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A Holistic Approach to Immune Function

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Emergent new viruses, like H1N1 shown above in a photo courtesy of the CDC, highlight the need to understanding immune function. Emergent new viruses, like H1N1 shown above in a photo courtesy of the CDC, highlight the need to understanding immune function.

When your backup system needs a little backup

The Sandpoint Wellness Council welcomes Gabrielle Duebendorfer, Naturopathic Physician as its newest member.

Immune System, Swine Flu, and Staying Healthy—A Naturopathic Viewpoint by Gabrielle Duebendorfer

Despite the fear about the swine flu epidemic, actual numbers show that this flu’s impact with regard to lethality and transmission appears to be considerably less than the regular seasonal flu. What makes the swine flu unique, other than its viral makeup as a ‘new’ virus, is that it’s occurring at the “wrong” season and that it affects young, healthy people more than the typical infant and elderly flu population.

We know that epidemics occur in waves and it is theoretically possible that there will be a more severe wave during the regular fall flu season. It would be prudent to understand the peculiarities of this swine flu, which actually is a hybrid between the human flu, the swine flu, and the bird flu, in order to be prepared for that possibility.

One possible reason for young, healthy people being more affected by the swine flu is their stronger immune system. As this virus seems to have a tendency to over-stimulate certain inflammatory pathways which cause heavy congestion of the lungs with resulting pneumonia, people with strong immune systems might over-react and therefore have more severe symptoms.

Considering this scenario, the use of immune stimulating substances such as echinacea or elderberries might be contra-indicated during the actual disease as they could increase the inflammatory response.  Immune modulating herbs such as turmeric, reishi and maitake mushrooms might be more appropriate, as would anti-virals such as garlic, goldenseal and oregano oil.

As the problem seems to be excessive inflammation, it is prudent to look at ways of balancing that response. Inefficient elimination of inflammatory products may be one of the causes of “flooding” of the lungs. The lymphatic system is the primary agent for this “housecleaning” and now would be a good time to get it in good working order. Castor oil packs, dry skin brushing, lymphatic massage, regular movement (esp. trampoline jumping), and good probiotics such as home-made yoghurt activate overall lymphatic flow. During the actual flu lymphatic herbs such as red root or red clover can be added. Alternating applications of hot and cold towels to the chest would enhance elimination from the lungs in particular (constitutional hydrotherapy).

Making sure that all the elimination organs are open will assure release of excessive inflammatory compounds from the body. Regular outdoor exercise will support the lungs, skin-brushing and sweating will encourage skin elimination, half your bodyweight in ounces of water will ensure proper kidney elimination, and extra ground seeds such as flax or pumpkin will make sure the bowels are moving well. Of course the liver as the main cleaning house will have to be supported with ground milk thistle seeds or dandelion root tea straight from your garden.

More specific ways to keep inflammation levels at bay include fish like salmon or sardines or good quality fish oil, spices such as turmeric, and an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of natural, fresh foods.  

 Because of the interface of hormones between the brain and the immune system, it is equally important to evaluate stress sources and modify circumstances or stress responses to keep the adrenal glands as the major stress organ in balance. Licorice tea and B Vitamins support this important gland and Lemonbalm tea or fresh steel cut oats porridge calm and nourish the nervous system.

Naturally, these methods will not only prepare your body for eventual exposure to the swine flu, but also prevent the build up of toxins which leads to chronic, degenerative disease farther down the road. So the fear of the swine flu monster can actually turn into positive action to take care of your body long-term and make healthy life-style adjustments.  Carpe diem—seize the day—or maybe the opportunity.

As of June 11, there were four confirmed cases of swine flu in Bonners Ferry. Swine flu continues to spread throughout the United States... more specific homeopathic and naturopathic measures might be considered for prevention as well as treatment. Do make sure to contact your conventional or traditional health care provider if you have had direct exposure to swine flu patients or if you are exhibiting flu symptoms such as fever over 100F with sore throat or cough and you have asthma or another underlying chronic condition or if the patient is under the age of two.

Gabrielle Duebendorfer, Licensed Naturopathic Physician, (208) 265-2213

A Chiropractic Viewpoint by Will Mihin

So how can chiropractic care affect immunity? Your nervous system controls every single cell, tissue, and organ in the body. Scientists used to believe the nervous system and the immune system were separate from each other until in the early 1990s, using an electron microscope, they found nerve fibers embedded in immune cells. If the nervous system is compromised or irritated by a spinal misalignment or subluxation, it will effect how your immune system reacts. The better your nervous system functions, the better your immune system will respond. Chiropractic care corrects these spinal misalignments or subluxations, balances the nervous system, and has been shown in studies to boost immune function after treatment. So the next time you’re under the weather, see a chiropractor and you may feel better quicker than you think.

Dr. Will Mihin is a Doctor of Chiropractic and the owner of the North Idaho Spine Clinic in Sandpoint.  He can be reached at (208) 265-2225.

