Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
May 4, 2020
I get up early every morning. Even before taking a shower and making my coffee, I turn on the TV to my favorite newscast. Some would say that turning on my TV is the worst thing I could do. But I want to be informed – even if there is so much bias and hype out there in the media.
So, this morning I woke around 6AM and first tuned into my favorite live broadcast. The seasoned anchor said, “We certainly don’t want to put our kids back in school because school is like a petri dish.”
My guy was referring to children being exposed potentially to the COVID-19 virus in a closed-in, body-to-body contact area of a bunch of kids. Kids who are sneezing, drooling, touching their noses, and touching one another are prime carriers and spreaders of infectious diseases.
Did this morning journalist mean that we should put our kids instead in a sterile bubble to prevent the spread of all contagious diseases? Where do you fall on the continuum between living in a sterile sphere and comingling with highly contagious people?
Let me stop you here. I am not in favor of putting my child, my wife, myself, or anyone in a contained area of people who are highly contagious with a deadly disease. Common sense must prevail. Extremes generally are not the answers on either end of the pendulum.
We must understand human physiology and our DNA blueprint. The human body learns over time to biologically defend itself from specific contagious diseases. One essential way is by being exposed to microbes with varying degrees of virulence that are all around us all the time. This is as it has been since the beginning of time.
During this time of the pandemic, we have to allow our medical scientists to develop a means to destroy the COVID-19 virus. At least they need to make it less contagious and destructive to our body.
But we must become proactive to improve our natural disease fighting capability. Our future health depends on this. The solution for health and wellbeing has never been a pill or a shot. That would be treating the symptoms but never addressing the causes.
Our natural defense mechanism against contagious diseases is our immune system. We were created and have evolved over thousands of years to survive and thrive. No one could survive if our immune system did not exist, or if our immune system was ineffective at fighting infectious diseases on its own. We can only thrive if this system is functioning at peak efficiency.
We eventually develop a strong immune system by being exposed to the world around us. If we lived in a sterile dome, our immune system would never learn to defend us from all the microbes from which we are exposed every minute of every day. Each of us will survive only because each of us has successfully been exposed to antigens slowly over time.
“SLOWLY” is the operative word. Being thrown continuously into a sea of deadly and contagious microbes will overwhelm the immune system and could cause death. But slowly becoming exposed in our germ-infested environment will build our defenses and develop our immunity over time. Our innate and adaptive immune system will learn correctly to mobilize our internal armed forces, which are collectively called our immune system.
Our Immune System
Most of us have an inefficient and dysfunctional immune system. How can I say that? Statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest we are generally unhealthy: 60% of US adults have a chronic disease; 70% of American deaths is caused by a chronic disease; and 72% of our population is overweight. Our society is drowning in an epidemic of chronic illness. These facts are the results of an immune system that is not doing its job. Our immune system is compromised and ill prepared to fight for our life.
About 70-80% of our immune system resides in our gut. The cells of the immune system and the gut bacteria regulate and support one another. If the garden of healthy gut bacteria becomes overgrown with harmful bacteria, then the balance between the gut bacteria and the immune system can become severely compromised. In addition, if the gut barrier membrane becomes damaged, unhealthy toxic substances will leak out from the gut lumen into the blood system. The toxic reaction in the bloodstream is called metabolic endotoxemia, which then leads to chronic system inflammation. This spread of inflammation throughout the body via the circulatory system could lead to the manifestation of various chronic and autoimmune diseases.
Our complex immune system is made up of two active mechanisms working in tandem: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.
Innate Immune System: The innate system is activated quickly whenever a foreign substance is detected in our body. The defense mechanisms include physical barriers such as the epithelial barrier of the gut, chemicals in the blood, and immune system cells that individually attack foreign elements entering the body. The innate immune response is immediately activated by an invader’s specific chemical properties, called antigens.
Adaptive Immune System: The adaptive system is an antigen-specific defense mechanism. Once an antigen is detected, processed, and recognized, the adaptive immune system creates an army of immune cells specifically designed to attack that antigen. In addition, a unique and highly effective response by the adaptive immune system is to store “memory” cells for that specific antigen. Memory cells create “immunity” for future attacks from that exact antigen. If our body is attacked again by that invader, memory cells will create an onslaught of antibodies that will go to work against that antigen.
So, it is vital for the gut to be healthy in order to have an efficient and effective immune system.
Enhancing the Immune System
Diet and lifestyle choices affect the health of the gut, and therefore affect the health of the immune system. We must enhance our immune system by making necessary choices. Here are seven specific actions under our control that we must understand and strive to accomplish:
- Eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods
- Restoring and maintaining a healthy gut
- Acquiring restorative sleep
- Performing efficient exercise
- Reducing emotional stress
- Exposing our skin to sufficient sun exposure for the production of natural vitamin D (or consuming supplements if necessary)
- Cleaning our mouth properly
It is critical for our survival to avoid continuous, highly contagious, potentially life-threatening pathogens. It is also critical for our survival to have a robust, efficient, and effective immune system. Our petri dish, which is the world around us, is part of the teaching mechanism that allows our immune system to defend itself. Our diet and lifestyle provide the essential elements to allow our immune system to do its job.
Taken all together, this is the path to health and longevity. We owe it to our body to be proactive.