Illness is a paradox. It’s something that can often be prevented, yet at the same time it’s also inevitable. Upon entering our bodies, it leaves many of us feeling helpless, lonely, and often deeply discouraged.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Because we live in a broken world, with imperfect bodies, we are bound to catch some sort of infection at least once in our lives. And because of this, I believe it is incredibly wise to prepare for these unannounced intruders.
“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3
Our body’s defense against illness is our immune system, and its strength or weakness will determine whether we contract an infection or allow a disease to slowly develop within our bodies.
There are two types of diseases we will become familiar with in today’s discussion. But, the probability of preventing these diseases increases significantly with a healthy immune system – one that is nourished daily with the proper intake of vitamins and minerals from diet.
Two Types of Disease
I. Infectious diseases are diseases caused by the entry of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi) into the body through contact, food, water, or vectors (carrier) such as mosquitoes. Examples of these are the flu, common cold, AIDS, malaria, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. These still serve as the primary cause of death in women and children around the world, predominately in underdeveloped countries where malnourishment is prevalent.
II. Chronic diseases are diseases that are of long duration and generally slow progression. Examples of chronic diseases are heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. According to the World Health Organization, these account for 63% of all deaths around the world, and each of these are directly linked to poor diet.
The Response of the Immune System
Once these foreign substances enter into the cells of our bodies, the immune system generates responses known as antigens. These serve as indicators screaming “foreign invader” and marking where the white blood cells should attack.
It’s important to understand how our bodies operate in the face of conflict, so that we can understand how to effectively aid our bodies.
“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15
Out of the 100 trillion cells in the human body, 1 out of every 100 is a white blood cell. There are two types of white blood cells that dominate the body’s defense system:
Lymphocytes and Phagocytes
Phagocytes: These are first to arrive on the scene. Once they recognize the antigen marker on the foreign substance, they engulf it and digest it. If you’ve ever played the game pacman, you’ll understand what I am saying. When the immune system is strong (due to the intake of proper nutrients), this entire process operates at a much quicker pace. This is often why some people can recover from illness quicker than others.
Lymphocytes (B-Cells and T-Cells): These cells work synergistically with the phagocytes to destroy pathogenic (harmful) substances. The B-Cells produce antibodies (highly specialized ammunition for the antigen marking the attacking foreign invader) which adhere to foreign substances and completely destroy them. The T-cells are also highly specific cells as they can only attack one type of antigen. These are incredible fighters against microbe-causing infections. A great example is the flu. If you have contracted one strain of the flu virus, after a period of time, the T-cells memorize the strain, so if you were to catch it again, there would be no delay in assassinating the foreigner intruder. This is absolutely incredible.
Do you see why it is vitally important that we keep our bodies strong? Our bodies are fighting for us; shouldn’t we also fight for them? Is it not loving to give our cells what they need to fight and protect us from harmful diseases?
Let’s just stop and think about that for a moment.
One important factor to understand when it comes to our immune systems’ response to infection is inflammation. This occurs in both acute (short term) and chronic (long term) infection.
Let me explain a bit further. When you are stung by a bee and the poison enters into your blood stream, the blood supply is increased. Blood vessels become more permeable, which permits white blood cells rush to the site (as explained above). As the phagocytes consume the microbes, oxidative products (waste) such as hydrogen peroxide are released, and the area swells. After a short time, the body rids itself of the toxins and then the inflammation goes down. This is a beautiful thing. Acute inflammation is healthy. And this is the reason why consuming antioxidant-rich foods is so healthy.
However, when chronic inflammation, the body is in a prolonged state of crisis (often due to diet or inherited factors) and toxins are not flushed out. This can lead to the aforementioned chronic diseases that include coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Foods To Empower The Immune System:
Yogurt – Believe it or not, this yummy treat isn’t just for strengthening your bones. It also contains probiotics (live strains of good bacteria) that keep your intestinal track clear of disease-causing microbes. Lactobacillus reuteri is specifically known for its ability to stimulate white blood cell activity.
Garlic – This is a relative of the onion that contains allicin, an ingredient that acts like an antibiotic in fighting infection and bacteria. Research suggests that garlic lovers who consume more than six cloves a week have a 30% lower rate of colorectal cancer and a 50% lower rate of stomach cancer. Talk about being proactive.
Fish – Salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich in omega-3 fats (essential fats), which act as anti-inflammatories, aid the formation of cell membranes, and decrease high blood pressure.
Green Tea – Both black and green tea (including decaf) contain an amino acid known as L-theanine, which stimulates the immune system. Green tea also carries a high content of flavonoids (plant-derived antioxidants). According to the Harvard Medical School, green tea is the best food source of catechins (an anti-oxidant). In test tubes, catechins are more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells and appear to have other disease-fighting properties. Studies have found an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers, including skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder.