“We should be rolling in the dirt, gardening, wrestling with some brambles and skinning animals for supper. These are important immune system builders.” Joel Salatin
Isn’t it ironic that the time when we have no actual control of our health – our early childhood, it’s the very time when life long immunity is built or affected? The first seven years of our lives are crucial. And it actually doesn’t stop there.
So where does true immunity really come from?
Below are just a few aspects that I believe are most important and often overlooked when people think “immunity”. It’s not a miraculous pill, herb or drink. It’s practically just normal things that people have been doing for thousands of years, knowing instinctively that it was the right thing to do. Modern society seems to have forgotten. But it goes like this:
This is the first step to a healthy life and if possible, mothers should take this aspect as seriously as possible. Breast milk is nature’s perfect food for babies. Breastmilk contains all of the essential nutrients, antibodies and other factors important for growth and development. It cannot be replicated.
Breast milk also contains important non-nutritional components, such as antimicrobial factors, digestive enzymes, hormones and growth factors that are important for passive protection against infections and immune-mediated diseases and modulate immunological development.
In cases where breastfeeding is not possible and it’s too early for the baby to start on cow’s milk and foods, you can ensure your baby still gets the best nutrition by offering home made baby formula. On Weston A Price’s website you can find the best and most reliable information on this matter, as well as complete recipes.
After RAW breast milk, what’s best? Raw organic milk from grass fed cows has very high conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) levels, biodiverse beneficial bacteria, intact active enzymes, that are required for absorption of minerals and effective digestion. It provides a source of lactase producing beneficial bacteria, reducing or eliminating lactose intolerance and it increases immunity to infection; 100 kinds of beneficial bacteria are found in raw milk at very low levels. Yogurt has only four or five!
Selling raw milk is not legal in all states, making this a very hot and debated topic in the natural health world. But thanks to the increase in sustainable farmers all over the US, you can still benefit of buying raw milk in a form or another. In California, where selling it is legal, you can find it in health food stores and farmers markets. Organic Pastures is the largest producer of raw, grass fed milk in California and the quality of their product is outstanding. In other states you can either buy it directly from a farm, or from a local co-op ( a non-profit community organization and business that is owned and managed by the people who use its services ). In Florida for example you can buy it labeled “for pet consumption”…And I know for sure that people who buy it in this form actually drink it themselves!
To find your local resources for raw, grass fed milk go to www.eatwild.com for a complete list of sustainable farmers in your area.
Photo credit: HandPickedNation
Dirt, Farms and Animals
Have you ever seen children eat dirt? I did. And although most parents panic when that happens, now there is scientific proof that confirms that such simple, natural, instinctual actions are actually normal. Funny how we always need “scientific proof ” for everything these days, don’t we?
Two major reference studies are the PARSIFAL (Prevention of Allergy — Risk Factors for Sensitization in Children Related to Farming and Anthroposophic Lifestyle) and GABRIELA studies (Multidisciplinary Study to Identify the Genetic and Environmental Causes of Asthma in the European Community [GABRIEL] Advanced Study). These studies revealed that children who grow up in environments that afford them a wide range of microbial exposures, such as traditional farms, are protected from childhood asthma and atopy.
Researchers from Indiana, Switzerland, and Germany ran surveys and tests on Swiss and US children aged 6-12 years and submitted their results to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Because the Amish emigrated from Switzerland, and are thus genetically similar, the team compared Northern Indiana Amish farm children with today’s Swiss kids. Though rural kids are known to be healthier than city kids, the team found that the Amish have a superior immune response to allergens and asthma than even Swiss farm kids have.
In her book Why Dirt is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends, Mary Ruebush PhD explains how just like any other muscle in our body, the immune system needs to be exercised in order to fully develop and become strong enough to resist illness and disease.
“What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment. Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”
Earthing goes hand in hand with the above: we just have to BE on the Earth! What can be more simple than that, in order to stay healthy? Humans have been doing it for millions of years! Walking, sleeping, being connected to the healing energy of the Earth all the time! But these days, we need “scientific proof” again that such natural behaviors are actually healing to our bodies and not just silly theories.
So, what is earthing? Multiple scientific studies involving biophysicists, electrophysiologists, medical doctors, and exercise physiologists have produced fascinating evidence demonstrating that direct connection to the Earth’s ground energy has a powerful and positive influence on the body. Plastic or rubber soles insulate people from the natural electrical surface charge of the Earth known in the electrical world simply as “ground.” All electrical systems in our homes, businesses, and industries, are stabilized and protected by the Earth’s “ground.”
New research has raised the possibility that this disconnect may actually contribute to chronic pain, fatigue, and poor sleep that plague so many people.
