Seed or Soil?

[originally published in KCN, December 2000]

Seed or SoilWith the Holiday Season upon us comes its not so welcomed compadre: the “Cold and Flu Season.”  And with news reporters telling us that our nation’s drug companies are running a little low on the Traditional Flu Shots that we have come to expect, many are being forced to abandon these “shots” of artificial “immunity” for, perhaps, as some new studies are suggesting, something that will ultimately benefit them more in the long run:  bolstering their body’s immunity, naturally.

Louis Pasteur reminds us that “the microbe is nothing” and that “the soil is everything.”  In other words, if germs (microbes) were seeds, in order for them to grow and “germinate” into viable disease states, they would need fertile soil in which to do so.  The question we need to pose to ourselves is “What is the condition of our ‘soil’?”  Are you a “Disease Gardener’s Paradise”, or are you actively doing things to make your “soil” an inhospitable residence for “seeds?”

Why is it that several people can be exposed to the same “germs” and only a couple get sick, while the others remain well?  Or likewise, why is it that some people, even after taking a flu shot, still get the flu?  The answer is resistanceOur body’s ability to resist disease or infection depends on the strength of our immune systems.

Beyond AntibioticsThere are many things we can do to keep our immune systems humming at full power.  Drs. Schmidt, Smith, and Sehnert provide many researched ideas in their book Beyond Antibiotics:  50 (or so) Ways to Boost Immunity and Avoid Antibiotics. If this is a topic that interests you, I highly recommend you get a hold of this book.  But for those looking for a “Clif’s Note” version, I’ll attempt to highlight some of the basics.

Food Pyramid roundA major player in making your “soil” impenetrable to germ seeds is good nutrition.  The World Health Organization has been quoted as saying, “The best vaccine against common infectious diseases is an adequate diet.”  Diets lacking adequate nutritional content virtually pave the way for organisms to invade the body and establish themselves.  And once sick, poor nutrition will only slow your recovery time. But as important as nutrition is in its effect on the immune system, Dr. Schmidt and his colleagues warn us not to become obsessive about it, as worrying about it may negate much of the good you’ve accomplished.  Our moods, state-of-mind, and ability to cope with stress can have a tremendous impact on our susceptibility to infectious disease.

Our ability to cope with stressors is closely linked with another immune bolstering recommendation:  getting adequate sleep.  Failure to get adequate sleep leads to fatigue, which can impair our resistance to illness and our ability to cope with stressful events.

How about another idea?  A simple, yet powerful, step you can implement into your daily routine right now is frequent washing of your hands — and especially making a point to keep your hands away from your eyes and nose, as these are easy access points of infection invasion.

There are many other very important ways to boost your natural immunity such as regular exercise, reducing refined sugar intake, avoidance of smoking and alcohol, and reduction/avoidance of various environmental toxins and pollutants.  And their book’s list of “50 (or so)” ways to boost your immunity goes on.  Get the book to delve into the details.

Of course, being that I am a chiropractor, I would be remiss if I didn’t make mention of the exciting frontiers we are uncovering in regards to immune function and chiropractic (something their book covers as well).

In recent years, scientists have discovered, contrary to their initial thoughts, that indeed there are connections (both direct and indirect) that interlink our nervous and immune systems.  “In fact,” as one chiropractic text states, “it is probably fair to say that nearly all immunologists now recognize some role

The Link1for the nervous system in modulating immune system function, if not a primary role.”  With that having been said, and knowing that chiropractic adjustments can have a positive effect on the nervous system (by relieving irritating spinal nerve root pressure caused by vertebrae that have lost their normal motion or position), the question as to whether chiropractic adjustments of the spine can influence the immune system to some sort of useful degree, remains.  However, several preliminary studies seem to suggest that further research endeavors in this area would definitely be worth our while.

One such study was a case report of four patients with back pain.  All four patients underwent chiropractic treatments — three improved, one did not.  Of the three that improved, the level of antibodies in their blood streams rose significantly, even when measuring 14 days after initiation of their care.  Interestingly, the patient whose back pain did not improve with chiropractic care experienced a notable drop in his antibody levels.

Another interesting case study demonstrated significant increases in B cell lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) following a regimen of chiropractic care.

colic-jmptBut perhaps one of the most thought-provoking studies came out of the Northwestern College of Chiropractic by Patricia Brennan, Ph.D.  Her group showed that when the thoracic spine (mid-back) was adjusted, the respiratory burst cycle of polymorphonuclear neutrophils and monocytes (types of white blood cells) were enhanced.

In addition to these preliminary studies, there is a growing body of clinical evidence that also suggests a possible link between chiropractic and immune function.  Back in 1987, a leading researcher in the field of manipulative medicine, Gottfried Gutmann, M.D., reported on the examination and treatment of more than 1,000 infants and small children.  His findings revealed that many common ear, nose, throat, and bronchial disorders of childhood respond more favorably to adjustment of vertebrae than to medication.

German physician Karl Lewit, writing in a textbook of manual medicine, reported that 92% of youthful patients with chronic tonsillitis had misalignment of the first cervical vertebra and occiput (base of skull).  When these misalignments were adjusted, according to Dr. Lewit, “recurrence was absent.”

And Dr. Lewit is not alone in his findings.  Pediatrician U. Mohr reported on cases of chronic tonsillitis in which tonsillectomy was planned.  However, after treatment of “functional disturbances” of the spine via adjustments, the problems resolved and no tonsillectomies were needed.

Another worthy observation comes from a study out of the Journal of Chiropractic Research.  The study surveyed 200 pediatricians and 200 chiropractors regarding the health of their own children.  Because of their different backgrounds in training and experience, one could safely speculate that the children of chiropractors would be more apt to receive a natural-based approach to their health care (spinal adjustments, nutritional and herbal therapy, homeopathy, and acupuncture) with less emphasis on antibiotics and other drugs than the children of pediatricians.  The results of the study found that 69% of the chiropractors’ children reported “no occurrence of middle ear infection” compared to 20% of the pediatricians’ children.  “No tonsillitis” was reported in 73% of the chiropractors’ children versus 57% of the pediatricians’ children.

So what does all this mean?  Well, it’s hard to say as of yet.  More studies need to be completed before definitive conclusions can be drawn.  However, while chiropractic is definitely not a cure for infectious diseases, there is an aspect of it that appears to stimulate disease resistance — and knowing that may be all your soil needs.

___________

Addendum:  In April 2009 I wrote a similar article entitled “Licking Doorknobs”.  You can check it out by clicking here.
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Sources used for this article:
Allen.  The effects of chiropractic on the immune system:  a review of the literature.  Chiropractic Journal of Australia. 23(4). 1992.
Brennan, et. al.  Enhanced phagocytic cell respiratory burst induced by spinal manipulation:  potential role of substance P.  Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics. 14(7):399-408. 1991.
Koren.  Childhood Vaccination:  questions all parents should ask.  Koren Publications, Philadelphia. 2000.
Leach.  The chiropractic theories:  principles and clinical applications.  Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore.  1994.
Schmidt, et. al.  Beyond antibiotics:  50 (or so) ways to boost immunity and avoid antibiotics. North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, California.  1994.
van Breda, W and van Breda, J.  A Comparative Stud of the Health Status of Children Raised Under the Health Care Models of Chiropractic and Allopathic Medicine.  Journal of Chiropractic Research.   (summer: 101-3) 1989.
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