Table of Contents
- 1 What is Healthy Immunity?
- 2 The Immune System
- 3 How to cultivate your Immune System
- 3.1 Stress Effects on Immunity
- 3.2 Detoxification of Heavy Metals and Chemicals
- 3.3 Mushrooms
- 3.4 Herbs
- 3.5 Digestive Flora as the Seat of Immunity
What is Healthy Immunity?
We all long to be healthy. No one enjoys being sick or injured. Enjoyment is never the issue here. So it is of utmost importance to have an immune system working at the highest levels.
So what does a healthy one look like? Well, for starters it means sickness doesn’t take place, like ever. Our culture thinks that being sick is normal, it is not, it is actually the opposite. Being sick is falling out of normal operating parameters. The process and symptoms we experience in sickness are the body’s efforts to bring us back to those parameters. Mind you that these parameters are constantly changing depending on the environment (weather, activity, heat, cold, dryness, dampness, social interactions, plants, air quality, soil quality found in our food, types of food, time of day, etc.). But when viewed in that light, being sick is not a bad thing. It isa fallback mechanism to reorient ourselves with the environmental conditions we live it. Thinking otherwise can often hinder the process of healing.
When we are truly balanced with the ecology of our inner selves and the outer world, sickness has no place to gain a foothold. It cannot exist in such an adapted individual. This optimum state of being is called Radiant Health in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Our culture is fairly obsessed with our immune systems. This is because of just how unhealthy our culture is and its acceptance that this is the norm of human existence. You need only ask people how they expect to die and many answers will come back with “cancer” or some other ailment in their family history will be brought up. Very rarely will someone say they will die in their sleep or from old age. We have come to expect some chronic disease to end us eventually. This is indeed a sad state of affairs because your perceptions of the world very often create the world you live in. In addition, the immune system can be compromised by these seemingly subconscious ideas we have of our own death or our ideas of illness.
Go ahead and ask yourself how you think you will die. The answer may surprise you.
Having a passive favorable view about the disease- or injury-process thus becomes vital for true radiant health. But how could such a thing be desirable? Most people hate being sick with such a passion that they will ingest strange medicines refined down to their most basic levels and concentrated to such an extent that horrible side effects are noted on the side of their packaging.
For what purpose though? Mostly it is for the sake of convenience, the short term over the long. People just don’t have time to be sick anymore with all the work they have to do. This can be ironic in itself as the body is often telling us to slow down when it becomes sick, and this is an attempt to force us to do so. In Ayurveda, the downside to not taking the time to experience an illness is the body’s tendency to drive it deeper into the body where there is a much better chance of chronic issues coming about down the road. A Yang (acute) sickness evolving into a Yin (chronic) one is noted by the Chinese system as well.
Radiant health is a different way to look at immunity. This is pure optimum health at a level that makes life a never ending pleasure to be a part of. Many may consider it beyond achievement but that is simply not the case. It allows us to be in close contact with the bugs that we are scared of the most and not even notice them. Someone sick coughs on you? Not even a note of fear crosses your mind. In Western thought, it does not exist. If operating in normal health parameters there is no thought about improving on them. More the thought process is one of moving insignificant numbers up or down that don’t equate to much at those small amounts so why bother working on them, just keep doing what you’re doing.
While we should be content with where we are in life, it is vital to aim at the progression of the self. This holds true for our health more than many things. Radiant health can help us become who we want to be in this world by allowing us to not waste time with being sick. That is the goal already of many who don’t have time for sickness and thus incorporating practices that might take a bit more time to pay off will, in the end, achieve both goals.
The Immune System
The immune system is a vast interconnected network of cells and systems. The whole body participates to a degree. Thus, we shall talk about certain specifics that are widely ignored in mainstream health discussions.
As our first line of defense, we often forget that our skin is the most important part of our immune systems. That becomes much clearer when we cut or break the skin during an injury. Once this happens, infection can occur quite rapidly. So, having healthy skin will translate into an improved immune system. The Chinese understood this and called the skin the ‘third lung.’ This was in reference to the lungs being the seat of our protective Wei Qi force. The lungs in the Chinese system, therefore, control the skin and having glowing skin was associated with strong Wei Qi.
The dermis (skin) layer is also home to many of the bacteria we carry. Everyone has a bacteria fingerprint unique to themselves. These bacteria are not all bad and definitely not disgusting. Our cultures propensity for sanitizing EVERYTHING, including ourselves is a large part of why we always have low-grade colds and flu every winter.
One activity that can actually improve your immunity immensely is the disuse of hand sanitizer. This stuff wipes out the fingerprint and can create a dead zone where bacteria you don’t want can move in. The chemicals in sanitizer are bad enough, but we are not helping out are symbiotic bacteria by destroying them every chance we get. Use of sanitizers can directly inflate an OCD-like complex against the non-visible world that we swim in.
Perhaps the best thing that can be done for the dermis is the absorption of sunlight. All skin types love the sun. And that is because the photons shooting down from the sun are used to disinfect the body (among many other things) through the use of Vitamin D, a hormone/vitamin/not-really-sure-how-to-classify-it molecule that is absolutely essential to the correct working of the entire being of a person.
