Nature’s ‘Immunologic Scalpel’ for Our Toxic World
Today it’s impossible to escape the endless list of toxins and chemicals that enter our environment day after day. Fumes from cars, radiation from computers, the earth’s depleted ozone layer, packaged foods that have been overprocessed, and pesticides sprayed onto crops are a few.
It’s no wonder that so many North Americans suffer from toxic inflammatory diseases. But there is a natural way to boost the immune system.
Fortunately, our own immunity works 24/7 against toxins that enter the body and trigger allergic reactions. Without this natural defense, our bodies would decompose in a few days due to microbes, parasites, and toxins.
Every year, North Americans, on average, suffer six common colds due to weakened immune systems. And infections become more dangerous as we age. For instance, during early life, influenza is rarely fatal. But later, when it strikes an exhausted immune system, it results in the deaths of thousands of seniors every year.
Nor is today’s stressful life kind to our immune systems. Chronic stress triggers the release of proinflammatory cytokines, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders such as psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.
It’s estimated that in North America there are 30 million allergy sufferers. Some people have acute anaphylactic attacks that are life-threatening. But the majority are affected by pollen, animal dander, dust mites in bedding, mold that collects in showers, window mold, and damp basements that cause inflammatory reaction in the body’s airways.
To test the effects of stress on healing, researchers compared women who had to care for Alzheimer’s patients and those without this stress. Both groups were subjected to a small skin biopsy. The caregivers took 24 percent longer to heal.
Another threat today is exposure to radiation. In addition to X-rays and CT scans, there is radiation from cell phones, microwave ovens, and transmission towers. Although television gives off radiation from one station, our bodies receive transmissions from many more stations. And unlike an infection that goes away, radiation never does, accumulating year by year.
Since few can live as a hermit, what can be done to bolster immunity from seasonal allergies, fibromyalgia, constant fatigue, aching muscles, prostate problems, and rheumatoid arthritis?
Dr. John Wilkinson, senior herbal medicine lecturer at Middlesex University, London, England, says the answer is plant sterols, which, like vitamin C, cannot be made by our bodies. Studies show that plant sterols reduce inflammation, which helps to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis. This is why plant sterols have been called nature’s “immunologic scalpel.”
But consuming sufficient plant sterols is easier said than done. For instance, 3.5 ounces of unprocessed wheat contain 4,200 milligrams of sterols. But after processing it into flour, more than 90 percent of the sterol is lost. This is hardly a plus for civilization.
If you’re not getting sufficient plant sterols, an improved diet is a good start. Research has also shown that regular exercise can bolster the immune system by stimulating the body’s natural killer cells.
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