The remedy for the disconnect is simple. Walk barefoot outdoors whenever possible and/or sleep, work, or relax indoors in contact with conductive sheets or mats that transfer the energy to your body. People who do on a regular basis say they sleep better, feel better, and have more energy during the day. Here you can buy the sheets and learn more about earthing: http://www.earthing.com
Healthy Food and Lifestyle
It doesn’t all stop with being breastfed, eating healthy as a child and being exposed to the ground, dirt, farm animals and microbes… A healthy diet and lifestyle with no use of toxic substances should continue all throughout the life to ensure you don’t generate toxic buildup and inflammation in the body. Most diseases and a suppressed immune system are basically created by these factors. If you don’t know what foods are healthy for you and what your body really needs, then you can easily find out through Metabolic Typing – a revolutionary system that combines ancient medicine with the newest technology to determine the way your metabolism functions, how to balance its unique biochemistry, keep high immunity and reverse disease. The multitude of external factors that affected us throughout our lives, as well as our genetical inheritance play an important role to determine what foods are good for our body.
Below is what I believe are the top 5 factors that destroy immunity. Unfortunately, most people these days have undergone at least one or two of them. But it’s not too late for our children yet to start on the right foot or “food” and avoid the chemical concoctions we, parents, had to put up with!
Commercial Baby Formula
Top baby formula brands sold in stores contain alarmingly high levels of corn syrup and sugar. The most prevalent ingredients in baby formulas are: Corn Syrup Solids, Sugar (Sucrose), Milk Protein Isolate, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil and other artificial and toxic, cheap additions that are far from real breast milk. There is NOT ONE healthy ingredient in this list and I’m amazed that such products still exist on the market. “Good start” on the label just means “good profit” on the paper.
These are all nutrients that are destroyed, unavailable, altered or inhibited in commercial baby formulas, but they are present in breast milk:
Essential omega-3 & -6 fatty acids
B-12 binding protein
Considering this, commercial baby formula can not possibly be a healthy start for babies. Unfortunately many of the side effects can be seen later in life, and usually get progressively worse: low immunity to disease, gastrointestinal disorders and a poor beneficial gut flora being the most prevalent factors.
The Gut Connection Between Mother and Baby
80 percent of the function of the healthy human immune system is the ecosystem of bacteria found in the gut. Since babies are born with a sterile gut flora, the mother esentially “downloads” her gut health / flora into the baby through breastfeeding. No wonder why digestive problems are usually getting worse with each generation! There are also mass problems with food assimilation and breathing difficulties continually on the rise. Processed foods and antibiotics are two primary factors for a poor gut flora.
Also, babies that are born by Cesarean section do not receive this first important benefit of a healthy gastrointestinal flora. Why? Because when a baby is born the natural way, she/ he swallows bacteria and other microorganisms from the birth canal. Infants that experience neither vaginal birth nor breastfeeding, or whose mothers pass unhealthy microflora on to them, are therefore at a great disadvantage.
The concept of exposing people to germs at an early age to build immunity is known as the hygiene hypothesis.
Medical professionals have suggested that the hygiene hypothesis explains the global increase of allergic and autoimmune diseases in urban settings. It has also been suggested that the hypothesis explains the changes that have occurred in society and environmental exposures, such as giving antibiotics early in life.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have conducted a study that provides evidence supporting the hygiene hypothesis, as well as a potential mechanism by which it might occur. The study was published online in the journal Science on the Science Express Web site on March 22, 2012.
The researchers found that germ-free mice had exaggerated inflammation of the lungs and colon resembling asthma and colitis, respectively. This was caused by the hyperactivity of a unique class of T cells (immune cells) that had been previously linked to these disorders in both mice and humans.
Most importantly, the researchers discovered that exposing the germ-free mice to microbes during their first weeks of life, but not when exposed later in adult life, led to a normalized immune system and long lasting prevention of diseases.
A sterile environment is just not possible, no matter how much Clorox and Purell you pour over your body and house. We can not kill all bacteria, viruses and living organisms around us to stay healthy. It is not their fault. It is just our responsibility to keep a healthy immune system that can deal with everything we are exposed to in the environment.
If you need to use a sanitizer instead of water and soap then choose a natural, non toxic product that will not harm your body and the environment, while proven effective. CleanWell products meet these requirements and beyond!
Exposure to Environmental Microorganisms and Childhood Asthma. The New England Journal of Medicine: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1007302
Mark Holbreich, et al. “Amish children living in Northern Indiana have a very low prevalence of allergic sensitization,” 19 April 2012. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0091-6749/PIIS0091674912005192.pdf