It has come to my attention that “natural” has become a bad word to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In 2016, the AAP started a campaign to discourage the use of the word “natural” when it refers to breastfeeding. The authors of the article in the Journal Pediatrics don’t deny that breastfeeding is “natural”, their concern is that the emphasis on “natural” will lead parents down the path of “reliance and interest in complementary and alternative medicine, skepticism of institutional authority and interest in health knowledge, autonomy and healthy living practices”. In short, they are afraid that it may lead parents to take charge of their family’s health with lifestyle choices before medication.
I am unapologetically pro-natural, which is not to say I am anti-medicine. Our healthcare system is overburdened enough with those in crises. If we can take better care of ourselves, the limited resources can be reserved for those who cannot. Natural immunity starts with good genes. Parents who have overcome infections naturally produce antibodies that last a lifetime and can work against variants of the virus or bacteria. Parents with a rich library of antibodies pass on a stronger immunity to future generations. In utero, pregnant moms share more antibodies, and it continues into the early years with breastfeeding.
As children’s immune systems mature, they learn to build antibodies themselves through increased exposure to germs. Antibiotic use can bypass this natural process and delay the maturation process. Germs are also part of natural immunity. These are good bacteria on our skin and gastrointestinal tract that protect us from harmful bacteria, fungus, etc. This “normal flora”, also called “gut flora” in the digestive tract, is acquired by vaginal birth and the environment. Antibiotic use can wipe out your normal flora along with the harmful bacteria. A regimen of prebiotics and probiotics can help repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria. Unsweetened yogurt and fermented foods and drinks (sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kefir, water) are other sources of good bacteria.
The biggest determinant in how deadly most contagious infections are, is the overall health of the individual. Sanitation, good hygiene and good nutrition went a long way to eradicate dangerous illnesses of the past. This includes indoor plumbing, regular bathing, frequent handwashing, removing shoes when entering the house, healthy diet and quarantine of infected people.
Sleep is essential for immune function. When you rest, your body can fight infections, digest, grow and heal itself. When you are stressed, these systems can malfunction or shut down. In addition to immune system issues, you could develop digestive and hormonal problems, stunted growth or poor ability to learn.
Lots can be said about the role of nutrition and the immune system. Best is to eat foods as close as possible to their natural state. Eating fresh and avoiding processed foods are the best ways to acquire proper building blocks for all your cells and cellular functions. Sugar is doubly nasty for your immune system. Sugar both feeds the bacteria and viruses, and inhibits phagocytosis, a white blood cell process of eating up and killing non-normal entities in the body. Antioxidants in fresh fruit and vegetables, and good fats (ie. coconut oil, fish oil) are very beneficial for immune system function.
When the nervous system is compromised with interferences or nerve distress, the immune system (among other systems) cannot function at its best. The nerves are the communication through the body and the brain centres (in the brain, gut and conglomerations called “ganglia”) interpret nerve messages and decide on the best course of action. Poor communication can render the immune system unable to fight infections well, aka “weak” immunity. Over-reactive nerve response can cause exaggerated or prolonged immune responses. Confusion, misinterpretation and overwhelm in the brain centres can cause the immune system to function erratically or attack inappropriately, such as allergic responses to benign substances or attacking the body’s own cells (auto-immune issues).
The nervous system can become overwhelmed by emotional distress, mental distress, chemical toxicity and physical injury. If the spine becomes involved, with misalignment of the vertebrae (aka “subluxation”), then the nerve irritation and stress can persist even after the source of overwhelm has stopped. It is important to identify the sources of nervous system (and hence immune system) distress and address them. This may include developing healthy, mutually respectful, loving relationships with others, getting emotional support, having fun, taking breaks, not overworking yourself, avoiding toxins and excess radiation, eating well, exercising regularly, dressing properly for the weather, etc.
What many people don’t know is the role of chiropractic in restoring and boosting natural immunity. Chiropractic adjustments restore the spine to proper alignment to relieve stress on the nerves and nervous system. In all cases of chronic and severe immune issues, there is nerve distress and subluxation. Therefore, if your diet and lifestyle are impeccable and you still have the problems, it would be prudent to get a thorough chiropractic evaluation.
During the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and the 1990s, chiropractic care was shown to dramatically raise the numbers of T4 immune cells that were affected by the disease. In the early 1900`s, when a Spanish flu diagnosis almost guaranteed an early death, the patients who went to the chiropractor were the ones who survived. There are people today who still call chiropractors “flu doctors” because of that time.
Chiropractic is not a cure for the common cold, irritable bowel, ear infections, multiple sclerosis, food poisoning or cancer, but patients with these conditions do seek chiropractic care on a regular basis. Why? Because chiropractic care works to reduce nerve distress so that all systems in the body, including the immune system, can function at its best. Children that grow up with chiropractic care tend to get sick less often, get better faster, and are overall healthier than those who don`t. And, just as the AAP fears, one natural lifestyle choice can lead to another and another. The ultimate effect? A healthier, stronger population for generations to come.