“How long will he have to live in that bubble?” David Vetter, born with a dysfunctional immune system had lived in a sterile plastic germ-free isolator world all of his life. The question was; when would science deliver on its quest, through some new technological advance, to find a solution to David’s dilemma? If allowed to encounter the environment, the one we live in every day, David would most certainly pick up a pathogen that would end his life. Even NASA got involved!
Top engineers put their heads together and crafted a most eloquent space suit for David. But after a few forages out into the real world, David’s fears of contamination, microbes and death drove him back to his reclusive spot at Baylor University Medical center. David finely died when an attempt to solve his life threatening condition with a tissue transplant operation, failed to resolve his immune system deficiency.1
If we did not have an immune system, we like David, would die. But where did our immune system come from? “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”2
The Advantage Of An Immune System
The skin is our first line of defense. “Every square inch of human skin consists of 19 million cells, 60 hairs, 90 oil glands, 19 feet of blood vessels, 625 sweat glands, and 19,000 sensory cells that can transmit information at more than 200 miles an hour.”3 What’s more, immune cells of the skin secrete antibodies that can stop invaders. And not just from the skin of our bodies, antibodies from the immune system emerge to protect the nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, stomach and intestines. With out these antibodies from the immune system, we’d all be doomed.
After the skin, our next line of defense centers in our immune systems ability to mount an all out counter attack to invaders, and I do mean counter attack. These invaders can be identified or unidentified. If the immune system identifies them (has had experience with them before) then it can deal more specifically and carefully with them. If the immune system has never seen them before, then it gets out the big guns and shoots anything that seems out of place. As long as this line of defense only destroys invaders we are happy. This line of defense is called inflammation. It is especially active to deal with any new injury, antigen, bacteria or virus.
Friendly Fire: Why Autoimmune Inflammatory Disease?
A compromised immune system cannot deal with infections and antigens in its usual healthy way, consequently it resorts to inflammation. Tissue damage often occurs as the body attempts to rid itself of disease.4 When the only weapon available is a sledgehammer, collateral damage is sure to occur. Autoimmune inflammatory diseases arise under several situations where the immune system is not able to function most efficiently. Inflammation can occur when: the immune system is not in optimal health, the immune system is confused by hostile antigens, the immune system is overstimulated, the immune system’s inflammatory process is secretly triggered, or the immune system is overpowered by oxidative stress or other sources of inflammation. A few examples of autoimmune inflammatory diseases that occur under these conditions are: rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, polyarteritis nodosa, scleroderma, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel, some cases of type I diabetes, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, allergy, chronic fatigue and asthma, etc.
A compromised immune system cannot deal with infections and antigens in its usual healthy way, consequently it resorts to inflammation.
What Perturbs The Immune System
The list of what brings down the immune system so that it resorts to primitive means of defending the body could be very long. We will try to point out some of the ones most common and the most dangerous, rather than giving an exhaustive list.
The Aging Immune System
As we age our immune system tends to lose its acuity making autoimmune inflammatory diseases more likely.5 Now you may be thinking, “There is nothing I can do about aging!” But, as you will discover, aging can be influenced for better or for worse.
Stressing The Body’s Defenses
Stress essentially drives the immune system to suicide. Emotional stress or job burn out provokes inflammation, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and autoimmune inflammatory disease.6
Having experienced major stressful life events within the last 2 years increases the risk of developing an autoimmune inflammatory disorder 140%.7
A deficiency of anti-oxidants favors oxidative stress. Oxidative stress kills cells; the immune system then makes anti-bodies to their spilled DNA.8 Many autoimmune inflammatory diseases are identified by the presence of anti-DNA antibodies.
