen into ozone, hydrogen peroxide, and free radicals to destroy harmful microorganisms. Anything that reduces the oxygen that reaches those cells makes them less-effective scouts and warriors in your behalf. Tobacco smoke is particularly effective at diminishing cellular oxygen.
- Get adequate unmedicated sleep. Modern research has demonstrated that sleep is not only essential for proper brain function, but also for healthy immune function. Unfortunately, a variety of factors impair healthy sleep in our society. This leads many, in desperation, to rely on chemicals for a good night’s sleep. Regrettably, studies demonstrate that this artificial sleep does not have the same brain supporting, healing, regenerating properties as natural sleep. To the contrary, the agents used to produce artificial sleep actually increase infections, cancer, depression, suicide, motor vehicle crashes, falls, etc. Lifestyle changes, in combination with identification and treatment of underlying causes of insomnia, can often free people of the need for chemicals to knock them out at night.
- Exercise in moderation. Studies demonstrate that appropriate amounts of exercise enhance your ability to fight off infection in a number of ways. Physical exertion increases oxygenation of all cells, mobilizes white blood cells, increases autonomic balance (see #8), reduces stress, increases healthy cytokines (immune messengers), and more. But more is not always better. Recent cases of Coronavirus in high-profile athletes remind us of the well-documented fact that excessive physical activity actually impairs immunity, thereby increasing infection risk. Short of that, getting out to exercise in nature, especially with friends or family, can be very beneficial to your immune system.
- Optimize your vitamin D status. If you are looking merely to prevent rickets and osteomalacia, the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation of a minimum vitamin D level of 30 is adequate. If, by contrast, you are concerned about preventing infectious disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, pregnancy complications, and other diseases, you want to find the dose of vitamin D that keeps your blood level much higher, while at the same time avoiding going too high. Numerous studies have documented multiple roles of this hormone in improved immune function and resistance to infections, specifically respiratory infections.
- Take liposomal colostrum. It is not by accident that the first milk a baby receives is colostrum. In its new environment, the newborn is suddenly barraged with microorganisms that its immune system has not seen before. Colostrum is full of antibodies, growth factors, repair factors, immune messengers, and immune stimulants. Just as the healthiest infants benefit from their mothers’ colostrum, our healthiest patients take liposomal bovine colostrum.
- Balance your autonomic nervous system. This system takes care of the business you don’t want to have to think about, like breathing, pumping your heart, digesting food and absorbing nutrients, controlling your blood pressure, and repairing damaged tissues. When you are asleep, the parasympathetic system is dominant. When you are in peril, excited, or need a lot of energy fast, the sympathetic system dominates. Other than that, they should be in a state of balance.
The majority of Americans live in a constant state of fight or flight, which is called sympathetic dominance. Some people are so used to it that they don’t even recognize it. But it is easily detected using a digital photoplethysmography device in our office. Sympathetic dominance prioritizes immediate life-or-death threats over long-term threats to our health. Whereas a bad infection can kill you within hours or days, your body considers this a lower priority than something that can kill you within seconds to minutes. The problem is that your autonomic nervous system does not know the difference between the stress you feel as you see an oncoming car driving in your lane, and other stressors: taking a test in school, having an argument with your partner, worrying about your child making unwise life decisions, or panic about the latest pandemic. Each of these stressors and many more shift your body’s resources away from what you need most during a pandemic: a strong immune system. Balancing the autonomic nervous system is critical to robust immune function, not to mention heart and brain health. We can show you how.
These are some of the key steps you can start taking today to fix your terrain. In the coming months, a number of SARS Coronavirus-2-specific vaccines will be approved by the FDA. If you feel your interests are best served by focusing your immune system’s attention on a single microorganism, be sure that the vaccine you choose has been well tested for both long-term efficacy and safety. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a copy of the full package insert to make sure the vaccine you are about to receive does not contain any known brain and immune toxins. Some common toxic ingredients include mercury (thimerosol), polysorbate 80, aluminum, MSG, dyes, and antibiotics. Each of these toxins impairs immune function and contributes to brain diseases such as dementia, another ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, the body does not have very effective means of removing these toxins.
There is no pharmaceutical product or other intervention you can undertake that will guarantee an infection-free life. But the steps above represent your best defense against all microscopic threats to your health and life. The bonus is that they also help you create health and resilience, which is far more beneficial than the absence of disease alone. They enable you to enjoy doing the things you love for years to come.