We carry within us the miraculous, God-given ability to defend and protect ourselves. It is called the Immune System. Think of your body as a pharmacy. By supplying it with the right nutrients it has the capacity to make its own medicine NATURALLY. God designed your body to heal itself. The problem arises when the body does not have the right nutrients and outside influences prevent the body from functioning correctly. The war is on and one of the most important things you can do to help yourself is to begin to appreciate and identify what is attacking your body. You need to know who your enemies are. Here are some that I have discovered:
- POLLUTION & SMOKE – Avoid traffic congestion, homes on busy roads or near industry, if you can, avoid 2nd hand cigarette smoke (a strong contributor to my own RA!)
- EXCESSIVE SUN EXPOSURE – 15 minutes per day of sun exposure is very good for your Vitamin D levels (expose as much skin as possible). Too much sun exposure is damaging to your health, will wrinkle your skin prematurely and can cause skin cancer. Avoid the midday sun and if you are planning to be outdoors eat high antioxidant fruit & veg – notice how God made the colourful tropical fruits to grow where the sun shines long & hard! The antioxidants in fruit & veg are the best NATURAL SUNCREEN.
- PESTICIDES – buy organically grown food whenever you can and try growing your own. I grow spinach, tomatoes, strawberries and herbs and I have avocado, lime, lemon, naartjie (tangerines), orange and pomegranate trees in my garden. Wash produce well and remember thick skinned fruit like bananas are very safe from pesticides.
- RADIATION – avoid whenever possible.
- STRESS – is one of the biggest suppressors of the Immune System! Set boundaries for yourself, be a God-pleaser not a man-pleaser. Negative emotions like anger can shut down your Immune System for up to 6 hours! Solution: Matthew 6:25-34 – we worry about the things we are most devoted to, try shifting your devotion to God and know that He loves and cares for you more than the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields!
- POOR DIET – move from ‘dead’ food to ‘live’ food. 8 out of 10 diseases are carved with our own knife and fork!
- MAN-MADE FOODS – avoid refined, processed and nutrient-deficient foods especially WHITE FOODS like WHITE BREAD, WHITE RICE, WHITE PASTA, WHITE SUGAR. I substitute WHOLEWHEAT BREAD, WHOLEWHEAT PASTA,BROWN RICE and keep WHITE SUGAR to a minimum. Sugar substitutes like xylitol tend to be quite expensive so I choose to rather restrict the amount of white sugar I consume.
- INCORRECT BALANCE OF FOODS – the main culprits are: FAT* – Bad, saturated fats weaken the Immune System. Cut back on fried foods. Cook with extra virgin olive oil. I don’t eat margarine and keep butter to a minimum. SUGAR* – be aware that every teaspoon weakens the Immune System, it provides nothing but empty calories and it gets stored as saturated fat in your body if not used! Sugar alternatives are stevia, fructose and xylitol. SALT* – low salt, not no salt, is the way to go! I use Sea Salt and Himalayan CrystalSalt, a lovely pinkish colour and it is loaded with valuable minerals. Restrict your salt intake if you have high blood pressure. *Watch for HIDDEN fats, sugar & salt in the food you eat – read the labels. FAT, SUGAR & SALT are all HIGHLY ADDICTIVE – the more you have, the more you want!
- OVERUSE OF ANTIBIOTICS – take only when necessary. Be aware that they destroy BOTH the good and the bad bacteria in the gut. Take probiotics to restore the balance.
- SUBSTANCE ABUSE – avoid alcohol, cigarettes, drugs. There are certain medicinal drugs we need to take in order to control the RA. Be responsible and take only what is prescribed by your Rheumatologist. Don’t stop and start your medication at will. You will reduce their effectiveness. Don’t be tempted to stop medication on a ‘good’ day. Take consistently for maximum benefit. Be aware of side effects and have the necessary blood tests e.g. methotrexate requires liver tests. Always eat before taking medication to protect your stomach. I have found that bananas are a good liner for the stomach.
- INFECTIONS – Superbugs are fighting back & becoming more resistant. A weak Immune System (I.S.) is the doorway to all disease! If your I.S. is UNDERACTIVE you will have constant colds, flu and regular infections. In other words, you can’t defend yourself. If your I.S. is OVERACTIVE you will have RA, Lupus, Allergies etc. and the result is civil war within!
- POLLUTED THINKING – Hardening of the ATTITUDES can be as destructive as hardening of the ARTERIES! Take your thoughts captive and set your mind on good things. You can’t stop a bird flying over your head but you can stop it from making a nest in your hair!
- SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE – TV and computers have made us a sedentary society. Find the balance between activity and rest. I rest for 1-2 hours most days after lunch. I do my own housework partly because I know that if I don’t use it – I will lose it!
- PASSIVITY – don’t ignore symptoms. Be PRO-ACTIVE when it comes to your health. Know your family health history and your possible genetic weaknesses and act, not in fear, but in faith trusting God. Many diseases run in families simply because bad habits have been passed down and we cannot always blame the genes! We tend to eat the way our parents eat. You have the power to change your families medical history by doing the right thing. Ask your doctor for your blood results. Know your numbers – your weight, waist size, blood pressure, blood sugar level, cholesterol, homocysteine etc. My doctor kindly gives me an A4 sheet with columns for each blood result so that I can be actively involved.
I have learnt that ignorance is not bliss. God’s Word says, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6) With knowledge comes responsibility and I encourage you to begin today to take responsibility for your own health. This is not an exhaustive list of ‘enemies’ but I hope it will get you started. Next time we will focus on the ‘friends’ of your Immune System. In the meantime wage war against your enemies!