Heavy Metal Blues
Heavy metals increase the body’s inflammation, increasing the risk of autoimmune inflammatory diseases. Top heavy metal villains include lead,9 mercury, beryllium, nickel, chromium, cobalt,10 cadmium, and vanadium.11 Mercury increases inflammatory tissue damage by 50%.12
The Drugged Immune System
Many drugs are known risk factors for these diseases. For example estrogens: estrogens enhance the release of inflammatory mediators from white cells in the immune system.13 Oral contraceptive use increases autoimmune inflammatory disease risk by 90%.14 Hormone replacement therapy increases autoimmune inflammatory disease risk 150%.15 Pharmaceutical drugs are not the only source of these hormones. Chemicals and animal products are also big sources of hormone and hormone like substances that can cause autoimmune inflammatory disorders.
Better Living Through Chemistry?
There are many chemicals, especially in some work environments,1617 which increase the risk of autoimmune inflammatory disease.18 For example, hair preparations, especially dyes, increase the risk of an autoimmune inflammatory disease by 90%.19 Another culprit is Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which breaks down the body’s barriers to antigen invasion and it also causes inflammation.20 SLS is the most common major ingredient in shampoos, toothpaste and other personal care items.
What are you eating? Food preservatives, such as BHA (3-tert- butyl-4-hydroxyanisole),21 and additives, such as emulsifiants, thickeners, surface-finishing agents and contaminants like plasticizers can trigger inflammation in the body.22
Do you eat crackers with soup? The stomach’s job is to produce acid for the digestion of food. When alkali substances such as baking soda / powder are ingested, as found in crackers, many biscuits and cakes, the stomach has to work twice as hard to achieve the same level of acidity. Baking soda / powder intake is associated with a 190% increase in risk of stomach cancer, a cancer often the result from increased stomach acidity, irritation and inflammation.23
Toxins and waste products are eliminated through the skin. People avoid jobs that provoke sweat and as a result skin pores become clogged with waste. Consequently a greater burden is placed on the liver, bowels and kidneys to dispense of these. This leads to increased inflammation and increased skin, liver, bowel and kidneys disease. Good skin hygiene helps combat inflammatory disease.24 Good skin hygiene may involve thorough scrubbing, brushing and sweating.
Would You Like That Fresh Or Rotten?
Can you find a good banana in a dumpster? Aflatoxins, formed in the process of aging or fermenting,25 are a source of inflammation.26 Dietary sources of aflatoxins include: cheese,27 wine, vinegar, and any food created by rotting or fermentation. Scientist use weak vinegar solutions to cause inflammatory bowel disease in rats as a model for studying ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease in humans.2829 What’s more, chemicals formed when foods are pickled30 increase oxidative stress, inflammation,31 autoimmune disease and cancer.3233
Shade trees and shrubbery close and dense around a house, water-damaged buildings,36373839 decaying leaves,40 compost heaps,41 sauna baths, wet basements, swamps and lowlands—all sources of aflatoxins and inflammation. Avoid all decay both personal and environmental.
Perfect Health Depends On Perfect Circulation
As a result autoimmune inflammatory diseases are more likely with a sedentary lifestyle, tight clothing or cold extremities. On the other hand, when circulation is quickened, inflammation decreases.46
In cold weather, wearing short sleeves or short pants exposes the limbs to cooling, chilling the blood back from the extremities to the chest, abdomen and pelvis where inflammation can set in. Additionally the circadian rhythm (your internal equilibrium clock which controls the balance between inflammation and anti- inflammation) is disrupted,47 inflammatory mediators are released,4849 and the risk of autoimmune inflammatory disease increases.
Studies show that tight clothing has a negative effect on the body. From slowed digestion of food to increased inflammatory mediators, tight clothing is sure to increase ones risk of autoimmune inflammatory disease.5051
Another way in which circulation is unbalanced, and can be the source of inflammation, is through overwork of the brain. Over work of the brain in the absence of good outdoor physical exercise results in increased inflammation. Inflammatory diseases are significantly more prevalent in those doing mental work compared to those involved in physical labor.52
Sleeping Off The Disease
Air Quality Control
Indoor air has far more contaminants then outdoor air. Indoor air contaminants are a source of inflammation. Contaminants include: breathable dust, nitrogen dioxide, chemicals such as formaldehyde, aspergillus aflatoxins and various molds.57
Don’t Let This One Get Out Of Hand
Some causes of autoimmune inflammatory disease start small and increase with time to something bigger than expected. Improper use of the voice,58 voice strain,59 shallow or improper breathing6061 can all cause inflammation of the lungs and throat increasing the risk of autoimmune inflammatory diseases.
