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Karin & David Henderson

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Your Immune System and Meniere's Disease: Delicate Yet Critical How It Serves You And Why You Need To Keep It Healthy

Why a carrot is good and a milk chocolate bar is not...

In the following information, I want to describe what the Immune System is and how it works and how it is connected to your Meniere's Disease symptoms. Then I'll mention some situations that can overload it and cause it to be less than protective and productive. I'll show how it can be brought back to function adequately. Lastly, I want to show you how to keep it healthy.  As usual this information is for educational purposes only. If you think of something that might be happening to you, please check with your doctor or other health care professional.

Don't diagnose and treat yourself. But do take the time to read and research. I am including several professional and trustworthy links for just that purpose. I write these articles so you can have an intelligent conversation with your doctor. Not that you are not intelligent, but that you can ask the right questions and understand the conversation in a more productive way. If you pay close attention you will realize that rarely does anyone ever discuss what a healthy body actually is or needs to stay that way. We take it for granted that somehow...magically, things appear that keeps your body in good working order.

I wonder what went through your mind as you read title. Did this catch your attention? Or are you like I was a few years ago...thinking this is NOT for me. This is only for academics and health fanatics. This topic had no interest for me. I felt I didn't need to know it and didn't want to spend any time understanding it. It just didn't SEEM to relate to anything in my life. If someone mentioned "immune system" or "vitamins" or taking something other than Vitamin C to protect myself when I had a cold, I had absolutely no interest.

What changed my mind? I saw the effects of medications on elderly people, who I thought was drugged into "unreality". I also watched many people die of diseases at a relatively young age. I saw many older people go on happily well into their nineties. I asked myself what the difference could be.

Your personal experiences have very strong ways of "trapping" your attention, especially if it's your own body telling you to wake up. Suddenly, hearing about the need to protect or rebuild your immune system takes on a totally different meaning.

Suddenly you feel connected. It doesn't sound so unreal any more. As is so often the case, things don't matter until you are personally faced with a major and maybe life-threatening situation for yourself or a loved one. It was at such a stage, that I was introduced to understanding how degenerative diseases could be slowed down and what I could personally do the prevent them.

These days, my life revolves around explaining how the immune system works, how it has broken down, and why you really need to keep it healthy. This is not some far off ethereal, wishy-washy, "tip toe through the tulips" concept. It is a very practical choice you have to make consciously, and apply to your health NOW. We have made giant steps in understanding our bodies: how they die (slowly and painfully) and how to keep them alive (happily and healthily). Ponder this...why do some people live healthily till they die and why so others limp along painfully to a sad ending? Why wouldn't we all die the same way?

And that is what I want to share here. This is about living everyday and every minute to your best possible potential. Not living in anticipation of your death, but taking an active role in creating a good life for yourself. And the factual part is that only YOU can create it for yourself. Neither your doctor nor your spouse, nor anyone else, can do this for you. This is a brutal, but real fact. The other scary part is that the choice to take control is YOURS. So if you choose to move forward in health and longevity, you need to learn how to do this.

I am going to give you a variety of descriptions, definitions, and research sites. I urge you to start paying attention to what is going on ...or not going on, in your own body. This is how you can prevent many degenerative conditions from getting a foothold. That includes cancer. One marvellous place to find all sorts of information is "Medline". It is a site used by many health care professionals and the research community.
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/healthtopics.html
(If the links don't work, cut and paste them into your browser.)  I suggest you use these links and save them for all sorts of future research.

Definitions from Medline. 

Just by reading the definitions, you will get some basic understanding. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/8673.htm
"The immune system protects the body from potentially harmful substances. The inflammatory response (inflammation) is part of innate immunity. It occurs when tissues are injured by bacteria, trauma, toxins, heat, or any other cause."

THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

The immune system protects the body from potentially harmful substances by recognizing and responding to so-called antigens. Antigens are large molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Some non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles (such as a splinter) can be antigens.  Substances that contain these antigens are recognized and destroyed by the immune system. Even your own body cells have proteins that are antigens (these include a group of antigens called HLA antigens). Your immune system learns to see these antigens as "normal" and does not usually react against them.

IMMUNE RESPONSE
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000821.htm "The immune response is the way the body recognizes and defends itself against microorganisms, viruses, and substances recognized as foreign and potentially harmful to the body."


