Why Has Everyone Seemingly Forgotten How the Immune System Works?
Dr. Alan Palmer, Guest
The media blitz surrounding the COVID-19 crisis strangely omits any mention of the power of the human immune system. It is critical for thinking people to look beyond the noise and learn why a healthy lifestyle and a targeted nutritional approach, which I’ve been passionately advocating for over 30 years in my practice, is such an effective strategy in response to COVID-19.
Is it the Germ, or is it the Terrain?
This issue comes back to the great debate between two famous men of science, Louis Pasteur and Antoine Bechamp. The essential debate can be boiled down to this: Is it germs (Pasteur), that cause disease? Or, is it poor terrain (Bechamp), that allows the germ to gain a foothold and spread unabated? In other words, does exposure to a germ mean you’re destined to “catch” the disease or become “infected”? Does the germ have all the power to control your fate? Or, is the person who is exposed a receptive host? Is their immune system a fine-tuned machine, or weak and insufficient? In other words, is their level of resistance to the exposure high or low? See my recent Facebook post for a more detailed explanation of this “Great Debate”.
Bathing in a Sea of Microorganisms
Scientists have determined that there are approximately:
- 30 trillion cells in the average size human body
- 40 trillion bacteria on and in the human body
- 380 trillion viruses on and in the human body
So, from sheer numbers it would appear that viruses are by far the greatest number of organisms on and in our bodies, no matter what we do to avoid or eliminate them. They are a part of our constitution.
The Human Microbiome Project initiated in 2007 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been working to map out, classify and understand the roles of the residents of the universe within us. It has given us a much better appreciation for the incredibly complex associations and relationships they play in health and disease.
There are thousands of species of bacteria and viruses that compete for space and control of our tissues, made up of beneficial players, opportunists and harmful actors. These organisms are significantly influenced by how we live, exercise, sleep, what we eat and drink and these lifestyle factors even effect how our genes are expressed. We call all these healthy organisms symbiotic, because we both benefit from each other. In fact, we could not survive without them! Our environments and lifestyles determine whether we assist our symbiotic organisms to give them the upper hand and help to provide us with resistance to disease, or we sabotage their efforts and promote the growth of destructive organisms and the demise of our health.
Beneficial bacteria are the housekeepers and defenders of our gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract. They produce B-vitamins, brain signaling molecules like serotonin (the antidepressant “brain” hormone—about 80% of it is made in the gut), short chain fatty acids that feed and maintain the cells lining our G.I. tract, regulate pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines (cell signaling protein molecules) to prevent autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and numerous other beneficial activities. Healthy bacteria also live in our mouths, on our skin, and in all the nooks and crannies of our body. They all have vital housekeeping chores in those places. The strength of the health and population numbers of our beneficial bacteria are the first line of defense of our entire immune system. It is estimated that 70% of our immune system resides in the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT).
Then, there are the harmful bacteria that compete for the real estate in our G.I. tract and all throughout the body. If environmental factors throw the balance of power in their direction that’s when bad things happen. Our diet, lifestyles, medication, chemical use and emotional health all influence the balance of the healthy versus the unhealthy organisms.
There are beneficial viruses also, on and in all parts of our body. Bacteriophages, sometimes called phages for short, are viruses that infect bacteria and eventually destroy them. They can help control rogue and harmful bacterial populations. Scientists and physicians world-wide have used various species of phages that attack pathogenic bacteria for decades to treat serious and even life-threatening bacterial infections, including those caused by drug-resistant species.
Why has COVID-19 hit certain people harder? The Terrain!
The terrain refers to the body and immune system, representing our resistance to disease. We are exposed to millions of microorganisms every day and will be for the rest of our lives. It is estimated that there are approximately 200 species of respiratory viruses; influenza viruses, rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, adenoviruses, parainfluenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus and more. We have always lived and interacted with these viruses and thousands more. Many of these categories of viruses can cause severe illness and even death in certain people. In other people those infections are very mild and self-limiting. In fact, it’s exposure to these viruses, bacteria, and fungi that matures and strengthens our immune systems. So, the notion that we should avoid all germs is preposterous and actually damaging to our health. Two people can be exposed to the same virus and the same viral load and one gets sick and the other doesn’t.