People get emotionally down with lack of sun. I certainly do myself. Some might say this is all in the mind. It is not. The pores on the skin actually open up to receive more sunlight, similar to that of a plant, we are solar cells that translate the fire in the sky into bountiful health on the earth.
One of the benefits of not using soap is the higher levels of Vitamin D you will absorb from the sun. This is because the fats in soap bind with and wash away the chemical action taking place in your skin. For full absorption of sunlight to take place, you need to remain soap-less for up to 48 hours. Doing that translates to a far healthier immune system.
These two reasons are why I only ever wash my face, pits and crouch/butt; hard scraping or brushing and water takes care of the rest.
Eastern View – Wei Qi
I bring you back now to that idea of balance. An Immune system in balance with its environment is one that is working optimally. The Chinese clearly define a system out of whack as one of excess or deficiency. Excess is known in the West, yet is not normally integrated into a diagnosis unless it involves some kind of poisoning. This is unfortunate because excess is actually a big problem in the West due to all the building foods (proteins, starches, sugars) that are consumed.
There are many types of Qi. We receive Air Qi from the breath we inhale and Food Qi from what we eat. Together they combine to form Quality Qi (sometimes called Pure Qi) in the lungs. This is the Qi that powers and builds us and courses through our very being.
The lungs are also where our Wei Qi is contained. This is the Qi that protects us inside-out from our environment. Like a force field, it expands past what we consider our physical boundary. The distance, in general, determines one’s state of health in relation to sickness. When Wei Qi only reaches the skin layer one can get sick often, especially when it is so thin it is more like cheesecloth. When it expands further than a few inches we are in that state of radiant health where one never gets sick year after year.
In Chinese Medicine, the Lungs are the protectors and moderators of our inner world with that of the outside world. This is because every breath could be a dangerous endeavor, resulting in our end.
The lungs are the seat of the Po, the animal spirit that takes shape as the human animal. This is literally the spirit of our meat-suit we ride around in. It controls the actions of the unconscious processes of our body. Our immunity, while influenced strongly by our conscious thoughts, is largely automatic in its workings. Strong lungs and healthy Shen Po mean healthy immunity.
How to cultivate your Immune System
Many things affect the Immune System so there are many ways to bring about its improvement.
Stress Effects on Immunity
Stress lowers immunity. Everyone has experienced a stressful day or week and gotten sick afterward and known this was the cause. The physician Galen in the 2nd Century even discussed how melancholy women appeared more likely to develop cancer than sanguine women. Whether through tremendous physical, mental or emotional stress, the body’s defenses can become demoralized to the point of deficient immunity. This is one of the biggest causes of sickness nowadays, what with increased chronic stress due to environments we have created that don’t correspond to what we actually evolved for. Or the crazy timetables we try to keep which always seems impossible.
The central nervous system has substantial immunomodulation effects. This means we can actively increase the protection the immune system offers by practicing relaxation techniques and letting go of things, whether physical or emotional.
Learning your work capacity is also important. Our world is go, go, go, go. It is the domain of the Type A personality. Most of us are not that personality type but often try to keep up with it because that is how many people achieve success these days. This mismatch leads to all kinds of stress that can drag our immunity down with our emotions. This is why discovering how you work best and then applying yourself in that manner for your own happiness, even if it doesn’t appear that you will make money from it, in the beginning, goes a long way towards a healthier life.
There will always be times when we get pushed to our max but in moderation, these times are beneficial for us. Of course, there are adaptogenic herbs and practices that will help you handle more of and higher levels of these stressful times without pushing you into sickness. This is another aspect of radiant health.
- Breathing Techniques
- Exercise (when not over training)
- Healthy Sleep Patterns
- Proper Hormone Levels (Natural levels of Testosterone)
- Sex (amazing is better than bland!)
- American Ginseng
Detoxification of Heavy Metals and Chemicals
Anytime your body has to use extra energy to maintain its homeostatic balance between the inner and outer world means less energy for other purposes. A big draw on the immune system is having to deal with toxins found in our food, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the environments we sit in and the clothing we wear. The body will accumulate toxins and the more it does this, the less energy it can put forward towards defending itself from outside influences or it will go into overdrive, over reacting to every little new thing it encounters (autoimmune disease).
Our cultures tendency to disregard the pollution we live in to possess that fast, more convenient life we desire means that sickness is a very common thing. We make this sacrifice to have this easier seeming life. That being the case, anything we can do to lessen this burden on our bodies will help our immune system do the job it has evolved to do, the protection of the overall organism. Detoxing all these chemicals and harmful metals is an important aspect of having a radiant immune system.
Ways to Detox Heavy Metals and Chemicals
- Sweating them out (Saunas and sweat lodges)
- Lose Body Fat (toxins are stored in fat)
- Get Sound Sleep (helps the liver)
- Various Forms of Fasting
Herbs and Substances that Detox Heavy Metals and Chemicals
- Clay (Bentonite, Zeolite, etc.)