THE BODY'S FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE
http://www.niaid.nih.gov/final/immun/immun.htm "The immune system is a complex of organs--highly specialized cells and even a circulatory system separate from blood
vessels--all of which work together to clear infection from the body. The organs of the immune system, positioned throughout the body, are called lymphoid organs. The word "lymph" in Greek means a pure, clear stream--an appropriate description considering its appearance and purpose."

RECOGNIZING THE INVADER
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/19331.htm "An allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to substances (allergens) that are generally harmless and in most people do not cause an immune response. Antibodies are formed by the immune system in response to the presence of an antigen such as pollen, mould, dust or dander." These are important definitions and descriptions.

Recognize that these definitions and links come from well-respected and trustworthy sites. (I think I have said those words before, but it IS really important that unless you have this kind of reliable knowledge, you can be so easily misled.)  All of these sites have research studies attached. This is Step One in the care and feeding of your Immune System.

Let's see how they could be put to practical use in your body and in your life through examples. As you have just read, the Immune System is a series of protective mechanisms or systems found naturally in your body. This protection is both internal and external. It provides protection to the entire body, with many "subsections". These protect you regionally (limb) and locally (finger). Immune System keeps internal (pathogens/disease-causing) and external (foreign bodies) invaders from affecting your everyday life. (For ease of our discussion, these invaders are called "free radicals".)

We will use the term Immune System "generally" to describe all the protective systems of the body. This system is made up of a variety of defence mechanisms including antibodies, which have very specific functions. We also don't often think in terms of the skin and digestive tract (mucous membranes, saliva, stomach juices) spleen, etc.,) being connected to this, but they also play very important roles. An example of the defence mechanism with "local parts" is the inflammatory system or response. This is one of the MOST important defences you can have. Guard it carefully.

Here is a very simplistic explanation of the "inflammatory process". You step on a nail. Immediately the body recognizes this as an abnormal "invasion" and sends out the inflammatory process to get rid of the invader(s). In this case, it would be an increase of fluid, including large amounts of white blood cells. This fluid will remain there until the healing is complete or until some other process (antibiotics) takes over. Then it stays to counteract the antibiotics (drugs/chemicals). The volume of this fluid causes its own problems as the pressure causes pain and distortion of the area's anatomy. And when this process is also active in places like the ear, brain, or eye, because of limited space, it will cause additional problems. Its purpose is to wash the toxins out of the area.

There is the body-wide response in the form of the lymphatic system. As well, the immune system has many organs that will either protect or not accept free radicals or intruders. Your sinuses will protect you by filtering out certain chemicals.  Your stomach will "return" unwanted items. Your eyelids will block out unwanted light. Your nose will make you aware of undesirable smells and you can cover your nose or turn away.  Knowing we have such powerful protection available to us, it scares me when someone calls and tells me that certain very invasive procedures are to be done. On further questioning, it's obvious that the symptoms are very uncomfortable or debilitating. And that's fine, but WHY are those symptoms there?  What is your body trying to protect you FROM? From what you have already read, wouldn't you now be asking a different question?

If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, here lie some answers. Our bodies are meant to function until you die of old age. And the Immune System is there to help you achieve that goal. Does it not make sense then to learn how to care for and feed it wisely? Arthritis, Lupus, Cancer, Cataracts, Macular Degeneration, Fibromyalgia, Diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc. are not aging conditions. They are degenerative conditions. And can be handled very differently and very hopefully.

Here are a couple of examples from other parts of "life" to help you "connect" this new knowledge to your "real" life experiences. You have a new lawn. You are excited and proud, and spend a lot of "quality time" nurturing it. You water it, feed it, cut it, check it for bugs, and treat those. And if you find moss, (heaven forbid!) you stamp it out with its own "killer".  Then you add more chemicals in the fall to prevent other problems. This is your work of art. You treat your car the very same and proud way.

Or relate your body to a new house. You polish it and dust it.  You vacuum it very frequently. You are a very proud homeowner.  It is said that for most of us, our homes will be our most prized possession (well apart from guys and their cars, right?) The point is that you wouldn't forget to clean your home or fertilize your lawn or wash and polish your car. As the proud homeowner of your body, you should be giving the same high degree of attention to it. All the time...till you are "old": not degenerating. Your parents did it for you till you could take over. Then other things got in the way and you began to take it for granted. Your body is tremendously forgiving...up to a point.