It is the same organism both people are exposed to, so why the different result? Same germ, different terrain. This is why COVID-19 hits certain groups much harder than others. Those include the elderly, the obese, those with comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and vascular diseases, immune deficiency disorders, cancer, respiratory diseases, autoimmune disease, those taking certain medications, the poorly nourished consuming low nutrient dense (junk) foods deficient in vitamins and minerals and not supplementing to offset those deficiencies, and even certain minority groups all are at much greater risk of severe complications and death. This is no surprise and it is not unique to this version of coronavirus or any other pathogenic virus or bacteria for that matter.
SARS-CoV-2 is not unique
Throughout history, infectious diseases have ravaged the same groups with mortality levels being much higher in densely populated areas, the elderly, the obese, the sickly, areas with poor sanitation, inadequate waste disposal, and tainted water supplies, the poor and the mal- or under-nourished. (p. 483-492). All of these conditions weaken the terrain. The comorbidities listed above all have physiological and biochemical shifts away from healthy organ and tissue function and toward a state of oxidative stress, inflammation and lowered immune resistance, thus providing a good host for the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) to gain a foothold and replicate.
Recently, it has been reported that African American populations are disproportionately suffering a greater proportion of serious complications and death from COVID-19. The likely reasons are lower income, more densely populated urban areas and often live in multi-generational households. For persons of African American descent living in those conditions, statistics show that nutrition is typically sub-par and the previously mentioned comorbidities are high. Additionally, African Americans tend to suffer from lower levels of vitamin D than Caucasian groups. This is due to the pigmentation of their skin, which blocks the production of vitamin D from the sun as explained in this 2006 article Vitamin D and African Americans from the Journal of Nutrition. (If you want to see the extraordinary science behind the protective benefits of vitamin D against respiratory infections, see my article Vitamin D status as it relates to COVID-19 complications and death.)
A Shot In the Dark
Is it possible that one of the variables making the elderly susceptible to coronavirus infection is the flu shot? The elderly have long been a highly targeted group for marketing the flu vaccine, yet a recently released study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense and published October 2019 in the journal Vaccine, Influenza vaccination and respiratory virus interference among Department of Defense personnel during the 2017–2018 influenza season, found that service personnel given the flu shot were 36% more likely to get a coronavirus infection than those who were unvaccinated. It has long been known that receiving influenza vaccination may increase the risk of other respiratory viruses, a phenomenon known as “virus interference.” Yet, CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) requires that elderly persons living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities get vaccinated against influenza. That very flu shot mandate may have left those individuals with already compromised immune systems more vulnerable to COVID-19.
A post from October 2005, CMS Will Require Nursing Homes to Vaccinate Residents Against the Flu stated: “Nursing homes serving Medicare and Medicaid patients will have to provide immunizations against influenza and pneumococcal disease to all residents if they want to continue in the programs, according to a final rule published by CMS in today’s Federal Register.” CMS and CDC assert that 90% of all flu related deaths annually are in persons 65 years and older and that is their rationale.
If the flu shot were greatly effective and had little or no side effects, vaccinating all elderly people may be an excellent idea. The problem with that rationale is that the flu shot is neither safe nor effective. The highly respected and prestigious Cochrane Collaboration, famous for their Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, published a review in 2018, Vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly. Looking at published studies from between the years 1965 and 2000, the review found an approximate 3% effectiveness rate for preventing influenza and a 2% effectiveness rate in preventing influenza-like illness. Those are miserable statistics on effectiveness!
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at how we can learn lessons from history and apply them to COVID-19. Specifically we’ll take a look at the fallacy upon which so much current vaccine policy is based: that vaccines are historically responsible for the decline of deaths from infectious diseases. That narrative has some factual problems we’ll outline. We will also further explore the power of our terrain that will protect us from all infections.
About the Author
Dr. Palmer’s free eBook 1200 Studies – Truth Will Prevail, now 730 pages long, includes over 1400 published studies – authored by thousands of scientists and researchers – that contradict what officials are telling the public about vaccine safety and efficacy. It has easy search and navigation features including links to article abstracts and studies on PubMed or the source journal that make it an invaluable research and reference tool. Download it free at www.1200studies.com