Condiments and Spices
Strong dietary condiments and spices can be the source of inflammation leading to autoimmune disease. Mince pies, cakes, preserves, highly-seasoned meats with gravies, pickles, excessive salt, grease, pepper, mustard, and ketchup etc.
What about caffeine? Caffeine and its relatives increase the risk of acquiring an autoimmune disease. Once inflammation starts in the body, caffeine can accelerate it by 300%-600%.70 Chocolate increases the risk by 150%, cola drinks by 120%71 and coffee 118%.72
Does alcohol impair the immune system? Alcohol consumption increases free radical formation and whole body inflammation.73 Wine can be especially aggravating, worsening such inflammatory diseases as asthma.74
Smoking (even secondhand smoke)75 causes increased inflammation thereby using up the body’s protective anti-oxidant resources. Toxic fumes and caustic chemicals from burning tobacco increase the risk of acquiring an autoimmune inflammatory disease.7677 The risk of acquiring an autoimmune inflammatory disease increases 65% with smoking and 98% with alcohol consumption.78
Food And Autoimmune Inflammatory Disease
Notice that we have been writing about a lot more than just diet. Diet is important, but there is a whole lot more to autoimmune disease than just diet. Snack Attack!
Fried potatoes, salty snacks, desserts and processed meats are among the top instigators of elevated oxidative stress and whole body inflammation.79 Can you name one snack food that is healthy?
Western Diet Woes
A number of studies have identified the western diet, (described variously as including; red meat, processed meat, pork/hot dogs, butter, lard, hydrogenated fats, high saturated fat, high-fat dairy, eggs, french fries, potatoes, regular and diet soft drinks, pizza, refined grains, breads and pastas, coffee and tea, sweets/candy and desserts), as increasing the risk of autoimmune inflammatory diseases by as much as 210%.808182
The Key Is To Eat Your Protection
Patients suffering from autoimmune inflammatory disease have significantly lower blood anti-oxidants levels.8384 Studies also show that commercial supplements are of no value in correcting this deficiency.85 Proper diet is the only solution to poor nutrition and reducing the risk of autoimmune inflammatory disease.86
Fiber: Start Roughing It
Patients suffering from autoimmune inflammatory disease can also have significantly lower fiber and magnesium intakes. Fibrous foods are usually higher in magnesium. Fiber and magnesium deficiency are associated with a 300%-400% elevation in inflammation.87
Mineral Depletion Is A Global Issue
The amount of magnesium in all foods has decreased by 19% in the last 50 years.88 Low levels of zinc,89 selenium,90 and magnesium91 are associated with increased inflammation. Whole wheat flour has 530% more magnesium, 320% more zinc, and 110% more selenium than white flour.92 Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc and Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium.
Doughnuts are a huge source of advanced glycation end products! Carbohydrates fried with oil accumulate advanced glycation end products (AGEs), toxins that activate the body’s inflammatory mediators.9394 AGEs can also be formed in the body if the blood sugar becomes elevated. A slice of 100% whole wheat bread has 536 AGEs units,95 while a plane-glazed doughnut weighs in at a whopping 425,740 units of AGEs.96
High-Fructose Is High Risk
The results of a study that came out of Israel help put things in perspective. Dietary choices that increase autoimmune inflammatory disease risk include: sugar (430% increased risk), cholesterol (360%), eggs (350%), saturated fat (animal fat, 310%), soft drinks (300%), and vegetable oil (22%).100
2 Psalm 139:14, King James Version of the Holy Bible.
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