A Cranio-Sacral Viewpoint by Ilani Kopiecki, BA & CMT

CranioSacral therapy can help in the restoration of a healthy immune system by the simple fact it releases tight tissues in the body, and restores sore muscles to their optimal function and alignment. When the body is out of pain and working properly, it is not using up its vital resources dealing with any distractions. In turn, it can focus all of its healing power to the more inner workings of the body, one of them being the immune system.

Ilani Kopiecki, Integrated Bodywork and Cranio Sacral, (208) 610-2005

A Rolfing Viewpoint by Owen Marcus—How Rolfing Supports Your Immune System

Your immune system is a backup system. It kicks in when your body needs help in maintaining your health. When you’re healthy, your body’s operating systems deal with all potential problems. When a threat is too much for your normal processes, your immune system steps in to support these systems to prevent a threat from becoming an illness.

We all know that stress wears down our health and our immune system. Constant strain wears down even a machine. Living or mechanical systems can’t withstand the stress without regular maintenance or self-healing.

Your body’s primary stress organ is fascia, as Hans Selye MD, PhD, wrote in his book, Stress of Life. Fascia—the system of connective tissue that holds everything together—forms scar tissue from stress. It might be the stress of a trauma such as a sprained ankle or it could be the constant psychological stress of a bad relationship. In either case, a specific area or the body in general will become tight.

The scarring of stress is a natural process designed to protect or heal the body, creating an unintended result. To effectively treat this you don’t cut out all the scar tissue, you remove the stress and release the tension. There are many ways to accomplish these results. Over my 30-plus years of treating clients with Rolfing and conducting mindfulness stress reduction classes, I have seen thousands of people reverse the scarring of stress.

In a broad sense, all our bodies’ systems are possible components to our immune system. At any point in an illness, any part of our body may step in to aid recovery. Fascia’s job is to surround every organ and muscle forming a sac that contains and attaches that organ or muscle to the body. From an immune system standpoint, these sacs can act as barriers that contain potential problems and keep them from entering other sacs. Fibroid tumors are an example of how the body uses its scar tissue; a fibroid is a fascial sac that can contain a possible problem.

Fascia’s ability to form scar tissue is what welds broken body parts. When you tear soft tissue, fibroblast cells—the floating facial cell in your blood—are some of the first cells to arrive at an injury or infection. These cells immediately start containing the situation, much like the first responders to an oil spill contain the spill. Then they start reconnecting the broken parts, mending the tears.

Stress produces a self-perpetuating cycle: stress trains the fascial system to store then reproduce stress. As your body accumulates tension, that tension becomes a stress agent of its own weakening your immune system. Your body learns to respond to events in a stressful way even when the event is not threatening or negative. Over the years, I have heard hundreds of stories from clients about how their new awareness showed them how even pleasant experiences were producing the learned stress response.

This stress response is a survival response. The problem is not the response, the problem is that you took a natural behavior and adapted it to multiple experiences. This means that you often exist in a stress or survival state. The consequence of this is much of your resources are going to survival. To the extent you are going into survival mode, your immune responses are compromised. Your ability to heal and regenerate is limited because your resources are unnecessarily allocated to surviving.

The stress response reflected by and anchored in your fascial system can hugely affect your body’s ability to effectively fight infections. If your body is run down, your immune system is overtaxed. Physicians have often referred me their chronically ill patients hoping that I could release their fascia, thereby releasing their stress allowing their immune systems to fully function. Gradually over the course of treatment, or through attending the stress reduction class, these people would reverse years of tension, stressful behavior, and weakened immunity.

Your immune system is only as strong as you are relaxed. The more resources you have available from being de-stressed--because your body is not wasting time and energy in survival mode—the more resources your body has to fight infections and heal. Dealing with stress not only improves the quality of your life, it might save it.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advance Rolfer,  www.align.org. 265.8440.

Homeopathy Viewpoint by Chris Rinehart

Constitutional homeopathy strengthens the immune system by giving the vital force or “chi” the boost it needs to overcome stress and heal us from the inside out.

Our predispositions to illness such as allergies, asthma, and arthritis are like road blocks preventing our vital force from successfully resolving illnesses as they arise in a gentle and lasting manner. Consequently many of us develop chronic illnesses we learn to accept or mask with prescription medication.

Without the energetic input homeopathy provides, our predispositions stay with us, and try as hard as we may we cannot rid ourselves of their influence and the limitations to our freedom that they impose on us.

 To learn more about homeopathic constitutional treatment contact Chris Rinehart (phone 208-610-0868)

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Sandpoint Wellness Counci Sandpoint Wellness Counci The Sandpoint Wellness Council is an association of independent, complementary wellness practitioners located in Sandpoint dedicated to holistic health care. Pictured are: Owen Marcus, Penny Waters, Robin and Layman Mize, Ilani Kopiecki, Krystle Shapiro and Mario Roxas

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