- Activated Charcoal
There is no discussion of immunity without that of mushrooms. The growing movement to use and consume these powerful helpers is a sure sign that there is something to them.
Mushrooms are for the most part immuno-modulating. That means they both excite a slow or lagging immune system to respond better to external and internal threats or, alternatively, put the brakes on an immune system over reacting to stimulates as happens in allergic responses or auto-immune diseases.
This is a very potent ability that all medicinal mushrooms and even regular cooking mushrooms seem to possess to varying degrees. While they help with overall immunity, each one seems to also specialize a bit in more direct ways with different melodies, specifically with disharmonies involving certain types of tumors.
Common Mushrooms used for Immunity
Of course, no discussion of immunity would be complete without talking about plant herbals. Plant remedies are the mainstay of human health and have been for virtually all of the 200,000 or so years that our species has been around. Listed below are some that have a profound effect on the vitality of our protective barrier.
Herbs that Help Immunity
- Camu Camu Berry
- Sea Buckthorn Berry
- Cat’s Claw
Digestive Flora as the Seat of Immunity
Recent research is shining light on what seems obvious to many cultures around the world; your guts health is a major indicator of your overall health. With the finding that we are more bacteria than human (there are about triple the number of bacteria inside of you as there are actual human cells in the body though this number may be revised down), interest is growing in the symbiotic relationships that play out. Most of these bacteria are found in the gut and seem to play a very significant role with the effectiveness of the immune system. If you have good gut health it would seem, you will be far more robust an individual than those that don’t.
It was recently found that a previously uncontacted tribe in Venezuela (2009 was first contact) had bacteria in their guts which already contained genes to establish antibiotic resistance. An immunologist was quoted as saying, “It emphasizes the need to ramp up our research for new antibiotics, because otherwise we’re going to lose this battle against infectious diseases,” and shows clearly the communities interest in fighting resistance in the way we wage war, with bigger guns. The problem with this is bacteria will be evolving and ramping up their armaments as well, much faster than we can. What works for a while will not work forever, and the war becomes everlasting.
The never ending war of antibiotics is a long and potentially very unhealthy one for us to be waging. Our health is in large part a result of our environment, whether we promote a healthy one or not is our decision to make. The liberal use of antibiotics has far ranging effects that are mostly ignored for the short-term gain of not dealing with the root cause of health issues.
One of the big surprises of the new findings is that we have what science has considered unhealthy bacteria inside us at all times. Some new results of these hunter/gatherer studies suggest that they could be good for us. Bacteria are very like us (and they should be since they are our ancient ancestors) and very adaptable. Findings suggest that when an environment gets bad, in this case being our gut environment, they will change how they operate to better survive that more hardcore environment. Could it be that the only reason we view them as bad for us is that we have only seen them in an environment that is degraded and negative to their natural habitat? Native peoples seem to have a higher amount of these bacteria, and a lower amount of “good” bacteria in their guts than would be considered safe in our world. They are, however, living in the natural home of humans while we are living in our artifact created world.
As science moves forward with its examination of how the health of the gut creates our immune reactions there are many things that an individual can do to promote the healthy bacteria in the gut to increase there protective effects over us. Fermented foods is perhaps the oldest option in this regard.
We live in kind of a vacuum in the West, consuming the least amount of fermented foods possibly in history. This has to do with refrigerators for the most part. Long used as a way of prolonging the shelf-life of foods, cold storage now does that for us. As a by-product of this, we lose out on the gut-promoting activities of these foods. Luckily, the resurgence of the traditions around fermenting seems to be on the upswing.
More then anything, consuming fermented foods will help to realign and rebalance your system. This is done by improving your digestion of foods (which will help your immune system) and inoculating you with healthy bacteria friends that will work with you to keep their home safe for their continued propagation, resulting in your improved health.
Listed below are many of the foods we can ferment.
- Kombucha (Fermented Tea)
- Kefir (Fermented Milks)
- Traditional Sourdough Bread
- Fermented Veggies (Pickles, Carrots, Garlic, Beets, etc.)
- Traditional condiments (Ketchups, Mustards, etc.)
- Pretty much anything can be fermented (salsa, meat, etc.)
- Fermented Alcohols
- Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Actions that Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria
- Having natural births through the birth canal
- Breastfeeding your children
- Eating dirt when young (or old)
- Growing up on a farm or in the wild
- Spending time in forests and other wild spaces
- Gardening (specifically getting dirt in your fingers which is then ingested by happenstance)
- Eating wild foraged foods
- Eating a healthy diet pertaining to our ancestral culture
- Having Pets
- Drinking Natural Water Sources
Actions that Decrease Healthy Gut Bacteria
- Consuming Antibiotics, Prescription Drugs, and/or Synthetic Recreational Drugs
- Not getting outside into the wild
- Food Poisoning
- Eating foods containing unnatural substances
- Drinking water containing chlorine and/or fluoride
Immunity in a nutshell. Quite a big topic with many things that had to be skipped over in the interest of keeping it shorter. I attempted to cover more of the uncommon knowledge that a regular person may not know about. Each subject contains much more knowledge that can be delved into that.
To your health.