An aging condition is natural and happens because the body delivers less of a product i.e. less lubricant, in a slower manner, or meets a change of needs and adjusts accordingly. For instance in an aging knee, the fluid produced would be less in amount, and you would be moving it less, so the entire fluid process wouldn't let you move as fast. In an arthritic knee, the inner surfaces deteriorate from overuse (any number of reasons): not from aging, causing the fluid to dry up much faster. (It's the movement of the knee joint that produces the natural lubricating fluid, Glucosamine.) In relation to sugars, a healthy body is normally ready only to manufacture as much insulin as needed. For instance, in Diabetes, the process of balancing the insulin production and sugar intake is impaired.  This is not aging: it's degeneration.

The immune system also plays a crucial role in your ability to weather exposure to parasites, bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other hazards that interact daily with your body. Your body's struggle against disease is played out twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, in each and every individual cell. Your immune system meets innumerable challenges and overcomes countless enemies throughout your lifetime.

Although your Immune System is seen to be completely supportive, it does have a negative component. This it the "auto-immune" activity. This occurs when the body doesn't appear to like itself and tries to attack its own cells, as in the case of lupus or scleroderma. There is controversy about its possible existence, cause, and treatment. Traditional treatment calls for more chemicals, resulting in more free radicals. Are you beginning to see the connections? There are children who have a very limited (compromised) immune system. They have to spend their entire lives in very protective environments so as to avoid exposure to potential life-threatening organisms.

How would you overload or cause your immune system to malfunction? Simply by using up its supply of antioxidants at a rate higher than what your body is being supplied with. In other words, what you eat doesn't supply enough nutrients to power the system consistently or adequately. So the carrot you eat, provides some antioxidants. The chocolate bar you snack on provides elements that the body wants to get rid of, especially sugars.

Unfortunately, you are not the only contributor to "neglect" in your body. Other situations that add to this deterioration are chemicals, and irritants such as moulds, pollens, etc. These are not natural to your body. They may be common, but they are not "of the body". They may be going into your body, on it, or being inhaled. Your eyes, nose, throat, skin, etc. are all entry points. They are those unpleasant "noxious" smells you breathe, your headache medication, your calorie-reduced drinks, surgery and all its related drugs, some types of fillings in your teeth, the implants in your bones, the fluorescent lights in your environment...the list goes on. They all contribute to this unwanted demand in your body. And what about the unnatural amount of salt or the preservatives you find in your prepared foods that enhance taste, freshness, and appearance. (We ask for them because we want our foods to look great and be tasty.)

Your body also recognizes every drug you coming into it (no matter by what method) and wants to get rid of it. Every drug, no matter how innocent or helpful, is made up of chemicals. So think of all you take in, and, yes, that includes the wines and other "spirits", the tobacco, and even "recreation" drugs, as well as the cleaning aids we have in our mops, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.

These might be considered pretty obvious "triggers" for the immune system to start working, but others could something as unusual as the insulation in your house or nail polish. If you don't have a healthy immune system (abundance of anti-oxidants), you are at the mercy of any and every negative condition in your environment: smoke, air pollution, water pollution, etc., even stress. Your body is not only physical...it has the emotional and spiritual part of it and these are vital to its healthy balance. And stress is a huge factor, but don't get caught up in blaming stress for all your woes. That's easy to do and often it's not a correct assumption.

For a time, it was widely assumed that infectious diseases had been brought under control, especially in our industrialized world. We now know that this is not true. The appearance of AIDS, the huge increase in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and the recent re-appearance of Tuberculosis (TB) are very real and disturbing. As well, we also now have harmful microorganisms that are resistant to at least two very powerful groups of antibiotics. If you are exposed to these pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms), your immune system might be unable to protect you. This is the immune response malfunctioning (overloaded) or not even existing any more.

We continue to use antibiotics to "cover" everything. We are now discovering that this was just adding more problems. (This is why you should not overdo the use of anti-bacterial soaps: most people have no real need for them.) Every chemical going into your body is seen as an enemy: a free radical.

A majority of the illnesses that afflict us are related to negative nutritional factors such as inadequate amounts of the correct nutrients and the unavailability of a complete and balanced lifestyle in a "friendly" environment. A diet high in animal fat and cholesterol and low in fiber is unsuitable.  Tobacco/ smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive exercise, and factors such as chemical carcinogens, ozone depletion, air pollution, industrial toxins, also contribute to this negative environment. They result in oxidative stress.  Again, these, in our very simplistic terms for ease of understanding, are "free radicals". And without getting too technical, oxidative stress relates to the number of free radicals and the inadequate amount of antioxidants to neutralize them. In other words, the free radicals have outnumbered the antioxidants.

All these are part of this overload. More "free radicals". But you have to live... So want can you do? I often mention the Journal of the American Medical Association report on the use of nutritional supplementation. If such a conservative "institution" is supporting the use of nutritional supplements to reverse and or prevent degenerative conditions, it really pays to listen.

What can you do to help insure that your immune system can provide you with health and energy? The answer has many parts, but it can be described simply. Essentially you will want to reduce the intake or exposure to anything that creates free radicals or toxins, and increase whatever nutrients your body needs to "empower" the Immune System. It's not quite so simple as many things contribute to both the positive and the negative side. You can't realistically sit in your garden and eat lots of carrots, as your body needs all the elements of a nutritionally balanced diet. (One of my fondest memories is sitting in a strawberry patch on Cape Cod as a teenager, eating all the strawberries I wanted. Instead of getting healthier, I broke out in a rash! I guess my body was sending a message of "unhealthiness". Maybe moderation should have been part of my decision.) Start looking carefully at what you eat and make sure it is helpful and supportive in your new search for health.

A healthy Immune System is supplied with a constant and adequate flow of anti- oxidants (along with many other elements.) These are received through a well balanced, complete, nutrient-rich diet.

Most research concludes that the restoration and maintenance of your healthy body depends strongly on your nutritional and lifestyle choices. Become aware of the connection of all these factors. Educate yourself about "oxidative stress". (An ongoing overabundance of free radicals in an inadequate amount of anti-oxidants.) In this day of pollution, pesticides, fertilizers, preservatives, etc., it is very difficult to avoid free radicals. So you have to prepare to overcome them instead.  You have just read of some of the different ways these chemicals come into your body. Open your eyes to the world around you. Do you now see the need for "nutritional" supplementation: complete and balanced? And as you probably (like me) won't know how to create this balanced set of nutrients, find yourself someone who does. Know that Recommended Daily Allowances RDA's are the minimum requirements. For a healthy and empowering lifestyle, you need far more than that: you need "optimum" nutrition.  You can click here to read about "HOW TO CHOOSE A NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT: A "Multivitamin" Safely And Wisely."

When it comes to your well being, there are no guarantees.  However, the daily decisions you make may have a tremendous effect on the outcome of your overall health. The better your nutritional status, the better all systems, including your immune system will be. (I am sure you have heard of people who can't heal or heal quickly. This is the reason.) Commit today to taking the necessary steps towards giving your body the best possible defenses against disease. Health is not just the absence of disease: it is the empowering of your body to perform at its optimal level. Make a decision NOW treat your body with due care and attention. The results will astound you! Your job is to feed your immune system with health-sustaining foods: with nutrients that can rebuild your Immune System. Doesn't it now make sense to reduce or eliminate as many chemicals as possible from your body? The fewer free radicals you have to neutralize, the quicker the response will obviously be.  Let me recommend one mind-opening book. It is written by a medical doctor who changed the direction of his practice from drug focus to wellness focus. Read his wisdom. "Death By Prescription : The Shocking Truth Behind an Overmedicated Nation" Ray D. Strand,  available from Amazon.com.

As you have been reading, have you felt overwhelmed and unsure, yet grateful to your body that it doesn't make you realize how important and powerful your immune system is? Take heart...here are some eye-opening equations. Optimum amounts of nutrients and a degenerative condition equal a renewing healthy body.  A relatively healthy body without any added chemicals, including drugs, equals a very happy person!

Isn't it strange that those things that could have kept you healthy naturally are not taught or discussed. It's as though we feel our bodies are indestructible and if something breaks down, we just need to add a few chemicals (drugs) to patch it up! Doesn't it seem relatively simple to repair your immune system without hurting it more?

Slowly things are changing. We are starting to pay attention to the cause and effect aspect of our body. We pay attention to our cars, our gardens, our homes, etc. How far behind will our bodies come? Until something traps your attention. And this will most likely come in the form of a very debilitating condition.  A healthy, energetic life is entirely possible, even if you have a degenerative condition. But it will take time to restore the protective measures of the Immune System. It didn't get worn out in a few days. Neither will it be restored quickly, but it can be restored. The decision to start this repair is yours.  Remember this simple formula: more anti-oxidants than free
radicals going in equals health and longevity. Start to take back control of your health today. The decision is yours alone.

We have another article about understanding and maintaining your immune system if you have Meniere's Disease, you can read that article here.

 

By Karin Henderson - Nurse, Retired.

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Additional Information

 

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